A fully laden canal boat is not the easiest of craft to manoeuvre, especially if it is of the widebeam type, and a bow thruster is a device built into the hull of the bow & used for making it more manoeuvrable.
For many, the best type of bow thruster is the trusty barge pole but for many others the push or flick of a switch is a much more convenient way of turning the bow.
Bow thrusters can either be installed by your shell builder
or indeed can be installed retrospectively. This flexibility means that if personal mobility becomes an issue during boat ownership, life can be made a little easier without having to give up your pleasure.
Bow thrusters come in various guises, types and sizes but the basic installation and principles of operation apply.
Essentially a transverse open tube is installed below the water line in the bow section. Into this tube, from above, is installed a small propeller, attached to a motor or gearbox.
Controlled from the helm position at the stern, a flick of a switch will spin the mini-propeller one way or the other depending upon which way you want the bow to move. Some of the larger models are equipped with a twin propeller system for durability and extra thrust. Models are available that are either electrically powered or hydraulically driven.
Some bow thruster manufacturers offer tables comparing the HP output of the motor to the boat length, even offering output figures in kgf where they are attempting to give an approximation of thrust.
Carefully consider your choice as bow thrusters are not only built for canal boats. The marine market is huge, and with many components we represent a small part of a manufacturers turn over. In practise units starting at around 75kgf/4HP are commonly fitted to small boats with up to 10HP units for larger craft. If in doubt, speak directly to a manufacturers representative and seek best advice for your particular hull design, how deep in the water the tube can be fitted and your intended use.
The bottom line here is that when considering a useable bow thrusting system, but the best you can afford & don’t cut corners. For every happy owner with a bow thruster there are two who have fallen out of love with their system due to abuse or servicing costs.