A battle of wills — Manpower vs. horsepower

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The goal was simple enough. Get the old fishing boat sitting behind the garage, fire up the old boat motor and head to Smith Lake. My husband Jim would tool around fishing for the pike and perch Smith Lake is well-known for, and I’d paddle around the lily pads and beaver dams in my kayak; maybe we’d venture up Ashley Creek together where the great blue herons hang out.

So began the month-long repair job.

When we turned over the 12-foot aluminum Sea Nymph, Jim noticed that mice had chewed off the wood on the transom to a nub. Jim said he could easily fix that. A day was spent on that project, Jim first having to saw off the old rusted bolts, then cut and form a new motor mount out of scrap wood, with a run into town to buy new bolts. Meanwhile, I ran to the auto parts store to buy a new fuel line connector after Jim discovered the old one was leaking. We still hoped to rendezvous at the lake later that afternoon after Jim got the motor up and running.

Only problem was the 1967 Evinrude 6HP Fisherman motor wouldn’t fire. Mind you, it hadn’t been pressed into service for at least 10 years. But it had always been reliable, age and lack of use notwithstanding. In retrospect, perhaps we were expecting too much.

And then, over the days (and weeks) began a long series of both big and little mechanical issues. Jim basically cleaned every part, “rebuilt the carburetor, cleaned and reset the points, installed new water pump components and resealed the lower unit.” In one particularly unfortunate mishap, just as he was finishing reassembling it, a small — but critical — part broke. Not giving up, he figured he’d try welding it. Old and of unknown material, however, he concluded it would be a waste of time. He found online a parts manufacturer in Vermont. Good news was the part was still being made. Bad news was it was obsolete and would therefore cost $138.

He ordered it.

More hours were invested in the motor as he had to fabricate a tool to remove a bushing before installing the new part.

Finally the day came when the motor was ready to be tested. Jim had filled a metal trash can with water (still in the yard from a month ago when he’d first tested the failed motor). I watched from the kitchen window as he pulled the cord … I made the sign of the cross (twice) as an added insurance policy, while questioning if it was even appropriate to request divine intervention for a ’67 outboard motor.

Nothing.

I said a little prayer as I watched out the open window, hoping to hear that little motor hum.

Some more adjustments and a few more pulls … and there it was. That motor fired up, just like that. Jim cut it, then pulled the cord again. Again she sprang to life.

One quick weld over an old epoxy patch to the hull later and the boat was finally ready to be loaded in the pickup. It was almost 3 p.m. by the time we got on the water. But what a fine sight it was to see him pull that cord again and hear that motor purr. OK. The patched hole still leaked a little, but no worse than what we recalled it had years ago. The Sea Nymph and Evinrude are back in business.

There’s something to be said for persistence in the face of continued mechanical potholes. I’ve always been grateful for my husband’s mechanic/engineering skills, but I admire his persistence even more.

Now if I can just get him to put the same enthusiasm into a bathroom remodeling project …

Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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