Quietman's Electric Kayak Page
It has been a long time coming, and I will most likely add to this in the future, but I constantly get email asking me questions about my electric trolling motor setup, and how to do one themselves.
1. Why Electric?
Many have asked me why I did it, especially since I am an athlete and can paddle my kayak farther and faster than most, and would seemingly have no need or interest in powering my kayak. The answer? Well, while it is true that an electric option opens up kayaking to many people who perhaps could not do it otherwise, it also makes the kayak a better and more versatile fishing machine. I primarily kayak to fish, and to get on the water with my friends.
Fishing involves the use of the hands, and since I love trolling, it involves constant and precise boat-control. When you troll while paddling, every time you stop paddling to deal with a hook-up, snag or to just check your lures, the kayak stops and spins and drifts aimlessly with the current and wind. This tangles your line and wastes tons of productive fishing time, usually in the best spots when you least can afford it.
With a trolling motor you can continue forward with lures or bait kept in the "zone" and producing for you while you reel in and clean, check or just unhook and release a smaller or unwanted fish. It also lets you continue forward reeling in lines and getting ready to fight a really big fish that you have "hanging" and lets you constantly adjust the boat position and even follow the fish if needed during the fight.
If you like to drift or slowly cruise and cast, like the pro-bassers do, a trolling motor allows you to set up a controlled artificial "drift" in any way you like, while freeing your hands to cast and retrieve your offering at the same time.
The other benefits of a trolling motor are range and safety. With a motor like mine you can go nearly 20 miles at slow-troll speed, 2 to 3 mph, without paddling. Run the motor AND paddle, which is what my friends and I do, and I'm not sure what the range would be, really far! I have done over 20 miles in a day many times, while fishing the whole time, with lots of power left over. And if the wind blows, the motor could really be a life-saver for weaker paddles. At my local fishing hole, Dana Point, several of my buddys have gone out and bought the setup after watching me blow past them upwind to fish when they could make almost no headway. A motor can add hours and days to your fishing, and get you places others can't go.
Another benefit is that if you have the ability to carry a passenger, the trolling motor frees you up to help them fish. That is what I do with my sons on my Fish N Dive, and it is a blast!
2. Which kayak?
Just about any kayak could be electrified, but if you are interested in enjoying yourself and relaxing you wouldn't want to do it to a skinny, tippy one! The best all-around kayak out there is the Cobra Fish N Dive, and it is perfect for converting, as well as being able to carry a passenger and many other things. For flat-water use, the Extreme by Malibu Kayaks is a good choice as well. The extreme sits very low to the water and has a flat bottom with no rocker (up curve bow/stern) which tends to make it dig into waves and wakes in the open ocean, and it is easy to pearl in the surf. It also doesn't have the nice big, deep tank well of the FnD. Any skinny (less than 30" ? ) kayak with poor stability, would obviously be a less desirable choice. However smaller guys, experienced guys and tough guys who don't mind being wet can and do make all sorts of kayaks work.
If you can hold your paddle out as far as you can in front of you with both hands, then turn your upper body sideways and lean out as far as you can over the side in your fully-loaded kayak and not be swimming, you own the right kayak for fishing, and putting a trolling motor on. If not you can still do it, but plan on getting wet occasionally!
You need lots of weight capacity, and here again the Fish N Dive is again the best, with a 600 pound capacity. You will be carrying 60-100 pounds extra with the battery and motor, so if you already weigh close to 200 pounds and bring fishing gear and your kayak is rated for 300, you are going to be in trouble. For good handling, seaworthiness and safety, I would try to stay at 1/2 to 2/3 of the kayaks rated capacity, and the more reserve the better.
A kayak that seemed "fast" when you paddled it around for a few minutes behind the shop in the bay with no gear, will be much slower when loaded down. The kayaks like the FnD that seemed "slow" in comparison, start looking mighty good when loaded up and paddled in the waves and wakes of the real world, where it really shines.
Remember you (most likely) won't always be using the motor...
3. What do I need and what will it cost?
You need a motor, a battery, a way to mount it in the kayak and a way to recharge the battery when it's dead. You will possibly also want or need to comply with local laws about powered water vehicles. This varies by state. In California you must register the kayak at a cost of $5.00 per year. This takes 10 minutes at AAA, and then you will get a bill in the mail every odd-numbered year for $10 for another two years.
Wal-Mart sells the motor-guide marine (saltwater rated) motor with 34 pounds of thrust for $99. It has a 30" shaft which is also perfect. It does NOT get as long a run-time as the Enduras, my new favorite. I have also had the motor-guide non-marine 34 pounds of thrust motor which costs $79, and as long as you put heavy grease on the mounting threads and rinse it faithfully it is OK as well. I am currently using the Minn Kota 34 pound "ENDURA" motor which is a bit heavier than I like, has a 36" shaft which is on the longish side, and a bit bulkier than I like. However, it seems to get superior run-times, and since I bought it I'm using it.
Update: I just saw a new Minn-Kota, the 30 pound thrust "ENDURA" available at Sport Chalet for $109. I would go with that if I were doing this again. It has the smaller 30" shaft I prefer, and is lighter. The Endura models run much longer on a charge than the Motor-guide models do.
I have repeatedly been asked about "saltwater" rated motors with anodes, etc. They are a waste of money and too big and heavy. I have had my motors in the salt hundreds of hours and had waves break over me and them. Rinse when you get home and no problem. Even if you went through one every year or so you would still be $$$ ahead.
Wal-Mart also sells marine trolling batteries, the 24 series weighs 40 pounds and costs $39.99 + $5.00 core charge. It is rated for 75 Ah. The 27 series is bigger, weighs 60 pounds and has a greater 105 Ah capacity and costs $54.99 + $5.00 core charge. I have both and use them both, sometimes at the same time...
People ask me about the sealed high-$$$ batteries. They are lighter and smaller and safe to transport upside down. However they cost a fortune, have shorter run-times, need special chargers and have a shorter service life. You decide.
You will need a charger, one that charges at a decent rate, say 10 amps, then automatically switches to a maintenance mode and keeps the battery ready to go without over charging it. That will cost you $40-$80, also at Wal-Mart.
Last but not least, of course, you will need a way to attach the motor to the kayak. This can be solved many ways. My criteria was it had to be cheap, simple, must not modify the kayak in any way, be completely self-contained and installable or removable without a trace, in seconds. With the Fish N Dive or any stable kayak that can take a full-sized milk crate, this is a super easy project that will take you just an hour or so and you will never look back...
The FnD is available with a $60 mount, which is a $2.00 piece of aluminum channel and a couple well-nuts to mount it. The Extreme comes with teensy-tiny well nuts installed that you are supposed to mount a mount to. I don't like either.
Here's my installation:
Milk crate with a piece of galvanized channel screwed down onto the edges with sheet metal screws, then a 2X4 lag-bolted on.
Front view of the same crate.
Crate with 27 series battery, the 27 is a *perfect* fit. The battery can get wet, even have waves crash over it, no harm done.
The whole thing with the motor and my powered bait tank ready to go.
The crate is held in with four metal turnbuckles. Grease them well.
Another view. I like the motor mounted on the right. You should experiment with the height of the head. I use mine higher now, so less of the shaft is dragging in the water, and since I almost always paddle and run the motor at the same time I have found that the paddle goes under the head with no interference that way. Perfect.
At the Lake...
My Daughter Abby and I going fishing on our magic carpet ride...
Some more views...
I hope you try this, you will love it. Let me know how it goes, I will post up your pictures to help others...
John Roe, the Quietman