canoe owners who use a motor...

ok, i know… is the name and i’m posting the cardinal sin, but i have congestive heart failure. i was on the lake fishing one day and it was before i had the motor. i used a kayak paddle to get around and still do, but going back to the landing i got caught in a wind, head on and i had to work far more to get back than i wanted or needed to. so, i bought a minn kota trolling motor…it was also a good idea in case i had heart trouble i can get back quicker. i just wondered if anyone else had a motorized canoe and what motor you use. the electric is ok but my range is limited to battery use. a small 2 horse would be nice but i wondered about the weight…pros and cons…anyone?

iI use
Dear rb,

I have a 40 pound thrust MinnKota electric motor that I use on a 15’ Grumman wide bodied square stern canoe. With a freshly charged battery it will move 2 people and their fishing gear for a weekend.

I’m not talking about running the motor constantly, I’m talking about motoring to a fishing spot and fishing for a while and then motoring to another spot.

A 2 HP gasoline engine will weigh less than an electric motor and a deep cycle battery but you may run into problems on certain lakes.

If you can use a motorized boat you can always use an electric motor but here in PA at least many lakes prohibit gasoline engines.


Tim Murphy AKA Goobs

Weight, efficiency, range, etc.
If weight, efficiency and range matter, then there is no other choice except a small gas outboard. If cost enters into the picture (as it often does), then electrics have the advantage, at least in the short term, though I’m not sure about how the cost of gas versus batteries compares in the long run. I just did a quick check and found that a 4-cycle, 2.5-horsepower outboard motor from Mercury weighs less than a deep-cycle battery having moderate capacity. I didn’t see a two-stroke motor of that size, but if you can find one, it will weigh less. Compared to the weight of a battery plus an electric motor, the weight advantage of the gas motor is huge. The weight advantage remains even when carrying several days worth of fuel, and of course, several days worth of cruising can’t be done at all with an electric. A small gas motor will be much faster, which if you plan to go far, might be important. Finally, small modern outboards are amazingly quiet.

That said, most people choose electrics, I think mainly for the low cost. Just don’t forget that the law requires that the battery be not just covered, but securely attached to the boat so that it can’t move. Then remember that the weight of a battery and electric motor might be more than the built-in flotation of your boat can carry, meaning if you ever tip over, you lose everything. Extra flotation might be a good idea.

Also, too much power that’s suddenly applied to make a sharp turn can roll a canoe right over, especially if done at slow speed, so with a gas engine it can be necessary to use some common sense. You’ll also need a good mounting system for either type of motor, but it’s probably more important that the mount be sturdy with a gas motor.

A few thoughts
I understand your reasons for wanting a motor, and they make perfect sense to me. For most people I think motors aren’t the best option - the way I see it is that the more enjoyable part of crossing the water is cut short, and the less enjoyable part of portaging and doing maintenance is extended.

There are new electric motors from torquedo that are very expensive but supposedly good:

Gas seems more cost-effective, and those little honda 4 strokes are pretty reliable.

Guideboatguy makes a good point in his name - have you considered rowing? I’m amazed at how much more comfortable rowing a boat into the wind is compared with paddling - the long sweep of the oars really locks into the water and generates momentum in ways a 10" paddle stroke cannot.

Why didn’t I think of that?
Yes, for a single person in a bulky, canoe-sized boat, rowing is the cat’s meow, and the exertion level is actually pretty low. In such a boat, there’s no advantage whatsoever in using a sliding seat and super-long oars that allow “full-body” exertion. You’ll hit hull speed long before you approach the need for full-body effort so keep it simple and at the same time, keep the exertion level low. What you will need are oarlocks and a pair of oars (8-footers are perfect for a canoe-sized boat, but 7 feet will do in a pinch), a foot brace, and a seat that’s low enough to keep the oar handles out of your lap during the recovery stroke. A guy who used to post here a lot (his screen name was Stap) was an accomplished canoe rower, and he often used a bean-bag cushion for a seat.

Hobie fishing kayak

I had a 2hp Mercury long ago
Used it on my MR Explorer and zoomed all over north San Francisco bay around Sausalito, Tiburon and San Quentin prison. Pretty dangerous now that I think back on it.

I recommend a wide canoe with Sumo secondary stability. The Explorer is 16’ x 3’, a solid, non-tippy size.

The main problem was major trim imbalance if I sat in the rear seat with the motor back there. Since the canoe is symmetrical, I found I could sit straddling the bow seat with the motor mounted on the bow-now-stern and sort of still reach the handle.

Finally, I rigged some sort of extension handle with plastic pipe or something, so I could sit in the wide cane center seat I had installed for solo paddling. That way, I could steer but couldn’t reach the throttle or other controls.

Outa control in Frisco – just the way it should be. The sweet bird of youth.

I used a motor
for a time years ago. I must say looking back it was not and ideal arrangement. I recall feeling very insecure and not 100% in control of the situation. I used both a little 1 or 2 horse gas engine and an electric motor as well on an Old Town Tripper with a motor bracket. Honestly I do not think it was safe and I would not do it again. It is very easy to find your self out of control.

Canoe & Trolling Motor
I used to have a Mohawk 14’ canoe with a side mounted bracket and torlling motor, 27# thrust.

Fully charged deep cycle battery would push us, my 12 year old son and I, along for about 6 hours reliabily.

It is easy to get to an unstable position with the morot hanging off the side due to canoe design with the extra weight hanging where it does not belong. even sliding the canoe up/down a bank with the motor attached… it would get unstable and roll if not careful when the bow or stern were the balance point on the bank.

If I were to do it again it would only be on a square stern with provisions to put the battery mid-canoe for additional weight balance.

As far as Gas vs Electric, personal choice, but many places I fish have restrictions against Gas motors (even if powered off) so I (MPO) would go electric.

I fish several Mo Motor zones and some Pole & Troll zones. Some of the no motor zones require that a gas motor be removed from the transom…

Electric Vs Gas
Everybody knows electric, Just turn it on and off you go.

If you dont use it often, no big deal; it will still go.

Are you willing to keep checking that the gas is still good and hasn’t gone bad.

Sure you can turn off the petcock and run the carberator dry so it wont dry out and get varnished and stick a needle or float. But are you going to remember to refill the carb or prime it plus yank the rope 2-3 or sometimes 20-30 times when you already have tighness in the chest and the arm is feeling numb???

Electric is easy.

Think it over good befor you buy.

And dont forget to get extra long cabels to keep the battery up front to help keep the bow in the water.

You make it sound much worse than it is

– Last Updated: Nov-26-12 8:42 PM EST –

By your reasoning, we should all be using reel-style push mowers on our lawns and driving the horse and wagon to work. Naturally, engines can and do break down, but it's hardly a reason not to use them in situations where they are the best tool for the job. I've been using the same outboard motor for fishing since 1978, and have never had a single moment when it gave me a bit of trouble. It has sat through some long periods of disuse too, a few times even for years at at time while I was away at school or working in another town at a job that turned out not to be permanent, but never did it fail to start right up the next time it was used. About ten years ago I gave away the old outboard motor that my dad used for most of the years when I was growing up (I gave it to someone who collected and restored them). That motor wouldn't start at the time, and clearly needed work before it would run, but it had been used a lot over its 55-year life by three different owners, and had never failed to start until then. In between periods of use, it had sat unused for years at a time too. While that old motor was in our family it had the gas run out of the carburetor after each and every use, same as I do with the motor I use now, but the gas was never disposed of in the off season. Once that motor was mine, I did what I do with my current motor, and that is, when winter comes, I use up any leftover gas by burning it in my car (the amount of oil contained in a few gallons of two-cycle mix is miniscule after it's put into a full fuel tank of a car, so there's no issue with how the car runs). It's not like avoiding the use of old gas takes talent or effort, just as "remembering" to let gas flow into the carburetor again before pulling the rope is no more difficult than remembering to bring the keys to your car - it's just part of the process.

These examples of reliability aren't unusual. If you hang out with people who fish, now and then you'll see motors that fail to start, but you'll also see scads of them that have been trouble-free for as long or longer than most of us have been alive.

Electric Paddle Motor for Canoe

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 5:34 PM EST –

I splurged and bought an Electric Paddle this past summer:

We used it to cover distances on day trips on the big lakes in the Adirondacks. Medical and other issues lead us to not camp this year. I have been studying Adirondack history, and made this an opportunity to view historic locales that I had previously shunned as being too touristy and having too many motorboats. Without the Electric Paddle, we would have needed two days and an overnighter to cover the many miles covered in one day trip, on Raquette, Tupper, and Long Lakes, and on the Raquette and Saranac Rivers.

The Electric Paddle was so quiet, we could carry on a fine conversation in our Wenonah Spirit II. Most folks could not hear it until right on top of us, and it caused quite a few double takes. Motor is 8 lbs, and battery 8 lbs, if memory serves [edited because my memory did not serve]. Super light. We could paddle with it and rather effortlessly cruise at hull speed. Or, we could eat, drink, stretch, and keep moving at a good clip. Like having a third paddler who never tires.

So far, I am very satisfied with the investment. I have absolutely no affiliation with the company. I will do a comprehensive review when time allows.