Houseboat Steering - Bow Stern Thrusters, or use Twin Rudders?

by Allen
(Dubberly, LA)

Houseboat bow stern thrusters, or twin steering rudders?

Houseboat bow stern thrusters, or twin steering rudders?

I'm looking at houseboat steering, and I use bow and stern thrusters now, but thinking about installing twin rudders to steer?

My family and I have recently purchased a 16x75 homebuilt houseboat. The orginal owner did a fine job, but my only concern is that the only steering is (2) 250 lb thrusters mounted in pipes through the hull in the bow and stern.

The 160hp mercruiser is basically used for forward and reverse thrust. I recently had a survey done just for my peace of mind, and also help me get insurance.

The houseboat has a steel hull that is flat, and it was suggested to me to add a keel, and possibly 2 rudders instead of using the thrusters.

What is your opinion, and how are the large houseboats steering designed?

My other concern is they are battery powered, and if the batteries die than I am just a sitting duck.

Thanks for any help, Allen.

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Reply - Answer
Well Allen, welcome to the houseboat forums, and congratulations on purchasing a houseboat.

In reference to your question about how steering rudders are designed for large houseboats. Depending on the propulsion system, outboard, I/O, or inboard power.

If we look at inboard propulsion systems, they are usually single or twin rudders, and use a hydraulic, mechanical, or cable system, and the hydraulic piston steering system being the most popular.

As you are using electric bow and stern thrusters to steer a large houseboat (not a popular method), you definitely want to be sure that you have huge amounts of charging capacity available to keep the thruster batteries charged.

If I were you, I wouldn't plan on taking it out long ride on it's maiden run, because like you said, totally discharged batteries would mean you would most likely need to drop anchor.

I am sure that this post will bring other houseboaters that have had, or that are in similar situations to share tips, ideas, or comments. If you end up installing rudders, do take some pictures and share them with our houseboat community.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat steering and rudder experiences. 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 Houseboat Steering - Bow Stern Thrusters, or use Twin Rudders?

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Houseboat Bow Thrusters - great maneuverability
by: David

If your batteries are low, turn on your generator. Why would anyone with bow thrusters and all the incredible maneuvering that can be done with them on a huge ungainly vessel settle for rudders.

Most houseboats don't use bow and stern thrusters in hull tunnels because they are expensive not because they aren't great.

You can't get any better maneuvering capability that having thrusters. Anyone that says different is not up on current technology.

Most of your steering can be done by using your twin motors if you have 2 of them and the thrusters are for in shore and dock maneuvering. If you only have 1 engine and prop then you already must have a rudder.

Get Instruction on houseboat handling
by: Old Houseboater

Single outdrive houseboats are difficult to handle but not impossible. Rental fleets are almost all this configuration. Get someone who owns one of these to give you some instruction. Even if you have to pay for a couple of hours it will be a worthwhile investment.

Regarding rudders - you have to have water flow for rudders to be effective. You have a steerable outdrive already. IMHO the addition of rudders would have minimal effect. Addition of keel - if your bottom is as flat as you say it is would aid handling while your MOVING.

Truth is your boat by virtue of having thrusters is better equipped than most single outdrive houseboats and with a little instruction you will be able to handle it with few problems.

Keep us informed of your progress. GOOD LUCK

Houseboat steering
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your comments Old Houseboater. My 160 hp Mercruiser is an inboard/outboard. I tried to send pictures but along with being unfamiliar with my houseboat, I am also the same with computers. Thanks, Allen.

What kind of propulsion system do you have?
by: ??????????

You don't mention what kind of propulsion system that your boat has, other than a 160 hp engine. Is the propeller on a straight shaft underneath the boat, or is it sticking out of the transom?

There are a lot of rental houseboats with single outdrives. Some are equipped with thrusters to aid in docking and close quarters maneuvering, and some are not.

I have never heard of thrusters as the primary steering system. How is your boat different? Have you tried controlling the boat with the outdrive? Have you asked for help from other owners of similar boats?

I've been boating for over 50 years and never heard of this.

Old Houseboater.

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