The sailing season (almost) begins

by Chuck June 20, 2003

Updated July 1, 2003

I finally got to start my sailing season on Father's Day (June 15th). Well, not really the sailing season...

Remember that old saying "A bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office"? I put that to the test on the 15th. I put Odyssey in the water, went nowhere, then pulled her out again.

On the plus side, we looked good. Dana and I remembered how to work together to put the mast up and rig the sails, the kids were actually helpful, and Duncan, our dog, seemed to enjoy his first trip on the boat.

On the minus side, the motor that I had tested only three days before, the motor that had started on the second pull after being in storage for 8 months, the motor that had never failed me before -- decided not to start. Even after a couple of hours of pulling on the cord, after re-gapping the plugs, drying them, choke, no choke, throttle, no throttle. Nothing.

And the worst part? If I could have made 100 yards I could have sailed. But considering the current and the traffic at the Everett boat dock there was no way I could scull, rock, or paddle that 100 yards without bouncing off another boat, or the dock, or both.

Sheepishly, I took Odyssey back home. The next Saturday I got the motor out, changed the plugs, changed the gas and tried again. Nothing. Went in a told Dana it looked like we needed to take the motor in to have it fixed.

Then, yesterday, my father-in-law Ron came by to have a look. He got the motor out, hooked it up to the hose and the gas, pulled the starter, and ... it started right up.

He told Dana, "Sorry."

Dana: "What happened?"

Ron: "It started."

Dana: "What did you do to it?"

Ron: "Nothing."

After I go home (a whole other fiasco involving my daughter, missed e-mails, getting out late from a meeting and the fact that a payphone call now costs $1.00, at least at the Target in Woodinville) I gave the ol' outboard a try. It fired right up.

So, with motor problems seemingly vanishing behind me, maybe this week Odyssey will get to go sailing. That is if I can convince her to be a motor boat first.


I posted this story on the SailNet Laguna list. Here's the response I got from Randy Urich:

Hey Chuck,

Sounds like you just got the motor loaded up--the two-stroke version of getting flooded. I worked on motorcycles for 25 years, so I have a lot of experience in this area.

The piston-cylinder-port system-crankcase of a two-stroke outboard acts as a pump, sucking in the gas-air mixture with every turn of the crankshaft. It goes into the crankcase first, then the piston coming down forces the mixture up thru the ports to the combustion chamber. Every turn of the crankshaft draws in another charge, and the excess tends to accumulate in the crankcase.

When the engine doesn't start after the first half-dozen pulls, it is likely getting loaded up. This is the point at which you should hold the throttle WIDE OPEN (choke open too, of course) while pulling the starter rope. If this doesn't get it started in the next 6-12 pulls, then you need to take the plugs out and dry them, crank the engine without the plugs to clear the excess gas, and just LET IT SIT with the plugs out for 10-15 minutes for some of the accumulated gas to evaporate.

When you try it next, if it doesn't start on the first or second pull, hold the throttle wide open again and leave it there till it starts.

Sometimes this routine may need to be repeated if it's really loaded up. The plugs continue to get wet.

Old gas especially will aggravate the situation, old plugs don't help. You having spark but wet plugs is the traditional symptom for a loaded up (flooded) engine. The excess coming out the exhaust confirms the situation.

I hope this helps. This proceedure is especially useful if it fails to start out on the water. Carry spare plugs.

Good luck,
the "!Oye Maricela!" '83 Laguna 22

Another Addendum

Patrick Wesley asked Randy if the note about loading up a two-stroke engine applied to four-stroke engines. Here's Randy's reply to that one:

Hi Patrick,

Not so much with 4-strokes, as the combustion mixture is confined to the cylinder amd combustion chamber. 4-strokes are pretty efficient at pushing the gas/air mixture out the exhaust valve, therefore not so prone to flooding.

However, the principle is the same: when the mixture in the combustion chamber doesn't ignite, the fuel tends to collect on the surfaces and the air gets expelled out the exhaust. This continues to upset the optimum 15:1 air to fuel ratio, and the richer it gets, the harder it is for the spark to ignite it. The plugs also get wet with the unburnt mixture, adding to the difficulty in igniting the charge.

The solution for both two- and four-strokes that are flooded or loaded up is to induce more air through the wide open carburator throttle bore. This also diminishes the venturi effect, thus sucking less fuel in with the air as it passes over the throttle jet.

Again, old gas is one of the worst culprits in both types of engines being difficult to start. Also, if left in the carb over the winter it can gum up the jets. Of course, this will cause the plugs to be dry when you inspect them.

Oh yeah, here's another tip: DON'T use gasolline with ethanol (alcohol) in it in 2-strokes, because it has a tendancy to cause the oil and gas to separate, AND it attracts water to the gasoline.

I hope this helps, good luck,



Comments are closed
Log in