The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Another Reason To Buy an Electric Outboard

Thanks to an article by Eric Klem, and to a lesser extent one of mine, we all now clearly understand how bad weight in the ends of the boat is for sailing performance.

What’s this got to do with electric outboards? While thinking about a new outboard for our J/109, it just struck me that the answer is plenty:

Outboards clamped to the rail aft or, worse still, on the back of a dinghy stowed in davits, are a big performance hit because they are a long way from the axis of pitch and even further from the centre of gravity.

But what else are we going to do with a machine full of gas (petrol)?

Plus, we will probably also stow a jug full of fuel for the infernal machine—diesels I get along with, outboards not so much—back there.

Electric outboards are way better in this regard because we can stow them below and further forward. Even a few feet will make a difference because the negative effect scales by the square of the distance from the axis of pitch, and said axis is often quite far aft.

So moving the outboard from the stern rail to say the forward end of the cockpit locker is a huge gain.

Heck, we could even take the battery off and stow it where the weight will do the least harm.

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Charles Roberts

We’ve been using a epropoulsion spirit for about a year now in the PNW. It’s a game changer! Not only is it much easier to handle for smaller crew members, but it can be stowed away below when crossing the juan de fuca or georgia straits. Another advantage is the almost silent operation. Makes a huge difference when watching birds, seals, and whales!

I was concerned about exposure to the challenging marine environment but haven’t had any issues there. One of our batteries lasts about 3 weeks while cruising and we have a solar cell to charge it if needed as well.

It’s been one of the best cruising purchases we’ve made in the last few years. Would strongly recommend it if a smaller horsepower engine fits your usage profile.

Terence Thatcher

Charlie, I sail the same waters as you. Do you have any reports from others or yourself on the durability or longevity of the ePropulsion, especially as compared to the Torqueedo? Thanks.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
As for wildlife, we inside the dinghy are also animals, whose life quality improves greatly when we can spend the dinghy ride experiencing and talking, etc. Noise is a huge enemy of life quality in daily life. It makes people sick, literally. In nature it’s really out of place too.

The main problem to overcome, as far as I see, is the mad feeling that we have to hurry, which we bring with us from our whipped and stress brainwashed land society. Most of the electric outboards commonly seen are quite small. Much bigger ones (!) are now available, but still charging abilities will remain the limiting factor for any madness in dinghy power.

That means we need to either settle for a much slower dinghy pace, establish much more efficient dinghy hull types, (non planing), or probably both. I think we have a little revolution incoming.

Eric Klem

Hi Stein,

Yes, it seems that we need a revolution in efficiency of dinghies. We could get most of it by just being willing to not operate so close to hull speed but new designs could be cool too. I know people who are successfully using electric outboards on some launches ( used to coach crew teams which have to maintain high speeds for reasonably long periods so the power requirements must be low. I have long wondered whether a more rough water capable version of these boats that was also shorter was possible or if the handling would be horrible or it would be too heavy. Maybe it would start to look like the small catamaran powerboats already available.

We currently only row our dinghy, our outboard has been in storage for 10 years and has barely ever been used. However, I do sometimes think about getting an electric outboard as I think it would be the right fit for us if we were to get anything.