A FRIEND RECENTLY WROTE: “I saw your piece about how good sailors always look ahead, and live in the future, not in the moment. Well, I have to tell you that when I look ahead I see myself one day dropping the outboard in the drink when I’m transferring it from the rubber dink to the transom rail. What should I do then?”
Well, matey, if you paid proper attention you’d know that I explain all this in my book about sailors’ rules of thumb, the Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge. So here it is again, for your benefit, and read it carefully because I’m not going to repeat it:
The rule of thumb for outboards dropped in seawater is to render first aid immediately, because corrosion sets in within three hours.
If you fear that sand may have been drawn into the cylinder, or if you can hear grating and grinding when you turn the flywheel, you must either disassemble the engine or call for expert help after thoroughly hosing everything down with fresh water.
Otherwise, proceed as follows:
1. Rinse all salt water away with fresh water. Do not be scared to douse everything, including the electrics.
2. Remove and dry the spark plugs.
3. Remove, clean, and dry the carburetor.
4. With the spark plug holes facing downward to drain, turn the engine over several times.
5. Squirt light oil into the cylinders.
6. Replace the carburetor and plugs.
7. Start the engine.
If it doesn’t start straight away, remove the plugs, dry remaining moisture, and try again. Inspect the carburetor once more for water. Keep trying to start it. Be persistent.
When it runs, let it get good and warm to dry out — and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
If the beast simply refuses to start, try to keep it submerged in fresh water until you can find more skilled help.
Water is the driving force of all nature.
— Leonardo da Vinci
“What caused the fire on Fred’s yacht?”
“The investigator said it was spontaneous combustion — a $20,000 policy on a $10,000 boat.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)