OB wan no go be

A rare sight these days.

A rare sight these days.

Over time we have had a variety of outboard motors, starting in ’74 with a British Seagull on our trimaran. It had a tank of puny proportions and the engine had to be allowed to cool completely before the tank could be refilled. But it wasn’t finicky about fuel oil mixtures. Too much oil? Just bluer smoke.

Then came an Evinrude for the 23 footer. Its tank was the standard six gallon metal job with a painful handle, inaccurate gauge, and a rust ring on the deck. It was finnicky! We ended up using labware to measure the oil. We parted company in ’77.

It wasn’t until we downsized to the Cape Dory that we were back to pull starting a Johnson. Same tank issues. But it wasn’t finicky, or we had learned what we were doing, I don’t know which.

We decided small outboard fuel tanks were dangerous and messy enough, when we bought the Sea Pearl, we used an electric trolling motor. But with the Freedom we had a RIB…well for a bit we did. The tubes started peeling away from the hull. I think I was the first person to ever get the RIB up to planing speed which was why this failure hadn’t happened much sooner. We gave it to the Sea Scouts as a project. Same pull start — mixing oil issues, but at least it had a plastic tank. No more rust rings or rubber mats.

We bought a new RIB and four stroke outboard and tank about the time two stroke engines started to be hard to get. No more oil mixing, but it was not delivering the torque the two strokes produced. We sold the Freedom before we got frustrated enough to buy another outboard.

And then, we bought Brilliant Star, and we decided it was time for a new outboard for the new RIB. Unfortunately, ethanol was now being added to fuel, and the outboard succumbed to bad policy. We bought another of the same brand which had been redesigned to accommodate politics, and it ran fine, until the fuel separated into gas, water, and ethanol. It liked the gas, the other stuff not a bit.

Equipment damage aside, one needs to burn ethanol degraded gasoline pretty much the day it comes off the tanker truck. Each day is a clock tick toward problems with starting, running…

We bought a three gallon tank to force us to turn over the fuel faster. Twice we had to recycle rotten gas. Policy saved 0.6 gallon of gas by forcing 10% ethanol on us, and we had to recycle 4 gallons to be able to run the engine reliably. But now with a tank of clean, dry Bahamian gas, woohoo, we actually found out the outboard had as many horsepower as advertised. And then we needed a new fuel hose and tank since neither we had gotten with the OB had been designed for ethanol.

We decided we could go back to a six gallon tank since it was getting easier to find unadulterated gasoline in the US (easier, not easy). Ah, but the EPA had upped the ante. Now we had to buy a non-vented gas can with a fancy-dancy fuel hose with a special pressure regulator and more expensive hose and bulb to work with the tank.

Wrong! Yesterday we launched the dinghy to do our pre-checks for the Bahamas, and the engine started fine — but it would only run until it had sucked a vacuum in the fuel hose between the regulator and the engine. About 45 seconds. It ran just like an engine disconnected from fuel with the high speed run-up and backfire a the end.

And of course the mega supplier of the fancy-dancy hose said…wait for it…

“Its the engine.”

And when the tank heats up in the Florida sun it looks like a rectangular red manatee. How can anyone think a non-vented gasoline tank is a good idea?

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