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Skipper’s Corner – Let the Professionals Do It!

It’s been a beautiful spring and now everyone is hankering to get their boats in the water. Shrink is being removed and the boat yards are full of mechanics and support workers scurrying about trying to keep impatient bosses at bay while the boss has it worse. He has to deflect all those customers. That’s what’s happening in most professional Marina’s. But what about the guy who has his boat in the driveway. Some of them know exactly what to do to get that boat safely running and in shape but most do not. Oh! They might know how to winterize but that about it.
The other day I drove into my driveway and my neighbor “Dan” was in the process of throwing a wrench against his garage door. Not only was the door slightly dented but when it bounced back it put a mighty chip in the gelcoat on the corner of his transom. He was oblivious of me until I slammed my car door to jolt him out of his cussing and shaking rage. “Problems Dan”? I asked in a soft tone. “This blanketly, blank, blank engine!” he replied. Now Dan and I have been neighbors for thirty years. When I was away at sea, I always depended on him and Carol to look in on my wife and kids. He had a great career and set for life, yet every year, come spring and summer I have to endure Dan’s pathetic attempt to play “Outboard Mechanic”!

The driveway gets strewn with tools and parts, both old and new. Half of his tools are inappropriate for the tasks and when I question his choices that result in stripped bolt threads and heads he answers” We just gotta make do! I ain’t gonna buy a new tool just for this!” The parts he misplaces he passes off as “We don’t really need that, or he goes and finds a substitute from his secret treasure box and makes do. Of course, this only leads to problems. Since his engine was built within the digital age, he could try to get engine maintenance program of his laptop and plug into the engines boot, but Dan won’t have it.
So, the season passes with a ton of calls to me and others for tow (Ever hear of Sea Tow, Boats U.S. or Reynolds Towing, Dan?) The fact is most guys like Dan are not cheap, have $$ issues or are trying to beat the system. They ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEY ARE BOAT ENGINE MECHANICS! Screws lost be damned! Quality parts, who needs ‘em! Take off the power heads – It’s an achievement. Use that old gaskets again- “Why not? I forgot to pick them up when I went to the marine supply today and I ain’t going back!” But there is a high price to pay if when a job is not done by a professional and I am not talking about those rare boaters who, though not a fulltime mechanic still has the disciplines to work on and even overhaul their engines.
Firstly, over time, you are contributing to the faster demise of your engine and engines are not cheap. Secondly, you are pissing off everyone you call for tows on Saturday and Sunday!
Thirdly, you are consuming more fuel and perhaps leaking some fluids that, quite frankly, the environment does not need because someone wants to play with their engine. And lastly! You are putting yourself, your passengers and other boats in danger! How’s that? You say! Well, if I have to explain then hang up your boat keys because you my friend, should not own a boat. Stick to playing around with Lionel trains!
Now, about that chunk that came out of the transom when the wrench was thrown. While it probably didn’t compromise Dan’s boat, after Dan reassembled his engine, he went to work repairing that himself. He formulated a globbing mess of fiberglass and epoxy and when it set and dried, he got tired of sanding and just applied some Algrip paint and left it. Now it looks as if his transom is beginning to melt.
Today there are great mobile services who come directly to your boat or dock and work engines, fix your gelcoat, deliver cheaper fuel and if you want, detail your boat. But most important of all, don’t play mechanic if you really are not, the price you pay may be very high indeed.