Oh, Cap!

BONEHEAD BLUNDER: Fresh fuel, no cap
THE BONEHEAD: My buddy Charles
BONEHEAD RATING: 1
WHAT HAPPENED: No, the rating isn’t because he’s my pal. I’ll let you figure it out at the end.

I met Charles about three years ago. He’s provided fodder for a few columns, but he has such an interesting life, I have to work hard to show humor in reality. He also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to unwind at his retreat atop Martha’s Vineyard … but I still don’t cut him any slack, because Charles has projects, and somehow I’m drawn inexorably to the center and hopefully, a resolution.

One of Charles’ projects is a 25-foot center console with twin Evinrude two-strokes. When I met Charles, I had to give him the bad news that the starboard engine needed rebuilding, which he approved. I did, and as it wasn’t my first rodeo, was confused when it wouldn’t idle, accelerate or act like an engine should. After a year of intelligent diagnostics, machine work and finally just throwing parts at it in frustration, I finally discovered that the shop boring the block had honed it just a tad too long, leaving me with an engine that produced all kinds of symptoms, up to and including the negative bodily functions people exhibit on the evening news ads.

It was with joy that Charles, escaping the seriousness of his other projects, took us for a ride in his boat with the full-time power band. Two months later, The Phone Call: “This is Charles. Can you come by?” (I think he thinks he gets charged by the word.) So we went over there. I finally got the Evinrude warmed up and smooth … for a moment. Out the creek we went, at which point the starboard engine, running on the starboard tank, got ragged. I told Charles it sounded as though it were trying to run on water. His hands flew up. “Absolutely not! I just put 30 gallons of non-ethanol in that tank!”

As we slowed, the engine didn’t even bother coughing: it just quit. I said, “Charles, see about a restart while I remove the air box.” The engine ran for fewer than 10 seconds and quit. “Charles?” “No way! I put fresh gas in it at the beginning of last mon…” His voice trailed off as he looked at the dangling gas-tank cap. At least the port engine got us home.

As I was pumping out a mix of Seafoam, StaBil, gasoline and water, I told him about the Saturday the Nurse and I had gone boating, only to discover that if one leaves the cap off for a year between uses, the penalty is steep, especially having a fellow dealer tow us in, and then sitting to read an email from said dealer explaining how water gets in fuel tanks.

Thus the “1” rating: No way I’d let my buddy take a fall for something that I had done better.

LESSON LEARNED: Always, always, always make sure the gas cap is on — tight!

Bonehead Blunders

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