How to Use Your Boat Engine to Trim the Boat

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New boaters often incorrectly believe that piloting a boat is like driving a car. There are a few differences that anyone thinking about boating needs to understand before getting behind the wheel. The most important consideration is the fact that the surface you are moving over is not solid. To get a smooth ride and good performance balance on the water is vital. The best way to solve the issue of keeping a boat balanced on the surface of the water is with engine trim.

Keeping Your Boat On Plane

  • Understand how a boat works to stay on top of the water. The majority of pleasure boats are planing boats. They rise up and ride on top of the water with minimal contact at cruising speeds. Push the throttle forward to provide more power. It is normal, for a brief time, for the bow (front of the boat) to pop up higher than the stern (back of the boat) until it evens out "on plane."

  • Operate the engine trim tab switch, located on the side of the throttle lever, with your thumb as you accelerate or decelerate to maintain proper position in the water. Watch the gauge on your dashboard. You can tell the degree of tilt your engine has by the dashboard gauge.

  • Trim the engine down if the bow remains in the air. Riding with the bow high is porpoising. Not only does porpoising interfere with optimal performance, it is also dangerous. It makes the boat more susceptible to capsizing or flipping from waves or sharp maneuvers. The engine being up too far usually causes porpoising.

  • Trim the engine up if the bow is too low. When the bow is lower than the stern, it is called "diving." Diving can cause serious accidents at high speeds by causing the front of the boat to dive into a wave, and swamping the inside of the boat with water.

  • Keep the boat as level as possible. Even if diving or porpoising does not cause catastrophic accidents like swamping or capsizing, it causes a lot of drag on your boat. That makes the engine work harder, and you do not get as much performance, or gas mileage, from your craft.

  • Look at the engine if your gauges say you should be level but the boat is not riding properly. Move the engine and check to see that it has repositioned itself, or have a spotter tell you if the engine is moving when you hit the trim switch.

References

  • "Power Boating for Dummies"; Randy Vance; 2009
  • "'Powerboat Handling Illustrated"; Bob Sweet; 2007
  • "Boater 101: A Full-Reference Guide to Boating Basics"; Marine University; 2007
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