area of the website will have various stories related to my collections
or snippets sent in by folks who enjoyed my site and have a story
Up The Past
have never met a mechanic who would not admit to at least
one car, motorcycle, outboard, etc… that had “got
their goat”. My Waterloo was with a ’49 Scott
Atwater 497 5hp outboard, one of the first Scott’s with
FNR. Now this was a fair number of years ago, I was in my
late teens, but I still can’t think of anything I would
have done differently.
long story short, I worked on that darn thing off and on for
six months – every time I looked at it in our basement
I became incensed that I could not make it run. I checked
everything you can think of but it stayed silent just to spite
me. (or in spite of me!) Eventually I became fed-up and gave
it to the owner of our corner garage in the hope he could
succeed where I failed (and at least I would learn what I
was my mechanical mentor, the classic old time mechanic who
had worked on everything from Model A’s to the (then)
current Detroit iron of the 1970’s. (He was a real life
Gus Wilson for those of you who remember the Popular Science
character) No job was too small and he worked on everything
from Caddy’s down to weed whackers. He could and did
fix anything - and not by replacing things willy-nilly or
looking at a PC or Sun Analyzer - he used good old common
sense. Well the old Scott sat in his shop for 6 months and
mocked him too! (that made me feel better) One day I stopped
in to discuss the fine points of oil leaks in a '51 Chevy
I was messing with and the Scott was gone… he also had
gotten fed-up and given it away. His only comment: “That
GD thing wasn’t even a good doorstop!!”.
we can sit here 25 years later and speculate that this, that
or the next thing was wrong and I was a fool not to check
X, Y or Z, but I have no regrets. Who knows, possibly somone
out there owns that recalcitrant Scott 497 and is checking
the same things John and I did back in 1978! Anyone else willing
to admit that a motor got the better of them?
Up The Past
following drivel is for entertainment and frivolous consideration
only – but probably is just a waste of bandwidth. If
you honestly don’t have anything better to do, sit back
and read on.
close to 10 years of haggling between our town departments,
the county, the state, the DEP, (and every other government
agency under the sun!!), this Monday they will start dredging
the harbor a certain kid spent almost every summer day on
from 1973 to 1980. They say it has been almost 50 years since
this was last done and the daily tides, normal runoff and
the flow of the river have silted the harbor up so it is almost
un-navigable at low tide. I guess I have done my part as well;
the dredge operator will likely come across the following
items, though I doubt anyone will want to lay claim to them:
Neptune Mite-E-Mite that had virtually no compression and
barely started on a sawhorse in the shop. The transom clamp
bolt broke off on the 548th pull, sometime in the summer of
matched pair - 12’ Alumacraft skiff and a 1950 5hp Scott-Atwater,
purchased at a yard sale for $15 (talked down from $40 ‘cause
the buyer knew it was best to wait and haggle Sunday at 4:30PM!).
The boat turned out to leak something fierce; several buckets
worth every 10 minutes. Sure the engine ran when last used…..
when Harry Truman was President – as it turns out, it
would never run again. After a day of trying to get it going,
the rig was tied to the dock at dinnertime, Monday August
9th 1974. The next morning at around 8:00 AM the only trace
of it was the bow line around the dock cleat leading straight
to Davy Jones locker. The exertions of five 13 year old boys
only recovered the painter and bow eye from where it parted
from the corroded and loose riveted stem. (So much for that
flotation under the seats…..)
THREE (probably more) British Seagulls that disgruntled owners
hurled off the sterns of their sailboats after 550 pulls failed
to coax them to life. There would be at least 7 others but
for some enterprising kid with a grapnel hook who retrieved
and revived them. (Only to be sold back to different sail
boat owners who probably, eventually, tossed them into other
harbors) Despite extensive searching three were never recovered,
at the time the Glomar Explorer was unavailable to assist
in the recovery effort.
horsepower 1956 Mercury Mark 55 (purchased from an ad in the
local paper for $50 the summer of ’79) that would propel
an ancient, soggy 13’ Boston Whaler at close to the
speed of light – until the transom clamps worked loose…..
plop! Ever try to paddle 2 miles upriver, against the outgoing
tide, on a 98 degree evening, with the skeeters thick as fog?
Hard lesson learned here!
Evinrude 5.4hp Zephyrs. One was jettisoned after catching
fire - fearing the 14’ plywood skiff (replacing the
aforementioned aluminum craft) would develop into a conflagration.
Hey, hold off on the Viking funeral for seven or eight decades
okay! The others simply tried the mechanic’s patience
to the breaking point and, (since they had already been cast
off by previous owners), earned a well deserved burial at
sea with many other Zephyrs.
there a moral, (or point), to this story or is it just hapless
rambling? I guess if there is it’s not to be a “gross
polluter” and to do your part. Today Saturday trips
to the dump (now called a recycling center) will sometimes
allow a wayward, unloved outboard to come home with me rather
than become land-fill. One, two, three, four, five…..
honey, it’s not junk – it’s a collection!
There Is Such A Thing As A Bad Day Out On The Water!
summer job in 1981 was teaching sailing at a yacht club in
New England. The club had several boats but one of the most
feared & loathed was a 16’ Boston Whaler Nauset
with a mid-1960’s electric-shift V-4 Evinrude. That
motor was a real Jonah and always had something wrong with
it, one of the few OMC motors I have met that I had no love
for at all. When it became known that I had some experience
tinkering with outboards, the manager of the club, (A real
little terror of a guy who was always in a bad mood), typically
would have me run the whaler. He figured that I could be trusted
not to abuse it thereby avoiding another trip to the dealer.
in July or early in August the whaler’s Evinrude broke
down for the umpteenth time while being used to officiate
a sailboat regatta 20 miles away. (I was not running it at
the time) I happened to overhear the manager getting a grilling
by the member who was running it when it broke, “….
as the steward of the club YOU should take better care of
the equipment!” A few days later the call came in from
the Evinrude dealer that it was fixed (yet another $125 blown
on that motor) and to get it out of there ASAP since it was
taking up space. The boat was needed at our club and by now
the manager was so ticked-off with it that, without consulting
the weather forecast, he grabbed a co-worker (named Pete)
and me. Grumbling all the way driving us down, our boss' final
words yelled to us as we left the dock were “bring the
GD thing back in one piece or DON’T COME BACK AT ALL!!!”.
manager’s parting words were most prophetic; when we
set out little did we know that Tropical Storm Cindy was churning
out in the Atlantic. It was in the perfect location to funnel
8’-10’ seas and 50+mph wind directly in our path.
While only a slightly blustery day on shore, once out of the
harbor we had nowhere to hide and took the storm right in
the teeth, that whaler cathedral hull pounding & pounding.
Today, (with 20/20 hindsight) there is no way I would have
gone out in such weather, but a summer job was a hard thing
to find in 1981 and we didn’t question our boss.
immediately put on our old greasy kapok filled horse collar
PFD’s and ran about ½ throttle to keep the bow
up to prevent the boat from swamping. It soon became obvious
that even if we tried to turn around to go back or even go
crossways to the waves, they would “poop” or flip
the boat. Running at ½ throttle made the whaler pound
like a fiend and the first casualty was the forward slanting
wooden windshield on the center console. It smashed to bits,
taking with it our compass and navigation chart. Then the
bow anchor locker wood cover flew up, got caught in the breeze
and whacked both of us in the head on its way overboard, it
gave Pete a real shiner. Next the bow handrail broke off on
one side and started beating the heck out of the hull with
each pitch. A while later a big slam into another wave broke
the entire center console adrift - we used some line to tie
it in place and doggedly kept going, the conditions were so
bad there was no other choice. Periodically a massive rogue
wave would wash right into the boat just about filling it.
With the throttle we could get most of it to slosh right out
over the transom and fortunately the motor cover did its job
protected the engine from ingesting water. We kept this up
for what seemed like hours and just about the time we estimated
we were ½ way home there came a banging from aft in
the boat. Pete and I looked around to see the battery box
(with its mounts and part of the deck still attached) bounce
twice and fly right out of the boat taking most of the electrical
cables with it!
the battery went overboard I knew that was trouble, if that
finicky Evinrude decided to quit (as it often did) we were
really in the soup! We kept going and prayed for deliverance….
and for the Evinrude to keep running. With that V-4 being
a fuel hungry monster, we both knew that we would have to
change tanks soon or risk running out of gas. The boat had
two large metal Attwood tanks crammed under the console, even
on a calm day it was difficult to change the hose due to lack
of space and visibility. With the boat bouncing around so
badly, switching the fuel hose from tank A to B under our
loosely tied and pounding console was going to be almost impossible,
not to mention dangerous. By now we had been out in the storm
for what felt like an eternity, were bruised, wet, tired,
hungry and scared. Not only scared of drowning in the storm,
but if we did make it back with what remained of the whaler
our boss was certainly going to kill us. The poor whaler looked
like it was put through a meat grinder, we lost the chart,
no compass, are low on fuel in tank A and have no battery.
(Thank heaven the electric-shift locked in forward.) Then,
to top it all off, it started to rain so hard we no longer
could see land or where we were, visibility was about 30 feet
about 10 minutes of running blind in the rain I was close
to desperate, we were in real trouble. There was no radio
to make a distress call and the safety flares had fallen out
of the storage locker and the few left aboard were floating
around soaking up water in the stern of the boat. It was our
darkest hour, but then out of the rain came a huge black shape
in the form of a large square-rigged sail training ship! We
hailed her skipper (who was shocked to see us in the middle
of the bay!) and found out she was making her way under power
for some annual repairs at the shipyard. In her lee was a
calm almost wind-free spot we could run in relative shelter
and warmth, switch gas tanks and try to make repairs as we
were guided into a safe harbor 45 minutes later. As we approached
the dock I was so weary that I forgot about the gearshift,
pushing the “N” and “R” buttons did
nothing with the loss of our battery. Just when I thought
we were going to plow into the tugboat at the head of the
dock, the Evinrude sniffed mightily and died! Not wanting
to dwell on the repercussions should it have chosen different
timing to conk out, Pete and I simply fell down on the dock
glad to be back on-shore.
called our boss and told him where we were and he roared over
to pick us up. Words can not paint the picture of the full
tantrum he had when he saw the bruised & battered whaler.
I think echoes of the expletives can still be heard around
southern New England to this day! But just when his ranting
was at full fury, the master of the square rigger came over
to see how we were. The big burly old salt towered over our
boss. It didn’t take him long to figure out what had
transpired and he proceeded to rip into our manager in a most
gratifying way! I can still hear him to this day: “How
can anyone be such a horses backside to order a couple of
kids out into such terrible weather in a small open boat”.
He said it was criminal negligence and threatened to report
him to the Coast Guard!
remainder of the trip back that day (by car) was in total
silence, I don’t think more than two words were said
to us by our boss over the rest of the summer. Pete’s
black eye faded after a week or two though the story of our
trip that day is something we still discuss whenever we get
together. (A bad experience like ours often leads to a long-time
friendship.) The smashed up whaler was unceremoniously hauled
(on its trailer) back to the club a few days later and stuffed
into the back corner of the parking lot out of view. It stayed
there for the remainder of the summer and rumor has it that
it was sold not long after.
lesson I learned was to always pay attention to the weather
reports BEFORE going out and to never venture out in conditions
I am not comfortable handling. Respect Mother Nature and avoid,
if possible, having a hot-head for a boss!
Evinrude catalog page showing the 85hp V-4's
Boston Whaler Nauset