RC Boat Flips Over: Here’s What To Do

Driving an RC boat is great fun for people of all ages, but it does come with some frustrations, particularly for beginner drivers. One of the most common RC boating problems is when the radio-controlled boat flips over. There are a few questions that arise around this problem; why it flips over and how to retrieve the boat when it flips over. So, when your RC boat flips over, here’s what you should do.

If your RC boat flips over, you may need to adjust the weight distribution, exercise more caution with the throttle, or learn to read the water better. To recover a flipped RC boat, you can use a kayak, a fishing rod, a tennis ball with some line, or by modifying another RC boat as a recovery boat.

When an RC boat flips over, there are a few scenarios that go through the boat driver’s mind. After the initial panic, the first question is will it sink, and then how to retrieve it, and finally, why it flipped over in the first place. These are all valid questions that a newbie RC boat driver may ask when they are faced with this predicament!

What Causes An RC Boat To Flip?

So you have bought your first RC boat, the package has arrived, and you filmed your unboxing video! The time has now come to head to the water and try out your new RC boat! As a beginner, you head off to the water’s edge, set up your gear, fire up the engine, and head off into the blue!

As you get a feel for the boat on the water, and you see the ripples that affect the movement and trajectory of the boat, you have a thought that fills you with dread! What happens if your RC boat flips over on its maiden voyage!

There are a few of causes that result in the flipping of an RC boat that you should learn about as a new boat driver so that you can be cognizant of them and avoid the event as far as possible.

The main causes that result in a flip while driving your RC boat are as follows.

  • Improper weight distribution. Most RC boat manufacturers take weight distribution into account when they manufacture and put together these boats. However, it may require some tweaking and weight adjustment, depending on the conditions. If your boat is battery powered, the heaviest component in the boat will most likely be the batteries. The location of the batteries in the boat can cause the boat to flip if they are too far back, and the boat accelerates quickly, causing the bow to rise.
  • Too much throttle. As a beginner RC boat driver, you may have a bit of a heavy hand when it comes to controlling the throttle of the boat. Accelerating too quickly can lift the bow of the boat and cause it to flip. This is a common problem if you have yet to learn to read the water and you hit the throttle in the face of an incoming swell.
  • Inexperience in reading the water. Lack of experience in reading the water can result in a flipped boat. Accelerating at the wrong moment or turning your boat side on to a large swell or series of ripples can all have the same result and end up with a flipped boat.
  • A leak in the boat. While this is unlikely to occur in a new boat, if your boat has a leak and it takes on water, it will affect the center of gravity of the boat and the weight distribution and can cause the boat to flip over at the slightest hint of rough water.

Now that you are aware of what to look out for to prevent your RC boat from flipping, what do you do if you do happen to flip your boat? What damage can it cause, and how do you retrieve your flipped boat when it is far from the bank?

How To Retrieve Your RC Boat After A Flip

Whether the outcome of a flipped RC boat will be a happy ending or a sad one will largely depend on the construction and type of RC boat that you are driving.

Beginner RC boats are designed to cater to this eventuality for novice drivers. As a result, the boats for new drivers are normally designed to be more stable and made to be watertight to prevent the craft from sinking soon after it flips over.  

More advanced boats are often designed to be more true-to-life from a control perspective and from a boat construction perspective. So, not only are these boats harder to control, but they are also more prone to sinking should the boat flip.

But let’s get to the crux of this topic; how to retrieve your boat once it has flipped and still remains afloat.

There are a few methods that most RC boat enthusiasts use to solve this problem, and some are dependent on skills you may or may not have, and some are simpler than others.

Here are a few suggestions to retrieve your flipped RC boat.

  • Take a kayak with you. A kayak or another small rowboat will allow you to row out to your capsized RC boat and retrieve it. This boat recovery method will only work if you have a kayak in the first place, but it is also a rather clumsy method to take a real-sized boat out to the water every time you want to go and drive your RC boat.
  • Use a fishing rod. Many RC boat drivers use this method to retrieve their stranded or flipped boats. A fishing rod will allow you to cast the line over the boat, and with a few well-placed sinkers on the line and maybe even a hook or two, as you reel the line in, you can snag the boat and reel it in with the line. A fishing rod is a nice compact solution that is easy to take down to the water every time, but the pre-requisite is that you know how to cast and can do it without endangering anyone else out on the water or on the bank.
  • Use a tennis ball. You may not know how to cast a fishing line, but most people can throw a ball! A light line, even a fishing line, can be fastened to the tennis ball. Then throw the ball so that the line goes over the boat. Pull the line in as you would with the fishing rod method, and with a bit of luck, the line, or the tennis ball, which should float, will snag the boat. Obviously, this recovery method will only work if your boat is within the distance that you can throw.
  • Use a recovery RC boat. This is the favourite method for most RC boat drivers because you get to drive another RC boat to go and retrieve the boat that has flipped over. Many RC boat enthusiasts will use a second RC boat and build a recovery frame that the second boat will push ahead of itself to push the capsized RC boat towards the shore. The boat that you choose to use for this function does not need to be fast, but it does need to be powerful, as it needs to have enough power to push its own weight, the weight of the frame, and the weight of the stranded boat. The recovery frame is often built of PVC piping that has swimming pool noodle foam wrapped around it to keep it afloat. The frame normally takes on a ‘U’ shape that the rescue boat pushes ahead of itself and captures the flipped RC boat in the ‘U’ shape, and gently pushes it back to shore.  

If none of these recovery methods work, you may be tempted to swim out to fetch your boat. This is not recommended, especially for deep water. There are too many tales in the RC boating community about people who decided to swim for their boat and ended up paying for this mistake with their lives. 

The RC boat is not that valuable that it cannot be replaced, but your life cannot be replaced, so use some common sense when attempting the retrieval of your RC boat.


Driving an RC boat is great fun, but the fun component gets a little lost when you flip your boat out on the water out of reach.

You need to be prepared before you launch your RC boat to cater for this type of scenario where you need to perform a retrieval.

Whichever method you choose to employ as your recovery method of choice, make sure to do it safely. I would recommend that you build a recovery RC boat and justify the cost to your better half in that it is to protect the investment that you made in the first boat!

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Paul Good

This awesome hobby has something for everyone, whether you like to build your RC from scratch and keep modifying till you've got it to just how you want it, to track racing. You might be out with a boat, or perfecting your skills with a plane. Are you taking some cool pics with your drone? I'm sure my site will help you on your journey.

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