How To Plane Out A Boat

Guides

Alright, you've landed here because you want some information on how to plane a boat with an outboard motor. 

 

Well, you've come to the right place. This article will provide you with everything you need to plane an outboard motorboat. 

 

This doesn't have to be complicated but there are best practices. Throughout this article we'll cover the following: 

·    What does it mean for a boat to plane

·    What causes a boat to porpoise

·    how to get a boat on plane with trim tabs

·    outboard motor trim position

·    What size Trim Tabs do I need

·    stopping a boat on plane

·    boat struggles to get on plane

·    what to do when your boat motor won't plane out

·    boat planing problems

·    Why does my boat not plane out

 

There will also be a video guide below to help explain this more visually if you'd prefer that. 


If you're a complete beginner you'll need to know what it means for a boat to be on plane. For those of you who already know, you can simply skip ahead on this one. 


What does it mean for a boat to plane? 

boat wont plane out

A boat that travels on top of the plane of the water (i.e. the bow of the boat is lifted out of the water) is known as a boat on plane. You can see this in action from the image above. 


Essentially, a boat travels through the water in one of two ways. In the first way, boats will travel with their bows (front of the boat) fully in the water and the bow breaks through the waves. 

You'd see this in most common boats like a cruise ship, a sailboat, kayaks, fishing boats and other types of boats of that nature.


The second way a boat can travel through the water is on plane. As discussed above, this is pretty much when a boat has the bow (front) lifted out of the water. 


A boat on plane will look like it's gliding on top of the water. The most common boats you'd see this in action include speedboats, jet skis, etc. and this will occur when these boats are at speed. 


As a complete beginner, this can be tough but it just takes a little practice to get it right. 


You might be wondering why or what benefit is it to have your outboard motorboat on plane in the first place? 


Well, when the boat is on plane, there is way less resistance on the bow of the boat when you are skittering on top of the water. 


This is obviously helpful to the boat's motor as it isn't trying to displace thousands of gallons of water in front of it. This, in turn, puts way less strain on the engine. 


So you're probably wondering how to get an outboard motor on plane in the first place. 


Well, the video below will help illustrate this but for those that prefer it in written format, simply read on. (although we encourage you to watch the video as it's easier to explain visually) 


How To Plane An Outboard Motor 

Now, we are onto the reason why you're here on this article. How do you plane an outboard motor? 


This video will help explain exactly that: 


Let's look at how to plane an outboard motorboat in a step by step: 

  • Trim the engine in all the way
  • Tell passengers to hold on
  • Accelerate gradually onto plane (usually 20 knots +)
  • As the boat speeds up and the bow comes down, slowly start trimming the engines out. 
  • As you trim the engines out, the boat will start to plane 

You'll typically get your outboard motorboat to plane above 15 - 20 knots. (depending on the type of boat, shape, weight, etc.)


Some boats have trim tabs that can help with planing and we'll discuss those below. 


The faster you go, the more you can trim the engines out to get the bow out of the water to reduce the water drag on the hull.


Again, the video above will help illustrate this and you can see a live demonstration of how to plane an outboard motorboat at 


Stopping A Boat On Plane

Once you've got your boat on plane and are gliding through the water, you'll obviously want to eventually stop your boat. 


You won't want to stop in a manner that causes a stern wave to enter the rear of the boat (it can happen if you decide to stop abruptly) 


Here's how to stop your boat on plane safely:

  1. Retard the throttle smoothly. 
  2. Maintain your heading within 5 degrees (we don't want abrupt steering) 
  3. Warn your passengers of the pending stop 
  4. Once you reach lower speeds, shift to neutral after your boat is off plane to avoid engine kick up or any damage to the engine


This is the safest and easiest way to stop your boat on plane safely. As we mention continually, practicing this will make you better and it does take time to get good at it. 


Don't make any sudden or sharp steering movements when you are slowing down the boat as this can be very dangerous for you and your passengers. 


Trim Tabs When Planing Out A Boat

how to plane outboard motor boat
Image courtesty of Bennett Trim Tabs


What are the benefits of trim tabs? Well, if you're having issues with planing out your boat, these can help. 


Trim tabs help adjust the running angel of your vessel. They can help you get on plane faster and increase efficiency.  


What size trim tabs do I need for my boat 


Well, this isn't a straightforward answer as it'll depend on a number of factors. 


You'll need to know what kind of power is the vessel, how fast can it go and what's the boat length. 

Generally, the slower the boat, the larger the trim tab and the faster the boat, the smaller the trim tabs. 


Here's a sizing guide courtesy of Bennett trimtab

how to plane out boat


Outboard Motor Trim Position 

To get your boat on plane, you'll want to trim the motor all the way down as mentioned above.

 

Experience will help with this but once you start to plane, you'll then want to readjust the trim position. Again, the video above will give you an idea of how this works but it takes lots of practice to get it right so don't be concerned if you struggle at the beginning. 





What causes a boat to porpoise

As a complete beginner trying to get your boat on plane, you'll most likely make errors. 

One such error is when your outboard boat starts to porpoise. This means the bow rises and falls for no apparent reason. But this is generally caused by too much trim. How can you fix this? 


  1. Add some weight forward or 
  2. Lower the trim tabs


This will help stop the bow bouncing off the waves as would be the case if a boat were to porpoise. 


As with everything, experience is key to get better and most people don't get this right on their first try. i.e. It takes time! 


If you are struggling with this, you can always consult with a professional or someone with more experience. 


This will help speed up your learning curve. A boat that bounces (porpoise) is one of the most common problems when beginners try to plane their boats so keep this in mind. 


However, as a precaution, this is very very dangerous and can cause serious damage to both your boat and passengers.  Not all boats will porpoise equally so getting to know your boat is crucial. 


Pro tip: When you purchase your boat for the first time, ask the owner or dealer (whoever you buy it from) about ideal speeds for having your boat plane.



Dangers of Planing Out A Boat

It's perfectly fine to plane out your boat. But with the increase in speed comes some added risks to be aware of. 


In rough conditions, planing can be a bit more tricky especially with choppy waters. You'll need to take extra care. 


Another issue is a familiar one that comes when we are at faster speeds in any vehicle or vessel. Traveling at speed means you should always be more alert when planing out your boat. 


Allow for longer stopping distances in this instance and as explained in the stopping a boat when planed out, do things slow and steady to ground to a halt. 


Sharp movements on a boat at sea, especially done by inexperienced boat owners can be lethal 


Just because the boat can do it doesn't mean you'll be able to hang on every time so keep that in mind. 


What to do if boat won't plane out 

If you're having problems with getting your boat to plane out, there can be a number of reasons for this. 


There are a number of reasons why your boat won't plane out. The majority of reasons are caused by human error. 


Let's take a look at some of these and if you're struggling with planing your boat out, this might be the reason or reasons why:

  • Overloading the boat (too much weight in one area can really affect how you plane an outboard or inboard motor)
  • Weight Distribution -Things like having all your passengers sitting at the front of the boat could be a problem as the boat motor will need higher speeds to generate the lift as it's heavier. 
  • Incorrect tilt/trim - Probably the most common reason is incorrect tilt or trim. Planing your boat is part art, part science and tilting the motor too far one way can cause issues with planing. 


These are the most common reasons as to why your boat will not plane out so you should be aware of them. 


If you find yourself still stuck, you should find someone who owns a similar boat to yours and reach out and ask for advice. 


You could also simply contact a local marina for more specific advice to your own boat. Sometimes they are willing to help. Another tip is to simply check out forums. 

With forums, you'll get a more tailored answer to your particular problem with planing out the boat as each boat is different in how to go about doing it (think weight, speed, size, etc.) 


One final option is to reach out to the boat manufacturers, or to the person you bought the boat off as they'll more than likely be able to give you assistance with your specific boat. 

When you've successfully planed out your boat and enjoy the open waters, you'll want to eventually make sure you are regularly cleaning the boat hull to keep your boat planing with ease.

Conclusion

Having your boat on plane can be an ideal solution for your outboard motor to help glide you through the water. 


As we've mentioned above, this will take experience and time to get right and would ideally be done with someone with more experience at the beginning to show you the right way. 


There can be some big dangers if this isn't done right (porpoise) and this can cause serious damage. 


If it's your first time attempting to plane a boat, bring a professional or at the very least go alone with no passengers so you can practice without injuring passengers as you try to learn. 


Speed is a dangerous thing in any vehicle but it can be deadly with a boat. So it goes without saying to always be on alert, follow safety procedures and most importantly stay safe out there. 


We want all our readers to have a safe and enjoyable boating experience and if you're ever in doubt or nervous about how to plane your outboard boat, simply ask someone to come along. 


We know we are repeating this but it's much easier to learn this if someone shows you. 


No one boat would will plane the same way as there are different weights, sizes, power and weather conditions to contend with.

However, there is nothing nicer than getting up to speed and having your boat perfectly glide through the water with the nice breeze blowing in your face. 

So with that being said, enjoy your next trip and have a happy and safe boating experience on the waters. 

If you'd like, you can check out our other guides for common boating questions.



Paul L

I enjoy blogging, business & sailing. From Ireland, I've loved sailing from a young age and love to hit the waters whenever I have time. You can check out more info in the about us section. Hopefully you're enjoying the site and if you have any questions, you can reach out (just subject the email with my name) so it'll get sent to me and I'll happily get back to you. Feel free to share photos and stories of your sailing experiences with us too

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