Boaters should be prepared for repairs


April 26, 1994|By PETER BAKER

Toward dusk the other day, as we were turning into a creek near the mouth of the Severn River after a two-hour shakedown cruise, a man in a 12-foot tin boat raised an orange life jacket and waved for us to stop.

He and his son, a 10-year-old who sat quietly and straight-faced toward the bow, had made their way down the Severn in the tin boat on what had seemed a great parent-child adventure for a warm spring day.

Upon reaching the mouth of the river at Tolly Point, they had

turned and headed for home, intent on getting back upriver before dark. But the air-cooled, 5-horsepower outboard motor had quit.

Trying to restart the outboard, the pull rope had broken, and for more than an hour afterward they had bobbed about, waving at passing boaters and wondering how to solve their problem.

"We don't have any tools on board, not even a screwdriver or a pair of pliers," the dad said. "I have a boxful of tools at home, but they're not doing us much good now."

And after a screwdriver and a pair of pliers had been handed across, he soon had removed, rewound and reinstalled the pull starter and restarted the motor.

Although we offered to see them well into the river or even all the way home, dad and son declined. We left the pliers, screwdriver and a small crescent wrench with them.

Probably they felt they were in no immediate danger. Seas were calm, they had plenty of fuel and in a pinch the shoreline was close enough to row to. They had snacks and drinks and life jackets.

But what if, during that hour of bobbing about, a squall had come up from the southwest and blown them out across the bay toward Kent Island, exposing them to a long drift in rising seas?

What if dark had fallen before someone stopped -- if anyone stopped at all -- and the tin boat had bobbed toward the channel and been swamped by the wake of a passing power cruiser?

Anticipating the what-ifs is a large part of boating, no matter the size of the boat or the duration of the adventure.

For example, what if the 60-foot El Toro II had not gone out for rockfish last November? What if someone aboard had been monitoring the weather broadcasts? And so on.

The dad we ran into the other evening explained that he was familiar with boats and engines, having grown up along the upper reaches of the Severn and worked in boat yards during high school summers.

"We would have fixed ourselves," the dad had said as he tightened down the pull starter coil. "But it has never done this before."

The proper attitude should be: If it does break, have the tools and parts on board with which to fix it.

No one tool kit is suited to all purposes. A 55-foot long-range cruiser requires enough tools, parts and spares to sink a 12-foot tin boat.

Tools and spare parts

Tools for boaters can be problematic. After all, a 12-foot boat with a one-cylinder motor probably needs only flat and Phillips screwdrivers, regular and needle-nose pliers, a set of wrenches to cover 1/4 -inch to 1 inch, an adjustable wrench and a spark plug socket and drive.

For larger boats, the needs are greater.

A couple of companies manufacture, and most boating stores sell, sets of tools in plastic cases that make them easy to store and locate.

I have had one set of inexpensive tools that includes wrenches from 1/4 -inch to 1 inch, sockets from 3/16-inch to 1 inch as well as metric sockets from 4 mm to 16 mm and three drive units, wire trimmers, screwdrivers (flat and Phillips) of three sizes, a breaker bar, test light, feeler gauges and spark plug sockets.

Electrical tools

* Wire stripper and crimper

* Thin, long-nose pliers

* Flashlight and mirror for inspecting dark recesses

* Ignition tool set and feeler gauge

* Test light and three or four test leads of different lengths and wire gauges with alligator clips at each end

* Battery jumper cables


On my boat I have medium-large plastic tackle box. With the shelves removed, there is room to fit the following items as well as a pair of locking pliers, a large adjustable wrench and two lengths of 1.5-inch cooling system hose:

* One set of pine plugs for diameters of all through hull fittings

* One set of spark plugs

* Points, condenser, distributor cap and rotor, ignition system ballast resistor, ignition coil

* Spare drive belts for alternator and water pump

* Spare bulbs for each size of navigation light

* Roll of electrical tape

* Spray can of moisture inhibitor

L * Assortment of bolts, washers and nuts, screws, cotter pins

* Electrical wire of various lengths and gauges, compatible wire connectors and lugs.

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