Keeping Tabs on the Tabs

We have a 1992 24-foot Explorer Grady White. I find that it lists a lot in heavier waters. Our trim tabs don’t seem to solve the problem. Is this normal because it’s a fairly narrow boat? We love it except for this issue.

– Koelle Leenstra, via email

There are a number of questions that would be good to know when evaluating your problem, but let’s discuss a few things to verify and possible causes and solutions.

First off, is the boat trim in a static (non-moving) position? Even if only slightly out of floating trim while at rest, improper trim will become exaggerated and more noticeable at higher speeds or in rougher waters. Achieving proper trim can be as simple as balancing your boat by distributing weight (e.g., passengers, coolers, portable fuel tanks) to keep the hull floating level.

Achieving stationary trim is one thing; however, you’ll also need to make adjustments while underway to account for speed, water conditions, direction of travel (with regard to waves and wind) and more. Smaller boats will ride bumpier in surface chop if left trimmed at calm-water angles. You’ll also want to monitor vessel trim throughout the day, so you can make any necessary adjustments as the contents of fuel tanks, ice chests, etc., are used or consumed.

Another thing to check is the proper operation of your trim tabs. Do they actually deploy and retract when you press the control buttons? While conducting surveys, I’ve found cases where you can hear the trim tab motors power up, but there’s no movement due to some problem or other.

Finally, if you have the original, factory-installed trim tabs (which I believe were 12 inches), installing larger units may also be an option. A common rule of thumb calls for choosing roughly 1 inch of trim tab span for every foot of boat length, which in this case would be a span of around 24 inches.

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