BONEHEAD BLUNDER: Not undoing-it-yourself
THE BONEHEAD: A long-time boater who needs to rock on the front porch
BONEHEAD RATING: 5
WHAT HAPPENED: Last off-season was a long one. It was a delightful surprise, then, when I received a call from a longtime boater who wanted to sell his boat because his “First Mate” couldn’t keep up the pace. Since his time in the country (away from the city) was limited, he asked if I could meet him Sunday (after church), do a diagnostic download on his engine, then go for a ride to ensure everything passed muster.
The boat was on a lift. The owner proudly told me he flushed the engine after every use, using the flush-muffs instead of the engine’s flush port. Access to the computer link was easy, and I got that taken care of right away. As he started the engine and we idled away from the lift, I noticed some Type 1A fuel line above deck running from the bow to the engine. He said that the previous year the main fuel tank had developed a leak. Being a handy sort of guy, he lifted the deck cover and found the tank encapsulated in foam. The foam was 33 years old and didn’t want to leave its warm home just so the metal tank could be replaced with a new “plastic” tank. Plan B (it may be necessary to have oxygen delivered before reading further) began when he decided that, since he couldn’t handily remove the tank, he’d install the new plastic tank in the center of the old metal one. So he got a Sawzall and proceeded to attempt to cut the top of the metal tank out. Fortunately, he was thwarted by baffles before the whole thing blew due to an errant spark! Following that head-scratcher, he put several six-gallon tanks forward and sent the fuel aft via the 1A hose.
We idled some more, while I tried to decide if I should swim to shore before anything else reared its ugly head. Too late. He throttled up. We went perhaps a quarter mile before the overheat alarm sounded. He pulled back into neutral, shut the engine down and tilted it up. There, confirming he’d flushed it at least once, was his flush-muff neatly blocking off water access to the pickups, save for the small amount coming through the hose connection.
LESSON LEARNED: At some time in every boater’s life, it will become necessary to be a passenger rather than the skipper. Sadly, I was present when that became evident to him. It’ll be a lot uglier when it’s my turn.