Date: 16 September 2013. More Trolling Motors.
A reader suggested I expand upon the whole trolling motor
as an alternative to noisy gasoline outboards immediately, and he had the
temerity to hint that men do not want to wait. Who would have thought a man
impatient?! So this article focuses on these $100 miracles and details on
battery life, charging, etc.
I am a big proponent of easy and inexpensive.
That my choice
happens to be environmentally sound is all the better. Because my
intention is to live decades aboard my home, long-term comfort and
convenience even as I age have become if not paramount, quite close to
the top of my awareness scale. And for ease of use an electric (12 volt) trolling
motor meets my requirements.
outboards are heavy and expensive. See the chart:
For me due to poor upper
body strength, starting a pull-start outboard is not possible.
Plus, these units are noisy, smelly and cost too much.
*Prices as of today 16 September 2013 at
I do a ride in the gasoline
powered go fast marshmallows though.
It is nice to be able to get to shore rapidly. My trolling motor is
Of course if your motor weighs a lot you are going to
need some accessories such as a harness to help when hoisting said motor,
a secure place onboard to stow the motor when underway, a lock to help
keep folks honest when there is an expensive outboard motor sitting around
unwatched, etc. Plus it is a good idea to know how to clean out your
carburetor, because ethanol in gasoline is the bane of cruisers'
outboards. Have I mentioned buying/carrying gasoline fuel for the motor?
Oh, and you need the money to pay for the motor in the first place. But
other than that...!
I am sure you are wondering about charging. Here is part one
of my system: The battery. I chose a small lawn mower battery, selecting
the one with the highest CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) of the two $25-$30
batteries available in Wal-Mart's battery department. The higher capacity
has a rating of 40 amp hours. These batteries are small so that I can
easily handle them and the price works for me.
Initially I bought two, figuring to have one on Seaweed
re-charging and swap out as necessary with the one in Algae. Then I loaned
one to a fellow who left with it, accidentally of course. And yes, he
will return same along with a dinner at a restaurant where there are
waitresses to both take order and deliver same. This is not going to be a
burger joint. And yes, I will bet shrimp will be involved, or perhaps surf
and turf... (smile)
So my initial plan needed some alteration. What I made was
This is the cord off an old battery charger that bit the
dust, attached to a male cigarette lighter.
Each night I would bring the battery inside and plug it in
to recharge. Although I say "recharge" what I really mean is that it will
come up to the level of my battery bank, so equalize would probably be the
better term. As I keep my batteries well charged with wind and solar, this
works for me.
However I am woman and the routine to get the battery out
of Algae each night rapidly got old. For a time I would feed the cord out
the pilothouse door and just attach to the dink while she was rafted next
to me. That was okay but the noise of the dink bumping Seaweed was
I can feel the waves of sympathy already;
it's a rough life out here... somehow we manage.
Skipper rests after a vigorous day of snoozing:
The next plan was to take some spare 14 gauge wire I had on
hand (two 25' spools) and run it to the transom. Between the outer hull
and the inner liner is an area and I envisioned a set-up where charging
would take place aft, where Algae "lives" at night. This is what I came up
Please note that everywhere there are two wires on the
boat, the neutral/ground is on the left and the Positive (red) is on the right.
Alphabetically N is before P so I've copied it throughout. If I have to
attach something in the dark I know that as long as Red is on the
right I am good. It's simple!
So, the wires (ring terminal ends with heat shrink, plus
electrical tape) are permanently bolted to the block and when I want/need
to charge Algae I'm all set. That hole you see to the right? It has been there since the boat was built.
For now I push thru the ends I
attach to Algae's battery (see next picture) so it is more tidy. At some
point I shall find a light to go out there. Power is available, so Skipper
will soon have a lit swim platform at night.
Take a look at the ring terminal
ends. It's handy to have some red paint around for when those wires are
barely distinguishable (one has writing and one does not) so you can add a
bit of paint to show easily the positive side. I use the small bottles of
acrylic paint found in art departments. At Walmart the 2 ounce plastic
bottles are about a dollar. It's not fancy, it works, hasn't hardened
after years, and best of all is inexpensive insurance against dumb
Now I suppose in light of that you might wonder about the
fishing net that's hanging right there? Of course I always have my Skipper
in sight when she's outside of the boat and on the swim platform. That's
her "outside" if you get my drift. She has backed up a little too far or
leaned over to watch a fish, and on the rare occasion has felt the
need to Baptize herself. Thus I
have an easy way to get her out using the net. Then it is into the sink for a fresh water
rinse and a gentle
Oster Oatmeal dog shampoo.
This brand smells great too.
Unfortunately, my Skipper is not her most attractive when
I charge or more accurately
equalize the battery in the dinghy with my battery bank aboard the boat. Next
need to think about batteries themselves. I have gone with an inexpensive
$30 lawn mower battery from Wal-mart (the better of the two they offer)
and according to a friend its capacity is 40 amp hours. That means I can
safely, regularly, use up to 20 amps though I try to keep it down to 10
amps before recharging.
Now if my budget was not quite so tight I MIGHT opt for one of
the Walmart automotive batteries, as long as I had a way to charge the
battery without lifting it out of the dinghy. Therein lies one reason
to pick a smaller lawn mower batt. It is light weight. Also, the smaller
battery slides right under the seat at the transom so it is easy to hide.
A full sized Group 27 or larger battery might be a temptation to someone
with sticky fingers.
I hooked up a
SeaFlo 750gph Automatic Bilge Pump
so I do not have to manually pump out the dinghy when it rains.
Aside: I've been using the Walmart automotive batteries for
three years aboard Seaweed as the house bank without issue. I seldom take them below 12.3
and they are working fine. Eventually I'd like to upgrade to the marine
batteries Walmart sells (I do have one marine Group 29) but that's a
Budget cruising means at times making do without
considered the best, but I'm out
here living the life so it's all good.
Let us pause for a smidgen: When referring to amp hours
that is a designation for how much power is available. Though the capacity
of my lawn mower battery is 40 amp hours experts say I should
use only half (or less) of that. Thus I have 20 amps of usable
ABYC guys will tell you it is "amp hours"
What I wanted to know was how much amperage the
30 Trolling Motor used at various speeds, so I wrote the company. And yes, I
response back within 24 hours. That is impressive. This is what I was
While we do not have exact amp draws at speeds 1-4, but I
can give you some estimates. Speed 1 will draw about 6 amps, 2 will be
about 10, 3 about 14 and 4 about 18. It takes a big jump from there; when
it is on speed 5, the motor will draw up to 30 amps. In reverse, speed 3
is about equal to 5 in forward. I really do not have any information
about speeds 1 and 2 in reverse, but you can make some estimates based on
the forward speed.
As you can see should you run your
30 pound thrust (smallest/least costly version) trolling motor on #1
it is only going to use 6 amps per hour. I do not know anyone who runs
a boat full-tilt for more than a half hour to reach shore so even if you go up to Speed 4, you
still within the 50% factor of a lawn mower battery by the time you return
Puttering along a shoreline is relaxing in a dinghy with a trolling motor:
Of course a larger battery means your run time is extended.
You might want to know I used my motor in a 10' marshmallow (aka
rubber dinghy) with a group 31 battery without a problem. On three she
right along even against the wind and current. Four was almost "too fast"
when the waves were kicking.
Me? I'm a hard rowboat advocate -- but that's another article
My Algae is a 1972 fiberglass dinghy. Though a bit battered
she is almost indestructible.
The Suzuki is attached to a go-fast boat near me.
One other thing you should be aware of. Pounds of
thrust equal approximately 15 pounds per horsepower, so the
Minn Kota 30
is about equal to a 2hp outboard. It weighs according to Amazon 16 pounds.
The Nissan 2.5hp above cost $899 (see table at start of article) and weighs 41 pounds
without gasoline sloshing in the engine. It would take a long time and a
lot of Minn-Kota's to equal that amount of money.
Amazon has tons of reviews and one thing I noted was some
folks dinged the motor because the propeller broke a blade. That's a $17
fix. Buy a MinnKota
MKP-2 Replacement Prop and do not worry about a thing. It comes with
the new hub, screws and such -- so you can do a total replacement using
all new parts.
Minn Kota Endura C2 30 Freshwater Transom Mounted Trolling Motor (30" Shaft)
Look at the motor and you can see there is a small metal
keel of sorts ahead of the prop. Soft groundings will not hurt a thing. I ran
aground with mine many times and really, what finally took out a blade I believe
was a combination of the prop being in the Florida sun baking for three years and
that log I did not see. When home I always raised the motor out of the
water so it sat in the sun and probably did become brittle, which in my mind is to
← Affiliate links
MinnKota MKP-2 Replacement Prop, PowerProp
Also, my original propeller was three blade and the two
blades were less expensive, so I replaced the three with a two. I could
tell no difference in speed or handling, plus storing a spare two blade
was easier as it's less bulky.
Now when you visit Amazon I know if you have a smidgen of
testosterone you are probably going to think "well if a 30 is good, then 40
is better and wow, they have even larger ones over here" but I would
encourage you to not do it without thinking carefully! These motors are actually designed for bass boats and
the length of the shaft on the bigger units is quite long. The 30 has a
30" shaft but I've seen them with 42" and goodness knows that is more than
my Seaweed draws. Power draws will be significantly higher with the large
You can lock them so the bullet part at the bottom does not descend too
far but a better option should you select the bigger units would be to
consider cutting off the shaft and shortening it. Be aware there are four
wires running down to the lower unit. The red and black (forward) is a
larger gauge while the blue and yellow are smaller for reverse. Do not cut
You need to know: If
money were no object I would definitely choose one of the salt water
trolling motors for a number of reasons: The salt water units usually have
a stainless bullet versus the powder-coated steel of mine. The seals are
different (better) in the salty versions but all are designed to keep out
water. Most (but not necessarily all) of the hardware is stainless inside
too. That said, in the salt water versions the electric wire is tinned
(silvery color) over copper -- and that is preferable. Still, the wire
from the head to the battery is just your standard battery cable so it's
not fancy in either incarnation.
About that solar panel in Algae... it's great! This one is
similar to mine, if you are curious that is: Solar
Panel Battery Charger Kit. It is little
and since I hooked it up I have not had to plug in the dinghy for
I usually go ashore (1/2 mile round trip)
every other day and so far, the battery is remaining over 12.6 -- fully
charged. A solar panel is a good addition to consider. Mine is flexible
and I tied it on the seat at the bow of the dinghy so it is out of the way
and gets full sun for the most part. I do cover it when running the dinghy
but the rest of the time the solar panel is fully exposed.
Of course as the dinghy has a battery the next thing on my
agenda is to install a bilge pump, and maybe lights... I've already got a gimbaled
cup holder, and what with my parasol... well, it's a rough life but
somehow I manage.
And last but not least, these quiet gems are clean. I can
lay the motor down in the bilge or (the more usual) attach it to the
transom on the inside by my stop anchor. It is out of the way and even for
me, an easy on and off chore when I come into a new anchorage. Never tow
your dinghy with the motor on, but you knew that already I am sure.
I do keep a cover over the top of the trolling motor to
protect it from the sunlight.
Yes, of course there are times when my head is turned by a
9.9 as it whizzes by on the way to shore... yet still and all, I am
pleased I've found an alternative that works well and is within my budget.
Take a look and see if a Minn-Kota trolling motor will suit you and your cruising style.
Algae is secured to Seaweed at both an external U-bolt near the waterline
and another fastening spot inside the dink.
Living aboard should not be about endurance, but rather,
about living life to the fullest, enjoying each new anchorage and getting
in touch with nature as you cannot possibly see it in an urban area. A
trolling motor will allow you to with ease become a silent part of the
natural world. Wildlife is not frightened away by a noisy smelly
motor. One of these days I am going to buy myself a pocket digital camera
to show you how close I can get to the critters ... maybe for my birthday on 27 October!
What powers your tender?
Is there other information regarding trolling motors I missed? Please
realize I am not an expert -- merely a boater who uses stuff and expects
it to meet my needs/expectations.
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