Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A Fool and his Outboard Motor and other Stories

Our anchorage in Le Marin was a bit of a row from the shore so we decided to try and get my old 2nd hand two stroke Yamaha outboard motor going. So we unearthed it from the bottom of the cock pit locker where I had lived since Tony and I last used it May 2015 to tow Arctic Smoke into Caletta on Madeira after the exhaust system expired. Mick undertook the basic pre-run checks and we installed it in the dinghy on the outboard bracket and tried to to start it. Nothing happened. The motor was completely seized – it was not possible to turn it an inch. Back on the boat we considered the options. It really needed stripping down to remove the rust that was no doubt responsible for seizing the piston in the bore and perhaps the crank in the crankcase but we really needed workshop facilities for that. It might be possible to do it in the cockpit but it would be a messy job with engine bits scattered everywhere and the likelihood is we would need replacement gaskets and other bits that we did not have and the prospect of getting those quickly for such an old engine were pretty remote. So we decided to go for lazy option of pouring WD40 into the cylinder head through the spark plug aperture and then try and free it up by manually turning the engine. We tried that over the next 24 hours but whilst it did become possible to turn the engine over it was nowhere near free enough to run.

We pronounced the Yamaha deceased and went in search of a replacement. I had heard there was a second hand chandlers ashore and therefore we tried there. Sure enough they had a second hand 2 HP Suzuki in perfect running order we were assured, for 350 Euro. We reserved it and went back the next day to collect it with the dinghy leaving the old Yamaha outside the shop for “safe-keeping”! On speaking to the member of staff on duty then, it turned out that the Suzuki was not in perfect order, indeed it was stuck in gear and the fuel tap was in bits. I therefore decided against it and we went looking for an alternative elsewhere.

Round the corner was a marine shop that sold Outboards. They had a four-stroke air cooled 2.3 HP Honda for 1200 Euro. We bought it (Mick kindly contributed 200 Eur towards the cost which was most generous). 



Back at the dinghy I topped up the fuel tank with the fuel I had brought from the boat and motored over to the nearby fuel/water station to pick up Mick and replenish our water containers. The lady in the shop warned us that the motor might smoke a bit whilst running in. On the way back to the boat it appeared to be doing just that in generous amounts. We were also a bit puzzled by the fact that we had to leave the choke on all the time otherwise the engine would stop.

The next morning after breakfast we got in the dinghy to go ashore to shop. The engine refused to start. It was Saturday early afternoon by this time and after ringing the shop we concluded they were now shut and would not be open until Monday. I was rather fed up. Almost the only new bit of kit I had bought for the boat had packed up on the second day! I needed a lie down to recover. Whilst doing so it occurred to me that the engine had been fine on the short run from one dock to the other and that it was only on the way back to the boat that it started smoking. Could there be something amiss with the fuel I had added? I had topped up the petrol container in Pacito Blanco, perhaps it was not unleaded! Unlikely we agreed. Perhaps in 2015 I had mixed a two stroke mixture in the container. More likely and possibly the cause of the problem but it would be pretty dilute after topping up the container. Still it was worth exploring. So I went to the locker with the fuel cans and pulled out the one GREEN container that I had, which along with a black one contained spare diesel for the boat engine. At that this point I started to feel a little unwell. This was the very same container I had taken in the dinghy to fill up our new outboard. The RED container that I had filled up with Petrol in Pacito Blanco was buried further back in the locker!

I had filled up my new outboard with Diesel! Only the fact that the shop was closed had prevented a very embarrassing diplomatic incident from occurring. So we drained the tank, flushed it out and the carburettor too and the engine started. Relief all round and perhaps the Outboard shop wasn't run by “a load of French scoundrels” after all! I also have to confess to previous convictions for similar offences – three in fact. That's three times I have filled up the family diesel car with petrol. My youngest took great delight in reminding me about that. After everything was sorted out we happily motored ashore and did our shopping.

The next day, Sunday 8th January we motored down the bay to St Anne to meet up with Chris on J&B. Chris had kindly offered to stitch up some canvass for me to make sun covers out of so the next morning I measured up and took the canvas over to his boat. He was out but had mentioned that I could repay him by cleaning the bottom of the boat which I spend the next few hours doing. On his return we cut and pinned the canvas and later that day he stitched it up using his sewing machine.

On Tuesday we took the dinghy back into Marin past the local Club Med....




 to meet up with Richard a fellow Cruising Club member on his motor yacht Dauntless. 




Richard is a New Yorker who had spent a couple of years cruising Europe and was now en route to Panama, his ultimate destination being Korea. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon looking around Dauntless – so much space - and then had lunch with Richard and his Nephew from Hawaii, Mike, at a local restaurant before motoring back to the boat in St Anne where we arrived after dark at about 1900.

Wednesday was supposed to be a beach day but on Tuesday night Mick put his foot through one of the inspection hatches in the cabin sole (the wooden support for the hatch had split) and so after I had scraped the bottom of the boat before breakfast, we spent the rest of the morning fixing that. Then we decided we might as well re-wire the faulty stern light circuit. Mick had earlier diagnosed that that circuit which was part of the navigation lights circuit was producing a small current (presumably as a result of sea water ingress) and that that was the cause of the mysterious flashing of the bow navigation light we observed during the latter stages of our crossing even when it was switched off!


Tomorrow we are due to start our journey north. We will probably not go far, just a few miles around the coast to Grand Anse which is supposed to be very pretty. We'll have to do a little shopping first and will probably leave around midday. Chris came over for dinner and we spent a very enjoyable and possibly our last night with him. If he goes to Panama in a few weeks which he might, we'll not see him again until I manage to get to New Zealand!