September 6, 2017
Lurking in the darkness of the starboard lazarette, that damn Yamaha outboard engine has become somewhat of a nemesis. Semi-affectionately known as the Yama-mama, it was stowed away there before we set out for Norfolk and hasn’t been out since.
Prior to purchasing Exit, the previous owners had indicated that the outboard motor probably needed to be serviced. Our understanding was that it had began making a bit of noise the last time they used it. But not being able to even budge the starter rope proved to be the more immediately problematic issue. Removing the spark plugs (to eliminate the resistance of any compression) yielded the same result… no movement at all. Some disassembly verified that both the rotary mechanism as well as the neutral safety switch were not to blame.
This left the less-than-ideal likelihood that the pistons had actually seized up in the cylinders. A few inquiries with far more experienced and knowledgable individuals led to the conclusion that this was a job for PB Blaster (a product I’d never heard of before but learned that #1 – is even more effective than WD-40 and #2 – costs less than half as much at Home Depot as it does at West Marine). After a number of consecutive days of squirting shots of PB Blaster into the cylinders and then trying to pull the starting cord a day later to no avail, I temporarily had acquiesced defeat, and spitefully put the Yama-mama away out of immediate sight and mind.
That left human propulsion for the dinghy. Now, I certainly don’t consider myself above the physical labor of rowing; however, I’m not so keen on the humiliation (not to mention the inefficiency) of traveling in circles, loops, and meandering lines as one tries to grasp the subtleties of actually doing it effectively!
With time, the comical visual appearance of a hopelessly confused and drunken sailor had begun to fade from my rowing technique and I was able to actually get from Point A to Point B in a fairly coherent, if not capable, manner. Yet still, the obvious advantages of making peace with the Yama-mama had not escaped me.
After weeks of marinating in whatever magical juices make up the ingredients of PB Blaster, the outboard was released from solitary for one more attempt at rehabilitation. Just for good measure, another shot of PB into the cylinders, and then out with the breaker bar. The theory was that maybe the pull starter simply didn’t have the torque to break free seized pistons. But a socket on the end of the crankshaft nut with a good amount leverage might do the trick…and Holy Shit…the crank shaft moved just a bit!!!
Another ten or so crankshaft revolutions with some shots of fogging oil in the cylinders and, boom! The pistons moved perfectly…. a victory!
After verifying the fuel in the tank was clean, it was decided, what the Hell… might as well try to fire it up. A couple of shots of starting fluid (I’m a big proponent of cans that squirt stuff that somehow makes problems go away…)…key in… couple of squeezes on the fuel bulb… choke out… and a pull on the starter cord… nothing. But it sure felt smooth! Another pull and… yes! Houston, we have ignition! And immediately… oh no… Houston, we have a problem…she sprang to life and then died! Elation and then the crash… but it did run momentarily… there is hope!