Saturday, February 13, 2016

Outboard Motors

I grew up around outboard motors.  We fished with them, water skied with them, and fixed them the rare times they needed fixing.  The old Evinrude and Johnsons from the fifties and sixties were bullet proof!  The Mercurys not so good but in my opinion better and more reliable than what is made today.  Yes they were two stroke, and they smoked.  They also guzzled somewhat more fuel than the modern ones.  But we would put regular motor oil in the gas, keep the carb clean, check the points and spark plugs and made sure there was hypoid in the boot.  If you did those things your motor would never let you down.

Fast forward to modern times.

Our last sailboat had a 9.9 hp Yamaha four stroke.  If you did not run the gas out of the carb, and drain it completely, it would not start if left for more than a few days.  The little, tiny, minuscule jet that allowed for the fuel economy demanded today, would varnish up.  It did not matter what you added to the fuel either.  I'm told this was a common problem with these motors.  Pain in the ass.

My son has a 60 hp four stroke Mercury on his boat.  The last time we were out - and thankfully we made it back to the dock before this happened - the engine caught fire.  Actually it was the voltage regulator.  Made a heck of a mess.  We were out on the Fraser during freshette, and my four year old grandson was with us.  If that had happened while we were out we would have been swept down to Vancouver.

We never had problems with the old motors.

So now I have begun to look for a motor for Autarkia.  I'm thinking a twenty horsepower will be good - a little reserve power for the Fraser current when we need it, and partial throttle, low rpm any other time.

But dammit, what to buy?

We have the budget to buy a good motor.  I simply don't know what to get, and may wind up with a two stroke from the sixties.  At least I'll feel confident in its reliability.

Meantime, here's little Autarkia with a rig.  I just need to make a leeboard and rudder and put in the RC gear and then I can play with it.

And planking continues on big Autarkia...


  1. Saw a story awhile back of a japanese guy who crossed the atlantic in a small motor vessel powered by a 2 hp 2 stroke. He had a back-up motor but apparently the motor ran flawlessly and then went up the east USA coast. A friend and I were river running with a 6 hp or so 2 stroker and it fell off the transom of his boat and he caught it before it headed to the bottom, fished it out, drained the whole thing, and fired it back up. Astounding. And on and on with 2 stroker reliability stories. Plus lighter for the HP. Seems on a vessel that will use it sparingly a 2 stroker would be the most logical. Apparently 50s and 60s motors still exist? Like the old 350 V8: tons of parts globally? The boat progress is amazing and neat how fast a barge boat can be built. I'd love to see someone throw one together with no ambition to use finer than 80 grit sandpaper and a surform file.... true workboat finish and see how fast it would come together.

  2. Oh, she'll be smoother than that :-)

  3. A friend suggested an ELECTRIC motor with a 'suitcase' genset.

    These are reliable, fuel efficient and wear a lot of hats, on and off the boat.

    Never tried it, but can't get it out of my haid!

    Dave Z

  4. Now that's something to think about Dave! Thanks! Must do research...

    1. Oh, and it's possible to rig the motor/prop as a hydro generator, when not being used for propulsion.

      I'll be interested to hear what you find!

      We've been keeping this as a possible down-the-road option if needed to extend our active cruising years.

      Dave Z

    2. "A friend suggested an ELECTRIC motor with a 'suitcase' genset. ... These are reliable, fuel efficient and wear a lot of hats, on and off the boat ... Never tried it, but can't get it out of my haid!"

      Amen, brother. I'd love to get more specifics on the easiest version of that. So far, the electric motor set-ups I've read about strike me about as ill-suited for DIY as a garage-built nuclear power plant.

      Also, in case it's useful, I've gathered via investigation that outboards don't tend to have alternators (for battery bank charging) until they are around 20HP and electric start. Can't swear to it though.

    3. (forgot to check notify :-/)

  5. A practically sized suitcase generator such as the Honda brand are about 2000 watts. In a perfectly efficient system such a generator could supply enough power for a 2.5 hp motor. So if you took the lower unit from a junked 3 to 5 hp outboard and put an electric motor on it (say 1 h.p 120 VAC) you could run it with the generator without needing batteries. To go bigger, you would need to use a DC motor that runs off batteries, and use the generator to charge them up. However you would not get continuous power... you would need to charge for much more time than you could run. The system would be quite a bit more bulky and complex... batteries, charger, controller etc. So I think the really simple route would be an small AC motor with the junker 3-5 hp outboard. In my case that is too small, but I think it would be great for a smaller boat!