Boat Controls (boat tethered to dock/slip)


  • Practice and develop the coordinated use of boat controls for starting the engine, shifting, changing speeds, and performing pivot turns and minimum control speed.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: powerboat rigged with bow, stern and spring lines, and fenders
  • Boat securely tethered alongside a dock or preferably in a slip.

Conducting the Drill:

  • Operator starts engine and then practices shifting from neutral into forward and reverse, and indicates throttle positions for maneuvering and high speed.
  • Operator learns to check engine/helm position before applying any power.
  • Operator practices coordinated helm and throttle maneuvers for turning and backing.
  • Operator practices helm, shift and throttle coordination of a pivot turn.

Teaching Tips:

  • When shifting gears, pause in neutral.
  • Use the mnemonic: “steer then gear” when teaching the pivot turn to help operators remember.

Common Errors:

  • Applying too much throttle or applying it too abruptly.
  • Lacking awareness of engine/helm position.
  • Turning the helm in the wrong direction during the pivot turn, or turning it while in gear.


  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pp. 10, 41, 45, 52, 59 (rudder steering)