I have a sailboat and on the back of it is, I mean, was, a 9.9 Yamaha outboard motor.  It appeared to be more than my boat needed but the original owner was at Lake Texoma and to me, compared to the lakes around Dallas, that is an Ocean!  I bought the boat with the Yamaha motor on it….it probably was worth more than my boat.  It weighs almost 100 pounds.  It requires maintenance from time to time.  And, when you don’t go out very often, you have to be careful about water or whatever getting into your gas tank (or snakes in your cockpit, which happened!).  You also have to worry about water circulating through your propeller into the engine to keep the engine cooled (I didn’t know that).

Several months ago, the motor was stalling and I went to the marine shop (they had tuned the engine three months before) and they said that I had not used the motor enough and should let it “blow out” for about 30 minutes….that varnish from the gas clogs up the carburetor.   So, I went back and tried to “blow it out.”  After a few minutes, it started smoking, shaking and died.  It would not start again.

I went back the following weekend and it still wouldn’t start.  Now, I’m irritated at the marina and I go to a marine retail outlet and ask them if they know anyone who can work on motors.  Ah, there is a new kid who just started his own shop, he’s good and cheap.  I got his address and after about 15 voice mails (that should have been a tell-tell), he called me back.  He said it would be a lot cheaper and easier if I would bring him the motor.  So, I went to my boat, and (by myself) lifted the motor out of the boat and almost dropped it into the lake…almost a 100 pounds, remember?  I somehow carried it up the dock and then up the pier and loaded it into my trunk.  I took it to the “kid.”  I then would call periodically and only get voice mail….and, then the call came:  the motor is burned up….water was not circulating from the propeller to the motor….would be better to just buy a new motor (that’s almost $3,000!).  No way!

I went into hibernation….and, then I finally went back to pick up my motor and it was in three pieces and had been raised with a fork truck into his attic.  He no longer had the fork truck.  So, each piece of my motor was lowered with a rope.  We put the pieces into my trunk and I asked if I could pay something for the trouble….he said sure, how about $75. 

I drove around and found another marine shop, went in and they said, “oh, no, we don’t work on foreign engines but the guy across the street does.”  I went over there and sitting in a cage, smoking a cigarette was a canterkerous, older man.  I told him my story (or is it stories) and he started laughing.   He started ranting about “sailors.”  You all are alike.  You go out and buy expensive motors and boats and you take them out, what?  four or five times a year?  And you let the gas get old and it breaks down and corrodes your engine…and you don’t change the oil…and you don’t change the filter in the propeller so that the water won’t clog and burn out your engine.  I protested and said that I always put STP in my gas and he started lauging again.   He said STP only helps if the gas is less than 60 days old.  He said I should keep about one to two gallons of gas in the gas tank (I always keep about five gallons) and then I should replenish it every 30 days (I didn’t know that).  He also said that even if I wasn’t going to sail very often, I should go out every week and simply run the engine (I didn’t know that).   And, during the winter, the motor should be drained and stored…..(what a pain!).  But he thanked me for coming by and said if it wasn’t for “sailors,” he wouldn’t survive (financially).  He laughed about all the sailboats at the lake that never went out and how many came to him and didn’t understand why “their motor burned up.”   

He now has my motor and (right now) thinks he can repair if for $350….we’ll see.  But, it’s been two weeks and all I’m getting is voice mail.  I wonder if he is still sitting there in that cage, smoking a cigarette and laughing.

As I thought about the cantankerous, older man, I started laughing.  How many times have I wanted to counsel someone, not in regards to a sailboat motor, but on how to do the the 10% to 20% of their business that they don’t know to do………