Spokane, WA Weather

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Learning Curve For A Neophyte Boater

After retiring from OTR trucking it was time to do some fishing and my son-in-law and I decided to buy a boat and found one locally on Craigs List.

A 12' aluminum boat with a new coat of bed liner type paint and a 5 horse motor.  This old tub is heavy despite being aluminum...things were built heavier in the 1960s...and it took some hernia producing effort to get it in and out of my pick up so back to Craigs List for a vintage Elgin trailer.  Rather than use the gas motor we opted to use a 30# thrust Minn Kota electric trolling motor that my son-in-law has and we get around quite nicely on the smaller lakes in the area.  A real plus feature is this boat does not leak so much as a drop!  But, the rest of the family felt left out of the boating experience on our camping trips so they lobbied for something the whole family could enjoy.  Sounds reasonable and after warning that a larger boat is a high-dollar maintenance item we ended up with a 1991 Bluewater powered by a 4.3 Mercruiser.  It came with all the covers, etc., and had only 488 hours on the engine.  Good buy...right?

Let the learning curve games begin.  After some cleaning, tightening of screws and bolts and a few other get-ready things we headed for the water.  The first thing I discovered was 'the-tail-wags-the-dog' as about 50 mph it would start weaving back and forth behind the pick up.  Having considerable experience in load distribution when pulling a trailer, that got fixed first thing when we returned from that trip.  After consulting with EZ Loader Trailers,   I moved the axle back 6"

and the winch stand ahead 2".

In the process I discovered the axle was out of alignment by 5/8".  Now that doesn't sound like much but it contributes to  weaving and causes excess tire wear.  After getting the axle and winch stand moved, aligned and torqued down, it was time for a test drive...70 mph down the freeway and nary a bobble.  Now to the next fixes.

Some of the gauges were acting a bit erratic including the  battery voltage gauge so out comes the instrument panel, all the connections are removed, cleaned and coated with a poor man's dialectic grease...petroleum jelly...and reconnected.  So far, so good.

We also discovered that even at a dead idle this boat does not move slow enough for the trolling we like to do so it was off to Cabela's at Post Falls, ID to obtain a trolling plate which works quite well.  More about the trolling plate learning curve later.

It was also discovered that the boat leaked filling the bilge to about 2" from the top requiring running the bilge pump for about three minutes to empty it out.  This caused a bit of anxiety on my part as I was concerned about leaving it moored in the water overnight and finding it at the bottom of the lake in the morning.  That didn't happen.  It only leaked to a certain point and that was it.  Whew!  I hate leaks especially engine oil and coolant leaks and now I added this leak to my most hated leak list and determined to get that fixed before the next season.  More on that later too.

After several more outings and with an eye on the weather forecast, especially for when freezing weather would hit, I finished the year doing my own winterizing of the engine and out drive since to have it done was going to cost around $300...more of the learning curve.  Our next door neighbor goes to Phoenix, AZ for the winter and I arranged with her to park the boat in her driveway in exchange for some snow removal so the place would look somewhat inhabited while she was gone.  Snow fall was heavy and the canvas cover ripped in an unsupported area and when the thaw came the boat had quite a bit of water in it.  The learning curve again.  After having the cover repaired it will get support along with an additional tarp over the top.  I also removed the prop and had it repaired at Precision Propeller in Spokane.  Boats with propellers do not navigate shallow, rocky waters very well.  Now we are down to this year's experience...so far.

I took the boat to a shop this spring to have the leak repaired and, of course, several other things were found by the technician that need repair or replacement.  After having some internal seals and bearings and the shift cables and a tune up and a rebuilt carburetor installed, $2440 later...learning curves can be expensive... it's ready except for running some sealant around where the out drive meets the transom.  I did that myself armed with 3M Marine Adhesive Sealant 5200 obtained obtained at my local West Marine Store.  Well, maybe it was all worth it.  The first time I ran the bilge pump while on our outing to Curlew Lake it ran all of 5 seconds to empty the bilge.  After that, nada...not so much as even a drop could be pumped.  The boat runs like a bat from the theological place of eternal punishment and no leaks.  But the Learning Curve For a Neophyte Boater continues with the next posting about my experience at Lake Gillette 2011 Boating.


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