Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Washing and Cleaning the Outboard

Every few decades I’m told you are supposed to wash your dinghy’s outboard engine in saltwater. The last time I dropped an outboard overboard was over 30 years ago. And that time it was someone else's.  So I guess it was my time. We were getting ready to leave Atunoa, on Hiva Oa, and I was in the dinghy connecting the hoist clip to the harness on the outboard. The harness had slipped over to the side and I blindly connected the clip to a side strap instead of the top lifting strap – that was now on the side. The strap held nicely until the old Tohatsu was about 6 feet in the air. Then it took flight, splashed the water and gently bubbled its way to the bottom, with Chris and I looking at each with certain dismay.
Recovery operations began immediately. Out came the hooka and the assigned salvage diver got into his gear. The water in this bay is pretty murky. I found the outboard lying comfortably on its side in a soft bed of mud in about 22 feet of water. The picture above is just as she was breaking the surface coming back up and gasping her first gulp of fresh air in 20 minutes.
Fortunately there was a water faucet on the dock fairly near by. So got a tow into the dock from Chuck on Free Spirit. After a good wash down, an emptying of her bowels and oiling she coughed back to life. I’m not sure if there was any permanent brain damage done – we’ll see over the next few weeks. One really odd thing about the cleaning was the change in the turning shaft. These old 2-cycle Tohatsu outboards have a steel shaft that is the axis for turning the engine. The exposed part rusts pretty well. There are grease fitting for greasing the bearing portion of the shaft. Our outboard has been really hard to turn the last few years. No amount of greasing the grease nipples – or even taking them out and letting grease out – has helped. Turns out dunking in saltwater cleans this shaft out nicely. It now turns better than before – at least for awhile.
The definition of cruising: fixing your boat in exotic ports.


  1. We learn something new every day! We had no idea we were supposed to be washing our outboard in saltwater...will get right on that. Relieved on your behalf there is no apparent brain damage.

  2. So did you have to carry the outboard up those iron rungs on the seawall? I'm trying to remember where the water pipe is. Glad the Salvage Diver was able to do CPR.