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 don't want to wait. Who'd have thought a man
impatient?! So this article focuses on these $100 miracles and details on
battery life, charging, etc.
I'm a big proponent of easy and inexpensive plus if my choice
happens to be environmentally sound then 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, pretty close to
the top of my awareness scale. And for that an electric (12 volt) trolling
motor meets all the requirements.
Regular gasoline powered outboards
are heavy and expensive. See the chart:
*Prices as of today 16 September 2013 at
Of course if your motor weighs that much you're 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's an expensive 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...!
Or you could opt for a
Minn Kota Endura C2 30 Freshwater Transom Mounted Trolling Motor (30" Shaft).
This gem weighs 16 pounds and costs $100. Designed for fresh water, they
last forever in said environment, however, in salt you're probably not
going to get the longevity with a fresh water unit. Quite frankly, should
the motor only last a couple of years (and mine have surpassed that) to travel in style for a dollar
or less per week
works quite nicely for me.
I'm sure you're 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. It's not going to be a
burger joint. And yes, I'll 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 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
bothersome. I can feel the waves of sympathy already; it's a rough life
out here and somehow I manage...
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'm 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's there --
been there since the boat was built and 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'll find a light to go out there -- power's available, so that
Skipper will 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 mistakes.]
The clamps attach to the ends of the bolts as shown in the
picture previous and the ring terminals slip thru that hole in the transom
hull and attach to the battery in the dinghy. Once attached I close the Beckson 6"
and voila: it's neat and tidy again. I like my stuff put away.
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 well, 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's into the sink for a fresh water
rinse and a gentle
Unfortunately, my Skipper is not her most attractive when
Okay, so we have a way to charge or more accurately
equalize the battery in the dinghy with yours aboard the boat. Next we
need to think about batteries themselves. I've 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 wasn't quite so tight I'd 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 the best reason
to pick a smaller lawn mower batt! It's light weight. Also, the smaller
battery slides right under the seat at the transom so it's easy to hide.
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's divert for a smidgen: When referring to amp hours
that is a designation for how much power is available (think ounces in an
8 ounce cup of water) ... if you drink (use) one ounce, you still have 7
to spare. As long as you replace the 1 ounce you're okay. And you should
never deliberately use your battery down below half full -- so my
40 amp lawn mower battery has a usable capacity of 20 amp hours.
ABYC guys will tell you it's "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 got a
response back within 24 hours which 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 trolling motor on #1
it's only going to cost you 6 amps per hour. I don't know anyone who runs
a boat full-tilt for more than a half hour so even if you go up to Speed 4, you're
still within the 50% factor of a lawn mower battery.
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 without a problem. On three she'd move
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
And 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
MKP-2 Replacement Prop and don't worry about a thing. It comes with
the new hub, screws and such -- so you can do a total replacement using
all new parts.
Look at the motor and you can see there is a small metal
keel of sorts ahead of the prop. Soft groundings won't 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 didn't 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
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've a smidgen of
testosterone you're probably going to think "well if a 30 is good, then 40
is better and wow, they've got 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's more than
my Seaweed draws.
You can lock them so the bullet part doesn't descend too
far but a better option should you opt for 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. Don't 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.
For me all those things noted above make a salt water
version the best choice however when I factored the budget I live within, I opted for
a $100 fresh water model. If money were no object... well yes, I would go
ahead with a white salt water version such as
and shorten the shaft.
About that solar panel in Algae... it's great! [This one is
similar to mine, if you're curious that is: Solar
Panel Battery Charger Kit] It's little
and since I hooked it up I've not had to plug in the dinghy for charging.
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's flexible and I tied it on the seat at the bow of the dinghy so it's
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 it's fully
Of course as the dinghy has a battery the next thing on my
agenda is 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's 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'm sure.]
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.
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 isn't frightened away by a noisy smelly
motor. One of these days I'm 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'm not an expert -- merely a boater who uses stuff and expects it
to meet my needs/expectations.]
Trolling Motor Woes ~
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