Kayak motor(s)

Via Kickstarter, I bought two T100 thrusters with standard ESCs hoping to equip my kayak with electric power.

I can build brackets, solder and waterproof wiring but I have no arduino or other controller/programming experience.

I’d hoped to attach a mechanical rheostat with forward and reverse to these thrusters. Since that is not what the ESCs are, I’m not sure where to start.

Can I create a manually adjustable system using a mechanical interface with these thrusters/ESCs?

If yes, where do I start?

If you want something simple stupid without having to use an arduino … you can use a 555 timer chip as an astable multi-vibrator to create the PWM signal for the ESC modules.

Did you have a foot print in mind for how large your controller would be? Since you said you can solder, I will assume that you can breadboard or solder up using project boards etc. I can design a quick and dirty circuit to use for your system.

Just curious. Since you have two thrusters do you plan on mounting them one to a side and control them to allow you to go forward reverse with each motor so you can steer with the motors too?


Thanks, Harold. I do mechanical engineering and have very little experience with building project boards/circuits, etc. If you are willing to explain as if I were a very young child, I think I’ll be able to tackle this with a decent chance of success.

Max dimensions would be 8 x 8 x 2".

I have several kayaks to play with and may make two of them powered. Probably will mount one in the center and use my rudder to steer but might add a second and use them for steering and extra power.

Lets start with the absolute basics. How fine tuned do you need the speed to be? Are you hunting for something like low/medium/high or to be able to slowly go through the entire range?

I have attached a picture of a circuit I was messing around with a couple of weeks ago that is a three speed “forward” control. The speed increments are in 1/3 amounts. Anytime a switch is not engaged, the PWM signal automatically defaults to “STOP”. The individual wanted to have a magnetically coupled switch that would have an OFF position and three increments of 1/3 speed.

I chose to make the system default at a pulse width of 1.500 mS (which is all stop) to the ESC. I hate having a system in an unknown state.

Currently everything in this circuit is balanced to operate on 9 volts but I can move it to whatever is required for what you want. The ESC wants to see a 5 volt PWM signal and that is very easy to do with this circuit. You can use a line buffer to condition the output of this circuit to a 5 volt signal.


Hi Craig,

This sounds fun. I also have a few suggestions on things going without any software or electronics work.

The easiest thing to do is to get a servo tester, which will output the proper signal for the ESC. Here’s one that’s inexpensive, powered by the ESC, and has enough outputs for 3 thrusters.

If you feel like venturing into Arduino, there’s a simple example for controlling a servo with a knob that will work great for this. You can check it out here.

The 555 timer that Harold mentioned is also an option, but will require a little more work.

I hope that helps!


Thanks, Harold and Rusty.

The servo tester is something I can wrap my brain around, I think. At $5.99, it seems like it’d be a good place to start. Will it give me an all stop plus multiple forward and reverse speeds?

Thanks again.



The servo tester will give you smooth control from stopped to full forward and full reverse. We use them all the time while we’re testing.



Got to love those mass produced price tags :slight_smile: And here I sit slaving away on Multisim all the time!


Hi Craig Strong

Did you manage to complete your kayak powering project? If so do you have any tips on how it went, or some feedback about the set up, components, etc?

I’m trying to see what’s possible for an inflatable kayak, perhaps mounting the thruster(s) to the tracking fin. Would also be interested to see what batteries you ended up using, and what kind of performance you are achieving.


Many thanks,


Hi JB,

I did not do anything but plan that project.

I keep intending to explore whether the motor will fit through the Mirage drive slots in my Hobie i14T. I’m pretty sure they will, allowing me to drop them through the bottom of the boat when deep enough and withdraw them when I’m landing the boat.

I’d like to get this done now that you’ve reminded me.

Sorry I can’t help.



Did you ever build this project. I have a hobie I’m looking to motorized. But I want to keep it super simple and easy to set up. And your idea seemed to be along those lines