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After several attempts at designing a system that worked and was safe, I eventually succeeded in combining a kayak motor with a solar charging system, modular in design and easy to put together.
You can put a trolling motor on an inflatable kayak, or any inflatable boat, by correctly positioning the motor and reinforcing the canoe structure with a light-weight wooden frame incorporating a seat.
- Are inflatable kayaks safe and are they worth it?
- Best Trolling Motor For Inflatable Boats
- Inflatable Kayak Mods Needed To Mount A Trolling Motor
We bought our inflatable kayak after checking out many reviews on the internet. Our budget was limited, so we had to make the right choice the first time.
We eventually chose an Itiwit model. Based in Europe, it had just the right balance of price and toughness we were looking for.
We also looked at Sevylor models and it strikes me that we could have taken a little more time before making the purchase.
The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be a particular make or model. As long as it’s sturdy, it can be adapted easily.
Are inflatable kayaks safe and are they worth it?
An inflatable kayak is extremely difficult to capsize (I’ve tried it), so I consider them to be very safe, unlike a solid kayak. Even if a compartment punctures, which is rare, the 2 others would ensure you’d reach the shore intact.
You can say that inflatables come in 3 distinct ranges. the cheapest ones are single-skinned craft and really aren’t worth considering for anything other than pottering around on a lake, or as a diversion for the kids.
The top of the range can be expensive and don’t always deliver the right balance between cost, utility and long-life.
The material used to construct an inflatable boat is important, particularly in the kayak range on a medium budget.
The Itiwit model has 3 separate inflatable compartments made of nylon, which are inserted into zipped pockets, on for the floor and 1 each side.
The zipped pockets are very tough and woven from nylon. It can be punctured but it seems difficult to damage otherwise.
The bottom of the canoe is covered with a composite plastic fabric that is the same composition as the tarpaulins used on freight trucks – it is very tough!
A friend has a Sevylor model which often sits outside for long periods fully inflated in the sunshine and has given 9 years of use so far.
If you don’t have space to store a rigid kayak or canoe, an inflatable is the perfect option. Our canoe packs away in 5 minutes and weighs in at 17 Kg (37 lbs).
The table compares 3 top kayaks, with their dimensions:
Max. Weight Can Carry (kg)
Itiwit 3 man
Sevylor 2 man Canadian
If I had to choose again, it would be the Sea Eagle 380x. The price is right, the technical description actually gives a suitable thrust for motorizing (34 lbs thrust) and is incredibly tough – see the video below, it’s pretty amazing.
Now to the good stuff – once you find your perfect craft, it’s time to think about choosing and fitting the kayak motor.
Best Trolling Motor For Inflatable Boats
An inflatable kayak with electric motor, even a lower thrust model, goes really well. Many people are confused about thrust and speed.
Trolling motors are design to push a boat at about 5 miles/hour. It doesn’t matter if you have 1, 2 or 3 motors – the speed will still be 5 miles/hour.
The big difference would be that the boat would reach that speed quicker than it would with one motor.
The great thing about putting a trolling motor on a kayak is that these inflatable boats are streamlined and light, so a lower thrust ( and therefore cheaper) unit will do the job.
I chose a Minkota 30lbs model with a standard mounting bracket. Playing around with the motor mounting structure I could experiment with different placements.
The smaller power trolling motors normally have a 5-speed switch built into the steering shaft. Generally we use speed 4 – it isn’t that much slower than speed 5 and the current draw from the battery is 66% of what it pulls at the full speed setting.
This means supplying 20 amps instead of 30 amps, so it has an impact on battery size.
To economise on battery amps as much as possible, I fitted an electronic speed controller (ESC) which effectively acts as a soft-start switch, ramping up the voltage to remove current surges. Plus, the ESC has a remote control which is very cool!
Inflatable Kayak Mods Needed To Mount A Trolling Motor
As strong as these inflatable canoes and kayaks are, most of them don’t have mounts to fit any kind of motor. In my case using the Itiwit a DIY trolling motor mount was the only game in town.
I did get plenty of ideas from Youtube. Some were great while others listed at an angle that didn’t look very comfortable at all to me. I wanted to build something that durable, stable and does the job.
Even a DIY inflatable boat trolling motor mount needn’t be flimsy or too difficult for the average guy to put together (and I’m definitely the ‘average’ guy!)
How To Make A Motor Mount For An Inflatable Boat
The first thing to note is that the sides of inflatable canoes are basically big inflated tubes, wide in the middle and coming to a point at the front and rear. There simply isn’t any way to easily hook a trolling motor onto these tubular structures.
I figured out pretty quickly that the structure needs a firm base to keep the motor stable, so I measured up ply-wood to fit over the inflated floor. The floor was cut the full width of the canoe, following the dimensions of the curvature of the sides.
To construct a stable inflatable boat motor mount you need to fit the plywood over the floor with everything deflated. Once it’s in place, inflating the side tubes hold the wooden base plate in place – see below.
Inflatable Kayak Seat Mods For Trolling Motor Mounting
Kayak Rear Motor Mount
Now the kayak had a firm base it was easy to fit a couple of vertical uprights providing support for a motor mount. It made perfect send to me to mount the trolling motor right at the back. Perhaps it would develop maximum thrust in this position? I just didn’t know.
In the photo below I fastened horizontal supports to the uprights bolted to the plywood base so that a trolling motor transom bar could be fitted:
I liked the look of it and fitting the motor was easy. It looked stylish and streamlined, like it was going somewhere!
You can also see the broom handles I used to mount a solar panel overhead and the controls for the solar panel regulation and battery charging system.
Another advantage of mounting the motor at the rear is the creation of enough space to mount a solar panel for charging the battery – see opposite.
I used the plywood floor as a base to mount another panel overhead, so all in all it progressed quite nicely.
In trials it worked very well. The remote speed controller was just the job as the motor was now far away and behind me.
The boat picked up speed and soon settled into a steady 3 or 4 miles and hour. I found that 80% of top speed (speed 4 using the 5-speed switch system) was optimum for distance covered and battery depletion – more of this in another post.
It seemed a great solution but a few things spoilt it for me.
- Steering got a bit complicated. I had to modify the motor steering handle and hook up a steering extension.
- The weight of the panel and trolling motor at the back made the kayak rear-heavy
- The whole arrangement was fiddly to put together and took too much time
Back to the drawing board!
After more trials I eventually decided to try and mount the trolling motor to the side – a bit tricky because the tubes are so wide. I was determined to put a trolling motor on a kayak in such a way that it was easy to build and reliable.
I did this by attaching a long piece of wood to the uprights for support, which also rests on the top of the side-tubes. It’s a great arrangement – this horizontal piece acts as a transom for the Minkota motor mount and is held super stable by the floor and the side of the boat.
You can find the detail in my post How to put a trolling motor on an inflatable boat.
Best trolling motor for inflatable kayak?
A 30lbs thrust trolling motor is ideal for mounting on an inflatable kayak. Bigger kayak motors may have more thrust than is required to quickly accelerate the boat to cruising speed of 5 miles/hour.
How deep should a trolling motor be in the water?
The top of the trolling motor casing should be at minimum 12 inches (305 mm) below the surface of the water. Most commercially available trolling motor shafts are long enough to achieve this on small craft.
Can I use car battery for trolling motor?
A car battery will drive a trolling motor but it is not designed for that function. A car battery should only be discharged 5% to 10% or will be damaged. Deep cycle batteries are used for trolling motors as they can be discharged up to 80% of their capacity.
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