Close this search box.

The Arrival of Outboard Motors

Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the arrival of the outboard motors in San Pedro was quite a revolution. It was such a revolutionary move and innovative event that everybody in San Pedro desired one. And to tell the truth practically everyone got one for different needs and different reasons.

The very first ones were Johnson Outboard Motors and that was soon followed by Evinrude Motors because there was a good and competitive market.

First there were the three horsepower Johnson motors which some fishermen purchased to use them on their small dories or canoes. Some guys bolted them right on the side of the canoe, while others cut the back end of the canoe or the stern, removed the pointed back end and built a flat stern. These dories were then used to go to the fish or lobster traps and fishermen saved themselves the trouble of paddling or using the pole.

It was so comfortable to just sit at the stern and steer your dory to your fishing grounds and back. They had a gasoline tank built right on top of the motor and used a quart or two of gasoline to take you back and forth. It was quite an inexpensive motor to run and so light to handle.

There were also some larger canoes, perhaps some twenty feet long that were used by fishermen to haul seine nets in the lagoon. For these, fishermen used to purchase the ten horsepower motors. These large canoes moved so fast that owning one of these gave the fisherman a sense of superiority and power.

Right after this some fishermen who used to travel to a far away destination started building twelve and fourteen foot mahogany skiffs. These skiffs were fitted with fifteen and twenty horsepower outboards.

Now these skiffs sailed fast – I mean very fast. Some guys even started using them occasionally to go to Belize City for a luxury trip – you know shopping and fun. Before this Sanpedranos used to go to the city once every 5 or10 years. This was quite a revolutionary move in San Pedro.

Imagine how you could go to Belize City in two hours instead of five or six in the sailing boat. Every young man wanted a skiff with a 20 HP motor. It was like a city man having his car. Now the very intrepid, one or two, eventually ventured to put a 40 HP to their skiffs. These used to fly. They scared me.

Most fishermen used to remove the motors daily and took them home. This was not to prevent theft, but rather to wash them. They used to place the motors in a drum containing fresh water, and they used to run the motor for about five minutes to wash them thoroughly and remove any traces of salt that could freeze the motor. The washing of these motors was done daily so you know they were well taken care of and they lasted a lifetime.

My dad used his three horsepower Johnson for about fifteen years and when he retired from the sea he gave it to my brother who used it for a few months and spoiled it. Oh these outboard motors twenty five years ago. They were indeed powerful and made one feel powerful too, sort of like the 250 horsepower Yamahas that we see today.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *