How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One bite at a time.

That’s what I would tell my students when I taught a Project Management course, about how to handle a big or complex task. You break it down into smaller pieces and tackle them one at a time. Eventually, you’ve eaten the whole elephant.

I’m going after my to-do list with Madge the same way. First, I have to be able to reliably get back and forth from the dock to the boat. That means the outboard for the dinghy is my most pressing concern. The refrigerator is the next priority. It doesn’t make any sense to take an extended trip if you can’t keep at least some of your provisions cold. Did I mention that the new tachometer is acting up? I’m hoping it’s just a loose wire, but I’ll need to figure out what’s causing it to cut out every now and then, and get that fixed. The speed log is a lower priority, though it needs fixing, too. I’m hoping the paddle wheel just needs a good cleaning. Then, there’s reinforcing the hoist for the dinghy motor, for when we have to raise it up to the block on the rail for long trips, and figuring out a rig for lifting the entire dinghy/motor assembly nightly to get it out of the water – for both security and to keep the nasties from growing on the bottom of the dink.

I spent an hour and a half yanking on the starter rope for the outboard Sunday morning before giving up and rowing the dinghy out to Madge, which was only possible because the current was moving in the direction from the dock to the boat. Fortunately, a helpful neighbor in the anchorage gave us a tow back to the dock as I rowed back in from the boat (after about a half-hour of yanking on the starter rope). I was rowing like crazy and hardly making any headway at all, this time against the current, when our Good Samaritan showed up. (Thanks, Kevin. I owe you one.) I spent Sunday afternoon and evening online reading every cruising forum discussion of Tohatsu  outboard problems, and pouring over the Service Manual. The take-away was that these motors sometimes have a hair-trigger deadman switch, and that they also require a kid-gloves break-in period. So, Monday morning I headed down to the dock and scrupulously followed the starting procedure specified in the manual, as well as pulling out hard on the deadman button and making sure the stop key was fully wedged under it. The motor started after four or five pulls. I let it warm up at idle for about five minutes, then let it run for a long time at the dock at slightly more than idle speed, before finally shutting it off. I let it sit for about three hours. I was careful to make sure the deadman switch was blocked open, and the motor started on the first pull. I let it run for a while at just over idle speed again. Tuesday morning, the motor started on the first pull. It seems the trick to starting the motor and having it stay running is to make sure the deadman switch isn’t killing off the starter, and then to let the motor warm up at idle for at least three minutes before putting the motor in gear. And it only took me three days to figure that out.

I’ve swallowed the first bite of my elephant. My shoulders should recover from all that yanking and rowing in about a week.