I was recently working on an article for Boats.com on three stupid ways people sink their boats, and one of these dumb disasters can come into play each and every time people leave the dock. I’m talking about trim. How the heck could trimming your boat lead to sinking it? In the example I use – which is a true story, documented by the Coast Guard – an inexperienced captain running a 26′ center console pitch-poled his boat by trimming it improperly. He had the drives tucked all the way in, while running into a three to five foot head sea at full cruising speed. That forced the bow to stay down – even when it met a large wave.
In most cases, a modern powerboat with the bow forced down would bull its way right through most waves. You’ll get wet, for sure, and maybe even swamp the boat. Not good. But a couple hundred horsepower combined with the momentum built up by a couple thousand pounds of fiberglass won’t be stopped and then thrown backwards by a wall of water. So why’d this boat go over? Because the guy at the helm let off the power when he saw that wave coming. The sudden absence of power and momentum plus the bow-down position of the boat allowed the wave to do its dirty work. Bad news. Two people died.
This may seem like pretty basic stuff, but especially for those new to boating, it’s imperative to remember: always trim your boat properly, which means it’s running with the bow slightly up. Tucking in the drives in rough seas can keep more of the boat in the water and reduce the slams, but don’t over-do it. Ever. Nuff said.