Pivot Turn


  • Practice and develop the boat handling skill of turning a boat in a confined space (e.g., marina, a narrow channel) or to avoid hitting an object.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Can be conducted in a confined area or open water.

Conducting the Drill:

  • Operator turns the boat 180 degrees using pivot turn procedures within a space of one to two boat lengths.

Teaching Tips:

  • Pause briefly in neutral; shift into gear at idle RPM.
  • When using a boat with an outboard motor, stern drive or jet drive:
    • Use directed thrust of the propeller to turn the boat.
    • Turn the helm hard over when in neutral before shifting into gear. Teach the mnemonic: “Steer, then Gear.”
  • When using a boat with a “fixed” propeller and rudder steering:
    • Use rudder and prop walk to turn the boat.
    • Turn boat in a clockwise direction if the propeller “walks” the boat to port in reverse, or
    • Turn boat in a counterclockwise direction if the propeller “walks” the boat to starboard in reverse.
    • Turn helm hard over and keep it in the same direction as the turn: turn it clockwise if turning clockwise; turn it counterclockwise if turning counterclockwise.
    • During the turn, shift gear before gaining headway.
    • Teach the mnemonic: “Steer, then gear.”

Common Errors:

  • Not shifting smoothly
  • Turning the helm while in gear – not positioning the helm while in neutral
  • Using too much throttle
  • Not checking behind the boat during the maneuver to ensure there are no hazards astern


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standard 3.3 and its rubrics
  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pp. 52, 59 (rudder steering)