Motor and Motor Bracket, Part 1, Analysis, Part I

The original Johnson Sailmaster 7.5 horsepower motor
A reliable means of auxiliary propulsion on a cruising sailboat is, by most people's reckoning, a necessity. Many an Ericson 25 on the market has an auxiliary means of propulsion almost as old as the boat, and the motor on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, was no exception. The motor was manufactured in 1983. The boat was manufactured in 1975. The year I purchased Oystercatcher was 2009. At age 34, Oystercatcher was now showing her age. Likewise, her motor, at age 26, was past her prime. Nevertheless, I purchased them both and sought to do what I could to get them back home safely from the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina to my home in Charleston, South Carolina in October of that year.
I first visited Oystercatcher in August of 2009.
At that time I simply took a look at her while looking at other boats for sale in the area.
The owner had not put much effort into taking care of the boat or getting her ready for my visit.
The motor was not attractive in appearance, and some of the hardware used to secure it to the transom was shabby and worn.
The owner knew enough to keep the lower unit of the motor out of the water, so there was no fouling in this area.
One thing that seemed awkward with the set-up was that the motor and the rudder appeared to obstruct each other's movement.
The motor had two wires that were capped with orange wire nuts. These were supposed to be wired to the battery so as to provide a charge whenever the motor was in operation. Like so many other things on this boat, this had been long neglected.
Equally neglected was the burglar bar that was meant to prevent a thief from unscrewing the motor from the transom. When I later got the boat back home to Charleston I was able to pull this free with one hand. That's how rusted it was. Note as well the aged fuel line. This was yet another sign of neglect.
At some point during this first visit, I asked the owner to lower the motor into the water and crank it up, just to show me that it worked. It was to his credit that he was able to start it without any problems.
A few weeks later, in September of 2009, I returned to this boat to take a more serious look at it.
By now, the owner had doctored the boat a bit so as to give it a more sellable appearance.
I had hired a local surveyor. He and I and the owner took the boat out for a spin to prove, among other things, that the motor was capable of pushing the boat through the water. It was a very calm day, with little wind and few currents. Under those conditions, the motor performed well.
As a part of his effort to spruce up the boat for sale, the owner had spray painted the burglar bar black. Someone forgot to tell him that spray paint doesn't fill gaping holes in rusty iron bars. At least the owner had replaced the pitiful original fuel line with a new one.
A big problem, however, was his decision, long before this time, to store the gas tank in the cockpit locker. This had caused gas fumes to permeate not only the cockpit locker, but also the lazarette, and the cabin of the boat itself. The surveyor said to me that he didn't know how this guy had not blow himself up years before this time.
Despite the shortcomings of the boat and the motor, I purchased them both. In October 2009 I made a third trip to the boat, this time to bring her home. After parking the truck and trailer at the haulout point in Oriental, North Carolina, my friend and I had someone take us to the former owner's personal dock near his home in a remote area of the Pamlico Sound region. The former owner was kind enough to allow us to spend the night at his dock before leaving with the boat the next morning.
We motored away from the dock, and soon afterwards set sail. It was a good thing we did, because if we had tried to motor all the way to Oriental, we never would have made it. The two-stroke Johnson Sailmaster 7.5 horse motor was just too much of a gas hog.
The weather was quite blustery, which made for some spectacular sailing, all the way up to the point where Oriental came into view on the horizon. All was going well until we tried to tack the boat across the wind to make our way toward Oriental. The centerboard was stuck in its trunk. We knew this in advance. What we did not know, however, was that this would prevent us from tacking. We tried and we tried to no avail. Finally, we decided to drop the sails and crank the motor. This was when things went from bad to worse.
The antiquated furling line in the antiquated furler got fouled. This happened when the headsail was only about halfway furled. The remaining part of the sail started whipping itself around, every way you can imagine. My friend tried to get it under control with some sail ties, but despite his strength he could not. This was when I quickly lashed the tiller in place and ran forward to help him. With the headsail now under better control and with the mainsail struck, I cranked the Johnson Sailmaster 7.5. Fortunately, it started right up. By this point we were nearing a lee shore, and it was my expectation that this motor would be our saving grace. I gave it all she had, and for some time I thought that the motor would not be able to overcome the wind. Without the centerboard, the boat wanted to go broadside to the wind. Eventually, after gybing several times in an effort to swing the bow up into the wind, we started to have some success. Now, however, on this cold and cloudy October day it was getting close to dark. Luckily, we were able to keep the bow into the wind and make it into Oriental before nightfall. The motor got us there, but it wasn't easy, even with the bow pointed into the wind.
With the assistance of some nearby wine-drinking cruisers in a Fantasia 37, we pulled the boat alongside a fuel dock at a marina that had already closed its doors for the evening. As far as we could tell, the haulout slip, which was located down a nearby narrow fairway, was already occupied by another boat. This fuel dock was the best we could do for the night, and we were certainly glad to be there. As we sipped on cold ones in the main salon that evening while the cold wind blew outside, my friend and I reflected on the day's events. One conclusion we reached, among others, was that this Johnson Sailmaster 7.5 motor was sufficient in placid conditions, but inadequate in blustery ones. I would later discover a review in an online version of Boating magazine from January 1982. The reviewer spoke as follows: "The new 7.5 and 4 hp auxiliaries are very portable - 65 pounds and 35 pounds respectively - yet are designed to deliver the power to move sailboats and other displacement hulls through tricky currents or maneuver them into tight spots. Johnson engineers say the 7.5 Sail Master is ideal for vessels 17' to 25', while the 4 hp was developed for the 13' to 16' range." This review made it clear that the Ericson 25, at 25 feet, was just barely within the operating range for the 7.5 Sailmaster.  Keep in mind, moreover, that the Ericson 25 is much heavier than your average 25 foot sailboat. This helps to explain why this motor was inadequate when the going got tough.
My friend and I on that cold October night also concluded that the motor and the rudder were awkwardly placed. You had to hold the tiller of the rudder in one hand and the tiller of the motor in another, and you had to move the two in unison. Otherwise, the prop would damage the rudder.
After I had trailered the boat back home to Charleston I experimented with different configurations for the primary gas tank and the reserve. I knew I didn't want to use the cockpit locker, as had the previous owner.
I also knew, however, that I did not want to store these gas tanks in the cockpit. They really crowded the cockpit, especially in terms of the legroom of this space.
With all of these things in mind, I started to look around the internet to see what other Ericson 25 owners used on their boats in the way of motors and how they had dealt with these rudder and gas tank issues. I found one owner who used what appeared to be an 8 horse Mercury. I also found that this person had reinforced his transom with an aluminum plate. That, I thought, was a good idea.
This same owner used a tiller pilot when sailing offshore in the lakes of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes. With the lower unit of the motor tilted up out of the water, the rudder appeared to have a free swing port to starboard. When this owner motored, however, he likely had to hold the motor and rudder tillers in two separate hands so as to avoid collisions.
This owner, like the one from Wisconsin, mounted his motor in the transom cutout. This was obviously the space that Ericson had intended owners to use for their motors.
In terms of the boat below, it was probably impossible for the owner to use the tiller of his motor in any effective way. I can't imagine how he did not damage his rudder whenever he maneuvered in and out of this boat slip.
If I remember correctly, this Ericson 25 owner from San Diego extended the shaft of his motor by modifying the lower unit. If the prop is not well below the surface of the water it can easily cavitate, especially when the boat is rocking in waves.
As I looked around, I found that at least one Ericson 25 owner had updated his auxiliary power system by installing a Honda outboard, what appeared to be a Honda 9.9 Power Thrust.
I also found some who had updated their boats by adding a Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust. These Hondas and Yamahas were next generation technology - four-stroke motors that burned much less fuel and delivered much more thrust.
The owner of this boat put a Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust in the transom cutout and a swim ladder on the other side of the transom. This was a set-up that I found attractive.
It seemed, however, that he still had not solved the problem of the interference between the prop and the rudder.
This owner, like the one of the boat above, had mounted a Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust in the transom cutout and a swim ladder on the other side of the transom. I considered a swim ladder essential, not so much for swimming, but for getting someone back in the boat in the event of a Man Overboard incident.
The owner of this boat in North Carolina had a setup identical to the other two.
Likewise, it appeared he had not solved the prop and rudder interference problem.
I had read in various places about other owners of other types of sailboats having similar prop and rudder interference issues. In my research, I found this picture of one person's solution. I thought this was clever, but I never traveled this path in my journey toward my own solution.
In my research I also found numerous Ericson 25 owners who had opted not to use the transom cutout, but instead had chosen to use a motor bracket on the opposite side of the transom. This seemed to me to solve one problem - that of the prop and rudder interference. By swinging the motor out on the motor bracket, it seemed these owners could get the prop out there beyond the end of the rudder.
Some of these owners, such as the owner of the boat pictured below, had installed swim ladders in front of the transom cutout. I saw, just as they had seen, that this would make it much easier to climb up into the boat.
Nevertheless, it seemed to me that the mounting of the motor on a motor bracket on the port side of the transom created new problems, the most significant of which was access to the motor's tiller and throttle.
"How awkward it must be to lean out over the transom while trying to look forward and maneuver the boat into a slip." That's what I thought whenever I contemplated such a set-up.
I had seen a man in Charleston harbor with such a set-up on his boat - not an Ericson 25 - and he appeared to be in an uncomfortable and awkward position. This together with these pictures convinced me that this setup is one that I would avoid.
You'll notice that the tiller on this motor does not have full range of motion. This means that with this setup not only do you have to lean out over the transom, but also you have poor steerage.
Admittedly, the swim ladder access was excellent, but it was not worth the hassle of having the motor on the port side.
Now back to the starboard side setup. In one of the pictures I found, I saw that an owner had reinforced the transom on the cockpit side. I thought this was a good idea.
Out of all the pictures I found, the one below was the one the most appealed to me. This owner had put a swim ladder on the port side, and he had installed a motor bracket on the starboard side. This allowed him to get the prop out there beyond the rudder, and it also, as it appeared, allowed him easier access to the tiller and throttle of the motor. In short, this setup appeared to solve many of the problems I was attempting to solve, and I decided that I would move forward with something similar. First, though, I needed to get a new motor - the right motor for this heavy displacement boat.
This ends this posting on my analysis of the motor and motor bracket for Ericson 25s, specifically for my Ericson 25, Oystercatcher.

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