What we think of our OC Tender and Torqeedo electric outboard
I explained in an earlier post that we were purchasing a carbon fiber, rigid (non-inflatable) tender for Puffin. Our tender is made by Offshore Cruising Tenders in New Zealand, and it’s an exceptionally high quality and beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Our tender is the OC330 model and the hull weight in carbon is an amazingly low 39kg. Adding beach wheels and accessories pushes this up to around 50kg, which is still very light.
I initially thought we would go with a Torqeedo Travel electric outboard, but there was almost no information about how the Torqeedo would perform on a tender, and dropping down to 3hp equivalent power seemed just too restrictive, so I changed my mind and purchased a 6hp Yamaha four stroke outboard. This is still a very small outboard, considering our tender on Wildling, a 3.8m Highfield had a 20hp Honda engine. The 6 hp on our OC Tender has worked pretty well though, and with Robin and I onboard we can get on a plane, but it takes nearly full throttle to do it.
The problems with this setup are that the motor weighs 27kg plus another 15kg for the 5 gallon fuel tank, so it’s heavy. It’s also pretty large, and vibrates a lot and is very noisy when it’s working hard. The carbon tender doesn’t flex when bouncing into waves, so the ride can get uncomfortable when going fast. We find ourselves motoring below planing speed most of the time, which is comfortable and gets us around quite quickly.
This made me reconsider the Torqeedo electric outboard option. Since I’m mostly at half throttle on the 6hp Yamaha, maybe the 3hp Torqeedo would do the job? Another search yielded that there’s still almost no information available online about real-world application of the Torqeedo 1103C on a tender, so I decided to be the guinea pig and try it out.
The Torqeedo is very light. Only 17kg for the motor & drive unit including the lithium battery. In fact it’s so light that it’s no trouble at all to take off the tender and store inside the boat in its carry bag when not in use.
Our initial test runs have been quite good. The Torqeedo is able to push us along at 6-8 knots. There’s no way it will get us on a plane though, so we have to adjust our expectations of how we use our tender.
Pros and Cons of the OC Tender and Torqeedo
I would say this solution is really not for everyone. There are some compromises required when going for the lightest possible tender & motor setup. Based on our experience to date here are the points for and against this setup:
- Very light, so no loss of performance of our Outremer 4X under sail
- Motor is easy to lift and lower and to fit and remove from the tender
- Very easy to lift the tender up and down off the davits
- No need to deal with fuel tanks, manual pull starting, maintenance and reliability issues of an outboard motor
- No noise and no smell, the motor is pretty much silent
- Motor can be easily taken off and stored in the main boat so more secure
- Battery can be recharged using a portable solar panel, providing renewable energy powered transport
- The OCTender is much drier than a RIB, this means traveling at less than planing speed is not uncomfortable. Often on A RIB you have to get on a plane to avoid getting soaked by the chop.
- Moving the tender around on the shore is very easy. Even for older folks the light weight and beach wheels makes this no problem. A huge benefit when dealing with large tides.
- For those that like stress-free cruising, taking it easy on the tender is more fun!
- This is a low speed means of transport. People that like to zoom around in their tenders will probably find it too slow
- Motoring into steep waves and wind is slow. In these conditions, the lack of power from the Torqeedo could cause safely concerns
- Limited to short trips. The range is about 8km on a charge under normal use. This makes it better suited to short trips between the anchorage and shore, and not good for long exploration trips, although reducing speed and carrying an extra battery would boost range to around 20km.
- Have to wait for the battery to recharge after use. This can be solved with an extra battery so there is always a fully charged battery available.
- The OCTender is less stable and more weight sensitive than a RIB. This is not an issue when underway, but getting in and out requires more care than a RIB. The lack of soft tubes to sit on makes the ride less comfortable, but this can be improved by carrying some foam pads to use when climbing aboard and sitting on the sides.
We’re getting older and our backs and knees aren’t what they used to be, so we’re not really interested in going fast in small tenders. This lightweight, electric setup is really good for us. We love the ease of use and portability of both the tender and the motor. It’s also very satisfying to know the tender is not a weight penalty when we are under sail. The only change we are making is that we are ordering an extra battery to give us some safety margin.