Into Every Ocean a Little Outboard Must Fall…..

I have the best partner in the world but that doesn’t mean mistakes can’t happen…..even regularly scheduled ones. ‘Cause they do.

When we lived in the city, I would stop every month to pick up a box of a dozen crystal wine glasses to supplement the always diminishing inventory in our cupboard. Living with Sal is a delight, a lot of fun…not unlike a Greek wedding, if you get my drift. Every day and evening, something crashed. She just drops things.

The other day we were hauling her admittedly heavy (100 pounds) Suzuki outboard up on the highline (like a kid’s zipline). It needed some servicing and it hadn’t been running for some time. She maneuvered her little boat into place, unbolted the motor and she sat down beside it. It just sat there safely on the transom awaiting me to lower the pulling line that rode on the fixed highline. Attached to the pulling line was the chainhoist. One would simply attach the hoist, haul the motor up off the back of the boat and I would take care of the rest. But before the pull line had finished lowering the hoist and with my back turned, I heard a splash and then more than just a few expletives. I turned to see the outboard lying on the bottom of the sea (shallow – about three or four feet under the boat).

Sal first looked around for help but there wasn’t any. I was 150 feet up the steep hill operating the winch. She cursed some more and then jumped in. Chest high. But then she bent at the waist so that she then had her face just breaking the surface of the water. With a Herculean grunt, she grabbed the outboard and lifted it on to a shallow rock. It was still wet but some of it was out. She grabbed the end of the chainhoist, connected it to the motor and hauled it up in the air. I winched it up. The motor, on the verge of being ruined, drained spitting and leaking as it came up the hill. Sal followed spitting, leaking and ruining the English language.

When the two of them were at the top, there stood Sal clad in shades of black and grey and soaking wet beside her similar hued black and grey outboard both showing the effects of an extremely recent complete immersion. Two drowned rats.

I got the motor over to the shop while Sal squidged and slopped her spongy self to the house to change. Then we did what we could to save the motor – drained all the water out. Dried everything off. Drained, flushed and changed the contaminated oil from the sump, dried the electrics (hair dryer) and drained the carb. Then I had to remove the starter motor but, of course, nothing is that simple. First you remove the top flywheel/pull-start assembly so that starter motor bolts are accessible and, of course, you have to first remove the carb, too….same reason.

Within a few hours, we had the motor dry, fluids changed and the big stuff largely disassembled. The cylinders had also been oiled (with some varsol first, new oil after) and the plugs removed so that the pistons could be pulled up and down to spit out what they might have drunk. By then it was dark.

A new motor is $4000 to $5,000. This could be a total loss. No matter what I did, I could not get electricity into the motor. Strong battery, cleaned, dried and well attached wires directly from the battery to the starter and it clicked over – a good sign for the starter (one of the more vulnerable parts) but, as soon as the starter was mounted onto the motor, nothing. It was as if the juice just disappeared. There may be a black box somewhere. I am gonna be on YouTube for a while.

“What happened down there?”

“Nothing! I swear. It just fell in. I did nothing. Honest.”

“So, you are saying that a 100 plus pound motor sitting on the transom and hooked on by it’s motor clamp just upped itself four inches and jumped in?”

“Well, I don’t know. But it must have. I just know I didn’t drop it.”

“Inanimate objects are not, generally speaking, suicidal. Right? And you do know how gravity works, right? I am pretty sure you know all-too-well how denial works. Now you just may have to learn how rowing works.”

“I hate you.”

PS. This is not an unusual dialogue for us. We’ve been together for over 50 years. We have gone through thousands of crystal glasses, and maybe millions of assorted other ‘fragiles’ no longer with us. This is simply the price paid for living with an angel suffering from Tourettes and Carpal Tunnel. I am a saint!

15 thoughts on “Into Every Ocean a Little Outboard Must Fall…..

  1. Maybe there was a swell which lifted the engine of the transom? Not defending Sal, just looking at this from every different angel. I hope you can get the engine running again!


    • I love that comment!! It’s hysterical! Good ol’ Sal, mythologized, admired and loved in over three thousand blogs and three books, gets defended by Wim on the one, mild, almost benign blog where she was cast as a mere mortal. Still described heroic (jumping in) but flawed in an amusing and as-usual a new way (she is creative in this flaw, too), she is innocent of all charges. It is amazing. Sometimes when we argue over something she says, “No one on the planet will believe you on this. You know it. I know it. No one believes you on anything unless I confirm it, anyway. But they’ll believe me. You may as well give up now.” And I usually DO!!! BECAUSE ON THAT, SHE IS RIGHT. Who would believe Capt. Hook over Tinkerbell? It’s like a super power!


    • No. When things go awry like that, Sal’s eyes get a bit larger, her bottom lip pouts a little and she gets a lot more quiet and helpful. The best part? NO suggestions or advice is offered – work commences quickly. Stuff gets done. No squirrels are watched. Sal is pretty great in oh-so-many ways but complicated mechanical repairs is not yet one of them (I am working on that so that I can die and not worry about her boat engines). But this may be too much for me, too. Electrics are voodoo to me. I am licking frogs and throwing chicken bones but so far, nothing is working.


  2. My comment a minute ago was not intended to be anonymous, just checking to see if WordPress would allow me without signing in. . And by the way, Sal was good to you, even answered your email, when you suffering gall bladder attack. . Steve 135-2960 Tranquille Rd. Kamloops, BC, Canada, V2B 8B6 778 220 6324



      • I doubt that statement very much, T. I am sure you know stuff. Lots of stuff. Roos and didgeridoos at the very least. But boats and outboards are becoming more and more a subset of modern life and even a specialty of sorts. Technical expertise is needed just to understand what you are looking at when diagnosing a recalcitrant outboard. Mind you, gravity should be understood by just about everyone….so there is that….


  3. Classic.
    Same thing happened to us years ago.
    Launched the boat, motor was up, unlocked, sitting on the Transom… then it committed hari kari…. i think it was the bobbing of the boat.
    I went scuba diving for it after I rented gear etc.
    It was in 20 feet of water for a week…Half buried in muck.
    We got it out and delivered it to the local shop.
    They got it running after about a week.

    Wasnt cheap.

    Lesson learned.


    • Well, this is her second lesson of a similar situation…..but it is not fair to bring up the past (except for the crystal glasses were such a phenomena people would visit and pause by the kitchen cupboards to count the remaining ones). We once had a dinner guest who brought a box of glasses as a hostess gift.


  4. This reminds me of a very good friend, with whom I have lost contact unfortunately. He took his wife out rowing one day on a calm lake. She insisted that she have a turn at the oars. After going around in circles a bit, a divorce was nearly missed, when he asked her to row intelligently!
    They did live a long and happy marriage, even after that. It takes those challenges of life to spice things up…


    • The spice is good. Spice is fun. Drowned boat motors, tho, are not spice. They are just money-thrown-overboard. And, anyway, we already have a long and happy marriage (well, happy for me. The jury is still out for Sal). I would commit to another 50 years with Sal in a heartbeat but I confess, I would plan for much more equipment (and glassware) failure the next time. Sal said, “Well, I would commit to one day-at-a-time and not a full day…..”


  5. If I was not that far away, I could help out with the electrics. And to be honest, you created the myth “Sal” all by yourself in your 3000 blogs.


    • That is true. Mostly. Not all. A lot of the myth is the TRUTH for her. NOT myth at all. And she deserves some loving mythologizing. She really is great. And has been for 50 years (while hampered by me, no less). But none of the previous loving and admiring stories would have been made better by describing any accompanying human frailties, flaws or habits. No one wants to hear Tinkerbell is still, basically, only human. So, I plead guilty of polishing the image and lifting the pedestal (a little bit) but my defense is that she truly is great…..’cept for the crystal……and now….damn outboards……


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.