Sunday, March 2, 2014

Buying dead end technology

I hate paying top dollar for dead end technology. That's why I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do about my dying outboard motor. It's an old 2 stroke, fuel inefficient and loud. On the plus side, even after the throttle broke, it is a simple enough engine that I could get it running again. That old engine got the boat across Florida Bay, so I almost fell like I owe it something.

Okay, a purist would say it's a sailboat and doesn't need a motor. While that's technically true, a motor sure makes things a lot easier. When the wind died while crossing the bay having a motor sure beat bobbing around for a day waiting for a breeze. Few people anchor out for hours waiting for the tide to turn.

So I'm pretty much committed to having an outboard, which is a bit weird. For years I've been working to reduce my dependence on petroleum products. The gasoline engine is a dead end technology. Maybe not for years and years yet, but we are just one International crisis from it becoming cost prohibitive.

An electric motor would work -not for crossing Florida Bay, but one would allow us to get in and out of marinas and what not. Even with all its limitations, going electric is tempting. Of course, putting a lot more solar power on the boat would almost be a necessity.

Then there are the new Lehr propane motors. I finally got to see one at a marina. The guy tied up next to us had a 5hp kicker. He seemed to like it, mostly as he really hated gasoline engines and this was an viable option. Reviews on the motor are mixed. One thing that surprised me was how loud the motor was. It was as loud as my old 2 stroke, and there's no excuse for a modern engine to be that loud.

Then there are the Chinese knockoffs of old Yamaha designs. They are cheap; cheap to buy and cheaply made. My guess is that servicing them for anything more complicated than spark plugs might be hard to do. Let's call this the disposable outboard option.

Maybe I'll just keep my eye out for a reasonably priced used motor.

It kinda makes me glad that the little sailing scow I'm building will have oars for a backup.



  1. There's a few ways oars will work on a nineteen foot sailboat but not too well against strong wind and tide...

    1. I know, too bad. Should be fine on the 12 foot scow.

  2. Oars are a viable option, as long as you have a strong body and ticker.