Do I need a bow thruster for 45ft boat? and can I add it?

Discussion in 'Newbie Lounge - NEW' started by ColleenKitesurf, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. ColleenKitesurf

    ColleenKitesurf New Member

    Sep 15, 2020
    Mastercraft X30 (hopefully Sea Ray soon!)
    We are looking to get a 400, 420 or 44 sedan bridge. While I had 10 yrs experience docking a single engine mastercraft in the windy delta in CA, trying to maneuver a massive 45 ft boat has me a bit nervous, and I feel like I really need bow thruster and ideally even stern thrusters. But any experienced boat guy/gal I ask says I just need learn the twin engines.. and I'll be fine. Most the docking will be Sausalito CA in the SF Bay which is windy and a heck of current. So should I only be looking for boats with the thrusters? or do I need to just put on my big girl pants and learn to dock! :) Also - what does it take to add one if we find a boat that doesn't have any thrusters? Drilling a whole through the hull seem like a big deal, and not ideal to do to an older boat - but maybe people do it all the time. Welcome any input!
    my3sons and Express 390 like this.
  2. Express 390

    Express 390 Active Member

    Sep 14, 2018
    South Shore of Long Island NY
    1986 SeaRay 390 EC
    1993 SeaRay 290 DA single 7.4 /Bravo 2
    1992 SeaRay 230 DA 4.3LX Alfa drive
    Twin 454 Crusaders inboards 4 blades
    I wood think newer style boats of that size will have the bow thruster but if not, All it takes is money and it will be easy to do! Lol Good Luck you will be fine with or without the thruster!
  3. Ezsteps

    Ezsteps Well-Known Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    Nov 14, 2015
    Lake St. Clair-- Michigan (MacRay Harbor)
    1999 400 Sundancer, YL310 Zodiac, MX 335 Novurania
    7.4 Mercuisers Horizons 380 hp ea., 9.9 hp Mercury, 30 Yamaha
    I haven't priced a thruster but I heard others say that they're around 10k just for the bow. I've had 4 SeaRays in my 20 years of boating 19', 22', 31' with stern drives and the 40' v-drive I have now. The 40 is the easiest boat of all of them to handle. I haven't came across I situation yet that I had to have a thruster. I'm not saying that a thruster wouldn't have been easier in some situations but I don't think they're a must have. Once you get used to the twins you should be fine. Twins make a world of a difference. Good luck with your boat hunt....
    CaptRonn and Great Lakes like this.
  4. Jus the two of us

    Jus the two of us Active Member

    Dec 7, 2015
    United States Lake Cumberland
    1998 Sundancer 450
    2009 Sundancer 55
    3116 Cats
    MAN 900
    We put one on our 450 DA the second year, Was around 11 grand. Well worth it. Where it made the difference was the windy days and tight spots. Sold our boat above the market value, It was a big plus at selling time.
    JC3 likes this.
  5. Steve S

    Steve S Well-Known Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    Jun 5, 2007
    Northern IL.
    2000 400 Sedan Bridge with twin CAT 3116's

    2000 340 Sundancer - SOLD!
    210 Monaco 1987 - SOLD!
    Twin Caterpillar 3116's 350 HP straight drives
    I have a 400 DB and do not have thrusters. But I do have Diesel engines which provide high torque and very responsive handling around the dock. I moved to from a 340DA with 7.4 Horizons with V-drives. Was there a learning curve? Yes. Was it difficult? Not really.
  6. yobub

    yobub Well-Known Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    Jul 29, 2016
    Northern Illinois
    1998 400 Sundancer
    Cat 3116's
    I think the answer has more to do with your docking situation than the size of the boat.

    Steve and I are in a protected harbor with an open well next to each of us, and virtually no current. We deal with wind, but that is about it. Easy docking. We have plenty of room for error.

    If you have a boat next door in a tight slip or you have to deal with an exposed harbor or current, it would probably be more helpful.

    Yes they can be added, but it is a big job. I saw skipper buds in the process of cutting a bow thruster into a 40' and it is major surgery.

    Regarding the learning curve coming from a single engine, once you get the concept in your head it is pretty easy. Seriously, watch a bunch of YouTube videos to get the concepts down, and then spend an hour hands on with an experienced captain using only the engines to turn the boat - no wheel. You will get the feel for it.
  7. Avenger

    Avenger Active Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    Northern Michigan
    2000 510 Sundancer w/Cats

    1981 Sea Ray 260sxl
    Cat 3196
    If I were in your position I would prioritize buying the boat you absolutely love that checks all the boxes and has been well cared for. I spoke with Florida Bow Thruster a couple weeks ago about adding a new thruster to a 1998 540 Sundancer in Michigan. The quote came back at 16K for everything including travel time. What it didn’t include is the expense of hauling the boat and putting it on the hard for the installation crew. For a smaller boat it may not be 16k but regardless it is a lot of money after buying an already expensive boat but at that point you have all brand new, latest and greatest thruster equipment. You may also find after driving and getting used to the boat that you don’t need a bow thruster after all. Good luck those are all really nice models!
  8. Henry Boyd

    Henry Boyd Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 24, 2007
    Newburyport, on the peaceful and serene Merrimack
    ‘09 Sabre 38 Hardtop Express “Serenity”
    Volvo D6 w/IPS450 Pods
    As others have said it depends on your docking conditions, as well as your skill level. The best folks to answer that question are people with larger boats you currently boat with. They know and deal with the conditions. We dock in an ocean harbor that is a river mouth and deal with a strong current, tides, wind and shifting currents. For us a thruster on a larger boat is a necessity. That said we had a stern drive 280 for many years without one. Docking wasn’t fun, but it was doable.

    In the size range you’ve listed, there exists a possibility you’ll come across a boat with Pod drives. With pods you do not need bow or stern thrusters. Sea Ray exclusively used the Cummins Zeus system and a number of owners have experienced problems with their pod drives and the warranty response from all parties. Our current boat has Volvo pods and I can honestly say pods are a game changer when it comes to docking.
  9. Shaps

    Shaps Well-Known Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    Nov 4, 2019
    Long Island,NY
    2010 Sundancer 500
    2015 Brig Falcon 330T
    Twin Cummins QSC550 DTS w Zeus
    couldn't agree more and very happy with my zeus pods
  10. Blueone

    Blueone Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Jan 24, 2007
    Lake Erie, Ohio
    2004 420 Sundancer
    Cummins 6CTA 450's
    I don’t have a bow or stern thruster and we do just fine. I have never not docked or left a slip because of it in 5 years and we go into all kinds of docking situations bow in and stern in. Would it be a nice have?... sure once in a while... like once a year.... but not necessary
    JimT, Ezsteps and CaptRonn like this.
  11. bobeast

    bobeast Dance the Tide SILVER Sponsor

    Oct 22, 2017
    Isleton, CA
    2002 310DA
    350 MPI w/V-drives
    Maybe, but I wouldn't add one right away. That kind of scratch should only be spent to solve a known problem, rather than to avert a fear. That boat will seem a lot smaller after a year or so of ownership, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to maneuver than a single engine.

    If after you get used to it you still feel you need one, any reputable boat yard should be equipped to add one for you.
  12. ENstig8or

    ENstig8or Active Member GOLD Sponsor

    Jun 4, 2013
    New Jersey/North Fort Myers, FL
    2003 Sea Ray 450 Express Bridge.....

    2016 Sea Ray 21 SPX BR
    Cummins 480CE (450)
    Mercruiser 4.3L (21 SPX)
    Do you NEED it? No, but you said you are moving way up in size and don't have experience docking a boat of that size. It will definitely make you more comfortable when docking especially as you get used to the boat. It is nice when you find yourself at a smaller marina in a really tight spot.
  13. Lazy Daze

    Lazy Daze Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 21, 2009
    One little side note... a single screw inboard, like you have had for the last 10 years, is one of the hardest boats to maneuver. It barely turns in reverse one direction... the other direction in reverse is pretty much non-existant. Now you'll have the ability to run one wheel in fwd and one in reverse - much better control. Of course, now you'll have to pull or push a bow that is 45' away from you, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. That said, as others have mentioned, a lot of it comes down to the conditions, your skill set, your comfort level and, ultimately, what you PREFER.
    Steve S likes this.
  14. bbwhitejr

    bbwhitejr Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    Apr 14, 2013
    Lake Lanier GA
    2003 420DA, 6CTAs
    My experience with a windy conditions, the boat is like a kite. I had one and used it only sparingly in very windy conditions. As stated earlier, the diesels negate the true need. Dock neighbor with a Cruisers Yachts 400 express with gas engines just installed one. Done by FL Thrusters-$12,500 for 12v model all inclusive except for haul out and yard rent.

    Surveying a 420DA tomorrow without one and will not need one.

  15. Irie308

    Irie308 Well-Known Member SILVER Sponsor

    May 28, 2013
    2004 420 Sedan Bridge, GHS Hydraulic Lift
    Dual Raymarine E120W
    AB Mares 10 VSX with 30 hp Tohatsu
    Cummins 450C 8.3 L Turbocharged
    As stated above you may be hard pressed to find a 40+ footer without one. They all seem pretty common on most 42's and above that we've looked at while shopping. Our experience has been that most marinas will squeeze you into slippage that are built for 40 footers. For example our 42 is closer to 48 with a swim platform. It makes for some surgical maneuvering at times when docking at transient slips. I will say that the bow thruster has come in handy every time. If you go the DB route you will find that diesels or not docking with some wind can be a bit of a challenge. Thrusters will definitely help you there as well. As for the stern thruster I find i almost never use it as it doesn't really move the stern as you would expect. This is where the diesel mounted 4 bladed props really shine.
  16. Jeremygavin

    Jeremygavin Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Mar 6, 2012
    Cape Cod, MA
    2011 520 Sedan Bridge
    2016 Sea Ray 19 SPX OB
    2019 Walker Bay Generation 340
    Cummins QSM11s
    Mercury 150 Fourstroke
    Honda 40hp
    I agree with all of the above. I try not to use the bow thruster for docking but my 52DB is 57ft overall and I have my only wife and 2 young girls on board with me most of the time. While they are excellent mates, they are not as strong as myself and boat weighs 50k lbs so they struggle to pull it to the dock with the lines without wind or current. I mostly use the thruster to hold the bow to the dock so they can tie up or untie. A 42DB is still a heavy boat and pulling it to the dock is not as easy as a smaller boat. The thruster just makes the whole process much easier on everyone. I am not yelling at everyone to tie up or I tie quick because I can control the bow with the thruster and stern with the motors and hold us nice and tight to the dock till we are ready to go.
    my3sons likes this.
  17. b_arrington

    b_arrington Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Feb 21, 2007
    Setauket, NY
    Back Cove 37
    AB Ventus 9VL
    Cummins QSC 8.3 600
    It's a bit a of a different application, but I absolutely love having bow and stern thrusters on my boat. It's a single diesel engine and I've gotten very spoiled and use them regularly.

    As Dennis said, backing a single sucks - you likely know this. Yesterday I was at a dock and there wasn't room to spin and head out down the fairway. I had to push off a face dock then back out past a couple finger docks. I had very little effective steerage and the spin of the prop was pushing the stern where I didn't want it to go. My solution was to use the thrusters to get into the very narrow fairway and clear the finger docks. Then bump in and out of gear to get some way and use the thrusters to keep me in the fairway.

    Every time I come back to my slip I use the thrusters. I line up with the slip, enter the rudder, bump in and out of reverse, and keep things lined up with the dock using the thrusters. I stick my head out the window as I'm backing to ensure I'm in the right position.

    The thrusters were super helpful at the fuel dock 2 weeks ago. There was a spot just big enough to fit between 2 boats. I was going the "wrong way" for my fuel fill so spun the boat in place with the thrusters, then moved sideways to gently land on the dock. A guy came over to say isn't it nice to have twin engines? His jaw dropped when I told him it was a single.

    My point is a thruster is very useful tool that can make boating easier and far more enjoyable (yes, it takes away some of the "skill"). Do you "need" one? With twin engines, not nearly as much as I do. Except for pod drives, twins don't really walk the boat sideways. A thruster would likely help a lot to keep the bow in line during wind or currents, or to help keep you on / get you off a dock.
  18. b_arrington

    b_arrington Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Feb 21, 2007
    Setauket, NY
    Back Cove 37
    AB Ventus 9VL
    Cummins QSC 8.3 600
    Amen to that. Thrusters make the docking experience so much simpler and stress-free for me. My "next" boat would ideally have proportional thrusters. At a lower speed, they can run almost indefinitely and keep a boat pinned to the dock.

  19. my3sons

    my3sons Well-Known Member

    Feb 24, 2009
    NY (Lake Erie)
    2004 400DB, Onan 9 kw Gen, Highfield RIB,
    Cummins 6CTA M-3
    This is kind of how I think of bow thrusters.
    It's kind of like living in Buffalo NY or anywhere else for that matter where it snows, a lot. My first 3 pickup trucks were 2 wheel drive. I was young, didn't want to afford 4 wheel drive and when it snowed 4 feet I would just put more weight in the back and if it really got tough going, putting on tire chains. I always got to the job site. Then I bought a 4 wheel drive. What a difference I thought. And every one since has been 4 wheel drive. Can't even imagine not having it.
    I've bought a lot of boats that didn't have a bow thruster. Then I bought the boat I have now and it had a bow thruster. I rarely use it in my home marina but use it quite a bit elsewhere. Like rafting up at the beach to other boats (you don't jump out in 5' of water and walk in 30 and 40 thousand pound boats in a chop like you do a wake boat). When in the locks and the rookie that went in first grabbed the lines in the back of the lock and now I have to go around him and nestle up to the wall in front of him. (that came to mind quickly because I just did that 2 days ago, thanks buddy). When pulling off fuel docks when the wind is pinning me to the dock, pulling onto fuel docks when the wind is blowing me off, Taking that last spot available on the restaurant dock that is only 46 feet of wall and the boat is 44' long and nobody is on the dock to grab a line. But all that stuff is doable without a bow thruster, I know because I did it for years. Most times very successfully, but a few times over the years not so successfully. Fortunately the only thing that got dinged was a little bit of rub rail and my ego. Now I do all that without even thinking about it. Maybe your type of boating doesn't involve all that or maybe it does. The bow thruster option is nice, it's pretty much maintenance free and it's easy. Just like pushing a button that says "4X4" is a lot easier than laying in the snow chaining up.

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