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Motor Bracket History of Design & Development


In the early years of the Catalina 22 it was common for a boat to be delivered without a bracket. Dinghy sailors, used to sailing without an engine, sometimes shunned the iron genny. Others installed their own bracket to match the smallest and lightest outboard available, as early class rules didn’t specify a minimum outboard weight.

Early brackets offered by Catalina were manufactured by Michigan Wheel. These had two parallel rails and a bracket that slid up and down within those rails. Raising the engine entailed grasping the whole affair and bodily lifting the entire assembly. If you lifted too far the bracket slid out of the top of the track with the risk of losing it overboard. For the little, lightweight 4 horse outboards typical then, the arrangement worked just fine.

But soon, many sailors discovered how capable their Catalina 22 was. They began using their boats for ever more adventuresome sailing. One early example was a trip made by Fleet 4 in Sacramento. Twenty-four boats and their crew arrived at Skyline Marine in Anacortes with a 10-day itinerary through the San Juan and Canadian Gulf islands. Many members stayed on for three weeks. Those with small outboards discovered they were quite underpowered on windless days. Both currents and distance conspired to make them late for evening rendezvous.

Larger motors were the result and Catalina responded with a better bracket built by Garlick. It offered articulating action counterbalanced by springs. But the narrow mounting base, lightweight springs, and light construction made it suitable for a five to six horse two-stroke motor at most.

With the introduction of the Catalina 25, it was clearly time for a better bracket. With nothing better available on the market, Catalina commissioned a more substantial bracket design. The new design featured a broader mounting base and more rigid stainless steel tubing construction. It was a vast improvement over the earlier bracket. It handled typical two stroke engines with aplomb. But time, use, and wear began to highlight deficiencies in this bracket as well.

Evolutionary changes to improve the bracket included adding a second spring, reinforcing the control arms, adding a stainless plate to reinforce the wooden board, and eventually replacing the high maintenance wood board with plastic.

The advent of clean, four-stroke technology and the onset of more grey hair on the captain and crew presented the next challenge. Sailors love their new, quiet four stroke outboards. Crews especially enjoy the electric start that many sailors are choosing. But the new engines come with substantial additional weight overwhelming the earlier brackets.

When it came time to design a new bracket for the C- 22 and 25 we inspected dozens of boats. We found several areas that needed improvement. Plastic bushings at each pivot point failed. In some cases they were missing altogether making the entire bracket unstable. The transoms of most boats with four stroke engines were distorted, pulled aft at the top and pushed in at the bottom of the bracket. Cracks radiated from each mounting hole. In many cases the bracket was very hard to move up and down even with no engine installed.

Several design goals emanated from these discoveries. 1) Easy up and down operation that would be maintained over time. 2) Eliminate excess friction 3) Match bracket lifting force to the engine’s weight so a light crew can deploy the engine in an emergency. 4) Distribute the load over a larger area of the transom. 5) Maintain the original mounting hole positions.

Many detailed changes were made to meet these goals: 1) Replace the plastic bushings with bronze for long life. 2) Add compression sleeves to each pivot bolt so the bolts can be tightened without squeezing the parts together causing friction. 3) Provide additional springs and match them to the weight of the engine for ease of operation. 4) For the heaviest engines, strengthen and lengthen the transom mounting rails so they engage more of the transom. 5) Offer additional backing rails extending above the bracket inside the transom for more support.

With these improvements new brackets are longer lasting, support today’s heavier engines and can be raised and lowered by lighter crew members with ease. They also significantly reduce the potential of damage to the transom.

Today we offer three different versions of the improved bracket. The two spring version is suitable for engines up to 80 pounds. The three spring version is designed for engines from 80 to 95 pounds. And the four spring bracket which is designed especially for heavier, often electric start engines, weighing over 95 pounds.