BOING. BAM. GLUP. FLUMPT. Something's wrong. It's a weird noise, or you're not moving, or there's a strange odor coming from somewhere it shouldn't, or some vital piece of gear has gone south. Great. Now what do you do?
Well, first you have to find out what the problem is, and then you have to fix it. Not easy if you're the kind of person whose tool kit contains only the plumber's phone number and a credit card. But there are no plumbers (electricians, mechanics, or carpenters) at sea, so you're stuck with you. And you either have lots of experience or are going to go through a lot of trial and error. Since the hit-and-miss method usually entails more missing than hitting, and honestly, you're not all that experienced, let us give you the benefit of our combined centuries on the water.
To start, here are some of the more common potential disasters and our proven techniques for keeping them from ruining your day.
The Problem: You're flying along and your outboard suddenly develops a severe vibration.
The Cause: Chances are it's nothing more than a snagged length of lobster pot or fishing line that got wrapped around the prop.
The Fix: This one is easy. Kill and tilt the engine, then unwind the line. Double-check that no fine twine has worked its way past the prop and onto the shaft. Once you're back at the dock, make sure that the prop seal is undamaged. To find out, drain the lower unit fluid and check for water.
The Problem: Your new outboard has low hours, yet you notice salt deposits near the spark plugs.
The Cause: Seepage from the water-jacket cylinder heads.
The Fix: This isn't uncommon with new engines that are barely broken in. Have the dealer retorque the cylinder head bolts to factory specs.
The Problem: On the shakedown cruise with your new boat, the bilge pump runs continuously, but there's no water belowdecks.
The Cause: The float switch could be facing forward. It's an improper installation.
The Fix: The float switch should face aft. Otherwise, the running angle of the boat will cause the float switch to rise and activate the pump, even if there's no water in the bilge.
The Problem: Particularly on warm nights, with the a/c going, the windows of your cabin fog up.
The Cause: Condensation is due to the temperature differential between outside and inside.
The Fix: Try Windex or some other glass cleaner. Smear it around with a damp rag. The idea is to create a film of material that resists condensation.