Hamish Southby-Tailyour explains the modifications he’s made to make his Torqeedo 603 electric outboard work better for him

‘How I made my Torqeedo 603 electric outboard work for me’

There’s no smell of fuel and no chance of spilling fuel on me, in my dinghy, down my topsides or into the sea.

It starts instantly. There are few servicing requirements… and no need to carry spare plugs, tools, fuel, oil, funnel and all the other accoutrements associated with our familiar 2-stroke and 4-stroke petrol workhorses.

I like my electric outboard a lot. There’s no shaft grease to get spread over everything when handling it from car to slipway, slipway to dinghy, dinghy to aft deck… and back again.

There’s no expansion of fuel tank problems in hot weather splitting the tank.

There’s no mixing of fuel and oil if you are still using a 2-stroke.

A Torqeedo 603 outboard in the back of a car

Hamish Southby-Tailyour enjoys his Torqeedo 603 but has made changes to fit his boating needs. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

No problems of the modern eco fuel eating your seals and no stress of starting it in a small dinghy overloaded with stores.

And I love my outboard simply because motoring against the strong flood tide in full acoustic immersion of the oak wooded hillsides of Devon, full with its resident and migratory wildlife from a secluded slipway, 500 yards up the estuary from my swinging mooring is now a soundscaped joy.

Day or night there is silence and that adds beautifully to the transitioning from land to my sailing cruising home; my Moody 33, Equinox.

Since first mounting the Torqeedo 603 on the transom of my long-suffering wooden dinghy two years ago the quiet and peace are still a wonderful novelty.

A Torqeedo 603 on the back of a boat

The Torqeedo 603 electric outboard on the back of Hamish’s boat. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

Conversation, if it happens at all, is in hushed tones and there is no frightening of the egrets, heron, curlew or oystercatchers, and no shouty voices just to point something out.

Arriving alongside calm and already enveloped in the nature of it all.

These moments are a large part of why I have a boat.

I just love stealth mode, and I’m sure this is a familiar story from the last few years for many owners of these outboards as they have become increasingly popular.

The issues with my Torqeedo 603

But in my opinion, the Torqeedo 603 would be better fit for purpose as it comes out of the box if it had a few modifications.

So here is a description of my observations and practical needs, with associated modifications, that have kept me in love with this still new part of my cruising kit.

These are things I’d hope Torqeedo might consider – small redesigns for the cruising, muddy slipway dinghy-launching, boat owner who refuses to tow a dinghy (and, if I ever did, it would never be with the outboard attached; that’s worse than sailing with fenders over the side!)

I am also a sailor who sails, most often, single-handed.

I have now used my Torqeedo 603 outboard for two full years as Equinox only comes ashore for a month a year in the early spring and I visit her in all weathers all year round.

I’ve also spoken to many fellow sailors about their electric outboard experiences and have found receptive ears to my concerns.

I’m not an engineer but I am lucky enough to have a small home workshop and while these modifications are not difficult I did try to keep them cheap and practical.

I also come from a sailing background incorporating, over the years, exploration sailing in higher latitudes and therefore minimising the risk of kit failure is always a top priority – but this applies just as much in exploration as it does to day sailing in local waters.

My mantra is ‘understand the worst-case scenario and work back from there’.

Lanyards with ropes and clips attached

Being able to easily clip and unclip the lanyards for the tiller and battery was essential. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

Also, if there is an established, boat specific method of doing something, like cross decking the outboard, it is easy to repeat with little need for extra communication, in the dark and in a hurry, and as a result reducing the likelihood of messing it up with potentially significant consequences.

The Torqeedo 603 outboard is heavy in total but easily handleable in its three separate parts and since I always make at least two trips from car to slipway this is not a problem for me.

The weight is comparable to a 2-stroke outboard with its spare fuel tank and spares bag.

So here are the challenges and my solutions in some sort of priority order.

 Torqeedo 603: Lack of lanyard attachment

The shaft has no lanyard attachment point which is, in my opinion, essential for the safe transition from tender to aft-deck outboard mount and back again and for attaching to the dinghy while in use.

What we did…

This was carefully considered due to any possible operational restriction. It needed to be strong but not over-engineered so an M6 A4 stainless steel threaded eye bolt was attached to the outboard by drilling a central hole just aft of the hinge for the tilting mechanism.

This worked particularly well as a dual function connection point – not just for the lanyard to attach to the dingy and for cross decking the outboard shaft, but also as an attachment point for the tiller and battery lanyards once assembled, creating a completely connected unit if the whole outboard were ever to fall off the transom.

A lanyard attacjed to an outboard motor

Hamish drilled a 5mm hole and used a D-shackle to create a fix point for three lanyards. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

If it ever did I want to have a chance of recovering it all…not only the shaft. In addition, the lanyard for the tiller and the lanyard for the battery (see later) all have easy, cold hand-operable clips incorporated into the length to attach to the eye bolt on the shaft once assembled.

The lanyards are also long enough to reach and be tied to the guardrail before unclipping to ensure a continuous connection.

The tiller also has no lanyard attachment point. I drilled a 5mm hole to accommodate the attachment of a small D-shackle on the forward port side that takes the three lanyards: the blank for the electrical connection plug, the kill-cord when not attached to the coxswain as it is only attached magnetically, and the cross decking lanyard with clip.

Torqeedo 603: Easier carrying

The shaft (the heaviest of the three parts of the outboard) has no handle which is, in my opinion, essential for easy transition or cross decking from tender to aft deck outboard mount and back again.

Leaning over the guardrail to move the shaft from tender to boat is made plain harder by the lack of a handle.

What we did…

The obvious place, due to available space and balance point, was the forward facing flat area of aluminium on the downward slanted surface of the space that ends up under the tiller when attached.

This worked well as there needed to be free space to take the cordage behind. I did not want to bolt anything on here but this could be done.

Part of a Torqeedo 603 electric outboard motor

The M6 A4 stainless steel threaded eye bolt and rope means the engine is now securely attached for transfer between boat and tender. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

The simplest option was to mark and drill two 12mm diameter holes and thread through some 12mm cordage; I also passed the cord through a hand span length of 15mm UV-stabilised quick-fit plumbing pipe to act as a spreader to improve the handle.

The tube addition helped keep the handle standing proud and not flopping, making for easy grabbing.

The position was fully considered so as not to hinder the tiller mechanism when attached and when being raised if standing to steer.

Torqeedo 603: Dust covers

Now that the outboard was able to be secured to the dinghy and cross decked safely, the next and perhaps the most significant oversight by the manufacturers was not to supply, or even have available to buy separately, any dust/ingress covers for the four electrical connectors.

Given the likelihood of rain water, let alone salt water from alongside slop or mud, sleet or snow getting into the connectors, and aside from the fact that even the slightest mechanical damage to any of the pins or sockets when in storage renders the whole system useless, this was an obvious priority.

This is a serious weak point in this design and having spoken to Torqeedo there are no plans to offer a kit or any help in determining the cap size or thread pitch.

What we did…

This is where it gets interesting and possibly difficult to explain as just discovering the correct thread pitch was not easy.

A thread gauge and vernier callipers were used to determine the correct fittings needed and samples were obtained from a couple of suppliers that might fit.

Blanks were also obtained to house the caps when not in use, to stop salt water from getting into the caps.

A thread cap for the male battery fitting was not possible to source due to its obscure and too fine thread pitch and diameter but, after many experiments, a bottle top from Lidl’s carbonated water was the best fit!

Part of an electric out board

Hamish sourced blanks and used a bottle lid to protect the electrical connectors when not in use…Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

The cap itself was, of course, fitted with a swivel and lanyard of its own, attached to the battery pack.

The tiller electrical connection was a standard 1mm pitch and both male and female fittings were sourced online as samples.

They were fitted with their own lanyards and swivels so that whether the tiller was attached or stored, every internal aspect was ingress protected.

The protection of the connector cable from the shaft took longer to solve and even the technical drawings of the fitting from the fitting manufacturer (Torqeedo could not supply this) did not help.

Part of a Torqeedo 603 electric outboard engine

… because dust covers are not available from the factory. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

So, we got creative as this had to be quick, easy, robust, and withstand the elements as the shaft is stored on the aft deck outboard bracket while sailing.

The simple solution I arrived at is not pretty but it has worked perfectly for two years.

It is a 22mm bike inner tube pulled over the connector and tightly attached to the cable with UV-stable electrical tape.

The length of inner tube was cut long and closed shut with a food bag closure clip.

To connect the fittings, the rubber tube is pulled back over the connector exposing the bezel for attachment to the battery and the clip is clipped to the control cap lanyard for storage.

And I still can’t understand why these items are not standard issue in the first place, with spares also available.

More lanyards

The assembly also needs lanyards for the battery and battery locking pin.

These both have obvious attachment points; on the handle at the rear of the battery and using the hole on the locking pin.

Part of an electric outboard

A bike inner tube and a food bag clip are used to protect the connector cable on the tiller. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

The locking pin was permanently attached to the battery and the lanyard for the battery pack was made long enough to reach the guard rail with a clip as described previously for attachment to the shaft when assembled on the dinghy transom.

Note: all the cordage is of different types for easy identification at night.

Making it more secure

There is no security fitting for the tiller or the battery.

The handle on the battery is too narrow for the common (and more convenient) combination locks.

To address this, I added a large stainless steel shackle and heavily moused it closed. The D-shackle could now accommodate a combination lock.

Clearly, this would not deter a determined thief with time and privacy on their side, but I just don’t want an opportunist to ruin my run ashore.

A kill cord on an electric outboard engine

The kill-cord now has a more sturdy bungy cord. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

I solved the tiller security by always taking it with me in a rucksack. If I’m unable to do this, I always keep the kill-cord with me.

The kill-cord does not come with a bungy/stretchy type-cord, only a light string lanyard.

We bought and changed it for a standard spiral-type cord to make it fit for purpose.

Other important observations on the Torqeedo 603

  • The lever for unlocking the kick-up release is too thin and not robustly attached. To start with, the little orange plastic tip fell off on the first outing (after four lifts and lowers) and sadly, added to the plastic pollution. The lever itself is not very strong and was bent by a friend using it for the first time; a fellow Torqeedo 603 owner I met on the slipway told me his lever had snapped off. Given the importance of this mechanism when launching and recovering from a slipway or beach, and keeping the shaft out of the water when alongside on the mooring to avoid all the tidal debris, this does not appear well designed. It is an obvious weak point that makes me feel very patronising when trying to explain how to use the shaft to friends so as not to cause any further damage.
  • The transom screw fixings are ridiculously long. I’ve never seen a 2mm-thick transom and have never had to wind them all the way in. They therefore protrude and provide a good snagging risk for a stern painter or any lines or human hips if stored on a bracket on the aft deck. If the screws were 20mm shorter, that would be more sensible. The washers fall off easily if you slightly over open them or catch them on the transom at the wrong angle when moving the shaft. I have reattached them and tried improving the compression rivet splay, but now I’m very careful not to wind them out to the stop and I do not let them touch the transom at any angle when positioning.
  • The screen on the tiller appears delicate I plan to add a clear protective cover. It certainly could not be stored in a locker with the potential of any applied pressure and I am protective of it in transport.
  • The threaded bezel between the battery and shaft is very prone to cross threading. It is fiddly to attach and even in the shop where I bought the electric outboard, the demonstration engine was already ruined by too much cross threading; the shop manager and I had an honest appraisal of this. Attaching the bezel is particularly hard in the dinghy when alongside in any slop. It takes practice and, again, is easily done wrong by a novice.
  • The rubber bung for the charging port hardly stays in place and vibrates off. This again risks the ingress of salt water, rain or sleet and is just a poor part of the design.

Further two-year observations

Charging on board takes ‘forever’ on the 12V system but is free from the solar panels while sailing.

However, it is quick with an inverter charger through the 240V output so I often just top up the charge on the trip downriver under engine and then stow the outboard away for the sail.

Frustratingly, what looks like electrolytic corrosion is starting to manifest on the motor casing, especially around the four stainless steel bolts.

I wash it every time with fresh water so I am a bit concerned about this. I’m not sure if any Duralac or equivalent protection was used.

A lever on a Torqeedo 603 electric outboard

The lever for unlocking the kick-up release needs to be sturdier, according to Hamish. Credit: Hamish Southby-Tailyour

Rust is starting to appear on the stainless steel lifting arm and bolts which is disappointing and will require some oxalic acid to remove.

The tiller section does not lock in place so when the outboard is canted up, the tiller has to lift to clear my aft thwart.

Therefore, for beach or slipway launch or recovery the tiller can be bounced off and is left hanging vulnerably by the electrical connection.

I’m working on a mechanism for this. And finally a note of safety. If you don’t turn the outboard off, cant it up and pull it up the beach it will start if the throttle is turned, even if it is out of the water.

This is only really a problem on the beach so turn it off and take the kill cord with you.

And finally…

So my conclusions are that Torqeedo appears to have stopped the design process at the ‘let’s make a light-ish but powerful electric outboard’ stage and has done few, if any, prolonged real-life sea trials since its introduction.

As is, it would be perfect if the outboard was permanently bolted to the transom of a dinghy, stored in a locked garage, trailered to a deep slipway, launched, used, recovered and returned to a locked garage and washed down and recharged in situ.

Continues below…

But, for the sailor needing to transport it in a car boot and then in parts to the dinghy, assemble in the rain on a muddy slipway, disassemble once alongside with the dinghy/topside slop, transfer it from dinghy to boat and store on board in a locker, go sailing… tack a few times and then reverse the whole process… well… with all the modifications described it now works for us.

And now all of that is done, the silence is still very much worth the effort!

Torqueedo responds to Hamish Southby-Tailyour’s concerns about the Torqeedo 603

  • The shaft has no lanyard attachment point. True, but the motor part (shaft) is lightweight and certainly easier to handle than a combustion outboard. And with its removable battery, you can attach a lanyard to the handle on the motor part when you’re handing it up and down.
  • The shaft (the heaviest of the three parts) has no handle. The all-new Travel family includes a sturdy handle on the shaft for easy handling.
  • The tiller has no lanyard attachment point: In the all-new Travel family, the tiller now stays attached to the motor part and folds away with no cable connection needed. (You can remove it if needed but it is designed to fold). The new-and-improved tiller also eases docking and launching with its ultra-precise and customizable design. It’s easy to change the direction of forward and reverse, increase or decrease the friction, and even use while standing.
  • No dust/ingress covers for the four electrical connectors: There are no longer any cables to connect, and the point of connection comes with a cover.
  • No lanyards for the battery and battery locking pin. With the all-new Travel family’s click-and-play battery, the battery locking pin is no longer needed. There’s a handle on the battery if you would feel comfortable attaching a lanyard. And now you can easily use the rotation control lever and release the steering to allow 360° movement – which allows you to spin the motor all the way around and you can remove the battery over the boat instead of over the water.
  • No security fitting for the tiller or the battery. The handle on the battery is too narrow for the common (and more convenient) combination locks. This is improved in the click-and-play battery. Now, it’s easy to fit a cable lock.
  • The kill-cord does not come with a bungy/stretchy-type cord, only a light string lanyard. True.
  • The lever for unlocking the kick up release is too thin and not robustly attached. This is vastly improved in the new transom mount and the new lever is orange and more easily visible from the right or the left of the motor. The new, 90° tilt-equipped transom mount design lets you raise the motor completely out of the water, and the practical new three-stage rotation control lever lets you quickly choose between fixed steering, +/- 60° steering, and 360°, fully rotatable steering.
  • The transom screw fixings are too long. The washers fall off easily if you slightly over-open them or catch them on the transom at the wrong angle when moving the shaft. That can happen, but it’s uncommon and easy to fix. We use this same screw length for all LV outboards and it has been proven to fit most transoms and perform well.
  • The screen on the tiller appears delicate and I plan to add a clear protective cover. The new Travel models have a backlit, full-colour display which takes Torqeedo’s intuitive user interface with onboard GPS-calculated real-time range and runtime and makes it even easier to read. TorqLink, Torqeedo’s advanced communications protocol, and Bluetooth and wifi are built in so owners can connect with Torqeedo’s new smartphone app, TorqView. The app enables a host of new features, including maps, trip logs, and over-the-air updates. Now, motor updates can be performed anywhere there’s an internet connection, meaning the Travel is always up-to-date, safe, reliable and efficient. Torqeedo owners can also opt-in to allow Torqeedo and its authorised service centres to collect system information to provide the fastest and most efficient service and maintenance experience possible.
  • The threaded bezel between the battery and shaft is too easy to cross thread. There are no cables to connect with the new click-and-play battery.
  • The rubber bung for the charging port hardly stays in place and vibrates off. We are happy to send you a new one.
  • Charging on board takes ‘forever’ on the 12V system. Charging can be up to twice as fast with the new Travel family but it depends on the input power your system can deliver. Every motor ships with a 180W charger.
  • What looks like electrolytic corrosion is starting to manifest on the motor casing, especially around the four stainless bolts. Please get in contact with Torqeedo so we can look at the corrosion and see if you need service or we can ship you an anode. The new Travel family ships with anodes to protect them against corrosion.
  • Rust is starting to appear on stainless steel lifting arm and bolts. This should not happen. Please take photos and send them so we can address this issue.
  • The tiller section does not lock in place. This is addressed in the new Travel family. The tiller now stays attached to the motor part and can be easily used even in a standing position.
  • If you don’t turn the outboard off, cant it up and pull it up the beach it will start if the throttle is turned even if it is out of the water. You should always turn off the motor or remove the magnetic safety key if you want to be sure the propeller does not turn. It’s unsafe for you and your motor! If left running out of the water, it can overheat and destroy your motor. But, a combustion outboard will also spin while the propeller is not submerged if the kill switch is left in position, the motor is running and the clutch is engaged. Always attach the kill switch/magnetic key to your wrist or PFD so this doesn’t happen.

Enjoy reading Two years of owning my electric outboard: long term test of the Torqeedo 603?

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