vintage 2 stroke outboards

Simply Skiffs

The topics below contain hints, tips, and opinions, and should be read and followed with caution!

Hints and tips for lakes, ponds, and boats.

Outboard motors

Outboard motors are often used on my skiffs and prams. They are especially useful if my boats are going to be used for exploring rivers. Whilst it is easy and fun to row with the flow of a river, when you turn around to return to your launching point you may find yourself having to work quite hard to row back against the current. I usually recommend that when exploring rivers you begin by rowing up the river from your launching point, then you get the hard work out of the way, and get an easy ride going back! If you use an outboard motor to go further afield, you have several choices:

Electric Outboard with a 12volt leisure battery,.

The outboard itself will be small and fairly light, which is a good thing. The disadvantage is the battery will be bulky and heavy. Let me know if you intend to use one of these and I will put securing points in the boat for the battery. A mat should be placed under the battery to protect the paintwork, and the battery should be well secured. A big advantage with these motors is they are almost silent, so you will not disturb wildlife and other boaters. They do tend to be slightly limited in terms of power however. You will also need to purchase a 12 volt battery charger, to recharge your battery after use. Both two stroke and four stroke outboards have to be started by pulling hard and fast on a pull cord, which many smaller weaker boaters find very difficult (especially when the engine is cold). An electric outboard can be started by simply pressing a button. These outboards do not emit pollution smoke, or oil, and will disturb the local wildlife far less than petrol outboards. However, bear in mind that the electricity used to run them may have been generated in a big horrible polluting power station!

Two stroke petrol outboard,

It is now illegal to manufacture and sell new two stroke outboards in the UK, however there are lots of them still in use, and they are readily available second hand, this is perfectly legal.
The disadvantage with a two stroke outboard is that it will emit more pollution than most other types of outboard. This is because they draw oil into the cylinder with the petrol vapour, and emit some unburnt petrol and oil vapour when running. Another disadvantage is that you have to thoroughly mix two stroke oil (a special type of oil) into the petrol before the petrol goes into the outboard’s fuel tank. This has to be mixed to a specific ratio, usually 40 or 50 to parts petrol to 1 part oil, but older two strokes can use as much as 20 to 1 fuel to oil. This two stroke mix should only then be used in a two stroke engine, never pour left over fuel into your cars fuel tank!
Another disadvantage with two strokes is that they tend to be slightly noisier, and can be smokier than more modern four stroke engines.
However, two stroke outboards a very simple. This means they are usually very reliable, require little maintenance, will last a very long time, and are usually considerably lighter than a four stroke engine. They are still relied upon by many experienced boaters.

Four stroke petrol outboard,

This is the most common type of outboard in use today. They are usually quieter and less polluting than two strokes. But they are usually much bigger and heavier. They are more complicated than two strokes, and there is more to go wrong. They run on normal unleaded petrol, but also have a separate oil tank for lubrication, always check the oil level before use.

Two stroke and four stroke petrol outboards suck up water though an inlet close to the propeller. The water is then pumped around the engine, cooling it, comes out of a hole either on the back of the engine or half way down the shaft. When starting a petrol outboard you should always check that water is spurting out of this telltale. If not, the engine may overheat. A two horsepower outboard will usually have ample power for my boats, but if in doubt, give me a call for further advice. Remember to get a ‘standard shaft length’ outboard, you will not need a ‘long shaft’ for use on my boats, ‘long shafts’ are not suited to the shallower waters. Petrol outboards require servicing, at intervals (usually annually), electric ones usually don’t.

Never use an outboard around people who are swimming. Outboards have a ‘kill cord’ which should be worn on the operators wrist, it will cut the engine off in the event that you are knocked out of the boat. Always carry oars and rowlocks in the boat and be prepared to row back in the event of engine failure.
Don’t forget to let me know if you intend to use an outboard motor on your boat, so I can make the necessary modifications.


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