July 3 – Not A Good Day

There was no reason to expect that Sunday was going to be a bad day. We had had a fairly cool night. It was a sunny, breezy morning. We were not going to be travelling, because we wanted to see the Saint Marys fireworks on the Fourth of July, knowing they would be visible from our anchorage at Cumberland Island. It seemed like a good day to go ashore on the island and walk around enjoying nature. First, though, I needed to change the oil in the outboard motor. I had intended to do this while Madge was in the boatyard, but we were placed very close to the boat behind us, and there wasn’t room to tilt the outboard so the old oil could drain out. When not mounted on the back of the dinghy, the outboard is attached to a mounting block on the stern rail of Madge, which is a more secure location while traveling, since we’re usually towing the dinghy behind us. In the yard, we were stern-to-stern with the boat behind us, and some equipment on the other boat hung over into the swinging space needed to tilt the outboard. Since changing the oil is not a big deal, and can be done on the water, I wasn’t concerned about not getting it done. As expected, I didn’t have any trouble changing the oil with the motor on the back rail. We then lowered the motor down onto the dinghy, loaded all of our necessary gear into the dinghy, and prepared to go ashore. The motor started on the first pull, but when I tried to turn the throttle down to idle speed, the motor stalled. This situation repeated itself several times. I could start the engine, but I couldn’t get it to stay running at idle speed. I called a friend who knows more about outboards than I do, and after we discussed the situation for awhile, he figured that the problem seemed to be with either water or foreign matter in the carbutetor. He suggested I remove and clean the carburetor, which is something I had never done with a 4-stroke engine before. So, I got on YouTube (isn’t it amazing?) and found a video of a guy removing and cleaning the carburetor of a motor like mine. It didn’t look too difficult, so I decided to give it a shot. We pulled the motor off the dinghy and put it back on the stern rail so I could work on it from the cockpit.

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I didn’t have any trouble removing or disassembling the carburetor. I was very careful taking it off the motor, because I had to lean out over the water to do so. When I opened the carburetor up, it appeared to still be very clean — the motor is not quite a year old — but I sprayed it out anyway. I didn’t have any problem putting it back together. Once again, I was very careful putting the carburetor back on the motor — but not quite careful enough. As I held the pieces of the carburetor in my left hand, and used my right hand to reattach the fuel line to the carburetor, the little insulator piece in the bottom right of the picture worked its way loose and decided to go for a swim. As I posted on Facebook, many sailor expletives ensued. I thought I was being as careful as I could be, but apparently not. I could have tied the dinghy close to the back of the boat so that if anything fell, it might fall into the dinghy instead of the water. I could have used a piece of tape to hold the insulator in place while positioning the carburetor, and then removed the tape once everything was in place. Coulda woulda. In any event, for the lack of a three dollar piece of plastic, we don’t have a functioning outboard motor. So no getting off the boat, unless I want to row. The tides around Saint Marys and Cumberland Island are in the seven to eight foot range, so the currents are severe. It’s very difficult to row against the current, so we were pretty much confined to the boat.

By the time all this had transpired, it was fairly late in the afternoon. The thunderstorms moved in and we battened down the boat. The showers lasted for less than an hour, though we had some very strong winds and some lightning not too far away from us. At least the rain helped knock the temperatures down a bit. While waiting for the last of the rains to end, I got online and ordered a replacement part. This was on Sunday, and Monday was a holiday, so the best I could hope for in getting a part was to have it ship on Tuesday for arrival on Wednesday; however, overnight shipping for the three dollar part was close to $100. I could get second day shipping for just under $30, with arrival of the part at best by Thursday. Since we were on our way north, I figured I could have the part shipped to a marina in Brunswick, and I could pick up the part there. I called a marina, and they allowed me to ship to them. I completed the order online, so my little mishap with the part cost about $30 total, for now.

After the rains moved through and the temperatures dropped, Suzy and I had wine in the cockpit, then a nice salad with grilled chicken on top for dinner. As she cleaned up the galley, I lay down on a settee in the main salon and fell fast asleep.

It had not been a very good day.