Are Two Outboard Engines Really Better than One?

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Two outboards hanging off the transom gives you a serious feeling of safety. But...

There was a time when asking this question was downright silly. For anyone who ran a boat big enough to waters distant enough, yes, having two outboards was a must. Many of us who owned smaller, single-screw boats added kicker brackets and a small back-up powerplant, just in case. The reasoning was simple: if your engine breaks down, you can get stranded out there.

outboard

Two outboards hanging off the transom gives you a serious feeling of safety. But…

True, two outboards are less efficient than a single, thanks to the additional drag. Yes, the initial cost of your boat rises significantly. And of course, operational and maintenance costs also go through the roof. Then there’s the PITA factor (pain in the… well, you know). Every time you go to take care of a maintenance chore, it takes twice the effort. Still, despite all these factors, twins always held the trump card of safety.

Well, times have changed. The funky, clunky, sputtering old carbureted two-strokes we used to cajole and curse are pretty much history. The three four-stroke outboards I currently own have run for a cumulative total of almost 3,000 hours, and have broken down on me a grand total of once. That was due to a stuck AIC valve, a problem easily circumvented on the water, so I was still back at the dock a mere 10 minutes later than expected. These outboards we have today? Man, they’re GOOD!

Now let’s add in a few more factors: today, you can call on the VHF for a tow boat, just about anywhere, any time. For a couple hundred bucks you can get towing insurance, too, so it won’t cost an arm and a leg. And there are so many more people out on the water these days that it’s rare to go fishing and not see another boat for hours on end. Even in places that were deserted a decade or two ago you’ll probably see some boats, and in case an issue arrives, can flag someone down for help.

If you want twins on your boat because you can go faster, fine. If you like having twins for the improved maneuverability, that’s great. But when it comes to safety, twins are no longer a must. Thanks to vastly better, more reliable outboard engines, single screw boats are better than ever before.

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