Turning a boat in a confined space

Whether you've ended up in a tight spot by accident, whilst looking for your berth or simply because you need to turn around to access your berth more easily, turning in a confined space with comfort and confidence is a key skill that is incredibly helpful. 

Top Tips:

  • "Slow is Pro" in all close quarter manouevres 
  • Steer then Gear = Engage Neutral before steering to get the tightest/ most effective turn
  • Where possible, allow the elements (wind/tidal flow) to do the work, whether that be slowing you down or rotating your bow
  • The most effective part of your turn will be when you are in forward gear or when the wind/tidal flow is pushing your bow round
  • Don't Panic! If things goes wrong avoid using power to overcome as this will more likely put you in a very sticky situation, instead just allow the powerboat to drift and if necessary fend off. Basically if the plan goes out the window, a bump is preferable to a crunch!


  • Put out your fenders (hopefully you've already done this before entering the marina..)
  • Check the area is clear
  • Stop and assess the elements, figure out whether the wind or tidal flow is strongest 
  • Plan to make your turn into the strongest element (wind or tidal flow)

Red = Danger Area

Amber = Risky Area

Green = Safe Area



Step 1)

  • Engage Neutral
  • Full lock your steering (in this example to Starboard/Right)
  • Engage forward gear gently until bow is pointing into the wind/tidal flow

Step 2) 

  • Engage Neutral
  • Full lock steering in opposite direction (in this example to Port / Left)
  • Engage a short burst of reverse gear until bow is caught by wind/tidal flow which will assist the bow coming round

Step 3) 

  • Engage Neutral
  • Straighten up steering
  • Engage Forward Gear Gently to depart the area

Turning in a confined space with twin engines:

STEPS (opposite throttles - the easiest method!): 

Step 1)

  • Engage Neutral to take 'way' off, Ensure your engines are 'centred' / straight 

Step 2) 

  • E.G. If turning clockwise gently engage starboard engine in reverse gear and gently port engine in forward gear (preferably at the same time) 

Step 3) 

  • Spin boat until you're pointing in the direction you wish to go. 

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