Kayak Motor Systems
A common question we get in the shop is in regards to adding a motor onto a kayak. Many of our customers seem intrigued with the prospect, and there are some pretty trick systems on the market, but also some things to be aware of before jumping into a motor system.
In the state of California, you are considered a motorized vessel once you add an electric trolling motor onto your kayak, and as such you'll have to abide by all laws and regulations governing such craft. This means you'll need CF numbers (and a way to affix them to the kayak), proper running lights and all required safety equipment that any other motorized boat would need.
Trolling motors draw a lot of battery power, as anyone who's ever owned a bass boat can attest to. If you're thinking the 10 amp hour battery you use for your fish finder will suffice, you'll find it's not adequate. To power these motors for any length of usable time, it'll require a very large marine deep cycle battery; about twice the size of an average car battery. They're big, heavy, bulky and expensive. Make sure you have a way to properly secure the battery because it can cause serious damage to the plastic kayak if it can bounce around in there. There are recent developments in battery technology that may lead to a lighter alternative which would be a great benefit for this application.
If you launch through the surf on a regular basis, it's possible that a motor could be problematic. Besides the extra weight of the battery to deal with (and devising a way to properly secure it, should you wipe out), the motor itself also presents an extra hazard should you fall out of the kayak in the surf zone. Be aware that any motorized kayak will be hindered in the surf.
It's important to be aware of what's involved with 'motorizing' a kayak, so if you still think a motor is for you, then it's time to narrow down your options. Hobie has introduced a motor that replaces the mirage drive system, and can also be mounted on the rudder. The lithium battery included with this system is much lighter than the standard deep cycle, weighing in at less than six pounds. If you already own a Hobie or are planning on purchasing one, this is a great system, but it's also one of the most expensive, so get your check book ready.
Torqeedo is the company producing the motors for Hobie. They have their own after market systems that can be added to many different kayak models. Their system is well made and professional with impressive features like lithium batteries, gps receivers, and speedometers, amongst others. Just like the Hobie systems, the others are not cheap either, but they are a pretty impressive rig.
If you don't need all the bells and whistles, a company called Bass Yaks produces kits for almost every model of kayak on the market. A bracket attaches to the rear end of the kayak, through the rudder mounts and two additional attachment points. The motor is mounted to the bracket and steering is done by the foot braces, just like a rudder. The throttle is a small dial that is mounted near the seat and a kill switch is mounted on the opposite side. This may be the only option for a lot of kayaks on the market, and it's a well designed system that installs very securely onto the kayak.
On some kayaks, like the Malibu Pro2Tandem, Malibu Xcaliber, and Stealth series you can add a bracket just behind the seat which provides a mounting position for a standard transom mount trolling motor off the side of the kayak. The motor is controlled with the hand throttle, so there is very little additional mounting besides the bracket itself. The ease of installation is a big plus, but with the motor off to one side it can make the kayak difficult to steer. Also, controlling the motor with one hand is a drawback from the foot control systems of other motors which leave your hands free to fish.
Whichever motor you choose, be sure of your application and know what's involved with its installation and operation. Motorizing a kayak is no small step, so be prepared for all that it entails, from legal regulations to the physical system itself. And one final word of advice; if the motor is to be used in saltwater, be sure to get a saltwater rated motor. Otherwise your expensive motor system will become much more expensive after a couple trips in the salt.