Small outboard engines

Honda Outboard

Since 2006, the traditional, simple, lightweight two-stroke petrol outboard has been outlawed by European Union for environmental reasons – they no longer meet emission regulations. This is due to fuel residue, including a small amount of oil, being jettisoned along with the exhaust gases. So, if you’re looking to replace your two-stroke, you should choose from a new, quieter, cleaner, but heavier, four-stroke engine.

What to look for

  • Twist-grip tiller throttle - look out for good labelling and robust construction.
  • Friction control – should be tight enough to leave the engine to steer itself.
  • Stop button and kill cord – it’s possible for the lanyard to get tangled up when you spin the engine.
  • Mounting bracket – must have a nut or nut wing, or a captive pin.
  • Screw clamps – look for loops in the end of the screw clamp handles. These can be padlocked to deter from theft.
  • Carrying handle – designed to carry the engine comfortably.
  • Fuel cap and tank breather – the cap should be easy to remove.
  • Gear leaver – small outboard engines have no reverse so the leaver selects neutral or forward.
  • Oil sight gauge – this is vital. If oil leaks out, most sumps only take a mug full of oil.
  • Fuel tap – check for clear labelling.
  • Tilt mechanism – some models have multiple tilt positions.

Electric outboards

Electric outboards may well be the future. They’re quiet, environmentally friendly and compact. But most require a heavy battery which will limit your range. Electric outboards are traditionally used for trolling – designed to move a heavy boat at a low speed with the main engine switched off, often used by American lake fishermen.

In use, electric engines are environmentally friendly. Buy how do they recharge? The environmental advantage is lost if you have to run the engine for hours to recharge the battery. The solution could be shore power. If you are visiting marinas a lot, you can charge the batteries when you berth. Or you could buy a spare battery and keep it charged.

You could also think about using one of your boat’s domestic batteries, but there is the risk of compromising power here. You might think about buying an extra domestic battery and interchanging it with one in your battery bank – so there is always one on charge and one in use.

Why not trickle charge your battery with a wind turbine or solar panel? Ideally you would have two batteries – one charging and the other in use.

Top 3 Electric tips

  • 1. When you motor with the engine on maximum, it will draw a large current. By reducing the speed by half a notch, the current will be halved without compromising speed too much.
  • 2. Unlike petrol outboards where a leg is a fixed length, electric outboard’s height is adjustable. Trim it so the leg is at right angles to the water to improve efficiency.
  • 3. Use wing nut battery terminals to clamp and release the power cables, without the use of a spanner. Crocodile clips are another option, but they can be easily knocked off.

If you can accept that electric outboards will limit your range and speed, and you want to troll quietly, then it might well be the option for you. If you rely on your engine to stem the tide, you should stick to your petrol engine for a while longer.

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