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Do you know how to handle an inboard in reverse? We’re here to help.

Have you tried to put your inboard boat in reverse only to find that you can’t steer? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Anyone who has ever thrown an inboard in reverse understands the difficulties that are associated.  

The issue with reversing an inboard boat stems from the design of the propulsion system. More specifically, the transmission and propeller shaft setup are designed to power the boat but result in one direction reversing only. While it may not be convenient for boat drivers, it ensures safety and consistency. 

And, we’re here to help you overcome this challenge. Keep reading to learn how to battle the directional reverse caused by inboard boats. 

Understanding Your Inboard Boat 

First, let’s begin by defining an inboard boat. An inboard is a boat with the engine mounted within its hull. In many surf and wakeboard boats, it’s positioned towards the rear of the hull. Ski boats typically have the engine positioned in the center of the boat.  

Inboards are different than outboard or sterndrive motors. And more specifically, how they react when you put them in reverse. Unlike inboards, outboard and sterndrive motors can reverse in both directions. This makes them a little easier to maneuver.  

The difference is all correlated to the design and function of the different engines. Outboard motors are slightly more user-friendly than inboard motors. However, inboard motors are built for performance and precision. 

Preparing for Reverse Maneuvers 

Before throwing your inboard in reverse, there’s several things you should check. First, you should know which way the boat prefers to reverse. All it takes is a quick google search to know which direction your boat will reverse. For example, MasterCraft boats pull to the starboard side when reversing. 

Other factors you’ll want to check for include wind, current, and docking conditions. Know how strong the wind is and which direction it’s blowing. The same should be considered for the current. Docking conditions include knowing how busy the marina is, where it should be avoided and other factors. 

Techniques for Maneuvering in Reverse 

Considering inboards like to pull towards the starboard side of the boat, there are a few techniques to conquer this challenge. You can plan to reverse in a straight line, pivot, or sidestep. Let’s discuss the differences between these techniques. 


Pivoting a boat is very similar to a 3+-point turn in a vehicle. You can position the boat in the correct direction after readjusting the direction of the boat several times.  


The third option is to sidestep into position. This means that you would pull up to a dock or something similar at a 45 degree angle and reverse into the spot. This would position the boat perfectly at the dock. 

Features to Assist 

Along with your own technique, you can use features to assist in reversing your boat as well. Some features available on MasterCraft boats include Dockstar and Thruster systems. Both of these assist with maneuvering the boat while it is in reverse. 


Dockstar makes it easier to navigate in and out of tight spaces. This feature includes two flanking rudders positioned in front of the prop to direct water while in reverse. This addition makes it much easier to reverse in a starboard or a port direction. 


Another feature that makes reversing much easier is to add a thruster system. A stern thruster allows you to completely spin the stern of your boat in either direction. By moving the stern of the boat in the direction you want, you can position the bow in the correct position to head out on the water.  

Practice and Build Confidence 

Regardless of what your boat is equipped with or not equipped with, it helps to practice. Practice in different conditions to make sure you feel confident. Practice when it’s windy, practice, when it’s busy out, and anything else that may challenge you.  

Continuing to challenge yourself will make you a strong captain regardless of the boat your on. If you can perfect how to handle an inboard in reverse, you’ll be comfortable getting behind the wheel of any boat. 

Don’t Let Fear Stop You 

Just because it’s not the easiest thing, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. With practice and help from an expert, you’ll be able to conquer any situation on the water. It will help to make every situation on the water enjoyable and stress-free. So, practice and learn how to properly handle your boat in reverse.  

If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to your local Action Water Sports. We’re here to help you become the expert of your boat.  

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