Thursday, January 31, 2013
Zen and the Art of Outboard Resuscitation: The Chronicles of Peeber, Part 2
My first boat was a 1980something Sears Gamefisher 14' V hull tin can with a matching 15 horse outboard. I bought it for 800 bucks on a trailer and I still got screwed. I didn't really know anything about boats when I got that Gamefisher, but I knew I wanted(needed) a boat. We were living in Charlotte. I had quit the band. Major renovations were complete(bullshit) on the house, and the job was stable and steady. I was bored to death and just about a year into fly fishing, so I was full throttle excited about catching 10" stocker trout....and genuinely believed it couldn't be any better. I used to be intimidated by fly shops back then(it wasn't that long ago, and they weren't even real fly shops), so I would walk in, grab a rod or two and wiggle them to death with a 100% serious scrutinizing squinty eye. I didn't tie yet but I was interested, so I would check out the materials from the far corners of my non squinty eye and hope that no one noticed.....I wasn't ready to even have a conversation about it. Far too intimidating, it was. So, I'd wiggle rods and look at stuff that I pretended not to look at, do my best not to talk to anyone, and I'd walk out with 40 dollars in magazine's tucked under my arm. In one of those stacks I must have read an article about fly fishing for bass on lakes because I had a major revelation, and began my fly fishing world anew. The frantic search for watercraft followed immediately. I was distracted at work. I was distant at home. My brain was swollen with nonstop banter ping-ponging, rattling, smashing and bashing, whizzing around at ludicrous speed....canoe? That's a lot of paddling, but there's no motor or gas. But what if I want to take someone with me, or get one of those cool dogs like in the fly fishing mags? And there's the paddling. So, it's a jon boat. Flat bottom? V hull? But jon boats cost more...and the trailer...and the motor...and the gas. So, it's a kayak. On, and on, and on....for weeks, or maybe days(possibly hours) until...I picked one. I ultimately knew nothing about fishing boats, or the water I would be fishing, or anything useful at all to help me make an informed decision. I knew I wanted a boat so I got a boat. It sucked. Everything about it sucked. The v hull made it waaaaay too tippy. That motor was a 1.5 horse with a 15 sticker factory applied. Soooo damn slow. It never planed once. It would feel like it was going to, but then I'd either run out of lake or run out of gas. It was a pull start, but at some point, for some reason, the starter had been removed. So, you had to pull off the cowl, wrap a rope on the flywheel and give her a spin. It wasn't that big of a deal, and I didn't know any better. There are also NO starter assemblies available for a 1980something Sears Gamefisher 15hp POS. Anywhere. In the world. It took me a month and a half to actually get that motor running before I could get the boat on the water. The guy cranked it up(dry) in the driveway(front yard) before I handed over my 8 bills. Ok!! I'll take it. It was fucked. And so was I. Totally clueless. But I fixed that damn motor. I rebuilt the carb. I replaced the impeller and changed the oil in the lower unit. Changed the plugs. Still nothing. Fuel pump. Gaskets. Fuel lines. More gaskets. More gaskets. I'd order a part, wait a week for it to show up, and realize that wasn't the problem(or all of it anyway). That is not the most efficient way to perform simple maintenance and repairs on a 20 year old outboard motor that was originally sold in a place where they also sell loads and loads and loads of women's pants. I didn't know any of that. I just knew that I had 800 bucks sitting in my driveway(front yard) and I wanted to go catch a feature articles worth of trophy largemouth on a 8' 4 weight with 5 times tippet and a #12 wooly booger. I learned a lot in that boat. A lot about boats and motors. A lot about fly fishing. A lot about fish. I learned how to pole a boat in that boat. I learned how to cast farther than twenty feet. I learned how to cast twenty feet accurately. I learned that aluminum boats are loud and spook spooky fish. I learned that I was able to peer into the previously unfathomable world of simple(incredibly simple) 2 stroke combustion engine repair, and solve problems with intuition and common sense(trial and error). That boat was an education in what it sometimes means to be a man, and it boosted my confidence to unreasonable levels. Karmically, I must have needed an ego check. I needed to be reminded that although I was able to get one small, simple outboard motor running predictably and reliably(mmmmm..mostly), that I was not ready to go to work as a custom motorcycle builder....or even a neighborhood lawn mower repairman for that matter. I had/have inadequate tools. I'm a total slob. I can tend to be a gorilla, and I am severely patience challenged. It's a thing. It was determined that the boat/motor partnership would be broken up. The little 1.5 horse was being replaced by bigger and sexier horses. When I found the replacement, I was so confident in my outboard mechanic's skills that I didn't even crank it up. I could tell just by looking that this was fine vintage. Well maintained. It's gonna start right up. And it did. Just like the Sears 1.5 did the first time. And that was it. It didn't turn over again for six years. I was doing some 'tuning' when the idle speed adjustment screw broke off in my gorilla hand. My karma broke it. I needed to be humbled. I looked for a replacement for a while. Never found one and finally gave in and sent it to the neighborhood 2 stroke repairman. He was checking the compression and the starter rope went limp. That was the end of his diagnostic testing and his professional opinion was that it was a worthless piece of shit. Humbled, emasculated, deflated, I cleared a spot for it in the back corner of the shed. It haunted me and taunted me. I tried to forget it and covered it in other failed projects. I was offered a fifth of what I paid for it one time(Guess who that was). No dice. I knew I wasn't beat yet. She was just waiting for the right boat. Karma wins again.