I have long been considering a new outboard engine for my lake boat, so long in fact that it felt like an unattainable dream sometimes. There always seemed to be something else more important, more demanding of scarce financial resources than another engine. You see I owned two engines already so how could I justify another one?
Both my old engines were – old! The 9.9 Johnson was built in 1983 and the 4 hp Evinrude is of 1980 vintage. Both have served me well with only the occasional hiccup. There was an infuriating day during the mayfly on Conn a few years back when the wee engine spluttered to a halt right in the middle of a good hatch of greendrakes. Then there was the time the 9.9 gave up the ghost in the middle of Lough Mask, necessitating a 4 mile row back to Cushlough. But by and large between them both of the old warriors started and ran when required. So why have I decided to part with a wad of hard earned cash at this particular juncture?
The Evinrude was always a bit too small for the big lakes. It was grand for places like Bilberry but was simply not powerful enough for days of a big wave on Mask or Conn. The long shaft Johnson would power through anything but it had one major drawback as far as I was concerned. Weighing in at a chunky 42 kilos, I am finding it a real handful to lug around now that I am in my 60th year. So, here I was with a pair of outboard motors but neither fitted the bill for my needs. It was time for a new kid on the block. But which one?
This was not an impulse buy, not by a long chalk. Lots of thought has gone into this decision. Probably the most common outboard seen on the big Irish loughs are Yamaha’s, either the old but ever reliable 2 strokes in the 8 to 15hp range or Johnson’s of the same size size. I like the Yamaha motors, they are reliable workhorses who give sterling service and I seriously considered one of their 4 stroke engines. Then there are the Mariner’s and Tohatsu’s, both of which have become very popular these days. Price, reliability, power and weight all formed part of a complex calculation in my mind with each contender showing strongly in one or more category. There was one more option though, one I looked at closely because it had some features which appealed to me.
Honda engines have a reputation for being of the highest quality. Last year they brought out a new range of small outboards which included a rather natty 6hp 4 stroke. Could I live with the reduction in performance by dropping from a 9.9 right down to a 6hp? Was the trade off of weight vs power going to be too difficult for me? I wrestled with this conundrum for a long time, unwilling to commit until I was sure that a 6hp would meet my needs.
In my own case price was possibly the least important criteria when considering what motor to buy, this was not because I am wealthy (I can assure you that I am not) but that I look at an outboard as a piece of kit which will be expected to last for a long time. Ten years does not seem like an unreasonable length of time to expect from an outboard engine which is going to be used only in fresh water during the angling season. So if an engine is €200 dearer than the opposition that works out at a paltry €20 per year.
So a few Saturday’s ago I drove north and visited Sands Marine on the shores of Lough Neagh. Once there, Nigel went through the pro’s and con’s of the Honda 6hp with me and, to cut a long story short, I ended up with a nice shiny silver Honda engine in the back of car as I sped back down the winding road to Mayo.
So what is this engine like out on the water? The weight (or lack of it) is impressive. The 6hp tips the scales at only 27kgs, very respectable for a 4 stroke engine. It is easy to handle and all the controls are in the expected positions. The tiller tucks neatly away at the touch of a button and the pull start is very easy due to the exhaust valves opening when the cord is pulled. It is not the fastest engine around but it pulls OK and is quick enough for my needs. Gone are the days when I felt the need to be at the other end of a lough within minutes. Now a leisurely paced run is much more my style.
Importantly, being a 4 stroke there is no more messing about with mixing 2 stroke oil or that small slick of oil on the water when priming the carb. OK, so there is no rush of power and a searing take off that you get from a big 2 stroke motor either! The engine feels incredibly smooth for a single cylinder 4 stroke. That is due to a new dampening system on the Honda which separates the power head from the chassis. I know this sounds like a very insignificant item but a day spent on the tiller with a vibrating engine does take away from the joys of handling the boat. You can see this in the video clip below.
Price wise, I was happy with with what I paid for the Honda and the 6 year warranty is twice as long compared to the three year Irish warranty if I had bought the engine south of the border. I reckon I got a good deal!
Ultimately I am looking for reliability from this engine above performance. The build quality seems to be excellent but only time will tell if this particular engine lives up to the Honda reputation. As always, looking after the engine and having it serviced regularly is the secret to a long life. This sounds so obvious but it always surprises me how fellow anglers neglect their engine then moan when they let them down.
So what are the major plus points in use? The most obvious thing is the lack of vibration on the tiller. You can see the engine itself vibrating quite a lot (after all, this is a single cylinder motor) but it does not transfer that vibration to the handle so steering the boat is a pleasant experience compared to older engines. OK, so it is not the fastest motor on the lake but it is nippy enough for what I want it for. It appears to run on fresh air instead of petrol! Honestly, I return to shore after a day in the boat and the petrol tank feels no lighter. all in all, it is a nice wee engine.
What will I do with the pair of old outboards I hear you ask? I’ll try to sell them locally as there is no point in hanging on to them now I have the right engine for me.
I guess that’s it for now. I just wanted you to see how my own thought process worked when buying a new outboard in case any of you are thinking of making a similar investment. The Honda suited my needs but that is not to say it would work for you. There some excellent outboard engines on the market these days. My advice is to take your time and work out exactly what you want before going shopping. Outboard engines of every make are very tempting offerings to us weak-willed fishers!