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Date: 24 March 2017. How to Pick an Outboard Motor.


Folks preparing to cruise often put a lot of thought into their dinghy. Selecting the right motor is also important. The tender must be able to take the owners to and from shore safely. It needs to be a *dry ride and have the capacity to carry not just people but stuff too. That small boat will also haul groceries, laundry, boat parts and more to and from your boat home and shore.

*A dry ride means that water does not come up over the edges and splash the riders in the tender. Some dinghies are known for wet bottoms. That means your backside will be wet when you arrive at shore. Ugh.

This is Lefty's tender. She has a trolling motor as does Algae.

Selecting the best motor is important for safety and convenience.

For me as a soloist woman without a lot of strength an electric trolling motor is the best option. I cannot pull a cord fast enough to start an outboard. I bought the trolling motor specifically because I can start it by merely twisting the handle.

Boaters with larger tenders and who can afford electric start gasoline outboards are fortunate. Though more costly they sure are nice and fun to ride in too. I loved riding like the wind in Ted and Sarah's Little Manatee.

This is Little Manatee. It is safe, fun and fast transportation.


Ted's orange go-fast tender has a key start -- no pulling the cord on an outboard for him. Cap'n Ted is wearing an orange cap and is steering Little Manatee to the tuna door of his Kadey Krogen named Manatee. Houseboat Bob is boarding Manatee. You met these folks in the Manatee Moves article.

On numerous occasions I was told how easy it is to start a Mercury 9.9 outboard. This is especially true when the motor is *warm. No it is not, at least not for me. It is beyond frustrating to be told "anyone" can do it and fail. Repeatedly. The outboard fiasco was a while back. That happened six or seven years ago. I do not believe I have gotten stronger in the interim.

*Warm motor: That does not refer to ambient temperature of the air. Instead it means a motor that has been run and is therefore warm/hot. Engines that are warmed up generally start faster and run smoother.

Trolling motors will get you there however they are slow. Anchoring close to the dock abates this issue.

Side Note: When you are shopping for a boat, check to see if the engine is warm BEFORE they start it for you. Often folks will get them going beforehand in order to say "see how easy she starts?" to unsuspecting buyers. Warm engines do start easier.

That said, warm outboards do not start easy enough for me!

Kayaks and canoes offer transportation and fun for boat girls like Rene on Sandpiper.

Eons ago my friend Ann on Steelaway had tea time aboard her boat each Tuesday. It was a great time for the gals to get together, solve problems, discuss grandchildren and chat while enjoying a variety of specialty teas. There were cookies too.

I enjoyed those afternoons and have shared Ann's Tea-Time idea with other boaters. Her legacy continues on Seaweed whenever I have a friend over for a cuppa.

It would be fun to have a spot of tea with Ms. Poppins...

Me with Mary Poppins

One thing in particular I remember is that some of the women had to have a lift to Ann's schooner Steelaway. They were unable to start their outboards. Instead they had to "make arrangements" for a ride both to and from Steelaway at specific times. That issue speaks volumes about the dynamics aboard a boat. Ugh.

Providing both partners with the freedom of an easy trip to shore is essential. An impromptu visit to another boat for a fresh baked treat is always fun. Getting there should not be an issue.

The Captain's reputation is at stake! Women talk about these things, in case you wondered.

Freedom is a key component for happiness afloat.
Being able to start and run the dinghy solo is important.

Most crucial of all, it must be easy!

If starting the outboard is not easy for both partners a different one must be chosen.

Outboards with electric starts are expensive. My trolling motor is slow however I can always start it. That is the reason I bought it. The brand I chose is Newport. The Newport is made for salt water and is not expensive. I like mine a lot.

Fred of Island Time can easily pull start this outboard.

Given a choice, I do prefer a go-fast dinghy such as Little Manatee's with an electric start outboard. That is a fun ride. It was great too because of the people. Ted and Sarah are genuinely wonderful boaters.


There are alternatives for those without the space for a larger go-fast tender. Kayaks, canoes, rowboats and electric trolling motors all provide transportation without the need for a chauffeur. I have seen a young fellow using a stand-up paddleboard to go back and forth to shore.


The paddleboard drifted behind this sailboat for a while before it was brought back on deck. Storage on a small sailboat is at a premium. The young guy had a solution that worked for him. Rather than a dinghy he used a paddleboard with a milk crate to corral his gear.

My friend Angela paddled her kayak over for a visit one afternoon. She and her husband have a real dinghy however the kayak is so convenient she uses it on short hops. We had a spot of tea one afternoon aboard Seaweed.

Angela is paddling back to C-Quarters Marina. Her sailboat is the fourth boat shown.

Having reliable transportation off the boat is important for everyone's happiness. Many long term cruisers end up with two dinghies. Families can have more than that!

Make sure both cruisers can start whatever motor selected. Being "stuck" waiting for a ride to shore is not fun, not even in paradise.

Do you have more than one dinghy?
And, do you have additional water toys like canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and such?

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