August 19, 2017
We had been told that the outboard engine for our dinghy had started making a bit of noise the last time that the previous owners had used it. Either that was a bit of an understatement, or the year out of the water had not been kind to the little Yamaha 8hp motor.
While we were on the hard, the dinghy was on a storage rack about 500 yards away. Trying to get the outboard running out of the water seemed like a major pain in the ass so we decided to wait until we got it the water to deal with the engine. With the short time we had before leaving Herringon Harbor North, at Deale, this first opportunity came once we reached Back Creek.
The first time trying to load the engine from the stern lazarette to the dinghy proved to be a rather intimidating prospect on the water. I’m sure in a few months time we’ll get pretty nonchalant about what will undoubtably become a rather mundane task; but first time attempts at a tricksy task often are a daunting experience. Up from inside the stern lazarette onto the deck, down onto the transom locker, down onto the transom platform, and across the gap into a very unstable dinghy where it then had to be lowered and secured on the dinghy’s transom provided a nightmare scenario for mishaps. Visions of dropping the engine onto the boat (or ourselves) or falling somewhere along the way, or possibly even worse, watching the engine splash into the water, all flashed before our eyes. This resulted in a rather slow and conservative approach in which we decided to use the dinghy davit to lower the engine to the dinghy with it attached to a rope the entire time until the outboard was secured to the dinghy transom. Experienced yachties would obviously say one of two things: “Paranoid newbies…” or “…how else would you do it?” We weren’t sure, but the safe approach turned out successful and uneventful.
Of course, the outboard didn’t start up. Not only that, the pull cord wouldn’t budge.
As I sat in the dinghy, contemplating the possibilities while Kris searched for an answer on Google, our neighbor on the mooring ball next to us (he had passed by yesterday with his wife in their dinghy singing some unintelligible song) came motoring up to us and said hello. Sounding obviously French, he introduced himself as Christian and asked if we needed any help. We were told that he and his wife Mary had been sailing since 1992 and he swore he’d seen Exit before on the East coast. He also indicated in a very French accent, “I was singing you a French song yesterday… you have a French boat so I thought we had French neighbors but no one joined in!” We had thought he was just a happy guy and always sang when he motored about in his dinghy.
Unfortunately, his ability to translate our French owner’s manual for the Yamaha outboard (it was the original manual from the original French owner) shed no light on the problem. Fortunately, he did have a Yamaha shop manual for all Yamaha outboard engines and that was written in English which he offered to lend us.
After a very animated conversation and some kindly offered advice, Christian headed back to his boat. Eventually, a massive lightning storm that blew in quickly forced us to give up on the Yamaha for the rest of the day. We battened down the hatches and watched wide-eyed as another storm released a torrent of rain matching a solid tropical Borneo downpour, commenting how glad we were to be tucked security on a mooring ball in a very protected area.
When we woke up this morning, the sun was back and, after about a five hour meeting on our boat with John Albertine (a retired Coast Guard captain who agreed to help us check off the insurance company requirements needed to lift our sailing restrictions), we decided to have another go at the Yamaha.
Heeding earlier advice given by Christian to prevent the inevitable misery of a part falling in the water, we had returned the outboard to the safety of Exit’s cockpit before taking any components off the engine. This sounded remarkably similar to our philosophy of moving the engine; however, Christian had also laughed, saying “Ah, but advice is meant for other people, no? I would probably not take my own advice if I were doing it!”
As we worked on the outboard in the relative safety of our cockpit repair shop, we heard another voice coming from over the side of the deck… this voice obviously American.
“Are you guys really from Pullman, Washington?”
Kris responded, “Yes we are. Do you really know where Pullman, Washington is?”
In another small world moment, we were introduced to James and Dena. James laughed in disbelief and proceeded to tell us that he and Dena were from Washington. He had lived in the Seattle area playing music in the 90’s and had a blast playing with his band in Pullman in 1992. “It was great! We were treated like rock stars there! What was the name of that bar that was underground?”
We reminded him it was called the Cavern and told him it had subsequently changed its name to Valhalla. Again, he starting laughing when I explained that I was also playing in my own band Matrix in Pullman during that exact same time frame and, we too, had played at the Cavern on numerous occasions!
We went on to learn that, at that time, Dena was in high school not far away from us in Moses Lake.
They have been cruising together for years on the West Coast, Hawaii, and the East Coast. Living aboard their 1961 Chesapeake 32 sloop S/V Nomad, they are currently based in Annapolis working (James at the famous Bacon Sails and Dena ran the marina right next to us) but plan on heading south in November as their season of work ends here.
On their boat, they live essentially completely off the grid, utilizing almost only solar and wind generated power and had been “living the life” sailing for around two decades.
When I explained the dilemma we were having with our outboard, again James laughed, held up his oars, and proudly stated, “The one thing on a boat that doesn’t break!”
He found it even funnier when we replied, “Actually, we have oars but one of them is broken as well!!!”
We found their story both intriguing and inspiring, as it seemed they likewise found our story just as entertaining. Mutual invitations were exchanged to come aboard anytime, James and Dena said goodbye and rowed away, and we found ourselves once again alone with our broken Yamaha. A bit more troubleshooting lead to the conclusion that the Yamaha’s pistons must be seized up, leaving us at the end of another day with a non-functional outboard. Yet another day’s project.
The silver lining came in two realizations… number one: it appears the name on our transom may lead to many memorable exchanges; and number two: the people you meet while tied to a mooring ball seem to be quite a different lot than most of those you meet at the marina! We definitely like the mooring ball population. We can only imagine that this will be just as true once we start meeting people at anchor!