LeBlanc: Alternative fuel in outboard motors

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By LarryLeBlanc
Contributing Writer

I know the gasoline prices have really hurt us outdoor types especially if you are one who is pulling a boat. It is bad enough that your truck gas mileage decreases when you hook on the boat but then if you are running on the lake either skiing, using personal watercraft, or fishing with a three digit horsepower engine you are really burning up the fuel and at close to four dollars a gallon that can knock a hole in the old wallet.

Weekend before last I had the privilege of being invited to the Rockport/Fulton Spring Fling, which hooks up local businesses, fishing and outdoor accessory companies, and a few outdoor writers. As usual Pam and I arrived on Saturday and left Tuesday.
We were put up at the Inn at Fulton Harbor that is right across the street from Fulton harbor where the shrimpers, oyster boats, fishing boats, and all sort of pleasure craft dock, and also resides one of the finest seafood eateries on the Texas Coast, Charlotte Plummer’s restaurant. And yes I ate too much, but I do not know how to eat in moderation when I am down there and faced with fresh shrimp, oysters, crabs, and fish all over the table. I can only hope The Good Lord forgives me for the sin of gluttony.

Because the wind was pretty stout and my back cannot take a lot of pounding I took Tommy Moore’s Birding trip once more and each time I go I see more, different birds that call the Texas Gulf Coast home. It also helps that Tommy has a 42 foot boat of his own design and the boat motion has yet to bother my back. If you get a chance to go down into that area and take birds for granted as I did at one time take a trip with Tommy and you will really get into the beauty and fascination of our birds. He can be reached at tmoore@rockportadventures.com.

Sunday night we had an opportunity to get with the local merchants, outdoor product dealers and manufacturers, and look at some new products, beside eat. One that really caught my eye was the outboard motors by LEHR and distributed by Donovan Marine. They were two and one-half and five horsepower, are four cycle, and run on propane.

You can either screw on a Coleman type propane bottle like you use for you lantern or camping stove, and the five horsepower will run for an hour on one canister of propane. If one so chooses you can hook on a 20 pound bottle like is used on your gas grill and not have to worry about changing bottles.

Some of the features of the propane fueled engine is it does not have or need a choke to use when you start it. It needs no priming and it has no carburetor gum up as our gasoline powered engines will tend to do, as we have to use the sorry excuse for gasoline that we must tolerate, and there are no additives to add to the fuel if you are going to have to leave the fuel sit for four to six weeks or more.

To keep the green people from getting the vapors, the propane fueled engine has zero evaporative emissions, it is not a marine pollutant, and it is nontoxic fuel.

In case you did not know – and I didn’t – according to LEHR driving a gasoline powered motorboat with an outboard engine for one hour may make as much air pollution as driving a car for 800 miles. The main reason seems to me to be the fact that an engine in a car does not have to pull all of the time, there are periods of low strain while cursing where it only takes a minimum of power to keep your car or truck going. A boat motor on the other hand has the drag of the water to contend with as well as the weight and is under a strain the entire time a boat is moving.

Another important point about using propane is if you run a car or truck on gasoline and then switch it to propane your fuel consumption will decrease considerably when you switch to propane, but when ran in a boat the propane will be within ten percent of fuel consumption with the gasoline engine. Now compare the cost differential of about one and one-half dollars per gallon with propane costing the least you can see how you can save money running the propane engine.

The small engines now available are great for johnboats and especially for sailboats, as it comes with a 15 inch short shaft, or a 20 inch long shaft. That doesn’t mean a lot to the bass angler and many involved in other watersports that demand larger, more powerful engines but the man from Donovan’s Marine told me that testing had been successful on a prototype, 175 horsepower, outboard running on propane and should not be long from being seen on the market.

I do not know about you folks out there, but I can get excited by propane fueled outboard engines, so let’s keep our eyes open and see how this plays out for us water lovers.

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