While it’s always safer to have multiple sets of eyes and hands onboard when operating a boat, single-handing is a situation that many boat owners inevitably find themselves in. Whether you’re all alone aboard the boat or with someone who is inexperienced or physically incapable of assisting, operating and maneuvering a boat solo can be a daunting and stressful task. Thankfully, there are a variety of available systems and equipment for your boat that can make your life easier when single-handing your boat.
Sleipner Proportional Speed Thrusters
Bow and stern thrusters are the best pieces of equipment to have installed on your boat for maneuvering in tight spaces, particularly when docking. When you don’t have someone else on board to handle lines and pull the boat into the dock manually, a bow and stern thruster will help you counteract any wind or current and help the boat stay aligned with the dock or centered in a slip. While a standard on/off thruster is a great solution for docking, having the proportional speed control option is a worthwhile upgrade for single-handed docking.
The proportional speed control is essentially like having a throttle for your thrusters, so making the fine-tuned adjustments is simple. It also allows you to use the necessary amount of thrust for the conditions instead of using full power all the time. That means the thrusters can run longer if the full power isn’t needed, or you can apply more thrust to one thruster than the other instead of having to pulse an on/off thruster to get less than 100% thrust.
One of the best features of Sleipner’s proportional speed thrusters is the HOLD function, which allows you to press a single button and have the thrusters run constantly until deactivated, at pre-set incremental speeds. That means you can use the HOLD function to hold the boat up against a dock while you leave the helm to secure the lines to the dock. You can also add a handheld remote to your Sleipner thruster system, either on/off or proportional speed, so that you can control the thrusters while on the move instead of being limited by a joystick mounted at the helm.
Electric Anchor Windlass
If you’ve anchored your boat alone without a windlass, or with a manual windlass, you have probably experienced the situation of breaking the anchor free of the seabed floor and rushing to pull it up on deck so you can get back to the helm while the boat drifts downwind towards another boat or land. Depending on how windy or how crowded the anchorage is, this can be quite a stressful and potentially dangerous situation. Having an electric windlass on the boat with a control switch at the helm or a handheld control can eliminate the need to leave the wheel when anchoring or hauling the anchor while single-handing.
Manufacturers like AutoAnchor also make windlass controls, both dash-mounted and handheld, that also have built-in chain-counters so you can know exactly how much of your anchor rode you’ve deployed or retrieved without having to go on the foredeck to confirm visually. Anything that limits hurried trips between the helm and foredeck make your experience single-hading both safer and more convenient. The electric motor of the windlass also negates any injury or safety concerns with hauling an anchor and chain off the seabed floor by hand.
Zipwake Dynamic Trim Control
While proportional speed thrusters and electric anchor windlasses can help you single-hand when maneuvering in marinas and anchorages, having an automated trim control system can help make your life easier underway. When operating your boat alone, the less you have to think about so you can focus on steering and navigating, the better. While adjusting trim tabs under way may seem like a simple task, trimming certain boats or in certain conditions can require frequent and fine adjustments, particularly on faster boats. There’s no replacement for the peace of mind that comes with a fully automated trim control system from Zipwake.
With the touch of a button the Zipwake system will react in real time to the ride attitude of the boat and adjust it accordingly to optimize the trim of the hull. Because of the speed at which the Zipwake interceptors react, they also keep the boat more stable in rolling seas and help you make more stable turns, adding to the safety and comfort of your ride.
Safety is always the most important of boating, but particularly so when it comes to single-handing your boat. If you’re single-handing be sure to always wear your life preserver, have a VHF radio within arms reach and make sure someone else knows that you’re out there alone, what your plans are and when they should expect you to be back at the dock. Whether you plan to operate your boat solo often or not, all of the systems above can make your time on the water safer and more convenient, even with others aboard. After all, it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared. If you would like to learn more about any of these systems, feel free to explore our website or contact us with any questions.