The outboard

When we abandoned our last hard dinghy and bought an inflatable, we didn’t fully understand that we were committing to an outboard motor. Or, more accurately, a goddamn outboard.

The latest version:

I bought a Force 5 in Michigan, to take south. When we put it on our dinghy in Indiantown, it wouldn’t start. I yanked and yanked on the starting cord until I had raw blisters on my right hand.

So I took it to the local outboard expert. $70 later, he said that he’d fixed it and run it (in a barrel of water) for 30 minutes. It was ready for our winter cruise.

So we put it on the dinghy and tried to start it. No go. More blisters.

Back to the expert. He opined that maybe another $150 would really fix it.

Another cruiser in Indiantown had a working Mercury 2.5 horsepower motor that he parted with for $250. It ran like a top all last winter during our cruise in Florida.

Come this year, we put the Mercury on the dinghy before we left Indiantown, and of course it wouldn’t start. Back to the local expert who really worked it over–$170. Unfortunately, we left before trying it. When we got to Stuart, it wouldn’t start, so we had to row in from our mooring to the dinghy dock.

Virgil, the local outboard expert in Stuart, came down, took the motor back to his shop, and fixed it–$90.

It ran like a top for three weeks. But a weekend of rain in Marathon, and it wouldn’t start, and this with guests Ann and Jorma on board. So Jorma and I rowed in, with a little tow, to the Boot Key dinghy dock.

Upon recommendation, I called Eric at Dockside. He came down, tried to start it, and declared that it was dirty gas and a dirty carburetor (same diagnosis as at Indiantown and at Stuart). Took it to his shop and returned it several hours later, working. $95. He also slapped my hand and said, never never put in gas with ethanol in it. So we dumped the remaining gas and went a mile south to Budines which sold gas not polluted with ethanol. He also said I wasn’t running the engine hard enough.

So far, so good. It’s been starting and running (pretty hard) for 10 days.

Next year, we may bring down our perfect little 2.5 horsepower Suziki from the Great Lakes. In 4 years on fresh water, it has never even coughed.

Or. We may copy our neighbor here in Boot Key Harbor. They are from Michigan, too, and bought a “homemade” outboard in Kalamazoo. It has a brand new Tecumseh lawn-mower motor, mounted on top of an old Eska lower unit. Air-cooled and a bit noisy, but it always starts and runs. A five-year warranty on the motor.


2 thoughts on “The outboard

  1. Having been through the grief you have had, I can greatly appreciate the frustration of dealing with the ‘goddam’ motor. It brings back memories of past let-downs, one of which you will probably recall when we were on our ‘shakedown cruise’ a few years ago and we met at St. Helena Island just west of the bridge – and our ‘goddam’ motor refused to start.

    Those of us who have been down that road know that to keep those little buggers running they need non-ethanol gas (we always use premium), filter the gas whenever possible, run it at higher RPM whenever possible, and treat the gas with a generous amount of Gum-Out or similar carb cleaner. I even carry a can of spray carb cleaner that I can shoot into a little hole in the carb of our Honda 2 hp whenever it begins to act up. I also change the spark plug annually.

    I can just imagine seeing you and Jorma rowing your rubber ducky to shore. It must have been quite a sight! Here’s hoping the rest of your winter cruise is much more enjoyable. Reading your blog reminds us of the good life we enjoy when living on the boat. :- )

    Hope to see you back at the boat yard in a few months.



  2. I remember my early days with a “Farce” , I mean “Force” outboard on a cruise in the North Channel. I believe, and am firmly convinced, that that linfernal machine was the beginning of all the problems in my back. I love my Evinrude/Johnson. Good luck and best wishes.


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