Goodbye Old Paint

In 1999, flush with a bonus (those were the days, when IPOs were in everyone’s future and even had a shot at millions) I bought a brand new 40 horsepower, four-stroke Honda outboard engine. This was a good purchase, one of the best I’ve made, living up to all the pre-purchase expectations of owning a precision piece of machinery that was dependable, clean, and ran with the elan of a sewing machine.

It replaced a POS Johnson outboard, purchased when the skiff was new in the thinking that if Johnson was good enough for my grandfather, it was good enough for me. Alas, American manufacturing had already shit the bed as far as two-stroke outboards were concerned and the Japanese in the form of Honda and Yamaha were kicking their ass. I went on a poisonous-letter writing campaign, demanding satisfaction from OMC, the parent of Johnson, but alas, they weren’t going to replace it, so I showed them and spent $5,000 of ill-gotten riches on the Honda.

I babied it. I learned how to change its oil, the filters, the spark plugs. It never let me down, carrying me south of Martha’s Vineyard and all over Nantucket Sound in search of squid, stripers, bluefish and fluke.

Last year, Andy at The Boat Guy, my trusty mechanic, told me I had better start thinking of a new one. “This one doesn’t owe you anything, ” he said, but I squeezed one more season out of it, becoming, by October, the only person on the planet who knew the exact combination of throttle, choke, and cranking to get it start. The time had come.

But, hope springs eternal in the spring, and this March I was in the driveway changing plugs and filters and to my surprise, the old trusty silver engine turned over and bubbled away happily with a garden hose connected to the water inlets. I re-registered the old trailer, painted the bottom a spiffy new coat of copper antifouling paint with a jaunty red boottop — and launched on a bright spring day.

As I motored out to the mooring, happy to be afloat in April, I decided to run up the RPMs and give it a little shakedown cruise. Everything was copacetic until the warning horn went off.


Limping back to the launch ramp I popped off the lid and was met with a cloud of steam and a blast of heat. Something was very wrong.

So back on the trailer she went, and off to The Boat Guy with feelings of profound pessimism.

Andy called late last week. “She’s toast Cap’n,” he said. “But don’t despair, another customer is selling his old 40 hp for $2,500 if he can clear the financing for a new one.”

So it goes, tearing up dollar bills while standing in the shower. But the squid are out there, the bluefish and stripers have arrived, and I am itchy to get waterborne as soon as possible.


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

5 thoughts on “Goodbye Old Paint”

  1. I have a 23-year-old 25HP Evinrude on my 20-year-old Achilles. Mild use early summer to early very late Fall for most years. Still runs great.

  2. I somehow missed this post, but let me second the recommendation that nobody buy a Johnson. Our 90 two stroke is miserable, perpetually convinced its overheating and so shutting off cylinders and so cavitating the prop and boat.

    Times it’s been serviced for this problem? 3.

    Avoid Johnson.

    1. And it’s a shame too — Johnson’s were workhorses through the 1970s, but something bad happened to them in the late 80s and its been downhill ever since. I’d buy American in a second, but for now, the Japanese deservedly own the outboard market.

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