Like many boaters, I have had a dinghy with a small gas-powered outboard engine sitting on the stern of my boat for many years. It has been useful in getting to and from a dock or a beach while overnighting on the hook. I also have used it to explore little coves with both sandbars and tiki bars. It has also been a means of exercise, using it as a rowboat.
The one constant annoyance on the dinghy was our 6hp engine, which was then replaced with a 4hp engine. As these engines were not used often, the starter rope and I and would have the occasional “pulling party” to get it going. After the season it would have to be flushed and serviced before being stored. On top of that, I disliked storing the portable gas tank somewhere safe on board. My portable 3-gallon gas tank always frequently had fumes when I took it out to use. Then, if it were a hot day, the portable tank would sometimes emit fumes sitting in the dinghy. The other dislike on outboard engines to me was their noise when running it or the smoke while idling.
When it was time to replace my 4hp engine I started to look at electric motors. With technology making incredible strides on electric motors and batteries for cars, lawnmowers and other devices I looked into purchasing an electric outboard motor. Previously, the only thing I knew about electric outboards were that they are used on bass fishing boats. Also, they were small, under-powered and needed an external battery.
Doing a search I came across the German brand Torqeedo as a manufacturer of electric outboards. They have produced over 100,000 electric boat motors over the last 15 years. Their motors range from 1hp to 135hp and are available in both inboard and outboard styles. The outboard motors go as high as 80hp.
In choosing a Torqeedo motor I wanted something easy to use along with a low weight. I chose the 1100-watt or 3hp model 1103CS. This motor weighed in at 37 pounds as a complete unit. What was nice about the 1103CS is that it broke down into three sections splitting the weight up. The motor or shaft section weighs about 24 pounds making it easy to lift from my lazarette and mount on the dinghy. The battery is 15 pounds and has a handle to easily carry it. The tiller is the last piece weighing about a pound. The price on the 1103CS lists at $2,799.
I would have preferred the higher 2000-watt or 5hp model Cruise 2.0. The problem with getting that larger outboard was its price, overall weight which included the battery and convenience. The Cruise 2.0 weighed in at 35 pounds, which was very acceptable. What I did not care for was the need to buy an external battery weighing 55 pounds. The cost of buying both the motor and battery was very high. The 5hp outboard was $1,200 more than the 3hp 1103CS. The external battery listed at $2,995.
Getting the 1103CS set up was easy. After charging the battery you attached the shaft or motor section to the dinghy like any other outboard. Then you simply snap the battery and the tiller in place insert a safety pin and connect to cables from the battery to the shaft section. Also, don’t forget to attach the magnetic safety bracelet switch like I did or it will not start. After watching a YouTube video on installation once, I mastered the setup. Because it is easy to take apart with the weight spread out, I don’t keep the Torqeedo on the dinghy unless I am going to use it that day.
Once the motor was installed, the small control screen needed to be set for monitoring the battery power for either distance or time. This is done with Torqeedo’s on-board computer that calculates the remaining distance left by linking the motor's speed with the amount of power left in the battery. It calculates speed over the water in real-time so you know how far or how much time you have left on the battery.
Launching was easy. Simple push the button to on and turn the tiller handle. There is a faint pleasant whirling sound at first. This sound faded out to the water sound running under the hull. The motor is easy to use. It has forward and reverse gears like most conventional engines.
For our initial test runs we were sheepish in regards to power and constantly monitored it. I found with two adults going 4.5 knots, which was full throttle, in our West Marine 260 RIB 8 ½ foot dinghy we had about 45 minutes of cruising. This is a perfect dinghy service speed for short distances. When I reduced the throttle to 3.5 knots the monitor stated we had about three hours. At 2.5 knots I had six hours of power but this was too slow for my needs. The sweet spot was keeping it around 3.5 knots.
The Torqeedo 1103CS motor is ideal for no hassle short distances. I don’t miss the noise, maintenance, gas fills and fumes along with winter servicing and wondering if the engine will start easily in the spring. The 1103CS motor is easy to install, use and store with the weight broken down in the three sections. Winter servicing is not much more than running it in a freshwater bucket for a few minutes if you use it in saltwater and then rinsing it off. A nice feature is that the motor is waterproof.
What I can really use on the 1103CS motor is at least one more horsepower. Going a mile or two faster on a dinghy can mean a lot. Another issue involves distance. If you are going explore a bay you need to pay attention to speed and time left on the battery. With a gas engine, you can take another two gallons with you and go another half day. When you run out of juice with this battery it can take six hours to fully charge. If you use this motor frequently for joyriding over normal dinghy service it may be prudent to purchase an extra battery at $999. Price is one of the biggest disadvantages of this outboard compared to gas engines. However, if you can budget this for your next outboard I will say running clean, green and quiet has been nice.
For information on the electric motors of Torqeedo, go to www.torqeedo.com
Tab Hauser is a licensed captain who writes and photographs on travel and boating. He currently runs charters at www.glencovecruises.com. You can find some of his cruising stories by web searching “Long Island Boating World Tab Hauser” or go to www.tabhauser.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.