Monday, March 12, 2012

Outboard Engines

Outboard engines are essential and ubiquitous in life along the Mexican shoreline. The local fishermen depend on their big 50 to 60 horsepower outboards to power their handsome blue pangas; you can tell by how lovingly they wrap them up when they leave the boat for the day. Gringo sailboats usually have smaller motors. Regardless of size, outboard motors are so important that they are a cause of endless concern, much swearing, and endless and repeated pulling at the starter cord.

Our very small 8 horsepower engine has been the focus of endless attention since it first malfunctioned two months ago. Professional local mechanics in Mazatlan, Barra Navidad, and Puerto Vallarta have worked on it. A dozen or more generous fellow travelers on cruising sailboats have lent a hand in diagnosing the problem. And the Captain has dissected and inspected the beast, using the good advice from the Portland dealer from whom it was purchased. Now that we have returned to La Paz, we turned to Sea Otter Jimmy, the locally respected outboard expert. For the mechanically inclined, the diagnosis was a blown crankshaft seal; for the rest of us, our outboard is toast. End of a sad story.

But we are in such good company! Our son, Sam, reminded us that John Steinbeck wrote about outboard engines in his The Log from the Sea of Cortez, first published in 1941. The quote is here ( . Read this, and then imagine how many frustrated motor owners have tried to start these beasts hereabouts in those intervening seventy years!


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