Can You Put An Outboard Motor On A Sailboat – How To Video

When you are docking or sailing without wind, a motor may come in handy. I have used and worked on outboard motors for a long time and hope to answer your questions with this article.

You can mount an outboard motor to a sailboat using an auxiliary motor bracket. This bracket is designed to lift and lower the motor to the desired height in the water. Make sure the bracket is rated for the weight of the motor.

This article will discuss all things about outboard motors and how to utilize them on your boats. There are a lot out there and a bunch of questions to answer.

How Do You Attach An Outboard Motor To A Sailboat?

An outboard motor bracket is required to mount an engine to your sailboat’s transom. The size of the bracket will depend on the weight of the engine. The bracket is mounted to the transom using bolts and a special adhesive.

The easiest way to mount an outboard to your boat will be to take it out of the water first! This will ensure that anything you drop does not sink to the bottom of the ocean. This will also give you the option to work right side up. If you tried to do it on the water, you would be working upside down hanging over the transom.

The outboard motor bracket will make your life so much easier when it comes to using your engine. The bracket allows you to move your engine in and out of the water with ease. Torsion springs in the bracket will counterbalance the motor weight making it feel super light when raising and lowering it. Most brackets have multiple positions as well, making it easy to get your desired depth.

There are a few things to remember when mounting your bracket.

  • Mount the motor bracket on the correct side. Which side do you prefer to sit on and control your boat from? Your engine should be on the same side.
  • Measure twice! You need to compare the length of your outboard to the height of your bracket mount. Measure when the bracket is in the up and down position. You don’t want your prop out of the water when the mount is down but you also don’t want it dragging the bottom.
  • Check the throttle handle of your engine in relation to the top of your transom. When the engine is lowered you want to make sure you can still operate the throttle without banging your arm on the transom. If you need to increase the distance of the bracket from the transom try a set-back plate. Some outboards will tip forward to remove the prop from the water, making sure it won’t hit the transom.
  • Try to utilize a backing plate on the inside of the cockpit if possible. This will help create a more even pressure against the transom between the bracket and the backing plate. If you can’t find one it should be ok without one, but no guarantees.
  • Always attach a safety cable. This will keep your engine from sinking to the bottom of the water if, for some rare reason, it did detach from the bracket.

For a more in-depth look at using an outboard bracket, take a look at this video. They replace their old one with a new one. It’s a great video on all of the steps.

Check out my other article all about getting your outboard ready for summer!

Which Outboard Engine Bracket Is Best?

The list below describes 9 different brackets and how they can benefit you when mounting your outboard motor.

1. Panther Marine 55-0407AL Lightweight 4-Stroke Bracket

Adjustable outboard motor bracket with a max weight of 132 lbs. It has 10 inches of travel with 5 locking slots. The mounting board is 2 inches thick and made of polypropylene. Designed for 2 and 4-stroke motors. Long and short shaft engine capable. $230.00 Click Here To Purchase!

2. Panther 2 Stroke Outboard Motor Bracket

This bracket is only rated for 82 lbs. It has 14 inches of travel and 5 different stopping points. This model is not recommended for 4-stroke motors. $169.00

3. Panther Marine 55-0410 4-Stroke Bracket

This model holds 263 lbs and has 10 inches of travel. The mounting board is 2 inches thick and made of polypropylene. $252.00 Click Here To Purchase!

4. Panther Marine 55-0021 Motor Bracket

One of Panther’s smaller units, but it still has a max weight of 115 lbs. It has 11 inches of travel and 5 locking spots. It is not recommended to be used with 4-stroke motors. $161.00 Click Here To Purchase!

5. Five Oceans Adjustable Outboard Bracket FO-420401

Max weight of 85 lbs for this bracket. Made from AISI316 stainless steel. Five vertical running position lock bars to compensate for water level and boatload. $159.00

6. BaQiRo Stainless Steel 2 Stroke Motor Bracket

The mounting board is made of solid polypropylene and has a wide track body for stability. The maximum weight for this unit is 115 lbs. $102.00

7. Panther Marine 55-0030 Swim Platform Motor Bracket

This unit is designed for a swim platform on the back of a boat. The max engine weight is 195 lbs. It has 4 inches of vertical travel and 3 running positions. Rated for 2 and 4-stroke motors. $299.00

8. Panther Marine Fixed 35 HP Motor Bracket

A fixed motor bracket with no movement of any kind. The max weight rating is 263 lbs. Compatible with 2 or 4-stroke motors. $104.00 Click Here To Purchase!

9. Panther Marine Fixed 15 HP Motor Bracket

A fixed motor bracket with a max weight of 85 lbs. No movement with this fixed mount style. 2-inch thick mounting board. $84.00 Click Here To Purchase!

All of these brackets can help make your outboard life easier. Just be sure to get one that is rated for your type of motor.

If you don’t have a motor for your auxiliary motor bracket, keep reading to find out more about outboard and inboard motors.

Is A 2-Stroke Or 4-Stoke Outboard Faster?

2 stroke motors use two-piston strokes to generate a single revolution of the crankshaft, while a 4 stroke motor has to do 4 strokes per revolution. This will generate more power and speed than a 4-stroke motor of the same horsepower.

When it comes to outboard motors, 2-stroke and 4-stroke motors are a common sight. They both have their positives and negatives of course, but one may be better than the other.

2-stroke motors use two-piston strokes to produce a single revolution of the crankshaft. The crankshaft is what drives the power of the engine. Since the 2-stroke only has to stroke 2 times, this creates greater acceleration and speed for your boat. This type of motor is also much lighter than a 4-stroke. Being lighter means a more power-to-weight ratio. There are some negatives to 2-stroke outboards though.

A 2-stroke motor is not environmentally friendly when it comes to exhaust. These emissions can be harmful to you, the water, and the air around you. The fuel consumption on these types of motors is much higher than a 4-stoke outboard motor. One other factor to consider is noise. 2-strokes are a lot louder than 4-strokes. If that doesn’t concern you then maybe a 2-stroke is the right one for you.

4-stroke motors have a lot of positives. The biggest one in my opinion is being more fuel-efficient. Burning less fuel with today’s gas prices is a huge plus. They are far less harmful to the environment. These types of motors also have a better lubrication system making sure all the working parts are oiled making your engine last longer. One of the main reasons to consider a 4-stroke motor is torque. If you have a heavy boat and need some serious torque to get things moving then a 4-stroke is probably a better choice for you.

The negatives of the 4-stroke engine are not that bad. It is heavier than a 2-stroke outboard. You will not be moving it that much though. Plus, with the outboard brackets listed earlier in this article, you won’t even notice the heavier weight. It does require some basic maintenance since you have an oil filter to replace now. Just like your car, it’s very simple to check your oil and replace the filter when needed.

In my opinion, I would go with the 4-stroke motor. It will last longer due to its lubrication system (with proper maintenance) and is better for our environment. We want to keep our waters healthy for all wildlife and people that will be using them for years to come.

Are Inboard Motors Better Than Outboards?

There are many factors to consider when deciding which engine to use, inboard or outboard. They both have advantages and disadvantages. As a whole, inboards are better when your boat is 30 feet or greater. If the boat is less than 30 feet, an outboard motor can be used.

Inboard motors are motors that are concealed down in the boat’s hull somewhere. For sailboats, the engine is normally under the cockpit and accessed from under the steps that lead down into the cabin. On most sailboats, especially older models, the inboards are diesel engines.

Sailboats use diesel because a diesel engine will last a lot longer than a regular engine. They have more power from less fuel as well. Diesel fuel has 20% more energy than regular gas. Diesel has a higher density which means it burns slower. You do get more speed and horsepower out of regular gasoline. Due to gasoline having a much lower density, it will burn faster creating more energy and HP.

The Hunter I used to sail on in the Destin, FL area would only have to be filled about once a year. The engine was only turned on when the wind was dead or we were trying to get in and out of the docks, but that is still a good amount of motoring. Imagine only having to fill your car once a year.

How much power should be your next question? Take a look at the next section to see how much horsepower you need.

How Much Horsepower Does A Sailboat Need?

As a general rule, you should calculate 1 horsepower(HP) per 550 pounds of weight. For example, a Catalina 22 weighs 2150 pounds. Take 2150 divided by 550 and you get 3.9. Always round up to avoid not having enough power. 4 HP is the right size engine for a Catalina 22.

I used to own a Catalina 22 and it had a 4-hp motor on it. The engine size was perfect for the size of the boat. Now, I couldn’t go 40 mph but the speed was good enough for me. When you are motor sailing speed is usually not a concern. Cruising slowly is the best in my opinion.

Let’s look at a 30ft boat. This is a very common size in the sailing world. A 30-foot Hunter Cherubini’s displacement is 9700 pounds. Displacement is another term for the weight of a sailboat. 9700 divided by 550 equals 17.63. I would round that up to 18 HP.

This is not an exact formula. It is a very good estimate compared to the other articles I have read about what size engine is needed for a boat. Usually, with a 30-foot boat, you will have an inboard engine instead of an outboard.

What is the most dependable small outboard motor?

When it comes to picking an outboard there are a lot of options. The average life span of an outboard is 1500 hours before maintenance or possible replacement. Take a look at the list below for some dependable options.

1. 2022 Tohatsu 6 HP MFS6DWDS

This is a great portable option. This is the largest single-cylinder option from Tohatsu. The shaft length is short at 15 inches. Some other features are, saltwater rated, 6 trim positions, low oil pressure warning indicator, and more. $1560.00

2. 2022 Mercury 3.5 HP Outboard Motor

The Mercury brand is a great one. We all know it and it’s very common to see all types of boats with a Mercury motor. This one has a 20-inch shaft, visual oil level indicator, 4 trim positions, and 360 degrees of steering. $1070.00

3. Suzuki 4 HP DF4AS3 Outboard Motor

Suzuki’s 4 HP motor is a good option for smaller boats. It has a short 15-inch shaft with a large easy-to-shift lever. It weighs 52 lbs which is a lot for this size of the motor. It has a fold-down tiller handle and 90 degrees left and right steering. $1245.00

4. Honda 5 HP BF5DHLHNA Outboard

Honda is a great engine creator. We all know the brand and love it. This motor comes with a 20-inch shaft. A 15-inch shaft is available. Digital CD ignition for easy starting and low oil warning. There is even an option for a 6-amp charging system. $1742.00

5. Mercury 9.9 HP ELHPT EFI ProKicker Motor

This motor has an electric start! Making this a great option for convenience. It is on the larger size of power with 9.9 HP. It also has a power tilt button for easy positioning. It comes with a 20-inch long shaft as well. If you have plenty of money I recommend this one. $3720.00

6. Mercury 5 HP Propane Outboard Motor

That’s right, this outboard runs on propane! I have never experienced one of these but the clean burn is intriguing. Some of the other features are rated for saltwater and six trim positions. Check out the video below for more information. $1645.00

7. Suzuki 2.5 HP DF2.5S4 Motor

This little guy is a good option for the price if you don’t need a lot of power. It is only 29 lbs and has a 5-year warranty. The shaft length is 15 inches for those shallow waters. $819.00

8. HONDA 2.3 HP BF2.3DHLCH Outboard

For a smaller option with a good brand try this one. It has a 20-inch long shaft and 2.3 HP. The 5-year warranty means this will be your outboard for years to come. $978.00

9. Torqeedo Travel 1103 CL Electric Outboard

If you prefer no gas then this is the one you want. It weighs 39 lbs, has 3 HP, and is 29 1/4 in length. The best use is for a dinghy but if you had a small sailboat it could be great for motoring in and out of port. The price is a little high. $2999.00

When it comes to deciding which outboard motor to get just think about how fast you want to go and how big your boat is.

Are Outboard Motors Easy To Work On? Personal Experience

Outboard motors are very simple to understand making them easy to work on. If you ever have to deal with a broken down outboard motor, depending on the size, you should have no trouble figuring out the issue.

I had a Mercure 8hp motor on my sailboat and had to work on it a few times. One time it stopped shifting while caught in some high winds. Fortunately, popping off the top I saw that the shifter connection had come detached. I was able to attach it quickly and get the boat moving away from the rocks.

After returning to shore I made sure that would not happen again.

Outboard motors are basic engines that need basic maintenance to keep them running. If you have worked on any small engines before, this should be no problem for you to figure out. Especially since everything is on the internet these days.

Check out my other article all about getting your outboard ready for summer!

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped you learn a bit more about outboard motors and how they work with a sailboat. I know this might seem like a daunting task, installing an outboard motor and bracket, but it’s really not that hard if you just take your time and plan it out. My outboard was a huge help in times without wind and I strongly recommend adding one to your vessel. Cheers!


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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