Do You Sail a Motor Boat? | LakeWizard

Owning a motorboat can be loads of fun. But, when it comes to using it, do you sail a motor boat or drive it? Let’s find out.

Most boat owners are always torn with the lingo when using a sailboat and a motorboat. These two are different, which is crucial to note.

You don’t sail a motorboat, but you drive it. When you turn on the engine to get it to move, you drive it. Driving the motorboat moves you through the water as you also engage the throttle. You start to drive the motorboat and direct it using a steering wheel towards your destination.

A motorboat is great since it gives you lots of freedom in the river, lake or ocean. But, it’s important to get some training before you drive off. The basic training helps you even know more about the pre-departure checklist.

Sailing a boat involves relying on wind force to push and steer the boat towards a direction or destination. A sailboat should have sails that trap wind and move the boat.

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Do You Sail a Motor boat?

A motorboat or a powerboat can serve as a recreational vessel or for fishing. Since it has a motor that powers it, you drive the motorboat and not sail it. However, when you turn off the motor and start to steer it, you sail the motorboat.

When you own a motorboat, you get to drive it. A motorboat is different from a sailboat that you sail. Motorboats rely on the engine and fuel to move you from point A to B. Unlike a sailboat, these are fast vessels that achieve top speeds depending on the size and engine capacity.

If you plan to drive a motorboat, get some training and go through the pre-departure checklist before driving off.

Motorboats differ greatly from sailboats, but they also share some similarities. This is how you can pick them apart and know if you drive or sail them. For instance, sailboats tend to be calm and drift on the water.

The calm nature ensures you achieve maximum relaxation while on the waters. However, it’s all about the engine and driving it from one spot to another for a powerboat. Motorboats are not calm at all..

Usually, you won’t find a sail on a motorboat. It purely relies on the engine to drive from spot to spot. Whether you’re going fishing or just hanging out in the water, you can choose the speed. There is nothing quiet about a motorboat, given the engine's roar if you turn it on.

How Do Motor Boats Differ from Sail Boats?

You have to rely on the engine to move when you get a motorboat. It differs from a sailboat that relies on wind energy or rowing to get from point A to B.

Learning the difference between the two can help you choose the right one.


Motorboats are expensive. You can look into a sailboat if you want a cheaper option. Motorboats' whole design and structure make them costly.

It’s even possible for a motorboat to cost twice as much as a sailboat of the same size.

Sail Boats have the right of way

You must observe some rules in the open waters when you own a boat. Among the top rules is that sailboats have the right of way. This might come as a surprise to many, but owning a motorboat means you have to wait.

However, there is an exception to this rule regarding sailing and motorboats. If a motorboat has challenges maneuvering because of its size, it can have the right of way. It’s the best way to ensure the boat doesn’t run into problems that can cause it to capsize.

Large motor boats in open channels can seek the right of way when sailboats are around. It also applies in narrow channels and if the vessel has some mechanical issues. It needs to get to land fast hence can go before sailboats.

Motor Boats are Fast

Motorboats tend to move fast in open waters because of the engine's power that the boat uses. If it has a diesel engine, it can go even faster and get to destinations within no time. The factor of speed is why many people love to drive motorboats.

But, the speed also puts you at greater risk, especially when driving at the top speed of the motorboat. Top speeds can make a motorboat unstable and prone to capsizing. As for sailboats, they move at a slower pace and are more stable on the water.

Given how heavy sailboats can be, this reduces their average speed on the water. However, motorboats are lighter and can easily glide across the channels.

How to Drive a Boat

After noting that you drive and not sail a motorboat, you can now learn how it’s done. Driving a motorboat can be an exhilarating experience across the open waters. But, before you drive off, you need several lessons to master how it’s done.

You must learn some basics to drive a motorboat safely.

Pre-departure Checklist

Every motorboat requires checking before you take off. It’s where the pre-departure checklist comes in handy. When going through the list, check out the following.

  1. Life Jackets (at least one)
  2. Sound-producing Devices (boat horn, portable horn, and a whistle)
  3. Lights and Shapes
  4. Distress Signals (flares, day-shapes)
  5. Tools and Spares
  6. Fuel and Oil
  7. Fire Extinguishers

On top of these items, check the ventilation if the boat is enclosed and ensure the bilges are dry. Get to know the weather forecast before taking off and keep the radio on to get the latest forecast. Also, do some battery care and carry some spare batteries on board the motorboat.

After the checklist is complete, you can start the boat and take off.

Start the Boats

Most modern motorboats are simple to start. All you do is turn a key as you do in many vehicles. But, you have to note some safety features on the motorboat, such as the ‘kill switch.’ The engine safety cut-off appears as a small red knob next to the ignition.

The throttle is the next safety feature to observe before driving a motorboat. The throttle has to be neutral before you start the boat. It stops the boat from starting even with all other features on point until you move it.

The throttle releases the boat to start when you grasp it and pull back. Be aware of your surroundings since the boat will start to move as you do so.

Steer the Motor Boat

When the motorboat is in motion, you have to steer it, or you will move around aimlessly. Grasp the steering wheel, which resembles the one in cars.

When you turn the wheel, the motorboat will follow. But, this can be challenging if there are waves and lots of wind in the area.

Slowing a Motor Boat

Manipulating the throttle is one of the ways to get a boat to slow down. Motorboats don’t have brakes, unlike cars on the road. You have to learn how the boat operates and the stopping distance you need.

As you plan on stopping, ensure you are stable enough since boats don’t come with seat belts. Any sudden movement can topple you over, which you don’t want. Instead, be aware of your speed and how to slow down the boat safely.

With this information in mind, you can proceed to slow down your motorboat. Pull the throttle slowly back to neutral and pause for a moment. After that, shift it into reverse and apply some power. Pausing in neutral is crucial before going to reverse to avoid causing mechanical issues for the boat.

Most states need motorboat owners to take basic boating courses to learn how to drive motorboats. Doing so keeps you safe and everyone else driving or sailing in the same area. The training also takes you through steps like boat trimming and the different types of motorboats.