It is not something your ever really want to think about, but, what if you are out with your boat, and something goes terribly wrong with the engines that your captain or crew cannot fix? In this article we will discuss the pros and cons of installing a “get home” solution, or back-up power for your motor yacht.

The Five Ps

Generally speaking, if your engines are well maintained, the chances of having such a catastrophic failure that would require a get home system are very low, particularly if you are taking advantage of professional yacht management, and have an on-board engineering staff. Remember the “5Ps” – Proper-Preparation-Prevents-Poor-Performance – and you should be able to take your yacht out for all but the most lengthy or grueling expeditions, without needing to worry about back-up propulsions.

And, even if you feel you want to invest in some kind of get-home solution, never let that lull you into a false sense of security that has you ignore those very important 5Ps! They apply to every system on your vessel and not just the engines.

That all having been said, I have spoken with many yacht owners, particularly those who know they will be traveling extensively with their families, who just want the added sense of security of knowing they are prepared for any “worst case scenarios,” by including a back-up for the main engines.

If this is you, then you have a few options to consider.

A View of a Yacht's Engine Room

Get Home System Options

Of course, where you travel will have a lot to do with the type of get home solution you want, or your desire to want one at all. Again, if your yacht is basically well maintained, and you are only taking her out for small jaunts along inland waterways, or between Caribbean Islands and Florida, your need for back-up is pretty minimal. If, on the other hand you plan on long cross-ocean voyages, spending great deals of time out of sight of land or range of radio communications, the need for a get home option becomes much greater.

Wing Engines – A wing engine is your most reliable, and most expensive type of get home solution. A wing engine is basically an entirely independent second engine and driveshaft. It effectively turns your single-engine vessel into a twin screw. The wing, or back-up engine and system, is no different than your main engines, except that it is smaller, and designed to get you to safety in an emergency situation. Like everything aboard a motor yacht, wing engines will suffer if they are not used. The last thing you want is your back-up not turning over when you need it! So be sure to run your wing engines every once in a while, and make sure they are as well-maintained as your main engines.

Generator Hydraulic Drive – A generator hydraulic drive uses something your boat already has onboard as a back-up propulsion system – your generators. Your ship’s generators are an existing power source. The challenge is how to leverage that power for propulsion in an emergency. A generator hydraulic drive allows you to do that. Basically, your generator’s engine becomes the power source for a hydraulic pump, which can be used to power a hydraulic motor that is used to propel the vessel.

Sample Hydraulic Drive

Hydraulic Generator

Other Options – Wing engines or hydraulic drive are the most effective and useful options if you really want a get home system, but there are other options from electric motors to emergency sails, all with varying degrees of success and practicality.

A get home system can provide you with piece of mind, but again, like any system on board, it will have to be tested often, and well maintained, if it is to be worth its investment, or any use to you in a crisis.



Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.