does it have a motor?

what should I say when they ask “does it have a motor?”
every time I sail, somebody walking by stops and asks me that. If I had a penny for each time they asked me that I’d be a rich man. Been sailling R/C models for almost nineteen years
Sometimes I start to loose patience, but I never let them know. I usually just say it doesn’t have a propeller. This seems a bit of an un-creative answer but its all I can think of plus it answers the question directly. Usually the casual passer by suddenly jumps when I tell them that and says “really?!”

here’s my question
should I say-
star trek warp drive?
magical invisible fairies?
its being pulled by the Beatles yellow submarine?
laser beams from that device that looks like a security camera up there on top of that building?
a force field created by a giant mysterious cloud that seems to have parked itself over the pond and looks to be made of some other material than cloud?

anyone have more ideas for what to say?

is this a cultural thing where it just never occurs to people that a tiny sailboat actually gets pushed by the same wind as the biggest ship? where did the idea that toy boats just tip over and sink come from? how can we change it?

just blabbering.


It just shows you the level of intelligence of the “modern” person. I get the same question just as often, even from big-boat sailors.

Instead of opening eyes and closing mouth, they just blab out the first dumb thing they can think of. Manual labor is unknown to these people, and EVERYTHING requires an engine or a motor to do the work for you. Maybe even granddad is to blame, because he never took them fishing or sailing himself. Instead kids only know what they learn from XBox or PS2. Even then, instead of discovering the tricks to getting the high score, they just get on the Internet to get the answer the cheap way.

The Tanglewood Model Yacht Club has a one page flyer that addresses this question and others, so I believe this is a world wide question and thus people are equally smart or dumb around the world. This question is most common when it is a drifter and there seems no breeze to propel the boat, but they still move. How do they do that???

Having a one page flyer is a good way to address this question and give other information and links for those that may want to follow up. The handicap start system is also a big contributer to our TWMYC club growth as no skipper wants to always finish at the back of the pack all the time. The system also makes it more challenging for experienced skippers as they try to weave their way thru all the boats that started in front. This is a Win-Win for all. Our club continues to grow in all fleets and I believe may be the largest Footy fleet in the US at around 20 boats. If you know of a bigger Footy fleet in the US, let me know. If you click on the “Members” link, there is a list of skippers and boats sailed. The list needs to be updated as I know some names and sail numbers are not listed in the Footy section.

I cannot figure out how to attach this Microsoft Word document here, so here is just the text portion (no images).

Where Do Tanglewood Skippers Sail?
Pond on the Circle at Google Map Address: 1516 Tanglewood Circle, Sebring, FL
Sun ‘N Lake Island Pond Address: 3500 Edgewater Dr, Sebring, FL 33872
How Do I Learn to Model Sail and Actually Try it?
Sailing is Sport Learned from Others. Simply show up at the Pond at One of the Times
Above and Someone will Explain and Let You Try Your Hand on the Controls – Join Us
FAQ: Do The Boats have Motors?
The Sailboats use Radio Controls for Steering and Sail Control, Only Wind Propulsion
How Do I Join the TWMYC?
Give your Address, Phone #, Email Address and $10.00 to Treasurer Merritt Wiley
Where do I get a Boat?
We Buy Kits, Used Boats, New Boats and Build Our Own. Prices from $100 and Up
Where Do I Get Technical Assistance and Boat Tuning Help?
From Technical Officer Paul Graham
How Many Members are There In the TWMYC Club?
There are 38 Skippers in TWMYC and Over 70 Radio Controlled Boats and Growing
TWMYC Skippers are Competitive in National, Regional, and Local Regattas
Is Intra-Club Racing at Tanglewood Handicapped?
Yes, New Skippers Get up to a 1 Minute Head Start Giving All a Chance at Winning
Additional Web Links

It’s not restricted to sailing -
You get the same level of thinking from visitors at my gliding club.
“Won’t you crash if the wind stops?”


Another good one is - “Who lets go of the tow rope?”

Edward DeBono called it 'Black Box thinking".

However communication works at many levels, and just because it’s couched in one way with a question mark at the end, doesn’t mean it is only meant as a request for information.
It is also an emotional expression of incredulity, intrigue, mystique, joy, child-like naivety… So an appropriate response could be to mirror that level of interaction - “Amazing isn’t it! Would you like a try…”
At the most basic level it is an, often spontaneous, attempt at interaction. No matter how well thought out an opening gambit, it is still indicative of a desire for a chat, and a possibility of starting a whole new interest in sailing for them or someone they know. Hand out a pamphlet.
I tend to have infinite patience when the question comes from a kid, and often from foreign visitors as a large component of the patrons at my park.

These observations from 30 years as a counsellor…


Most of the times you can tell if the people is really interested or not in the hobby for the questions they do.
It happens to us too that people ask about the motors. Some time a guy spent almost two hours around and when I pull the sailboat offf the water he came and exclaimed, there is no motor at all!!!

Then, you can tell if the people has a minor capacity of observation: Did theynotciced the sails, in first place!!!, or sails are only decorative!!!

Some times the “No motor” question open the chance to talk and we can add a new skkiper to the fleet. some other times the questions goes like… "could you crash into that other boat over there??? If you say no, then the poeple lost the interest and walk away.

others will continue with. Did you built it yourself??, How much cost?? 'How far can you go?"

When the people get impressed because the sailboat have no motors, I wonder…and how they think the romans and vikings and egyptians use to travel by sea thousands of years ago???

Tato Lazo

They do not think, just they do not knows who they are !
Tell them that the motor exist but it is transparent and cannot be seen, like the air !!!
Tell the true , all the time the true !!

I think we need to make a movie starring George Clooney as a long time model yachtsman who is asked to smuggle drugs across a small body of water on his EC-12. It would have to get best picture at the Academy Awards, and then mainstream people would remember.

Every person (besides forum people and the guy who got me interested in rc sailing) that I have talked to about my boat have asked this same question word for word, Does it have a motor?

Even my pastor who requested that i show it to him asked it. It gets very annoying but is kinda entertaining.

I tell them that it has two tiny little motors inside of small plastic containers that have some gears in them that attach to an arm that has a rod (rudder) or string (sail) attached to it

I was chasing after my little free sailing gaff sloop yesterday in the kayak. This British guy sails up to me in his full sized Laser and says “Does that have a motor?” I stupidly replied “It has a little brass bolt with two nuts either side of the tiller, that’s all you
need!” so he says “you know they make them with little tiny motors that control the sails and the rudder!” and before I could say anything he was gone.

Not even a chortle from the guy?

an old fellow ran up to the water’s edge on Monday to look closely at my Footy sailing, and after a while, he said, “You’ve got radio-control gear. Cool.”

Although the ‘does it have a motor’ question comes up all the time I always politely explain that it sails just like a full size yacht, yes it only uses the sails and yes it is surprisingly fast. I find the question amusing rather than annoying no matter how many times I hear it.

The difficult part is I’m in Spain and my Spanish is very basic.

I would love to see more interest in the hobby near where I live so if someone looks like they are genuinely interested I always talk to them and offer them a go (the kids jump at the chance but a lot of the adults are a bit nervous of trying)

It’s the price we pay for promoting our simple hobby/sport. :wink:


I think most of us do not find the question annoying at all, it is just funny that the people can´t even imagine that the sailboat uses only the wind. From that, we can tell many attitudes from the people, the ones really interested, some others that just pay attention for the moment and the few who really want that some other boat crash yours, sink it down or tthat you steer it very far away…just to see what happens.

Most of the peole is in deed friendly if you provide the chance and a few will get interested in the hobby.