Unfinished Projects – Motorizing a Kayak

About two years ago, BlueTang and I did a kayak dive trip, dropping our kayak in the Intercoastal Waterway at Jimmy Graham Park,  paddled up the Intercoastal to a narrow spot on the beach, portaged our kayaks and all of our dive gear across, paddled out about a mile, did an hour scuba dive, then reversed the journey… into the wind the whole way back.

It was a fantastic trip, we had a lot of fun, and learned several things:

  1. Getting old SUCKS!
  2. The trip is longer than we want to do again unassisted.
  3. Kayaks make great diving platforms, but getting to the spot and back again is NOT worth the effort at our age.
  4. We want to do it again…..with some modifications.

By the time we finally got back to our vehicles, we were all-in, worn to a frazzle tired. I think I slept for two days…

Once we had recovered, we started talking about options to get back out without killing ourselves. Neither of us wanted to have a boat large enough for diving, since we both had owned boats at one time or another, and neither wanted to deal with the upkeep a boat requires. We both LOVE the “drag and drop” nature of kayaks – drag `em to the water, and drop `em in”, but we could really use some sort of assistance in getting to and from our dive locations.

Our first thought was a sail, but I am NO sailor. I understand the basic concepts, but . I’ve seem kayak sails that seem to work well, particularly the short versions, as they don’t require a keel board, something to allow you to tack easier. (See, I’ve barely gotten into sailing terms, and have reached my limit on sailing knowledge already.) And while I get the concept of tacking (basically sailing against the wind), it just seems like a lot of work to accomplish, and this defeats the purpose of adding the sail as a means of locomotion.

So we decided against sails.

And then I ran across this beauty, the Ocean Kayak Torque:

Ocean Kayak Torque

Please note the trolling motor integrated into the tank well at the rear of the yak.

BlueTang and I agreed, we wanted one. A little research told us that the Gander Mountain 40 minutes south of us had one in stock! ROAD TRIP!

We went to have a look, and loved almost everything about it, other than one thing. We both agreed that the $2,000 price tag can make you forget a LOT of sweat and tears….

Another option we found was the “Torqueedo“, a turn-key solution that works on just about any kayak…for $1800. Ouch.

Looking into adding a trolling motor to a kayak has shown us a lot of things. There is a local company that offers a kit…at around $500. There are several online options, again, around $500 (or more!). We are frugal folks, and can’t justify dropping that kind of money on something that is a “want” rather than a “need”

And we are also handy fellows. I’m not sure about BlueTang, but I’ve had many people refer to me as MacGyver. I’m that guy that can fix things with some string and a paperclip…and I usually carry both. How hard can it be to mount a motor on a kayak?

So we started researching, looking at options, took a lot of notes, and decided to make our own. Since we each had a different make and model of kayak, each would have to be done differently. To add in another fun factor, BT’s girlfriend decided it was a great idea to have a motor on her kayak, so BT was volunteered to install one on hers as well. Yes, she had a third make and model. Three completely different setups were required.


That was almost two years ago.

Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Trolling Motor Mount
My trolling motor mount

My kayak modification involved a fabricated aluminum mount, costing me $180 and some bartering to have made and installed. The motor was a deal through my aunt who works at a pawn shop. Bit, pieces, parts, and add-ons were scavenged, adapted, and re-purposed. If I need to do so, I could drop it in the water right now and make it move, but it needs quite a few updates and refinements.

BlueTang is also very close. His involved a home made bracket, and PVC pipes to extend the control head on a pivoting arm. (He obviously has played Mouse Trap a lot over the years. If not, he definitely missed his calling!)

But after two years, it isn’t completed yet either. While we’ve both learned quite a bit, and wouldn’t change what we’ve done by much, and even if money were no object, we STILL would have done it ourselves….

But that $500 price tag looks good on days like today. I could be out on the water tooling around without any effort on my part. Instead, I’ll be using my down time from NOT kayaking to work on my “not yet motorized kayak”.

I’m mostly writing all of this to shame the both of us into finally completing this project. Kayak FishingThe weather is lovely, the water is warming up, and we have fish to bring home….

I just hope it’s ready by my birthday next month so I can relive my last birthday spent fishing.


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