Bow Thrusters On A Safari - Hampton Safari Boat Club

Go to content

Bow Thrusters On A Safari

Dry Dock > Safari Projects
Here in the Owner's Club we all know that at times stern mooring can be less than easy due to visibility and they do seem very vulnerable to the wind which always blows just at the wrong moment. Experience overcomes all things and a little practice makes us all better helmsmen, however we had just bought our first boat having retired. We knew we loved boating and The Broads but we hadn't realised just how creaky we had become since last hiring a cruiser some 20 years ago! Suffice to say that anything that helped us enjoy living our particular dream was definitely on the table.
I initially raised a query via the club re other members experience with Bow Thruster installation or use/benefits on a Safari.
Then a friend suggested that I talk to Sutton Staithe Boatyard. I have included their name as I can recommend them without hesitation. Extremely helpful and friendly, very competitive prices and high quality workmanship (I'm not associated with them, I just believe in credit where it's due).
I met with the owner Robert and it was quickly established that they had installed them on a Safari before, the owner was pleased with the result and a price was mentioned that was far lower than general figures I'd read about other owners paying, albeit on different types of boats.
The start date was in 2 weeks and we duly moored in their slipway on the Monday. I called in the next afternoon and Mara had been pressure cleaned and was on blocks in the boatshed with the pilot hole drilled. Much care was taken here as a tube off centre either horizontally or vertically affects the efficiency of the thruster and also calls for a larger area to cut and more sealing and GRP repair.
A hole is then cut in the forward well to place the motor directly above the tube, a small propeller is attached to it placing it in the centre of the tube.
The propeller spins forward or backward using a control panel mounted on the dashboard and is literally press left to go left, press right to go right. A heavy duty battery is installed just for the thruster, placed as near as possible to it, ours was fitted in the storage locker under the seating on the starboard side.
An isolator switch of it's own was fitted near the floor under the wheel and a large fuse was fitted near the main electrical loom and fuse box behind the control panel / dash board.
The cut out piece of GRP was then framed in aluminium forming an inspection hatch over the bow thruster in the forward well. Apart from a very small amount of storage locker we have lost no space in the accommodation at all.
Back in the water, everything checked as working and off we went for a couple of days cruising and playing, I mean testing, our new toy....
First Impressions
Was it worth it? For me and my wife the answer is 100% yes! It works very well, a few short bursts easily points the bow where you want it and corrects the effect of tide and or wind if you lose position. For our personal circumstances I can now confidently hold her (Mara) to the bank while my wife steps ashore with the ropes to moor, no painful stretches or dangerous jumps! (We are an equal opportunities crew and the helm and crew roles are also reversed from time to time!) It is also handy for turning in narrow dykes. It adds confidence to a helmsman learning the ropes, I found there was no need or desire to use it exclusively, rather it is great for making adjustments when my own best efforts hadn't quite made the grade.
Any downsides?
The purchase and installation cost is a major factor and probably a younger fitter crew may decide it simply isn't worth it. Then there is the noise. Imagine putting a wine glass down a sink waste disposal unit... they don't come with ear plugs ...
I had bought Mara without a survey (and you'll all have an opinion on how risky that was!). An insurance inspection had been arranged and while waiting for that, a simple good look around was undertaken.  I had already decided that anything that could, or should, be done would best be undertaken now rather than lift her out of the water again.
Mara was to be anti-fouled anyway following the pressure wash and bow thruster fitting which brings us to the stern. Once lifted out, it was immediately obvious that there was a large amount of netting wound around the propeller. The netting was removed and closer inspection we found that the net had pulled the split pin out of the propeller's retaining nut, which by this time was loose enough to turn with two fingers. In all likelihood we were anything from an hour to a day away from losing our propeller!
The rudder was also showing signs of electrolysis and so we decided to replace it, and at the same time add anodes to the new one. There was also clear movement by hand of the cutlass bearing and there was no time like the present to replace it.
About this time the surveyor came and all in all my gamble at buying her without a survey was not a disaster, although he did point out there were enough minor issues to possibly have negotiated a price reduction, not least of which being the cutlass bearing.
Here the story becomes unusual because there was paperwork with the sales documents for a new cutlass bearing only four years ago. Had the net been attached long enough to cause uneven and early wear? As usual when removing a cutlass bearing there was no way beforehand of telling how long it would take to remove, as of necessity they are a very tight fit and can be the devil to extract. However, when the bearing housing was removed it literally fell out! To cut a long story short the wrong size had been fitted, resultant movement caused uneven wear to the housing which had to be sent away to have a sleeve fitted to accept the new bearing.

Article submitted by Ray owner of Safari Mk3 "Mara"
Back to content