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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The iron sail dilemma

I've a love/hate relationship with my sailboat's outboard motor. It's a 6 hp Evinrude. That's plenty big enough to push my 19 foot Oday sailboat.

What I love is that it does the job. If I take of the outboard properly it runs well. When I bought the sailboat, the previous owner had a few motors I could choose from. This one cost me a couple bucks more than some of the others, but it has an alternator. Normal use of the motor has kept the boat's battery charged up.

What I hate about it is that it's a gasoline engine. It uses a nonrenewable fuel, is noisy, and produces fumes. I try and use it as little as possible. Yesterday, it started running rough. Today I figured out why -too short a run time. On my small lake, I just motor far enough from shore to drop the swing keel and raise the sails. That doesn't give the motor enough time to reach normal operating temperature. Today I had to run it around the lake a few times to burn the carbon out. A good hard run and it smoothed right out and is running fine.

For lake use, an electric trolling motor would be sufficient. That's what the previous owner did. Of course, he had electric grid power at his dock, so charging the battery was easy. I don't have power at my beach, so the battery would have to be carried 300 feet uphill every time it needed a charge. That's not something I want to do with an 80 pound battery. A good solar panel could do the job, but I don't have the funds for that right now.

A gas engine is what makes sense. When we sailed the Gulf Coast of Florida, there were long channels that had to be traveled before we could get enough water to drop the keel. Often we ran against both wind and current to get out to deep water. I don't think a regular electric trolling motor could do the job nearly as well. There are electric motors that could do the job, but they cost more than what I paid for the boat.

Gas is available all over. We could motor all day, and be fairly sure we could refill the gas tank for the next day. A gas engine makes sense for coastal travel -for now.

There are times when I just want to mount some oar locks on the boat, and build a good set of oars. Maybe that's what I'll do.


1 comment:

  1. Of course if you put oar locks on it you will need some slaves to do the rowing. You may want more than one set to double or triple the horse, no MAN-power. Then the cost of food and water and upkeep for them would be much more than for gasoline. Another idea would be to convert it to run on methane and then eat a lot of beans. . .