Escargot Builders Log
March 27, 2000
A trip to the store to get more 1/4 inch ply. I am using what my lumber yard calls Maranti. Seems to be very good wood with few voids. Price is about $16 a sheet. I need maybe two more to finish off the three remaining frames. I will also check on 3/8 inch ply. This is used on the sides and ends.
March 31, 2000
I finished Frame 2 yesterday and bought a used outboard last night. I was nervous about a used motor. He said he thought it was from 70’s, but according to my manual, another $25 by the way, they didn’t make a 6 HP until 1985 or so… or perhaps it is from well before the early 70’s. It has been rebuilt in the past eight hours of use I am told. Seems to run well, but time will tell. Tonight I will connect a flusher to it and start it up. Tomorrow I will start adding the epoxy fillets to the frames. This can get nasty and expensive. I am sure Alex will enjoy this part! I will really take my time here. My lumber yard, BTW, has only 3/8 inch AC ply. I want Marine so I will go elsewhere. Time seems to be such a factor in this.
I should admit that I have started two previous boats. My first ill conceived project was a very long boat called Tennessee by Phil Bolger. It was too long. It just wouldn’t fit in my garage, so I decided to make a few changes. Bad idea given my skills at the time and the laughably incomplete nature of the plans I bought. It was rescued from me by a friend and is now rotting in HIS yard.
My next attempt was a 3 meter Trimaran racing boat. That I finished, although it was heavy, slightly crooked, and ended up rotting away after about 8 years. I stripped the parts off it and dumped it. I did use it pretty frequently for two racing season and had a blast in it learning to sail. When my second child arrived and medical complications arose with my son, I could no longer take off for a weekend of sailing. Plus I seem to have a short attention span… been there done that syndrome.
When in a bad mood I think of these as failures. When more clear headed I think of how much I learned that will help me in this project. This one won’t be perfect, but it will be better.
A small few who know me seem to enjoy bringing up the ghosts of these projects. I don’t think you would be surprised to know that these same people have never built a boat in their lives.
At night: Oh what a roller coaster of a day it has been. Last night as I headed out the door to buy the outboard, my wife Karen called to me, “Don’t you think it would be better to buy a NEW motor?” No… I was convinced. This used motor, at $400, gas tank, fuel lines, and flushing adapter included, could be about $1000 dollars less than a new one. $1000!
“Well”, she says, “I would just hate for you to have to spend the $400 and then spend the $1400 for a new one when it breaks down.”
She had a point, but I wanted to take the gamble. If it paid off, I could spend the money saved on something else for the boat such as a marine radio. Radios are cool. Ever since I was a kid I had loved radios. Eventually, I became a Ham, and then made a career of being a classical music announcer at KING FM. Gotta have radios on the boat.
When I arrived to inspect the bargain in waiting, it was ready to test in a 55 gallon drum. One pull and it was purring, quietly, A little smoke, but probably due to a higher than needed oil to fuel ratio. This was older 2 cycle technology. The gas and oil are mixed together in the gas tank.
We got along famously. His dog, it turns out, was a seeing eye dog for his blind brother who is also profoundly hearing impaired. My own son has a moderate to severe hearing loss too. We don’t talk of it directly, but in our chance meeting we share a rare glimpse of understanding. I don’t share with many my feelings for the challenges my son has faced…that I have faced.
I sign some paperwork he has drawn up, something about “he hereby sells an outboard to me”. As I leave he says to be sure to flush it out, “it hasn’t run in quite some time”. We load it up and I drive home. The power source for my river dream waits for morning for its trial run at home.
I sleep in and miss my brief window for a morning test. Finally, at the end of a busy day, I fill my garbage can with water, mount the motor on a bracket of 2by4’s, connect the tank, and pull. It starts within three pulls. It runs marvelously. But mindful of his advice, I remove the flushing screw, attach his flushing kit, turn on the hose, and start the motor. But something is wrong. No water will go into the hole marked flush. No water seems to be making its way to the top end of the motor. Frantic, I call an outboard repair store. “Can you take a look at my motor, I think I have been screwed”.
“Sounds like you got a problem. Any water coming out of the back in a little stream?”
“No… there is no stream anywhere here.”
“Hmm. You got a problem. That stream is there to assure you that the pump is workin’.”
I mope. I rationalize. I call the guy who sold it to me and leave a message on his phone. The best defense is a good offense, so I call my wife and share rationalizations. “It was such a good deal”, I tell her, “that even if I have to spend a little money fixing it I will still come out ahead!” I feel my radios slipping away. “Besides, he is a decent guy. I think he will do the right thing”.
I look at the slip of paper he and I had signed and notice for the first time, “sold as is”.
I mope more intensely now.
Hours of moping later… I suddenly remember that older outboards, even the smaller ones, sometimes have thermostats. Perhaps, perhaps… perhaps the motor hadn’t gotten hot enough for the thermostat to open. As soon as it gets hot, water will pump through the flushing hole. Water WAS coming though the exhaust port in the center of the prop…coming out pretty well!
I know… still rationalizing.
Tomorrow I will call the outboard repair shop and hope they decided to come in on a Saturday.
Saturday April First, 2000 – Woke up and called all outboard places in town. None were open. Motor issue unresolved.
Bought a marine VHF handheld radio. I told you I like radios.
Bought some more framing lumber, $13 more, and started on last two frames. I also mixed some epoxy with my son and glued a few edges of the frames. It worked out pretty well, but it took hours for them to dry. He tired of it after about 20 minutes and he got some in his hair. A good day. 😉
Sunday April 2nd, 2000 – What a wonderful day. In spite of forecasts for showers, we woke to the first sounds of spring. It seems everywhere I looked there were insects joined in mating… and these did not escape the notice of my daughter. No, they aren’t Siamese twins Jessa.
All frames have now been glued and screwed together. But the big news was this note:
“Hi Bryan, The 6 HP was made from 1963-68. There is no thermostat in this
engine. The flush plug you describe (flat screwdriver 3/8 inch plug, up at
the base of the powerhead) frequently gets plugged up. It does not effect the
water flow into the powerhead.
Although this should have been all cleaned out with a rebuild. I believe
there should be a pee hole on the port side of the engine. It would be up at
the base of the powerhead (opposite side of the flush hole, same general
area). If the hole is there, about a 1/16 hole, you can try to unclog it with
a piece of wire and compressed air.
The water pump impeller should be replaced on this engine every couple years,
even if you don’t use it much. Another problem area is at the base of the
powerhead to intermediate housing. Originally there was a plastic washer at
the top of the water tube. Water tube, grommet, washer, gasket. If the
engine block gets hot, it will melt the washer, and no water, or reduced
water flow to the engine. This washer has been superseded to a fiber washer
so this doesn’t happen.
An inexperienced person may have over looked this potential problem.
There should be some water spray from the idle relief in the back, with the
engine running. If you can run the engine without the cowl on, it should not
be hot at all (mild warm, maybe 100 degrees or so)
Good luck, Steve”
I had searched the net and the newsgroups for notes on my Merc 6. Steve was the only one who wrote back, but with this note I learned the year of manufacture, and that my problem was minor all along. I had a plugged up “piss hole”.