High-speed Boat Handling

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If you own a bass boat, a bay boat, or an offshore boat, if it’s modern there’s a good chance it has gobs of power and far more speed than the boats of yester-year. And with that speed comes a measure of danger. Many people start out owning small, low-power boats, which may run at 20 – 25 mph. Then they get a 40, 50, or 60 mph boat and are somehow magically expected to run it just as well. If you don’t have much experience with speed on the water and your boat falls into this category, always remember these three rules to live by.

1. Don’t make turns too sharply or rapidly. One of the most common ways people get into trouble is by yanking the wheel around too fast. This can lead to flipping, barrel-rolling, or tossing a passenger or two over the side. Always enter turns slowly and increase the rate of turn smoothly. If you feel the boat sliding or “tripping,” back off.

2. Match speed to conditions. Reduced visibility from fog, rain, or even a swarm of bugs – yes, I’ve had it happen – means you MUST pull back on the throttle. Fog is particularly dangerous, since you might have a half-mile of visibility one second, and none the next. If you’re scooting along at 60-mph, you will blindly travel several hundred yards before you can slow to a safe speed. Rough seas are another condition that requires slowing down. Not only does it make the ride uncomfortable, it also increases the danger of flipping or pitch-poling (when the bow digs into a wave and the stern cart-wheels into the air).

3. Don’t over- or under-trim. Engine trim has a significant effect on safety. If you over-trim too much of the boat can rise out of the water, the prop loses its bite, and you can spin out or chine-walk. If you under-trim and keep the bow too low, you encourage pitch-poling. And one more thing about chine-walking: this is a prelude to disaster. Any time your boat begins to chine-walk (skip from side to side on the chines) immediately ease off on the throttle.

Modern fishboats are often juiced up with lots and lots of power; make sure you use it safely.


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