Tried to move Elska to her new slip, failed. See also: engines suck.

Moorage is one of the most expensive parts of owning a boat. It’s the biggest expense of owning my small boat, a Flicka 20. She’s only 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. And yet for some reason she’s been in a 30 foot slip at our marina, because I was told by someone (clearly the wrong someone) that there were no smaller slips, that 30 was as low as you can go. After mooring her there for a year and watching our rates increase, I called and asked again, are you sure you can’t shove my tiny little sailboat somewhere out of the way? Twenty feet! That’s like two kayaks and a mast! She barely draws 3 feet, that’s low tide right up against the wall.

This time, the person I talked to said, “Wait, you didn’t know about the 26 foot slips?”

“There are 26 foot slips? I had no idea! How much are they?”

“Let’s see…..they’re $100 less than you’re paying now. Would you like me to put you on the list for one?”

After I stopped banging my head against the table, I said yes, that would be great. Put me on the list! I called back a month later, which was a few days ago, to check in and see where I was on the list, and Dean, the very sweet uh….what is his job title? Let’s call him the marina god, said, “You know, I have these three slips and I keep emailing people on the list and they don’t get back to me.” I said that was ridiculous, who in their right mind wouldn’t RUN STRAIGHT DOWN THERE to pick out their slip? He agreed. And then he said, “You know what? I’m releasing these slips right now.” And he did! He sent me a map of the marina with these three spots marked, and said I could choose whichever spot I wanted. Hurrah! “I’m baking you cookies,” I told him.

I picked this spot, right in between those two little boats:

It’s so perfect. Near the bathrooms, and right at the bottom of the ramp to make hauling stuff back and forth easier.

All we had to do was move her over there. And here’s where we get to the part about engines sucking. Elska came with a 4-stroke 8HP Honda outboard. People keep telling me “that’s a great engine”, not that I have anything to compare it to. I’ve never used an outboard before. Lehua had a diesel, a smelly foul thing that made me nauseous and stunk up everything inside the cabin. Not to mention, every time we ran the damn thing, the whole boat vibrated your fillings right out of your teeth. Okay, Greg will tell me I’m being hyperbolic, but still, I maintain the vibration was very annoying. And LOUD. He can’t argue with me on that one, you could barely talk when it was going. Okay, soapbox against diesels is now pushed aside. I step down. Point is, I was ecstatic to get this quiet little outboard, that doesn’t make your nerves rattle, and is outside the boat so it doesn’t stink up the cabin, or anything else for that matter.

That is, until today, when some alarm went off after it had been running (at the dock) for about 5 minutes. We were getting her ready to move, Miles was with us to help, and suddenly this alarm goes off. What does the alarm mean? I never read my manual all the way [HUMAN ERROR HERE – hereafter “HEH”]. Also, I didn’t do anything to winterize the outboard [HEH]. In fact, in the year I’ve owned this outboard, I’ve mostly tried to pretend it didn’t exist, and I haven’t done any maintenance on it at all [HEH HEH HEH].

“Okay, hold on, I’ll look this up.” I go into the cabin and grab my iPad, and start Googling Honda outboard alarms. I don’t find anything definitive, Honda makes a lot of outboards and most people seem to use them for powerboats so their motors are much bigger than mine and have more complex operations. I finally find something that suggests it could be the oil. We check the oil (I DO know how to check the oil, although for the record Greg was doing it), and discover it’s low [HEH].

So he runs to West Marine to get more oil, while Miles and I sit in the cabin and talk. I don’t get to spend enough time with my son, so I really enjoyed this. I tried to get him interested in the boat, but mostly he wanted to talk about other things. Beth gets seasick, Miles just doesn’t find boats that interesting. It kills me that Greg is the only other person I can sail with. I spend a great deal of daydreaming time thinking about sailing trips I want to make, and then feeling guilty that these trips would take me away from the kids (and my corgi) for weeks. The truth is, if I can ever get healthy enough to actually take one of these trips? I’m pretty sure the kids would be so grateful and happy that they’d cheerfully let me go (especially if I left them pizza money). My corgi, on the other hand, would not forgive me.

Greg returns with the oil, but we discover how difficult it is to get the oil into the engine without a funnel. Boat people need funnels [HEH].

Here’s my first idea:

We’ll spin the boat around, using the dock lines, so the engine will be on the dock side and we can more easily get the oil in without spilling.

Here’s how that went: 

We spent twenty minutes trying to maneuver her out of her slip with our too-short dock lines and a strong wind out of the east hitting her broadside. We couldn’t get her out far enough to turn her, we were fighting the wind the whole time. But it was kind of fun, I will admit, to stand there with dock lines pulling this wee little sailing ship back and forth. She weighs 3 tons, but in the water she just slides around like a big toy. I love small boats. Love love love. But anyway, this idea ultimately tanked. We had to pull her back in, we couldn’t get her stern to turn into the wind without her bow knocking the boat next to us. I kept imagining my call to the insurance company. “So tell me again, HOW did you do so much damage to the boat next to you? Were you even on your boat? No? You were standing on your boat spinning it around with docklines? Ma’am are you high right now?”

Here was my second idea: 

Go into the cabin, take my tiny spray bottle of cleaner, dump out the last dregs of the cleaner into the sink (unclench, it’s fully biodegradable), and then use my pocket knife to cut off the bottom of the bottle. I turn the bottle upside down into the…..oil hole (or whatever you call it, I’m sure it has name). VOILA. INSTANT FUNNEL.

Here’s how that went: 

Greg called me a genius. I glowed. Then I said, “If I’d just thought of this simple solution before trying to spin the boat around with my bare hands.

“Belated genius is still genius,” he says. I love this man.

So, the engine gets filled with oil. EVERYTHING IS GRAND! We have dealt with this obstacle. Resourceful sailors are we! Now let’s move a boat! We turn the engine on. She purrs to life. We agree to hang out for a few minutes. Five minutes later: EEEEEEEENNNNNNNGGGGGGGGG.

I turned the key, and the motor and its unholy alarm both stopped. Then I said, “Just out of curiosity….” and started the motor again ten seconds later. It ran for another few minutes before the unholy racket began. This was confusing. What happens five minutes that then takes ANOTHER five minutes to happen again? We scratched our heads. “Maybe if we just go until the alarm sounds,” I said, “and then just turn the engine off, coast a few seconds, and then turn it back on?” Greg gave me a look that suggested I’d blown my genius wad on the spray-bottle-turned-funnel.

Time to go home and read the manual. We packed everything up and left. Which was probably good, because that was all the energy I had. I came home, made a sandwich, and then fell asleep for two hours. I hate fibromyalgia. As much as I love small boats, that’s how much I hate chronic illness. And I don’t hate much. My hate list is very short. It’s like chronic illness, dirty energy, corporate lobbyists, homophobes, oil companies, Trump, and capitalism. See? A very small list, comparatively speaking. When I got home I looked up the noise: the manual seems to suggest that the only reason it would make that noise would be overheating. Which we don’t understand, since 5 minutes sitting there in neutral doesn’t seem as though it would cause overheating problems. Unless the fuel filter is gross, which is possible. Tomorrow, we check that. I’m arming myself with an old toothbrush and a sense of great purpose. I will fix this engine. I WILL. And then I’ll move to my new sleep, and save $1200 a year.

And in about 4 years, I can buy this:


It’s an electric engine. I want to put a little solar panel on a frame over the stern, and then get a Torqueedo.

And then I want to get a woodstove (with an alcohol burner insert for summer), and a composting head, and a new sail cover, and a nesting dinghy….and….and….and……



  1. Elaine Bradtke says:

    How old is the gas in there? If it’s been sitting for more than six months, the engine will be cranky.

  2. erniek3 says:

    I cannot answer your motor questions, but I can share that when my father married my stepmother (a truly wonderful woman), we wondered if he had married her because she had a house with a dock on Lake Washington. He’s have to deal with the locks, but free moorage??????????
    They were very happy for many years. With the dock, or living in the boat at another dock.
    The shoes did all mold up though.

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