Self-confessed fair weather sailors Jim and Libby Earle share their experiences of the TEMO 450 electric outboard, recently purchased and in use cruising round Mallorca.
My wife and I are the sort of sailors who would perplex Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey. Neither of us has any intention of braving gales if we can avoid them, and both of us agree that cold wet tippy tidal sailing belongs in our distant past.
If we ever round the Horn it will be the most memorable navigation error since Christopher Columbus thought that he had found the short-cut to a curry house.
On the more positive side, neither of us has ever caught scurvy or been keel-hauled. And we seem to be amongst the first people in the Balearics to buy a Temo 450 electric outboard motor.
It happened this wise, as it says in the Bible. We bought our 2004 Bavaria 32, Merly, three years ago. We brought her round from Alcudia to our home port of Arenal, and then suffered separation anxiety through the whole Covid lockdown.
Eventually, we had an opportunity to try out the Yamaha 2-stroke that perched on Merly’s stern. This took place on the island of Cabrera, a favourite haunt and an unusually beautiful maritime conservation area of considerable importance.
We have been there so often that the owner of the coolest bar in the Mediterranean recognises us.
But not this time. We emerged from a miasma of blue smoke and tried to pretend that a sinister oil slick was nothing to do with us.
It was quite obvious that “Smokey Joe”, as the 2-stroke was immediately named, would have to be replaced in order to save the planet.
Essential but pricey extras
We had read about the Temo 450 and were impressed by its lightness. It weighs just 5Kg and develops 200 Watts of propulsive power.
In plain English, it pushes both of us and our 3-D dinghy at about the same speed on flattish water that Smokey Joe could manage, which was around 2-3 knots.
For anyone who has not yet seen one, it looks like an oar with a propeller on the end. Users of long-tail boats in Thailand will get the general drift.
A major drawback, for the parsimonious half of the partnership, was cost.
The French-built Temo 450 weighs in at just under £1,500, and there are some essential accessories that really ought to be included as standard but are not.
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For example, you should have the flotation collar that prevents the whole thing from sinking without trace in the event of mishap. That is £60 extra.
Then there is the entirely unexceptional rowlock that attaches the device to the transom of your dinghy without the need to drill holes. Another £60.
The transport bag, which makes the gadget look like a designer-labelled shoulder-launched anti-tank weapon from the 1980s, costs £120 more.
And if you want an anti-theft device that appears to have been borrowed from the utility belt of a metropolitan policeman, then you will be saying fond farewell to yet another £99.
Throw in a spare magnetic key for £25 and it becomes clear that this is not something to be bought on impulse. Unless you happen to be at the Palma Boat Show.
For over an hour we explored the impossibly vulgar superyachts; gaped at a catamaran that had apparently been built for Batman; rode on a battery-powered dhow; and marvelled at the absence of Russian oligarchs.
But even a feigned heart-attack by the man with the wallet could not prevent the woman with a glint in her eye from returning to the Temo stand (Important tip – don’t marry a nurse and expect sympathy).
“I don’t like Smokey Joe”, she said, “he’s unpredictable, he smells, and he’s got to go”.
The look that accompanied this pronouncement suggested that other males could easily be joining Smokey in exile, so to cut a long story short we left the show after taking advantage of the discounted price.
It probably covered the cost of our bus fare back to Arenal.
TEMO 450: Tried and tested
So, now that we have been allowed back to Cabrera to test our new electric outboard engine, how does it stand up to scrutiny?
Well, there was some initial mirth from coarse-minded friends when we told them that we had a French oar on board and that we proposed to call her Fifi.
One suggested that if Fifi failed to make the grade as an outboard motor she could serve a useful turn as an egg-whisk.
Still another pointed out that Smokey Joe and similar 2-strokes were now prohibited by EU law, which caused general puzzlement as to why almost identical models were available brand-new at the Palma boat-show. Answers on a postcard please.
A few people had to be reassured that Smokey had not been scrapped, merely sent for respite care and a better service than we could provide at home.
Meanwhile, we glided up to our favourite bar at Cabrera without a veil of smoke, engulfed only by that smug feeling that comes from being Earth’s best mate.
Until, of course, the awful day comes when we have re-charged the lithium batteries in Fifi’s handle about 800 times.
After that, the whole unit has to go back to the manufacturers because you cannot change the batteries yourself. By that time, we hope that Lithium will be as easily recyclable as more traditional lead-acid components.
It would not be true to say that we glided to the bar in complete silence, because there is an electric buzz from the motor that carries a surprisingly long way.
It tells everyone that we have cleaned up our act, so that’s alright, and it is nothing compared with the raucous Saturday-night-at-the-kebab-stall behaviour of our 2-stroke.
We tied up next to a delightful Spanish couple who were sporting a Torqeedo whose exact identity we couldn’t ascertain.
In any event, they said that it was on trial, although we didn’t know whether that meant a commercial trial or a personal one.
If it was an ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 then it appears to cost about £2,000, so perhaps it was a criminal trial. We were too polite to suggest a race.
As for stamina, we started out with a full four bars on Fifi’s integral meter having left the motor fully charged (but not charging) on Merly for just over a month.
The instruction book says that the charging status for optimal storage is “50% to be checked every 6-months”, so perhaps we didn’t get that quite right.
In any event, it doesn’t seem to have done any harm. We motored for about 40-minutes in calm conditions, covering something like 2.4nm around the bay in total.
After that, the meter read 1-bar, but went back up to 2-bars when we stopped using it.
That seems to tie well enough with the handbook’s claim to 40-minutes duration at full power, and 60 minutes in normal use.
We varied our speed by the simple expedient of pressing lightly or harder on the handle-mounted activation trigger.
Fifi is currently resting from her labours and being re-charged on Merly’s 12v system, recently enhanced with solar panels on the bimini.
Incidentally, we bought the 12v Temo transformer in addition to the one that comes as standard for mains power in harbour.
It costs extra – naturally – but for cruising we think that it’s indispensable.
Either way, a full re-charge is said to take 5-hours. We think it was more like three hours while bright sunshine helped to keep the boat’s batteries in good shape.
Incidentally, we had to wash a fair bit of ochre-coloured Saharan sand off the solar panels first, overnight rain having deposited a small dune on the boat.
Using the new motor is exceptionally simple and a lot of fun. Its lightness means that you can easily move it onto the dinghy transom, and there are no heavy separate batteries to clip on or drop in the sea.
You simply insert the magnetic key and pull a trigger in the handle.
Reverse is achieved by pressing a small black button under your thumb. With a bit of practise, you can turn on the spot by letting the motor fall into a near-vertical position and shifting it slightly sideways.
We discovered this by accident, and going round in ever-decreasing circles has become a speciality.
There is only one very minor gripe. The handle can be adjusted for length, and we have yet to discover the best point of balance.
Get it wrong and Fifi’s propeller blades break the surface with an unladylike farting sound that is clearly inefficient.
On the other hand, perch her on your knee and you will get along just fine.
On the whole though, we reckon that we made a great buy, although the design concept is so simple that you will be annoyed you didn’t think of it first.
And some even better news is that you don’t need to buy the optional carrying bag.
Making one of your own is easy if you happen to have a sewing machine, some standard acrylic canvas, a hefty zip and a clever wife. A bespoke bag can be adapted to the availability of stowage on board your boat.
Our Temo travels behind the starboard saloon seats, wedged by the various rum bottles that we inherited with Merly.
If you anticipate fighting a tide on the Beaulieu River, or battling round Cape Horn, then the Temo 450 may not have enough puff for your requirements.
But so far, and for us as two sixty-something very amateur yachties in the Med, it does everything that we hoped for.