Outboard update, staying in the old slip, rowing my dinghy

Greg and I went down to the marina last weekend, to see what we could see. Our plan was to spin Elska around in her slip, bring her engine close to the dock, and remove the carburetor for a good cleaning. Seemed easy enough.

Years ago, probably 1996 or so, I bought my second dilapidated VW bus – my 4th Volkswagon in total (and my last). Sitting one afternoon in a Volkswagon IRC chatroom (ANYONE REMEMBER IRC?), a few of the guys inspired me to try doing a tune-up by myself. I was in the same position I am with my boat, unable to get the damn thing out of the driveway. I went to a local auto parts store and bought oil and spark plugs and a bunch of tools and other random stuff I don’t remember, and a few days later I got back in that chatroom, announced my intentions, and went to work. I alternated going out to the bus, and back in the house to my adorable orange iMac to tell them what I was doing and how it was going. They led me through an oil change and a tune-up, it was brilliant. And it worked. I drove her out of the driveway that afternoon, triumphant. I figured if I could pull that off, this little outboard wasn’t going to stymy me.

Wellllllll. That was then. This is now. We got her spun around just fine, and pulled her back into the slip stern-in (which I’m not fond of, because it means everyone in the yacht club can look down from the giant picture windows and see right into my boat when I’m hanging out trying to be away from people – I’m such a crab). Pushed the engine up against the dock, and opened the lid. I could see the carb, but I couldn’t see how to remove it. A little rubber hose is clamped on with a wire I can’t budge, and there are screws underneath the unit, that I can’t reach. I wondered idly if IRC was still around. I didn’t investigate. Some things you don’t want to know.

While sitting there staring at it – Greg joked we were like the apes in 2001 – a woman I’d met at the PSCC meeting came walking by, and said hello. Such a sweet, warm person! Her boat is down the dock from mine. She ended up trying her best to figure it out, and even grabbed another friend to give it a look. We didn’t get any farther, unfortunately, but it was great to chat with other sailors.

After the group chat, we decided that what the engine probably needed was a trip to the mechanic, which would mean getting it off the boat. We checked out all the lines going onto the outboard: fuel line, transmission – both of these we can get off. Then the electric, which looked trickier. At that point we decided we’d do some research before we began pulling cords.

We didn’t want to leave the boat on such a lovely day, so once we realized we weren’t going to get any farther with the engine, we moved to other things. Greg started reading, and I decided I was going to row my dinghy for the first time. I bought this dinghy last year, at the end of summer, and it’s been tied up at the dock all winter long. I’d bought some oars for it, and some oarlocks, but never tried to row the little thing.

Getting into it wasn’t too hard, but getting out from the dock was a little wearying.

FINALLY FREE! And then I got stuck against a dock across the fairway, but we won’t talk about that.

So I liked rowing, which I already knew. I used to row crew on Lake Washington back when we first lived in Seattle in my early twenties. Crew is great fun. My arms got so beautifully muscled. Rowing is great if you want to look in the bathroom mirror, flex your biceps, and say, “DAYUM” to yourself. I do enjoy such things (I want my muscles back….).

All my other paddling experience is with kayaks and canoes, both of which I really love, and in both of which you’re paddling while facing your direction of travel (assuming you paddle sober). While I knew that on a dinghy one sits rowing backward, I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I would find it to do so. Turns out, I kinda hate it. I think dinghies are great, actually those wooden rowboats you can find to build at home, those are just stunningly beautiful. But actually rowing them is not so much my favorite thing. I can’t see! Anything! There is no coxswain to be my eyes, and yell helpful directions (this is why I need a tiny yacht terrier).

So I paddled around the fairway and spent 90% of my brain power trying to keep my rowing timed correctly (this goes from Miserable to Zen in a surprisingly short period of time), and spent the other 10% dreaming up ways to keep a kayak on board so I could get rid of the dinghy entirely. I know, I know, in a kayak, how are you supposed to row to shore, go grocery shopping, and bring it all back? Well see that’s where my inflatable trailer invention comes on….still working on that idea.

Oh! And we decided to stay in our slip instead of moving to a new one. Yeah, we could have saved a lot of money. But we both want to learn how to singlehand, and we couldn’t figure out how to get in and out of the tiny new slip without someone standing on the bow holding a line, ready to leap to freedom and keep the boat from hitting the one in front. Oh and it turns out the slips are 26 feet, and we’re 24 feet overall, and then we have a dinghy. We can’t have a dinghy in the new slip. Well, there we go. We can’t live without a dinghy. At least until I develop my kayak-water-trailer contraption. Also, also, there is no power, no dock box, and no hose. Just a lot of missing things we really thought we’d miss. So I called the marina angel and asked if we could stay on V dock. Dean said, “Of course!” Home sweet expensive home.

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