BONEHEAD BLUNDER: Giving or receiving. Or both.
THE BONEHEAD: A rag-bagger
BONEHEAD RATING: 10 isn’t close
WHAT HAPPENED: For about a month, a sailor had been calling at least weekly about a sailboat he’s going to buy. The boat had a Honda 9.9 with manual start. His diminutive First Mate couldn’t pull the rope “with alacrity,” so he and I tried unsuccessfully to find a starter kit on eBay or Craigslist.
Finally, he gave up and we examined other options. He had an older 9.9 Evinrude that the electric starter didn’t work on, and he thought he might as well get that taken care of and just sell the Honda. I raced home from church to meet him at our house. Fortunately, he called to make sure he had our address correct. Not really. I’m not certain what town, state or country he was headed to, but I got him turned around. He said they’d be here in 30 minutes. Two hours later we had eaten lunch and I had gotten the trash ready to be picked up before they finally rolled in. The gentleman opened the car’s tailgate to show a very sad, woebegone 1989 Johnson 9.9, 25-inch shaft. Far as I could tell, the lower unit had never been off. The transom clamps had rusted-off discs. The plastic handles were broken at the ends. The electric starter button, where the cables attach, had been chopped. Not off, just chopped. The rear cover clamp was missing, but a fresh piece of 3/16-inch line secured it, somewhat. You just didn’t want to lift the engine by the cover, if you get my drift. I asked how long it had been since the engine ran.
“Well, seven or eight years ago someone tried to steal the engine from my boat,” he said, pointing at the plastic tips of the clamp handles and the chopped starter switch, “and I took it somewhere to get it fixed, but that was when ethanol gas came out. The guy was too busy with carburetors to deal with the engine, so we picked it up a few months later. Yeah, I’d say last time it ran was about eight years ago.”
I explained I’d treat it as though it were my money going into it and let him know ASAP a rough estimate. I took it back to my work shed, put it on a cart, huffed and puffed for a few minutes, and removed the cover. I reinstalled the cover, called the gentleman, whose phone flipped to voicemail. The message I left went something like this: “I started on your engine this afternoon by removing the engine cover. I think I’ve found the reason the electric starter doesn’t work. There is no electric starter, shift-lockout switch, regulator/rectifier, wiring harness or anything that makes this an electric start engine. As a matter of fact, somebody has installed a powerhead approximately 15 years older than the rest of the engine. So, if you don’t mind, can you come collect this pile of scrap?”
He hasn’t returned any of my calls.
LESSON LEARNED: I would hope he’s the Bonehead, and next time I will look to see that what he givethed, he gotteth back. That’s Sunday-afternoon speak. Then again, maybe I’m the Bonehead for lugging that monster from the car to the shop.