Mel's Note Card Holder  
Tom and Mel... achievable cruising under sail and power.


Outboard Survival
by Tom Neale

     Here are a few tips about survival with outboards—or maybe I should say “survival of outboards,” since most of us spend so much time wishing we could throw them overboard.

1. Most outboards have water pumps within the lower unit. They have rubber impellors. These always fail eventually. They fail more quickly if you run in a lot of silt or if you run without a full supply of water to the pump. It isn’t unusual for them to fail without giving you much warning. Any diminution of the water stream may be a clue. These can be very difficult to replace. On many motors you must separate one section of the lower unit from another to get access. If you loosen the wrong bolt or drop the shaft too far, you may disengage the drive shaft and/or gear shift mechanism. Putting it all back together can be very difficult. Learn how to change out the impellor and fittings on your motor. Carry a spare pump assembly in your spare parts kit, and be prepared to replace it (You’ll probably have to have the stern up to a beach to do it.) But don’t wait until your impellor goes bad. This is a job that is usually worth having done by a qualified repair person as regular preventative maintenance.

2. Outboard motor oil is expensive enough in the states, but sometimes two to four times more expensive in the islands. We buy it in bulk, carrying it in a 5 gallon container on deck. We fill the small quart oil cans (with the clear white strip and ounce markings) from this, so that we can carry them with us in the dinghy.

3. It really pays to filter your gasoline fuel with a high quality sediment/water separator filter. We use the Racor S 2502 and replace the elements frequently. In areas of questionable fuel, we filter the fuel as we load it into the tanks with a Racor funnel filter.

4. Regularly drain the fuel from the bottom of the carburetor bowl(s). If the drain screws are of a different metal from the bowl (and they probably are), beware that electrolysis may deteriorate the screw or the threads around the screw, even though you have only a small amount of water in the bottom of the bowl. Do not buy an outboard without easy carburetor bowl drainage.

5. If you use external outboard tanks (usually they are six gallon capacity), you can count on water from rain and spray eventually finding its way in through the caps, vent, and/or hose fittings. Periodically check the bottom of the tank when it’s empty. If there’s water (it’ll look like grey sludge), turn the tank upside down and drain into a container. There will still be a little that won’t come out. Sop it out with rags or paper towels. Dispose of it legally and carefully. There will be explosive fumes.


Previous Tips from Tom