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Nov 19, 2019

Making a pivot turn with a single engine is easy and will get you out of tight spaces by turning your boat around in place.

Here's how to perform this simple but useful maneuver on a boat with a single outboard or sterndrive. The key is to stay controlled and steady in your maneuvers. And remember: Slow is pro.

1. Bring your boat to a complete stop: Pause in neutral, then shift into reverse idle. Look to the side so you can gauge your boat's movement. Once the boat stops, shift into neutral.

2. Take note of wind direction and use it to help you. If possible, keep your boat to the upwind side. For example, if the wind is blowing west to east, put your boat on the west side of the fairway to account for drift. Now, turn the wheel all the way left (counterclockwise). Shift into reverse idle for 3 to 4 seconds then back to neutral so the stern goes left as the boat slowly reverses. Assess how your boat is moving. Depending on how the wind is affecting you, you can leave the wheel turned and allow the rudder effect to continue turning your boat for a short period.

3. Now turn the wheel hard in the opposite direction (clockwise in this case). Then shift into forward idle for three to four seconds, then back to neutral. You'll notice the stern still goes to the left, but now the boat is moving a bit forward, continuing its clockwise rotation. Assess your movement. Allow the boat to continue to turn. If you need to, turn the wheel hard left (counterclockwise) once again, shift into reverse for 3 to 4 seconds, then back to neutral.

4. After three to four maneuvers, your boat should be rotated 180 degrees from where you started the pivot turn. (Note: Sometimes a very brief but careful extra burst of power in the correct direction is needed to help the bow to swing.) Now put it in forward idle and get back on course.