Cheap Homemade Houseboat Bow Thrusters

by Sam
(Kentucky)

A homemade houseboat bow thruster installation.

A homemade houseboat bow thruster installation.

For anybody thinking of making a homemade bow thruster for a houseboat. I had been thinking about how to make an inexpensive bow thruster since the commercial ones were too much for our budget.


It has been one of the BEST THINGS that I could have added to our small single engine 40 ft houseboat. Now I feel in total confidence when leaving or arriving at the dock!!! No more waiting for the wind to calm down.

To make the bow thruster, I ended up using two Motorguide or Minn Kota 55lb thrust 12 volt electric trolling motors. They were installed in an 3.5" ID aluminum tube. I wired them up so that when I activate them, they will work in tandem, example: one spins in forward, while the other spins in reverse.

I mounted the aluminum tube with the two electric motors to a 3/8" x 24" long aluminum plate that is bolted to my keel on the hull. I used the 50" tubes to bring the wiring above the waterline, and enter the hull through some liquid-tight electrical fittings.

The trolling motors use about 60 amps total, and I have them connected to our house batteries, since the thruster only gets used for 10-30 seconds at a time. It's amazing how much thrust that they provide.

My wife was so impressed with the outcome of the whole project, that she even compliments me in front of all my dock buddies!

Now my next project is to redo the roof :(

Sam & Carol, Kentucky.



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Reply - Answer


Hi Sam & Carol, welcome to the houseboat forums. I want to thank you for posting your DIY homemade thruster setup.

It's great to see people using their ingenuity to solve problems.


Lastly, hopefully some of our readers and visitors will share and post comments about their related houseboat experiences and tips.

Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Cheap Homemade Houseboat Bow Thrusters

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Thruster mounting question
by: Anonymous

How did you mount the two motors in the tube? Additionally, how is the performance versus your expectations? Would you do it the same way again or make changes? If you would make changes, what would you do differently?

Dave

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Bigger thruster
by: amsterdamhouseboats

I put a 10hp hydraulic thruster under my houseboat; this is a bigger and heavier thing than most of you have, 25 meters long, 5 wide, and 90 tons.

The 10hp will just about defeat a force 5 cross wind. It's powered from a pump on the main engine.
It was a leftover Vetus display unit so I got it for less than 1/2 retail.

But the clever bit is the access tube I added : a vertical pipe above the thruster prop that allows me to reach in and pull out anything that's fouling it.

There's a cover plate with gasket that is removed, which allows the pipe to flood. After servicing and screwing it back down, the access pipe can be drained through a valve in the side.
The entire thruster head can be unbolted pulled into the boat through the hole if necessary, which I did once.

A lot of water entered before I slapped a cover over the motor through hole though.

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Houseboat Thruster Wiring?
by: Anonymous

How did you wire the motors. I'm assuming they were the 5 speed typical trolling motors so were able to wire them into a simple on/off? Thanks!

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Installed a homemade bow & stern thruster
by: Sweet Pea

Used your idea for the homemade thrusters. I put them on bow and stern of a 40ft River Queen. Great idea and works real well since I can turn it around in its length.

Have controls mounted in fly bridge. Used ford starter solenoids for the dpdt relay. Thank you for the idea.

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Houseboat Control - retractable bow thruster
by: Ontario Al

I have a 2003 35X12 Myacht aluminum pontoon houseboat. It's equipped with two outboards which provide more than enough thrust to stop/go, but not nearly enough to steer in any cross-wind.

To solve this problem, I added a MinnKota 55lb. thrust V2-54" shaft, electrically-steerable trolling motor to the bow. The shaft is fitted through a 2" hole I drilled in the deck, on the port side just aft of the forward rail, just inboard of the portside pontoon.

The shaft is fed through the hole by removing it from the control head at the top of the shaft (easy). The latch collar I loosened, then slid it up the shaft, so the motor latches just under the deck when stowed. I only lower it into the water when entering or leaving a marina.

The amount of control that it adds is amazing, and the amount of drag that is eliminated by pulling it out of the water is really noticeable (yes, I've forgotten to withdraw it when I've sped up- it feels like I'm driving with the parking brake on).

I power it with a Group 27 deep-cycle battery that is more than enough to run the "bow-thruster" and the lake-water pump. I charge it using only a 60 Watt solar panel, which keeps it fully topped up (even at Lat 45.5N).

I house the battery/pump in a "Suncast" outdoor plastic storage box. I reinforced the interior of the box with a wooden framework. I also store my anchor gear in similar, larger reinforced boxes, also on the bow (ready for use). Hope this helps. Al

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Pontoon Thruster - a great project
by: Anonymous

To those who were wondering about adapting this basic idea to a pontoon boat, take a look at the last few pics on this on-going project page.

http://booker.servebeer.com/pc/thepcproject/index4.html

Reply - Answer
Wow, what an impressive project, and with such quality workmanship. Thanks for sharing it with us.

IAN from www.all-about-houseboats.com

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Houseboat Control - bow thruster in tandem?
by: Anonymous

Hi there, your solutions looks great - good work ! I've a technical question - how did you wire the thruster in tandem? Could you explain this to me so I can use your bright mind for this.

Thanks very much ! With kind regards, Tom.

Reply - Answer
I would imagine that he wired them in parallel, and used a winch solenoid or reversing solenoid. These solenoids would allow for it to run in forward or reverse with a joystick.

IAN from www.all-about-houseboats.com

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Electric Trolling motor on 34 foot Nautaline Houseboat
by: Ray

I installed a wireless electric 12 volt fishing trolling motor and installed it on the bow of our houseboat. You can follow the link to see the trolling motor installed and working:

http://s910.photobucket.com/albums/ac309/ray33324/Nautaline%201969%2034%20feet/

I installed a little steel plate with 2 x 4's under the deck so that the screws are all the way down into the
2 x 4's and in the video the 12 volt batteries are on the front deck. On later pictures the plug is already installed and the batteries are already down below the deck.

The video is self explanatory as without the electric trolling motor I can't even try to get the houseboat down the channel without hitting someone, my house is at the end AFTER THE BEND!!.

I'm still in the process of remodeling the boat and some photos of before and after of what is already done, but I use the houseboat every other weekend. The video shows my path back home, sorry the video didn't last that day to my dock.

The light inside the room I made it with a gutter and 100 super bright LED it only consume a fraction of a regular light I can have that light on forever and never run out of battery.

I already have on demand water through a seacock from the river (I live in St Johns River, FL) all the water but the black ones go back to the river, the kitchen counter is just an old drawer chest and the sink in an oval galvanize bucket adapted with a metal brushed faucet.

I have a 5000 watts generator that I barely use, 4 batteries on the back, and the 2 batteries for the trolley. I just built a solar panel, a 18 volt 6.5 amps panel that will be installed after I finish the exterior painting. If you guys have any question please ding the bell. Ray.


Reply - Answer
Well Ray, thanks for taking the time to show us the pictures and especially video the whole installation and operation. I see you used the wireless trolling motor model, as it has a wireless foot control, and I think it also has a wireless hand controller. Glad to see that it has helped you take the houseboat out for rides.

IAN from www.all-about-houseboats.com

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Homemade Thrusters on Houseboats
by: Steve

I have a 35 foot pontoon houseboat. I purchased a Minn Kota 160 lb double prop engine mount trolling motor. I want to mount the motor on the bow and use it as a bow thruster. I will be putting a bracket under the bow that will hold the motor.

The bracket will have two pins that will allow the motor to rotate. I will be attaching a 400 lb actuator arm that will rotate the motor into and out of the water.

I want to wire a toggle switch to the dashboard so that I get full 160 lb thrust instantly to both port and starboard.

My question is how would you wire the switch. You can't just reverse polarity from what I understand. I also plan on mounting the same set up on the stern so that I can have full lateral control.

I want to rent the boat out to inexperienced boaters to use on the Erie Canal and think this would be easy for someone to master. Thanks in advance, Steve

Reply - Answer
Well Steve, I would recommend getting a "reversing solenoid". They typically use those solenoids on winches etc.... They can be wired to go in or out, or in this case, port or starboard.

You may find that just a bow thruster is enough, since you already have a fair amount of stern control due to your propulsion.

IAN from www.all-about-houseboats.com

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Houseboat Thrusters - pictures of Rays bow mount
by: GT

Hi Ray, I love your idea. Can you post a picture of your bow mount? How long is the drive shaft of the trolling motor? Where did you mount the batteries and other controls and cables? Thanks GT



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Houseboat Thruster Design - how did you make the thruster
by: BILL

Wow what a fantastic idea, as I need one desperately, however don't have the money for a commercial one. How did you install the motors in the tube, can you share the plans on how you did it? It would be fantastic to build one. Thanks

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Houseboat Bow Thruster? NO!! try a trolling motor
by: Ray

I own a 1969 Nautaline houseboat that is remodeled with a Evinrude 175 outboard. Like everyone to drive this boat was hard VERY hard specially once you do the modification and the motor is not deep in the water to stop this house is no joke amen to dock it.

I live in a very narrow water channel 35 feet at the most with boathouses on every edge both sides in every house off Dunns Creek off of St Johns River so narrow that I can't have nothing hanging out of the structure.

I'm always scared that someday I will hit someones dock in my way in or out. After reading this site and seeing the HOME MADE THRUSTERS, I start wondering and started comparing thrusters in respect to thrust pounds and the whole thing involved like; comercial products, the prices and of course it is no joke to make the hole in the hull for a trhuster and the money involved.

After much consideration, I ordered a Motorguide 75lb 24 volts wireless Trolling Motor thinking that if doesn't work I just move it to my 20 ft Pontoon boat, and nothing lost.

I install the trolling motor a month a go..... well surprise surprise, the handling and the control I have gained over this boat is amazing.

The trolling motor controls the houseboat like a 14 ft skiff boat, no effort and I can control it all from the pilothouse since it is wireless. I use it totally up to the point that I just start the engine in case I need a quick reverse, but the whole driving experience up and down in the channel is done by the trolling motor and to dock. Docking the houseboat now is a breeze.

NO SPECIAL INSTALLATION, NOTHING SPECTACULAR, a regular bow mounted wireless trolling motor, 2 batteries, and you will ENJOY going out in the houseboat. Just wanted to share my experience, Ray.

Reply - Answer
Well Ray, I am really glad that the "homemade bow thruster" worked out for you, and I can share your joy of being able to dock the houseboat with confidence.

IAN from www.all-about-houseboats.com

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DIY homemade bow thruster for pontoon houseboats
by: Anon

Has anyone installed this type of DIY homemade bow thruster to a pontoon houseboat? If so, would you share pictures and the "how to" ? Thanks...

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Trawler Stern Thruster
by: Anonymous

I have a small 36 foot Trawler and I'd like to make this work as a stern thruster. Do you think this would work for me. Thanks, Rob

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Great idea for bow thrusters
by: Anonymous

Good work. Great idea.

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How much thrust is required on a houseboat?
by: GT in MN

I am wondering how many pounds of thrust is required to get the bow to come around?

Do you use the full 110 LBS of thrust in one short blast? I am interested in making my own version and I'm trying to get a feel for how much motor/thrust LBS I will need. My houseboat is a 34ft Nautaline.

Thanks! GT

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Beaching?
by: Anonymous

Great idea. How does it work if you beach the houseboat?

Also, have you noticed if it adds much drag while you are underway?

Thanks, GT in MN.

Reply - Answer
Well, I have to agree that "beaching the houseboat" requires some careful planning. The unit draws @ 1 foot of water, therefore the shoreline has to have a shallow slope.

As to drag while underway, I can't say that I have noticed any real difference, but I would estimate a 5% theoretical loss in speed. So instead of cruising at 6.5 knots, it does 6.2 knots. If our houseboat would plane, the thruster would be out of the water.

Hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat thruster experiences.


IAN - from www.all-about-houseboats.com


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Idea for a folding Houseboat Bow Thrusters
by: maddog66

Can you tell me where & how much you paid for the 2 motors, I am having a little trouble tracking them down.

P.S I think your idea is great, I am looking to take it one step further & make one that folds up in the middle of my housboat.

Regards, Chris, Australia

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