“You don’t know what you can do until you’ve done it, right?”

I recently had a virtual catch up with a dear friend of mine and she wrote that sentence in her letter. It jumped off the page at me.

She and her husband are working through the same problem that we are; trying to find a balance between the sailing life and working to fund that life. Except they have a kid, which I can only imagine adds so many more complications to things. She commented I was brave to be staying on the boat in the water, alone. She has a toddler and has spent several months as a “temporary single Mom” since he was born when her man is away working. I think she has beat in the bravery department hands down.

But I do believe in what she said; in life you need to constantly push and test yourself. These tests don’t have to be monumental, scary or record breaking, just doing something beyond your comfort zone is enough. You’re capable of more than you think. Way more.

I know, I have been testing the theory recently.

Back in New Caledonia our outboard died. Steve deduced that the magic black box, the electronic brain for the engine, failed. There was nothing to do but order a new one. The most reasonable price was in Canada, so it was clear that we’d be rowing for a while.

With Steve’s departure drawing close we knew I would be on my own without a working outboard for a couple weeks. There was a second hand outboard for sale, but it was a little too expensive and a little too dodgy to just be a fill in. I was cool with rowing, figured it might tone up the bingo wings a bit. Steve assured me that when the new black box came it was just a plug and play part and I would soon be making the trek across the harbour to town in the dinghy rather than flagging down a minibus.

The black box arrived early last week.

I should say it arrived on the 11th and it sat at the courier for a week, no one bothering to notify me, and I only found out where it was because I made a random phone call having expended all my “island time” patience. Anyway, it turns out Steve was right, it was a simple install. Wires were colour coded and fitted with coinciding male/female ends. With the new brains in place I patted myself on the back and pulled the start cord. It sounded like it was going to spring to life.

Plug and Play with the Little Black Box
Plug and Play with the Little Black Box

Except it wouldn’t.

No matter how much I pulled or checked the fuel or adjusted the choke.

I’d paid enough attention over the years, and during the repairs of our long defunct Johnson, that I thought perhaps it was a spark plug problem. After consulting with Steve we decided it would be an easy way to eliminate one more possible variable. But the weather and the plague would see another week float by before I could make it ashore to track one down. Alas, with a new plug installed it still coughed and sputtered but didn’t spark to life. It really sounded like it wanted to though, so I knew I was on the right track.

Since it was getting fuel from the tank the next logical conclusion was that the carburetor was gummed up. It had now been a couple months since it had been sitting on the rail and gasoline deteriorates. Over time the microscopic particles will separate and wreak havoc in the teeny tiny jets of the fuel injection system. We’ve had this happen before and I knew that to clean the jets required removing and dismantling the carburetor. I wasn’t sure I was up for the job, but I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. I consulted with Steve and he was so confident in me that he me made me a diagram and sent encouragement.

Personalized Instructions
Personalized Instructions

So the other day, bundled up against the wind and with an annoyingly runny nose, I carefully followed the instructions and made my first foray into serious outboard repair. It was, much to my surprise, an easy operation. Before I knew it I had the unit off, apart, cleaned and was stinking like gasoline as I tightened the last screw to remount it. Nothing lost over board, no new “spare parts” lying on the bench.

Much to my delight the engine roared to life on the first pull

…then seconds later it sputtered and died. I have exhausted my outboard know-how and Steve has gone beyond his abilities to diagnose the problem via email. We are at a bit of standstill. But I am not conceding just yet. I reckon a can of “Start ya Bastard!” might do the trick (this is a real product also known as Jump Start or Engine Start, but I like their marketing better). I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime I am perfecting my rowing against 20kt head winds and I do a little victory dance on the days that I arrive home with jerry cans full of water and bags of groceries and still have dry clothes.

As the old saying goes; “Do or do not. There is no try.”



My nemesis on the rail with the beach I row ashore to in the distance.
My nemesis on the rail with the beach I row ashore to in the distance.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. peterjansen says:

    I have not seen such deli(kate)mechanic- al fingers before

  2. peterjansen says:

    I have not seen such deli(kate)mechanic- al fingers before

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