Small Boat Stabilizers for Safe Fishing

Fishing from a boat can be the most enjoyable way to spend a day but when the boat is rocking back and forth too much the experience can go bad quickly. Who hasn’t been affected by seasickness?

Today, we have remedies like Dramamine and Nei-Kuan acupressure wristbands that can treat some nausea, and now through the wonders of technology applied in better ways, we have small boat stabilizers that can help solve the problem.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about small-boat stabilization and if it’s something you want to take advantage of. Here is a detailed guide on using small boat stabilizers to stop your vessel from rocking.

What Is Boat Stabilization?

In 1915 the first gyroscopic stabilizer was fitted to a US warship, the USS Worden. Marine gyroscopic stabilizer technology has steadily advanced over the decades and is now quite effective at counteracting the rolling and tilting that can ruin a day of fishing for those sensitive to the motion.

Small boat stabilizers with gyro technology use a spinning gyroscope to generate a stabilizing force that helps to reduce the rolling motion of the boat. The gyroscope is often mounted horizontally on the boat and is connected to the hull with a series of hydraulic or mechanical arms.

As the boat rolls from side to side, the gyroscope responds by spinning faster in the opposite direction, generating a counteracting force that helps to reduce the rolling motion of the boat. This technology has been used for many years on larger ships to improve their stability and comfort while on the open ocean.

Over the years boating has changed dramatically with regard to comfort on the water and the ease of doing things in the boat. Today’s boats are much easier to handle but they are very expensive to maintain and keep all the moving parts working.

Being on the water is hard on machinery, electrical components, and the structure of the boat.

Boat stabilization systems are not just ‘nice to have’ but they are becoming a necessity for anyone running a fishing or yacht charter business. Passengers who haven’t boated before are usually prone to seasickness at least for the first couple of times they’re out on the water.

Boats under 30 feet long are now using stabilization systems that are less expensive and easier to install than in previous generations of the technology. It’s no longer just used in larger navy vessels and cruising yachts.

Boat stabilization can take place in two primary ways with the first being the use of fins on each side of the vessel and the other being gyroscopic motors. Both fins and gyros can accomplish this task but each does so in a very different way.

Let’s learn a little about both.

How Do Small Boat Stabilizers Work?

Small boat stabilizers work to improve boat stability by reducing the roll, yaw, pitch, surge, sway, and heave of the boat. Your boat can move in these six ways and stabilizers do their best to cancel out some of these motion effects.

Small boat stabilizers help to improve boat stability by reducing the roll of the boat and giving fishermen a stable platform to fish from.

If you have a small fishing boat, the process of making your boat more stable can be as simple as adding a couple of fins or a pontoon or two to the hull.

Different devices affect some of the six boat motions and have no effect on others. There is no one device that does it all perfectly, but technology has come a long way to increase comfort levels on a boat.

Large tanks attached to the hull allow water to change from one location to another, thereby stabilizing the boat. These take up a lot of space and weight and are not very practical for small boat owners.

For boats over 30 feet, the Seakeeper company developed a gyro-based stabilizer that is easy to install and can be used on boats with a length of over 30′.

Fins for Small Boat Stabilization

Fins can be installed as part of the hull of the boat and they can move to increase the effective stabilization. They adjust as water is rushing over them to provide some stabilization to the platform.

You can think of fins like wings on a plane that can help to stabilize a boat while moving. Optimal adjustments depending on the speed of the vessel will give the captain a really smooth ride out to the fishing hole and back. Think ailerons on an airplane.

The technology for both of these systems has certain advantages and disadvantages.

Fin Advantages

  1. Better on moving boats. Fins work much better than gyros when the boat is in motion.
  2. They are lighter than gyros.
  3. Fins can affect yaw, roll, and sway to decrease the motion causing seasickness.
  4. They take less energy to operate than gyros.

Fin Disadvantages

  1. Not as good when stationary. It’s a challenge to develop fins that will reduce the drag on a boat when it moves quickly and then to lift a lot of water when it isn’t moving.
  2. Many factors are involved. Many things influence the size and shape of a small boat’s fins and have to be factored into the design. Weight, shape, length, slope, and area of the boat in contact with the water all have an effect on how efficient fins can be on a boat.
  3. Swells vary. Another factor in the equation is the swells in different areas can be quite different. Atlantic swells are different from Caribbean swells which are different from swells in the shallow Gulf of Mexico. Where you are may help to decide what sort of stabilizers you implement.

Fins are of most benefit when the boat is moving but they can still provide some stabilization at a standstill. Lucky for boat owners, this is where gyros shine.

Gyros for Small Boat Stabilization

Gyros are heavy flywheels that spin very fast in a circle to create centrifugal force which can stabilize a boat considerably. Gyros have many uses including stabilizing camera systems before drone technology became so ubiquitous. Photographers of years past had to fly in helicopters for aerial shots.

Gyros have been used on large (massive warships) and other boats since the early 1900s to control movement in waves and wind.  

The latest active gyros have control mechanisms that track bearing temperatures, vacuum pressure, and angles. They can be found in all sizes and strengths.

For small boats, most owners place them under the captain’s chair or right on the centerline. They are enclosed in a case that helps dampen sound and vibration and protects the internal components from weather.

Gyro Advantages

  1. Effective at any speed, even when the boat is sitting still in choppy waves or rolling waves.
  2. Can be used with boats of any size or weight.
  3. Gyroscopic stabilizers can affect roll, heave, pitch, and surge.
  4. Very compact and shrinking down with time as technology develops.
  5. Gyros need not come in contact with water at all, and the crucial parts can be enclosed in a vacuum-enclosed area that helps with heat, lubrication, dirt, and friction. All it requires is a hose down and wipe down after use on the water.

Gyro Disadvantages

  1. Expensive. Even the smallest unit will cost more than $10,000 USD without installation.
  2. Very heavy and sometimes difficult to install.
  3. Not nearly as effective at speed as fins.
  4. Gyros require a lot of energy to spin the heavy flywheel at high rpm. The electricity needed will need to come from your running engine. That means spending more on fuel and putting hours on your engine while stationary.

How Do I Stop My Boat From Rocking?

Here are some proven solutions for stopping your small boat from excessive movement on the water.

1. Magnus Effect Stabilizer

Magnus Effect Stabilizer
Magnus Effect Stabilizer

The Magnus Effect is named after the discoverer of the phenomenon in 1852, German physicist Heinrich Gustav Magnus.

The Magnus Effect occurs when a spinning object, like a ball or cylinder, moves through air or water. The spinning motion of the object causes the air or fluid to flow in a particular way, which generates a force on the object that is perpendicular to the direction of motion. This force can be used to lift or propel the object.

This effect is something you may already be familiar with.

When a soccer ball or volleyball has topspin applied, the ball will nosedive. When hit with an underspin, it will cause the ball to lift a bit on its trajectory. This is the same effect. The Magnus Effect is also used in a variety of engineering applications, such as in the design of turbines and propellers.

Companies like RotorSwing Holland and Quantum are developing small boat stabilizers based on the Magnus Effect.

2. Conventional Fin Stabilizers

Conventional Stabilizers
Conventional Stabilizers

Fins stick out from the hull of the boat and help it move forward through the water with a stabilizing effect. The faster the boat moves, the greater the effect to cancel out movement and create a smooth ride for passengers.

Fins can be adjusted to angle the hull as level as possible, maximizing stability and visibility for the captain. Fins work best on displacement hulls.

Fast planing hull boats are usually less affected by rolling because the constant movement of the hull around the water causes the boat to stay upright and stable.

3. Gyro Stabilizers

Gyro Stabilizers
Gyro Stabilizers

Gyroscopic stabilizers are an alternative to fins and come at a high price in comparison.

Gyros work at any speed and standing still. They require a lot of power to spin heavy flywheels of several hundred pounds like a gyroscope. Seakeeper is one of the best-known companies developing new technology in this space and they have a range of products to suit most boat owners.

4. Interceptors

Interceptors
Interceptors

Interceptors act fast to counteract pitch as your boat moves forward. Swedish company Humphree introduced their groundbreaking products.

Interceptors are strong metal pieces installed on the hull near your outboard motors that can be remotely moved up or down to change the boat’s pitch and create a more stable platform. These strong vertical plates only need to move 50 to 110mm (2 – 4.3 inches) to have a profound effect on the pitch of your boat.

At speed, they cause a lift at the front of the boat similar to flaps or fins, but they are much more effective as they can level out the boat for improved visibility and stability.

These fast-acting interceptors can automatically move vertically to instantly control the pitch of the boat in real-time. When sensors detect excessive pitch, the unit applies interceptors to mitigate it.

Top 5 Small Boat Stabilizers

Here are the top five small boat stabilizers on the market today.

1. Seakeeper 1 – 3

Seakeeper2
Seakeeper2

“Once you feel it, you’ll never boat without it!” This phrase by Seakeeper is on some of their marketing material. The video they show of their system shows a boat rocking 10 degrees is steadied down to around 1-2 degrees of roll when the system is turned on.

Seakeeper is generally considered the best gyro stabilizer in the industry. The flywheel on their systems spins at nearly 10,000 rotations per minute in a vacuum enclosure that is seawater cooled.

Seakeeper 2 (rpm: 9000; torque: 5.2 km; weight/mass: 188 kg / 414 lb.) is designed for boats up to 8 tons. These are compact units that can fit under the captain’s chair in most cases.

Seakeeper 35 is the largest of their products. (rev/rpm: 5150; torque: 73 km; weight/mass: 1778 kg / 3920 lb.; It can stabilize even larger boats or yachts of over 85 feet.)

How the Seakeeper Gyro-based Small Boat Stabilizer Works

Seakeeper is a brand that makes stabilizers for marine vessels of all sizes. They recently focused on creating compact systems for smaller fishing boats. The stabilizer is driven by a centrally located flywheel that rotates forward and aft to provide maximum torque to stabilize the boat.

Seakeeper manufactures several different stabilizers for boats, including the Seakeeper 1, 2, and 3, which have received the most attention. These units are ideal for boats from 23′ to 40′ in length.

Seakeeper stabilizers have been significantly reduced in weight and size to better fit inside most standard center console fishing vessels. The SeaKeeper 3’s lower rpm rating means it is better suited to small fishing boats. SeaKeepers can work with a maximum rpm of 10,700, while their smaller counterparts have been modified to work at a lower rpm of 6,400.

Installation of Seakeeper Stabilizers

One major concern you’ll need to address if you want boat stabilizers installed is the impact the system will have on your ability to fish comfortably and move around the boat. Especially on small boats.

Many Seakeepers are installed aftermarket which means that space can easily become a premium on many boats. Seakeeper has made it easier to install its systems by developing small models that are easily installed on almost any boat.

Installation on small boats typically involves placement of the gyro box underneath the helm station seating area. This is as minimally invasive as an installation gets as it won’t affect storage or standing space on most boats.

Access to the unit is as easy as raising the helm seat for maintenance.

2. Humphree

HUMPHREY
HUMPHREY

Swedish company Humphree produces the most popular interceptors on the market. They are designed to adjust your pitch on the fly based on their Automatic Trim Control technology.

The interceptors have a coordinated turn function that intervenes on the heeling angle when you turn, canceling lateral acceleration. This ensures a comfortable ride when cruising.

3. Quick MC2 X5 to X75

MC2X Quick
MC2X Quick

Italian company Quick S.P.A. based out of Italy and with offices in Maryland, Florida, and the United Kingdom makes a full product line of boat gyros.

Quick has nine models of small boat stabilizers ranging from the MC2 X5 model (rpm: 4800; torque: 5.5 km; weight/mass: 265 kg / 584 lb.) to gyros with much greater capacity for heavier boats.

Flywheel rotation is on a horizontal axis instead of vertical one. As a result, the company claims the bearings endure less friction and keep the internal temperature lower thus avoiding the need for water cooling.

4. Zipwake

ZIPWAKE

This Swedish company began in 2014 and manufactures interceptors that can automatically adjust the speed of your small boat to reduce pitch and roll to more comfortable levels. They improve the comfort on board while saving fuel over traditional tabs.

Their S-series is ideal for boats up to 50′ long and includes 13 fast-acting interceptors (four straight, four V-shaped, four chine, and one intermediate).

Like Humphree interceptors you can connect it to a single electronic control unit managed by a digital control panel to correct the boat’s speed automatically.

5. TOHMEI ARG (Anti-rolling Gyro)

TOMEI ARG

This Japanese stabilizer manufacturer with offices all over the world specializes in making stabilizers for smaller boats. Their ARG 50T / 65T (rpm: 4200; torque: 5.0 km; weight/mass: 234 kg / 516 lb.) is designed for smaller vessels that weigh around 8 tons.

Units are equipped with a battery that operates near silently and works with direct current (DC).

Wrapping Up

Recreational and commercial boaters want more comfort in this technological age, and they’re getting it with innovation in small boat stabilization by a number of companies applying their expertise to the space.

For years boat owners could modify their interiors to fit their luxurious lifestyles. Comfort comes in many packages and if you can pay for it, you can enjoy a boat interior that rivals a luxury apartment in downtown Miami, Florida.

Today the affordable (and continually getting cheaper) technology for small boat owners to change their comfort level while cruising, stationary fishing, or on anchor, exists with many options to choose from.

Installing fins and gyros on your boat is painful for a short while, but once they are part of your boat you’ll likely experience nothing but happiness as your pitching and rolling are decreased to much more enjoyable levels.

If you frequently take passengers out on your boat, they’ll be much less likely to have a bad experience and more likely to book with you again. Your income can increase as a direct result of a better experience for your passengers.

Have a look into one of the systems mentioned above for your boat. It may not be as expensive as you once thought, or you may have come to a new understanding of just how essential having a better experience on the boat needs to be.

Boating has entered a new era… are you ready to take advantage of it? Are you ready to increase your standard of boating and take it to a new level?

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Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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