I sit huddled in a warm sweater as I write this. My immediate thoughts are that Wiarton Willie, our local Ontario
groundhog, made a terrible mistake... An early spring? It
sure doesn’t look that way right now. The mercury is
routinely dipping below minus twenty, even here in the
suburbs of Canada’s biggest city. But despite the constant
windshield scraping and driveway shovelling, our collective minds no doubt drift to thoughts of open water,
warm breezes, and sunny days.
Readers of this column will remember that in short
order I will be putting my 1962 Nomad Camping
Trailer / Boat to use. You may also remember last year’s
series on the virtues of antique outboard motors, following the restoration of my 1971 Ted Williams 4.5hp
air-cooled outboard from start to successful finish,
powering my Dynous inflatable through the chilly
April waters of Mazinaw Lake.
Despite many successful outings with the ‘ 71 last
summer, my heart is now set on a brand new 4-cycle
outboard for the coming season. As is mostly common
knowledge now, driven mainly by emissions standards,
outboard motor producers are now almost exclusively
supplying 4-cycle outboards. The technology has really
improved to meet demand, and from what I saw at the
Toronto Boat Show in January, there is a great line-up
of outboards to choose from. A number of manufacturers donated boats and motors to be demonstrated at
the indoor lake at the show. I was absolutely shocked
by how quiet the new generation of four-strokes is. I’m
looking forward to the quiet reliability and added
power of a new engine.
Though I could go into a long diatribe explaining the
technical differences between two and four-stroke motors,
suffice it to say that two-strokes burn gas mixed with oil,
and four-strokes burn straight gas, the oil stays in the
crankcase and is not consumed. So, two-stroke outboards
have the familiar “stinky blue” exhaust. Their design allows
a better power to weight ratio, meaning a two-stroke will
typically be lighter than a four-stroke. A four-stroke, however, will burn less fuel and no oil, making it more environmentally friendly. Care must be taken when storing a
4-cycle outboard as well, they typically can only be laid
down on one side, and will be clearly marked as such.
For my purposes I have been searching for a 6hp
motor. This is adequate for my current needs, and I
feel is a good investment for future, as it would be a
good size for a tender or dinghy, or as a kicker motor
for a larger boat.
My search took me to a few displays at the boat show.
While in the past the first names that came to mind were
Johnson and Evinrude, apparently neither nameplate is
selling small motors for this model year. The Evinrude
website lists nothing smaller than 15hp, and the Johnson
website lists no current products. In fact for the past
number of years, the portable motors these companies
did sell were rebadged Suzuki outboards. Another perennial favourite is of course Mercury. Their small motors are
now rebadged Tohatsu motors. So really the only choices
available for me are: Tohatsu / Mercury, Suzuki, Yamaha,
Honda, and AFS. Honda does not make a 6hp motor.
One feature I like is a built-in gas tank, which is only
available currently on the Yamaha and Suzuki motors.
The others use an external tank. However, the Suzuki and
Yamaha motors are priced above the AFS and Tohatsu.
The AFS motor is marketed by Tomos Canada, and is a
made-in-China knock off of a previous generation
Yamaha. It is a well-backed company and I have heard
good things about the product. The only downside for
me is, because it mirrors an older generation, it is almost
40% heavier than the other motors. All the motors are
available in long and short shaft, and with the exception
of the AFS, with a charging system for sailboat use. As
with any purchase, one must consider all the options:
Warranty, parts availability, reliability, quality, weight,
added features and cost. Stay tuned to see which model
powers my 2011 adventures on the water.