4 Most Common Reasons Why Your Boat Leans To One Side

I was browsing through some boater forums this past weekend when I came upon someone asking why their boat would be leaning to one side while they were underway, and some of the comments had me wondering how common this problem really is.

As it turns out, there are a few different reasons why your boat might be leaning to the one side. The two most common reasons for a boat to lean is due to an unbalanced load, or the trim tabs need some readjusting.

To help determine what is causing the boat to lean, it is important to note when the lean is occurring. For example, is the boat only leaning to the side while you are in motion and using your throttle? Or is it happening while the boat is sitting at rest?

Let’s go over some of the reasons that will cause your boat to lean to the side:

1. Unbalanced Load

If your boat is leaning will at rest, this is often because of a weight distribution issue, either from storing gear or passengers more to one side then the other.

Solution: Try moving your gear around and distribute the weight evenly, and store heavier items in the center of the ship. Take a look at the position and location of the gas tank, battery bank, and other equipment onboard to see if those items are also more one-sided. If you have passengers on board, have them slowly move about to help even the load.

2. Trim Tabs

trim tab correct leanTrim tabs get mounted at the transom, which is found at the back of the boat, on both the left and right side. Each trim tab can be controlled independently and activated by the captain controlling the ship.

Trim tabs are used to provide a lift to either side of the vessel to compensate for changes in weight distribution, speed, and the different water conditions.

Solution: When a trim tab gets aimed downwards, it will cause the stern to rise and reduce the hull’s resistance. Depending on how fast you are going, the surface area of the tab and the angle at which you have the tab deflecting, will all determine the size of the lift. In other words, by angling one of the trim tabs slightly more or less than the other, this will cause one side of the boat to rise.

For example; if your boat is leaning to the left, you would angle the left trim tab downward, which will then help raise the left side of the boat. Once the boat gets leveled, that is when you would stop angling the trim tab downward.

3. Waterlogged

If you have any damage, small cracks or fiberglass is showing on the body of the boat, particularly the part that’s submerged under water; you might have a problem with the foam inside your hull being waterlogged. Water will enter through any small cracks or holes, and the foam inside will act like a sponge absorbing the water. Depending on how long the water has been leaking it could have a significant impact on how waterlogged you are.

Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so if you have been taking on the water that you are not aware of, this water could easily add an extra 400 to 500 pounds of extra weight. Now if this has been happening to the left side of the boat, for example, that will cause the left side to be much heavier then the right, which will cause a lean to one side.

If you notice that your boat is leaning without any gear, or passengers onboard, there is a good chance that it has been taking on water. A waterlogged boat will lean even while sitting still.

Solution: Once your foam has gotten wet, it is very hard to dry that out. The best solution is to remove the deck and then remove all of the saturated foam inside. Once you have removed all of the wet foam from the inside of the hull, you’ll need to make sure that it is completely dry inside before re-foaming, and sealing it back up.

Although you might be able to do this job yourself, this type of thing should be handled by a professional.

4. Hydrofoil

Hydrofoil stabilizerA hydrofoil can be added to outboards to help provide a little extra performance boost, usually by an additional two or three MPH at cruise. A hydrofoil is used to level out the ride by forcing the stern to rise and the bow to go down.

Many people have noticed that once they started to use a hydrofoil, their boats begin to lean to the side while they are increasing the throttle. It’s not always the hydrofoil itself that is causing the problem, but a problem that you might have had before with the position of the motor, that becomes to be noticeable only after installing the hydrofoil.

Of course, if the hydrofoil is not positioned properly during installation, this will cause problems to arise.

Solution: Although visually looking at the motor you might think that it is in the correct position; however it might be off slightly. While the boat is sitting on the back of the trailer and out of the water, tilt it upright, so it’s straight and down, with the steering set in the center, and then take a few steps back.

With the hydrofoil installed as a reference, you should be able to notice if the motor looks to be off position. Double check that the height of the motor is correct as well. By correcting the position of the motor, you might able to fix the problem with the lean.

Another thing that you should look at is if the hydrofoil is bolted exactly perpendicular to the cavitation plate. Make sure that it’s not off-center or tilted in any way.

Is It Safe To Ride My Boat If It’s Leaning To The Side?

It is dangerous to ride a boat while it’s not on its lines because it will hinder the captains’ maneuverability from controlling the ship. Not only is it dangerous to ride, but it is also very uncomfortable for everyone on board.

If your boat is leaning to one side, it is recommended that you find, and correct the root of the problem before venturing out on the waters.

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