Torqeedo Motorizes Kayaks

A small motor allows kayakers to take Torqeedo's latest farther, faster.

The Ultralight 403 model weighs just shy of 20 pounds and, according to Torqeedo, will go for nearly 25 miles on a charge.Torqeedo

We’ve all been there: alone on a kayak at the end of an afternoon paddle, near the edge of the harbor, where the land is about to give way to what looks like an endless ocean. What felt like a short distance during the exhilarating paddle out now seems awfully far, looking back toward the yacht with tired biceps and shoulders. And with the wind and current picking up. In the wrong direction.

It's the moment for which the Torqeedo Ultralight Outboard Motor was created — the moment when you still have a little bit of gas left in your tank, but when a 1 hp kick from a battery-charged engine would sure help.

Torqeedo makes two Ultralight electric motors with mounting brackets that fit most kayak brands. The 403 model ($1,799) weighs about 20 pounds and can go almost 25 miles on a battery charge, while the 403 C ($2,299) weighs a little more than 23 pounds and can go nearly 75 miles, according to Torqeedo. Both models come with GPS-based range calculators, so kayakers will know how much time they have left before needing to recharge, and both have steer and tilt features that are designed to work with a kayak’s existing steering system. (Flats fishermen, take note.)

(Clockwise from top) A solar recharge is possible underway with the optional, foldout panel array; the Torqeedo Ultralight Outboard Motor tilts out of the water when kayakers want to paddle, and into the water when they need a power assist; Torqeedo’s TorqTrac app is free, while the Bluetooth data cable to connect the motor and smartphone or tablet is $149; the magnetic kill switch loops onto a PFD or around a wrist, stopping the motor if the kayaker goes overboard.Torqeedo

Spare batteries range from $599 to $899, for anyone who wants to paddle back to the yacht, swap out the power plant and keep the fun going. For those without a spare battery, recharge time is reportedly about 12 hours from a standard electrical outlet or USB port — and it’s possible to recharge underway using a foldable solar panel ($749) with an IP65-rated watertight connector.

For safety, Ultralight motors are hooked into magnetic kill switches that can attach to the paddler’s wrist or personal flotation device, much like emergency shut-off keys work aboard personal watercraft. The system disengages the engine if the paddler goes overboard into the drink.