Will Renilson improves boat handling aboard his Jersey 36 and tests the Vetus remote control system and the Coastline Technology bow and stern thrusters

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Remote control bow and stern thrusters: reader tested

Remote control bow and stern thrusters: reader tested

We own a Jersey 36 single-engine motorboat, and with the dive platform she’s actually 40ft long, writes Will Renilson.

She has a shaft-driven Vetus 250hp engine with fully balanced rudder, cathedral hull and has bow and stern thrusters.

At slow speed Jersey Lass will turn in about a boat length and a half to port and about two boat lengths to starboard.

This is due to our large balanced rudder designed by my retired naval architect brother… So why do we really need bow and stern thrusters? And why did we replace our working bow and stern thrusters remote with a new one?

The bow thruster onboard Jersey Lass

The bow thruster onboard Jersey Lass

The traditionalists will say that you do not need thrusters… and they’re right, you don’t.

You can use warps and can power against a warp to turn the boat on a quay heading.

You can moor with a short midships line first then sort things out afterwards or, as we often do, you can moor with a line to the stern cleat and just kick the engine in forwards and she’ll stay alongside while you finish mooring up.

There are all sorts of good seamanship tricks that we can all use when mooring up, but even so, we use our bow and stern thrusters extensively.

Using bow and stern thrusters for easier single-handed manoeuvres

I often moor the boat on my own, so this is where the bow and stern thrusters come in really handy.

If you come alongside and start to drift off, just touch the thrusters…

If you are inside a lock and start to drift off, touch the thrusters… If you are trying to get into a very tight mooring space, just use the thrusters and go sideways.

A VETUS remote control system for bow and stern thrusters

VETUS remote control system £350

Ditto, if you are mid-channel waiting for a bridge to lift, or being blown off a pontoon finger berth.

It certainly makes life easy and I’m all for an easy life; no massive rushing to quickly get a line on when mooring up.

You don’t need a second crewmember, and you can take your time and hold station till things are sorted.

A remote control for bow and stern thrusters on a boat

Coastline Technologies remote control system £498

But you need to know that bow thrusters are going to work when needed, and have faith that your remote control will work when called to do so.

It’s also important not to over-use the thrusters as they stand a chance of overheating, so short bursts are best.

And they only really work at slow speed, which is why they’re great for mooring.

As my old skipper at work used to say … “the faster you go, the harder you hit”.

Our first remote

The first remote that we fitted was the standard Vetus model. This works but ours had some failings.

The signal range is not that great and it did tend to ‘drop out’ from time to time. It used to cut-out after one minute of inactivity.

We sent it back and then the replacement would drop out after two minutes of inactivity.

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Reconnecting the bluetooth meant having to go back to the cockpit, which was not always practical when mooring up.

It was run by a single Duracell 2025 watch-type battery, which never lasted very long.

You never knew when the battery was going to die on you and you never really had faith in the remote.

Bow and stern thruster controls at the helm of a boat

Bow and stern thruster controls at the helm

The bag for the remote was so flimsy that I had to make my own.

So, while we kept this remote and base unit as a backup, we also fitted a Coastline Technologies remote and now use that extensively.

Here’s why:

  • The range is over 100m. Why you would need quite that much, I don’t know, but it does give you confidence.
  • It has a light that tells you when it is bluetooth connected.
  • ]It can have 10 minutes of inactivity before it cuts out.
  • It runs off three Energizer Ultimate lithium AAA batteries which, after a season’s use, are still showing 1.73V (brand New Duracell Plus AAA batteries only read 1.58V!)
  • There is a light that shows you when the internal batteries are getting low in voltage, but the unit will still work. I have tested this with old used batteries so know it works.
  • The unit is user-friendly, very robust and has a lanyard

Fitting the unit was very easy. It comes with full instructions, though in our case we wanted to leave the existing Vetus base unit in place so Coastline Technologies made up a small jumper lead for us.

The base unit has an internal fuse to protect the system and all can be installed without any specialist skills… well I managed it!

Coastline Technology also have remote control units for windlasses. These are with or without chain counters.

A stern thruster on a motoboat

Jersey Lass’s stern thruster

Needless to say, we have fitted one of them. It allows me to go up to the bow of the boat and stow the anchor myself.

I especially like this as I can lift the hook up till it is just below the surface on the main controls then go up forward.

I often leave the anchor just below the surface then tug the chain up and down which cleans all the mud and weed off the anchor before finally bringing it on board using the remote.

Extra pair of hands

These remote control units may count as ‘cheating’ in a traditionalist’s book but when short-handed I like to have all the help that I can.

There is that old fashioned saying, ‘a good workman never blames his tools’. In my eyes then, ‘a good workman would arrange to have decent tools’.

Self-installed thruster controls on a boat

Self-installed thruster controls

We have moored up in 35-knot winds with no dramas.

At nearly £500 my bow/stern thruster remote is not cheap, but it has been built for the marine environment and has not let me down.

Other remotes

Coastline Technology also do mainsail and genoa remotes.

I’m afraid I can’t report back on these as my days of using ‘sticks and rags’ are long gone, with my creaking bones heading to early retirement.

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