Why Does My Boat Lean to One Side? (Explained)

If your boat is leaning to one side you may be concerned there is a problem. There may or may not be an issue that you need to address. You’ll first need to understand what causes a boat to lean?

A boat can lean because of windy weather, rough water conditions, unbalanced weight distribution on board, or incorrectly positioned trim tabs. It can also be caused by waterlogging of the hull or an improperly installed hydrofoil or motor.

If you experience leaning (also called listing) on your boat, there are many reasons. The good news is that most of them are easily fixable. In this article, I’ll explore some of the reasons why your boat might be leaning and what to do to address the issue.

Why does my boat lean to one side, explained

Boats Lean to One Side Due to Natural Causes

Sometimes, your boat may be leaning to the left purely because of the weather. When it comes to mother nature, no matter how much you plan, you never know what type of weather or water conditions you’ll be facing once sailing in your boat.

If you notice that your boat is leaning to the left or right when underway, the first thing you must consider are natural causes. If it’s windy, your boat might be experiencing listing simply due to the wind. Also, if you’re sailing in windy conditions, the water is likely to be even more challenging to navigate with increased waves that may be causing your boat to lean as well.

Uneven Weight Distribution Will Cause a Boat to Lean

The most common issue that leads to a listing boat is uneven weight distribution on board.

Many sailors who prefer solo trips have faced this issue. If you don’t have any luggage or other weight on board, you can try to balance the boat using some extra weights on the passenger side.

If you have people on board, you can ask them to distribute evenly across the boat to ensure that the weight is more evenly balanced and your boat doesn’t list. Furthermore, if you have anything on board that’s heavy, make sure you put it at the boat’s center so it doesn’t cause a tilt to one side or the other.

This will help your boat stay upright, even if the weather conditions aren’t ideal.

Uneven weight distribution can cause a boat to lean

Trim Tabs Need Adjusting

Trim tabs are an essential part of every boat. These are flat metal attachments located on either side of the transom’s bottom. They are operated from the dashboard and can be used to accommodate many conditions, including changing water levels, wind, or an unevenly distributed load. Trim tabs adjust the hull’s riding attitude to achieve this.

Some boat enthusiasts write off trim tabs as an addition that aren’t needed. However, many experts agree that having trim tabs installed on your boat will make your experience much more seamless and enjoyable. They make handling your boat easier and take some of the stress off your motor.

Trim tabs especially come in handy if you plan on sailing through rough waters and windy weather, which is often the case. It’s not always sunny, and the water is not always calm, so it’s best to be prepared for such unfavorable boating conditions in any way you can.

Waterlogging Can Cause a Boat to Lean To One Side

If you have made sure that the weight on board is distributed evenly and the trim tabs are in the right positions, and your boat still leans to one side, you might be dealing with waterlogging.

Out of the issues we’ve discussed so far, waterlogging is the most serious and requires the most effort and possibly finances to fix. It is also a problem that might not be immediately obvious.

What is Waterlogging?

Over time, your boat might develop small holes or cracks. If they are located at the part of the boat that is submerged in water, the foam inside the hull could easily get waterlogged. It depends on how long the foam has been collecting water since more time means more severe damage.

Since water can add significant weight, your boat will soon start leaning to one side or the other due to being waterlogged, depending on which side is more affected. If this is the issue with your boat, you will notice that it will be leaning even when static, and the issue will increase during acceleration.

A Waterlogged Boat is a Serious Issue

If you eliminate all other issues and variables, and your boat is leaning even when still, you should get your boat checked out by a professional. If waterlogging is confirmed, drying out your boat can prove to be a severe challenge.

If the foam inside the hull is moldy or otherwise damaged from being exposed to water, it will need replacing. Otherwise, the hull and the foam must be thoroughly dry before reassembling.

To avoid waterlogging, make sure your boat doesn’t have any holes or severe scratches and repair immediately if you see any. This will help you solve the problem before it worsens and waterlogs your hull.

The damaged outer shell of your boat can be repaired with numerous different products, but epoxy resin and fiberglass fillers are most commonly used.

If you know your way around your boat, you might be able to take on this project alone, but if you’re unsure of your skills, trust a professional to fix it for you.

Waterlogging Can Cause a Boat to Lean To One Side

A Hydrofoil May Cause a Leaning Boat

A hydrofoil is installed above the motor to give an additional performance boost to a boat. However, it might also cause listing if installed improperly.

If a hydrofoil is causing your boat’s listing, your boat won’t typically list until it’s underway. If you are confident that the hydrofoil is correctly installed and you still notice your boat leaning, it could be revealing a previously overlooked problem with the motor’s positioning on the boat.

Why Does My Boat Lean to One Side – Final Thoughts

If you experience your boat listing, it can be a worrisome experience. It is best to avoid sailing before you determine and fix the issue to ensure your and your passengers’ safety.

When determining the cause of your boat leaning, start with the obvious factors like the weather and slowly move on to the more complicated potential issues, like waterlogging or improperly installed motor or hydrofoil.

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