Tohatsu 6 hp Sail Pro Review (Updated 7/14/14 Scroll Down!)

May 28, 2013

Backbeat came to me with a mid-80s 4.5 hp Johnson Seahorse.  It was well-suited to the previous owner’s purpose, which was to leave and re-enter his marina for races and daysailing.  I used it for a season around Puget Sound, but the mighty Seahorse wasn’t up to  pushing a 3,000 pound boat through stiff currents and steep chop on 30 to 60 mile deliveries for races.  Yes, I know I could have sailed those deliveries, and a lot of them I did.  Still, when you have to be somewhere by a deadline, and the wind, waves and tide aren’t cooperating, you fire up the outboard and settle in.  Max speed at full throttle with this motor was about 4.5 knots.

I sold the Seahorse and bought a 90s vintage 8 hp Evinrude. It did the trick for a few years, but eventually started showing its age.  I had seized it once when the impeller failed, and though my son–a real-life marine tech–worked it over with new parts and mechanic tricks, it was never the same.  Then the throttle grip broke.  Replacements are about $125, so we used a pick through the end of the cable. Then the carb got fussy.  Then the starter rope broke.  The motor was great while it was, but there was no escaping the fact that it was old and tired.  It was time to stop throwing time and money at it, and time for a new outboard.  Max speed at full throttle with this motor was about 5.25 knots.

I had wanted a nice new Yamaha or Honda 9.9 before I noticed that quite a few boats my size were using the 6 hp Tohatsu Sail Pro.  Everyone seemed to love their motor, so I did some research.  The Tohatsu is a single-cylinder four stroke.  It’s a version that comes with a 25″ shaft, a high-thrust prop, and a 5 amp alternator.  After shopping around and reading reviews I bought one from Ed at Ballard Inflatable Boats  http://www.ballardinflatables.com/  It weighs less than 60 pounds and is about half the price of a new Honda or Yamaha, both of which are over 100 pounds. Half the price?  Half the weight?  It was an easy decision. Anyway, once you get close to hull speed in a sailboat, all the extra 3.9 hp does is spin the prop and waste gas.

Tohatsu-6-hp-SP-large

You can buy this motor online for $1,530 with no taxes or shipping charges.  I bought it from Ed for $1,530 and paid about $145 in sales tax.  Buying local from someone who had one in stock and immediately available, and who is able to provide warranty service if I need it, was worth the extra money.  Also, it turns out Ed is an avid sailor, a Thunderbird owner, and quite a character in general.  FWIW, I urge readers to look locally before you order one online.  There’s value in supporting small business.

Back to the motor.  I hung it on Thursday afternoon and left Friday at 12:30 am for Victoria.  That’s a 36 nautical mile, middle-of the night Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing.  I followed the break-in procedure, then settled in at about 5.3 knots.  The motor was at about one quarter to one-third throttle.  I opened it up to full power and saw hull speed, which is about 6 knots, but my best cruise turned out to be one quarter to one third throttle and about 5.3 knots.  I got to Victoria on about two gallons of gas.  I’m not kidding!  It comes with a 3 gallon tank, which I was sure would be too small, so I took a 5 gallon can along just in case.  This motor really sips fuel.  The return trip used even less than the delivery!

Except for the two times I forgot to attach the safety lanyard (don’t judge me!), the new motor started on the first or second pull, hot or cold, every time.  It is a lot quieter at cruising speed than either of the previous two-strokes.  Being a musician, I have a sound meter on my phone.  For those of you who care, the interior volume at cruising speed in light chop was 75-80 decibels.  That’s pretty quiet for an outboard.  If you rev it up to full power it gets louder, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to use that much more fuel just to get less than one more knot of boat speed.

I couldn’t see a way to lock the steering straight ahead, but the steering friction lock held the motor straight the entire trip.  The 25″ shaft kept the prop submerged, even with my 280 pounds on the foredeck.  There was little wind on the return trip until I was a few miles off Point Wilson.  It picked up then to about 11 knots true and a little too close to maintain my course under sail alone, so I set the sails and motorsailed.  The sails bumped my boatspeed to about 6 knots, but more than that they kept the boat settled when the Point Wilson rip developed.  If you’re unfamiliar with the area, the Point Wilson rip is the 800 pound gorilla of tide rips.  This one was not as bad as I’ve seen, but the waves were still five or six feet tall, steep, and breaking.  I lowered the outboard bracket to keep the prop wet and settled in.

Just then a USCG RIB came out of nowhere.  I could see I was going to get boarded, so I went forward to drop the headsail.  Here’s the point of all this:  In the steep waves of the Point Wilson rip, with my fat arse on the bow, the extra-long shaft kept the new Tohatsu biting solid water the whole time!  It turns out the USCG just wanted me to alter course to stay out of the path of a nuclear sub–which seemed perfectly reasonable to me–so I bore off about 30 degrees until the little armada passed.

I’m really happy with my new outboard.  I now have about 80 nautical miles on it.  I’d guess that’s about 15 hours. It’s quiet, reliable, sips fuel, stays in the water when it’s supposed to, steers straight, and pushes my boat comfortably at about 5.3 knots at about one-third throttle. The gear lever is on the front, which is nice.  Reverse thrust isn’t spectacular, but it’s more than enough for maneuvering in really tight spaces.  The 12v alternator also charges the battery, though I probably won’t get the full 5 amps at one-third throttle.  There is no way either the Yamaha or Honda 9.9s will do anything for my particular boat that justifies the hefty price and weight premiums.  The Tohatsu came with a five-year warranty.  Ed set up the motor, did a pre-delivery inspection, and activated the warranty.

I give this motor 4.5 Captain Kev stars.  I held back a half star because you need to buy an extra fitting to flush the motor, and because I’m still in that brand-new love phase. If nothing at all changes in the next year of use, I’d give it a 100% thumbs up rating.  If you have a relatively slippery boat in the same weight range as my Capri 25 , you can’t go wrong with this motor.

UPDATE 6/25/13:  Check out these bad pics.  Boat speed at 5.4 knots, throttle at about 30%!  Another 70 miles this weekend and still used less than four gallons.  I love this motor!

photo (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 7/14/14:  Okay, by now I have hundreds of miles on this motor. Yes, hundreds.  I still love it.  I recently sailed from Port Townsend to San Francisco.  At one point after leaving Newport, Oregon, there was no wind at all. I had a full five gallon jug in addition to the full three gallon regular tank, so I ran the motor at about 25% throttle until the three gallon tank was empty.  The mighty Sail Pro ran for 11.5 hours before it sputtered to a stop, pushing my boat at 5.2 knots the whole time.

Yep, that’s right, 11.5 hours!  There was a slight current, but there was no wind pushing me along.  I have a fast, light boat, and I had just put on some magic, go-fast bottom paint, but still . . . 11.5 hours!  At one point the oil light came on.  I checked the dipstick and found the oil pretty low, so I topped it up.  To tell the truth, after 11.5 hours I was ready to enjoy a little quiet, so I drifted around until the wind came in.  That gave me time to think about what I’d write if I ever updated this review.  Here’s the long-term user scoop.  I have one complaint and one observation to offer anyone considering this motor.

My one complaint is that the steering friction lock doesn’t provide enough grip to keep the motor straight in waves over a long period of time.  In these conditions it will wander.  I tie mine off to keep it straight.  Yes, you can buy a bracket that will fix it straight ahead, but I like steering with both the rudder and the motor when I’m in tight spaces.  Using the two together, I can pirouette my boat.  My wish list for the next model is for some kind of handy latch that will fix the motor straight ahead, but which could be easily disengaged for precision steering when you want it.  Okay Tohatsu, make it happen.  Until then I’ll keep tying it off. It’s not a big deal for me, but I figured I had to find something to complain about or people won’t consider this a fair review.

The one observation is that I don’t get much more than about .75 charging amps from my motor when I run it at the speeds that suit me.  That’s not a big deal for me because I have 120 watts of solar and 300 amp hours of deep cycle juice storage.  If you’re looking for the full rated output from this motor, I don’t know what to tell you.  Maybe check with other users to see whether they’ve had better results. Again, this is not a big deal for me.

All in all, I love this motor and would buy it again in a heartbeat.  Tohatsu engineers, please get to work on that latch.

 

 

28 Responses to “Tohatsu 6 hp Sail Pro Review (Updated 7/14/14 Scroll Down!)”

  1. JB Says:

    Nice info. FWIW, Tohatsu does offer a steering lock kit for the 4/5/6 that “locks” the motor in place and allows you to use the boats rudder to steer instead of the motors tiller. Takes about 5 minutes to install.

  2. Chris Bell Says:

    Hey great review. Just bought a long shaft 6 as a kicker for my 5m fishing boat. However, I now use it as much as I can, reliable with excellent economy. The 60 suzuki gets us from mark to mark, ‘mini me’ does the rest of the work. As we say in Hampshire (UK) “Its a little belter”.

  3. Bo Says:

    Hey, great review – Just bought one last week 🙂

    regarding the kit for locking the motor. The danish importer didnt know it, so if you have a link to it, it woudt be great.

    I am wondering about how far down in the water to put it, so what did you do with yours ? are going to buy a rase/lover plat for it, but until i know how deep in the water to put it i am kind of stuck. 🙂

    Regards Bo


    • Thanks for the feedback!

      Here’s a link to one steering lock kit: http://www.solutiononemaritime.com/engine-accessories/377-3gr625000m-steering-lock-kit-4-5-6hp-4-stroke-model-tohatsu-nissan-mercury-and-evinrude.html

      I didn’t end up using a steering lock. I’m not sure if the link above is to the Tohatsu part or an aftermarket kit, but it looks like it will do the job. My outboard bracket is adjustable. When we’re motoring at low speed the motor is almost all the way down. When we get up to 5.3 knots we trim it higher because the stern tends to squat a bit. It’s totally unscientific, I know, but it works for us. The Garelick mount we use has a large adjustment range. This is the bracket we use: http://www.garelick.com/Aluminum-Auxiliary-Motor-Bracket-For-4-Stroke-Motors

      Hope this helps,
      Kevin

      • Anthony Says:

        Hi Kevin – no “reply” option on last comment and information so replying up here. Thank you a lot for the offer to try out your sail pro – logistics stand in the way unfortunately as I’m based in Sydney (Australia)! I’ve bitten the bullet and sail pro on order for pick up this weekend. I’ll be using it primarily on Sydney harbour which has generally benign conditions. Occasional southerly “buster” comes through of 25+kts but very predictable. It’s slightly under the ideal hp (would be happier with 8hp) but I think it is the best compromise. Will let you know how it goes….
        Anthony

  4. Eric Says:

    Here is a fix for the tiller lock: http://tillerfix.blogspot.ca/


  5. Great review! I have an analog ammeter connected to the DC output and I get the same results as you. At full throttle, I get 1.5 amps out. The only way to get the rated 5 amps is to put the transmission in neutral and crank the throttle wide open. At normal operating RPM, 1.5 amps is the maximum.

    • Eric Says:

      The current output of any supply is determined by the load, not the supply. The rated current of the motor charger is 5A maximum (according to the manufacturer). If the measured current is less than that, then this is due to the load drawing less than 5A. To test the current output properly, you would have to connect it to a variable load, and then increase the load to 5A to see if the motor can output the 5A the manufacturer states that it can.

      It’s sort of like my house panel at home. It’s rated at 100A, but the actual current is much less because the load determines the actual current, not the panel.


      • Great information. Thanks!


      • The output was measured into a moderately discharged battery that had a terminal voltage of 12.4 volts. This represents a test in actual operating conditions while charging a 200 amp/hour battery. Any other measurement method is fine for a laboratory, but is not a practical measurement.

        The engine does produce 5 amps, but only in neutral at 5,000 RPM.

      • Eric Says:

        In neutral, at 5000 rpm for your particular load conditions. A more fully discharged battery will draw the 5A at a lower RPM.

        My point is only that you can’t make a blanket statement about a motor’s ability or inability to charge at a certain current. The current will vary from user to user because the load determines the current, not the source. This can be seen by the fact that the reviewer was seeing .75 A and you were seeing 1.5 A.

        Increasing RPM does increases voltage which results in increased current for a given load. It’s all Ohms’ Law.


      • The reviewer saw 0.75 amp at a lower RPM setting, as he said “when I run it at the speeds that suit me”. I saw 1.5 amp at full throttle with the engine under load (about 3,000 RPM – I attached a model TTA2 “tiny tach” tachometer). I was unable to get more than 2 amps measured into a dead short (ammeter connected directly to the output) at 3,000 RPM.

        The manufacturer really should state: “current AS HIGH AS 5 amps at maximum RPM.” That would be an honest qualifier. Not many boaters are electrical engineers, like myself, who design electrical systems at NASA for spacecraft, so they just take Nissan at their word. I’m fully familiar with Ohm’s Law, Watt’s Law, and how load affects output current.

        The output is adequate for running navigation lights on a dingy, but anyone who expects to recharge their battery is going to be disappointed. The reviewer’s results are representative of the realities: 0.75 amp at low RPM settings.

  6. Lary Says:

    Nice review — thanks. I am likely going to get one of these for my Folkboat. One question, though. How do you flush the engine, assuming that you leave it on the boat each time?

    I see there is a flushing adapter, but to flush it while on the boat I will of course need to have the engine down, so also some way to block off the saltwater intake.

    Your experience or advice?

    • Anthony Says:

      Hi Lary – I’m in the same boat (literally) – about to buy a new outboard for my Folkboat and tossing up between the tohatsu sail pro and a 9.8 tohatsu 2 stroke. If you have bought a sail pro, interested in performance – do you get up to hull speed at reasonable rpm? Any other comments on suitability?
      Cheer,
      Anthony


      • A Folkboat is heavier than my boat, which is around 3,000 pounds. I cruise at 5.3 knots at about 1/3 throttle. To get to six knots I’m at about 3/4 throttle. The extra speed doesn’t seem worth the extra fuel consumption to me, so I go everywhere at about 5.3.

        Backbeat doesn’t have a lot of wetted surface–not as much as a Folkboat anyway. If I had a Folkboat in Puget Sound, I’d probably want the bigger motor. We have some tough currents, and I’m often going against them in a heavy chop to get home after a race. The 6 hp doesn’t struggle on my boat, but I wonder if it might on yours. To be fair, my boat pounds in these conditions, while yours may slip right through. They are very different hulls.

        I guess there’s no easy answer. The Sailpro has been great for my boat. If you’re near Puget Sound you’d be welcome to try mine out and see how it does with your boat. If you’re somewhere with flat water and not much current, I think you’d be really happy with it. Going against a three knot current, in the middle of the night, in a heavy chop, while sitting in the cockpit hand-steering in pouring rain, you might wish you’d gone for the bigger motor.

        Good luck! Kevin

  7. Larry Says:

    > “Hi Lary – … about to buy a new outboard for my Folkboat … If you have bought a sail pro, interested in performance – do you get up to hull speed at reasonable rpm?”

    I bought the SailPro. At first I had a lot of vibration and couldn’t get it above 4950 RPM and about 5.3 kts. I then took the prop (6″ pitch, big blades) to a prop shop and had the pitch reduced to 4″. That both reduced vibration, and gave us an average (upwind/downwind) 5.9 kts at a max of 5500 RPM. I plan to have the pitch reduced to 2.5″, which should allow 6k RPM and further reduce vibration throughout the RPM range. At present I avoid the mid-3000s because of vibration. I also plan to bond rubber to the swivel clamp (both sides), because when tightened the clamp is a vibration short-circuit to the motor bracket. See details (using fabric instead of rubber) here: tillerfix.blogspot.ca. The inner rubber strip will provide some isolation. I bought the SailPro because the geometry of the tiller arm on currently available larger motors (all brands) is really unfavorable. This motor and my old Honda BF8A seem to be the only reasonable fits.

    • Anthony Says:

      Hi Lary,

      Thanks for the info – in the end I have gone for the sail pro and will have to live with some of the negatives such as vibration. Will just need to see how I go with the prop configuration. Appreciate it.

      Anthony

  8. Larry Says:

    > Me: “I bought the SailPro because the geometry of the tiller arm on currently available larger motors (all brands) is really unfavorable.”

    To clarify, the tiller geometry on those newer, bigger motors is unfavorable for mounting in a way that they can be tilted up (tiller would hit the aft deck unless the motor is mounted extraordinarily high – don’t want to be grabbing air – or with a motor mount extending quite far aft, meaning extra strain on the transom).

  9. Rescueman Says:

    I am buying the motor. How much amp draw on your battery does anyone really draw while sailing. I believe the motor was designed to be a trickle charger while underway. Something is better than nothing when it comes to charging capabilities. Especially at this price in this horse power.

  10. Mr. Mgoo Says:

    It is now April 2018. I have a 3000lb sailboat …any updated reviews as I am looking at buying this motor. Should I go with remote tank, or motor mounted fuel tank?


    • I have the 3.1 gallon external tank. At about 1/3 throttle it pushes my 3,000 pound boat at about 5.3 knots for about eleven hours. FWIW, my motor was in storage for more than three years. I took it out last week, changed the engine oil and gear oil, mounted it, and it started on the second pull. The carb float was stuck, but a quick cleaning solved that and it runs fine now. I’d buy this motor again if I needed another. It’s a single-cylinder four stroke, so it’s not as silky smooth as some of the bigger motors, but at 1/3 throttle it’s relatively quiet. If you just need a motor to get in and out of the slip, the internal tank would probably be fine. I use the motor for long deliveries when no wind is available, so the external tank is better.

    • JB Says:

      One thing to keep in mind is that the newer 6hp models with the internal tank have a built-in fuel connector on them to let you use an external tank as well. So if you’re going on a short trip, you can use the internal tank. But if you’ll be going on a longer one, you can hook up an external tank, flip a switch and use the bigger tank.

  11. Patrick Horgan Says:

    Greetings from the SW coast of Ireland!

    The review is really helpful. Thanks

  12. Patrick Bryant Says:

    My experience is the same. Low fuel consumption, reliable operation, etc. I too have to tie down the engine to keep it pointed straight. I release those “anti-yaw” lines when I need engine-assisted steering. Steering my Pearson Ariel astern is very difficult without an engine assist (Carl Alberg designs are notorious for this characteristic), so a permanent bracket won’t do.

    The only way to get 5 amps is to put the engine in neutral and run it at full RPM – which no one will ever do.

  13. Elfonz Says:

    The review gave me the last push to buy the SailPro.
    This is the replacement outboard for my Yamaha 9.9 High thrust. I wanted a new engine because the Yamaha was not reliable anymore (floated many times in locks etc because it just stopped). The dealer could not solve it so I sold it.
    So the Tohatsu had to replace a 2 cylinder 10 HP……To be honest it does the job, a bit slower and a bit more noise.
    But the pro’s are: much better to carry and tilt and a even a bit more economical in fuel.

    I have used it for approx 10 hours now and just replaced the lower oil. My boat is 7.3 meter sailboat weighing 2,2 ton…so not very light. But it brings it within a reasonable time to a speed of 5-5.5 knots depending on the wind and waves (half throttle).
    Hull speed is 5.9 knots which is almost not possible I think, but to be honest I ran it so far only very short at full throttle in choppy waves.

    Bye from the Netherlands


  14. […] Outboard Motor:  Ensigns at 3000lbs, can be sailed very well without need of a motor and here at HYC having direct access to the bay means you never need one.  However, for overnight excursions and my single handed projects, having the motor will give everyone some piece of mind.  It’s a must for the Texas 200.   Findings used <10HP outboards is like ‘finding hen’s teeth’, as one mechanic I called told me. Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook, etc…. were all strikeouts. So, I’m going with a new Tohatsu 6HP SailPro.  What sold me was the reputation – price – weight – options combination and this review tells it best and has very relevant comments BACKBEAT SAILING. […]


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