How to Drive a Bowrider

If you’re new to boating, it can be tricky figuring out how to drive a bowrider. After all, bowriders are not your average fishing boat.

As their name suggests, bowriders have their cockpit at the front of the boat. That makes things a little different from your standard center console or runabout.

It also means that if you’re new to driving this boat type, there are some key points you’ll need to know before getting underway. Here is our comprehensive guide on operating a bowrider safely and effectively.

Install Navigation and Safety Equipment

A GPS or other navigation system is essential when driving a boat. For safety reasons, it’s best not to navigate with your smartphone. Additionally, your phone won’t function efficiently if you need to make an emergency call.

Other safety equipment includes a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, life jackets, and a hand-held marine radio. Be sure to check all safety gear regularly to ensure it’s ready for action.

And don’t forget about the navigation lights! Make sure your bowrider is compliant with the laws in your state before you take off for the first time.

Understand Bowrider Controls

Before you get behind the wheel to drive your boat, you’ll want to understand the various controls and how they work.

Steering wheel: This is the wheel you turn to control your bowrider. You can turn the wheel to change your direction and speed.

Throttle: This is the mechanism used to control your engine speed.

Gears: These are the mechanisms that you use to change your boat’s speed and the number of revolutions that your engine makes per minute.

Shift lever: This is the lever that allows you to shift gears.

Find the throttle and steering wheel

The first thing you’ll need to do once you’re underway is find the throttle and the steering wheel. The majority of throttles are placed on the left-hand side of the control panel (console).

This is where you’ll need to place your left hand while driving. It will help you keep the bowrider moving at a constant speed.

The steering wheel will be on the right side of the console. This is where you’ll place your right hand while driving.

You’ll need to turn the wheel to steer the boat left and right, while the throttle will let you accelerate or decelerate depending on which way you push in the throttle.

Start Your Engine and Hold the Throttle

It’s important to know the right method to start your engine.

For starters, you’ll need to read your engine’s owner’s manual, as different engines may have different starting procedures.

If you’re using a gasoline-powered engine, the first thing you’ll need to do is pull out the choke. The choke is there to help regulate fuel flow and help the engine start more easily.

Once you’ve pulled out the choke and turned on the ignition, you’ll need to let the engine idle for a few minutes. This will help it warm up and will help reduce the chances of any issues once you start actually driving.

Once you’re sure that your engine is running and warm, you can let go of the throttle momentarily.

You can then start moving the throttle to adjust your speed. Hold the throttle at a comfortable speed, and use it to control how quickly you move while driving.

Check Your Mirrors and Blind Spots

As you’re driving, you’ll need to frequently check your mirrors and blind spots.

Mirrors let you see what’s behind and beside you. They are especially important because they let you see what’s happening behind your boat as you’re backing up.

Keep your guard up and don’t relax simply because you have a mirror. If you’re docking or casting off, keep an eye on the docks as well as the water around your boat.

It’s important to check your blind spots before you make a turn. Blind spots are not visible in your mirrors, so you’ll need to glance over your shoulder in the direction you plan to turn, just as you would when driving a car.

Adjust Your Trim, and Then Accelerate

When you go for faster speeds, it’s important to remember to keep your bowrider’s nose straight. This will help you avoid fishtailing.

If you find that you’re fishtailing, you’ll need to adjust your trim to bring the boat back under control.

Pull it towards you to increase the trim and decrease lift, or push it away from you to decrease the trim and increase lift.

You can also adjust the trim by moving the slider on the side of the console, which changes the angle of the rudders.

To decrease lift, slide the lever towards the bow of the boat, and to increase lift, slide it towards the stern-drive motors.

Once you’ve adjusted your trim and your bowrider is under control again, you can go ahead and accelerate as needed.

Avoid Stopping or Slowing Down

As you’re driving your bowrider, you’ll want to avoid slowing down or stopping. This is because it could lead to bow slamming.

Bow slamming is a dangerous condition that happens when your boat’s speed drastically changes. It occurs when a sharp increase in water resistance causes an abrupt decrease in acceleration.

If a boat is going slowly or stopping, bow slamming can happen more easily. This is because the bow is moving slowly through the water and then comes to a quick stop. But the rest of the boat keeps moving, so the bow slams into the water.

If you drive your boat at slower speeds, you could cause water to come up and slam into the front of the boat. This could also cause the bow to dip into the water.

If you’re ever in a situation where you need to come to a complete stop, remember to keep idling and do not shut off your engine. Shutting off your engine when the boat is still in the water could cause it to drift forward, which is an additional risk.


If you’re just starting out driving a bowrider, it’s helpful to practice everything in the order: learning about bowrider controls, starting the engine and using the throttle, checking your mirrors and blind spots, adjusting the trim, and following safety rules when accelerating or decelerating.

With a little practice, you’ll soon be getting the most out of your bowrider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it difficult to steer and drive a bowrider?

Steering a bowrider can be a difficult task, particularly when it is brand new. Bowriders are often larger boats. Large vessels are more difficult to maneuver, which can make steering more challenging.

As with any vehicle, though, you will quickly grow comfortable driving your bowrider with a little practice.

How is driving a bowrider different from other boats?

While bowriders have many of the same controls that other vessels have, they have a slightly different setup overall.

A bowrider’s throttle is usually placed toward the front of the boat, whereas the throttle for most vessels is typically located on the steering wheel. A bowrider’s steering wheel is often placed behind the captain’s seating area.

Are there any issues with driving a Bowrider?

Not at all! In fact, many boaters prefer driving a bowrider over other boat types due to the added comfort and space and the great view the driver has of the water ahead.