After our Sinking in the Navesink adventure which is covered in an earlier entry, me and my passenger reached a spontaneous and hesitation-free decision. Something about rowing a sagging craft a midst a cloud of gnats makes one wish for a backup plan, and this plan involves powered propulsion, and by powered I don't mean human-powered. It took some pondering to decide whether I wanted electricity or gasoline as my main power source, but ultimately gas won due to the particular appeal of exhaust fumes, noise, and the inability to use it in restricted waters. Or was it the range? I suppose it must have been the range. Doubling your range with electric means another 50lb+ battery which costs another $170+, and will probably last a few years before it wears out. Doubling the range with gas means a couple of pounds of gasoline in a little red plastic container.
When I research my options I try to break them down into categories, and thus I searched far, then wide, then both, until I narrowed my choices to the following three:
New Name Brand
Used Name Brand
New Chinese Wonder (no name)
My wife took care of blacklisting the no-name category altogether, based on some interesting past experiences. I don't have a problem with off-brands, but try as I might I couldn't find a source of replacement parts for any brands I considered, so to her surprise I came to agree with her opinion. Most forum discussions seem to agree here as well (often for unscientific reasons like "Buy American"), and while I often get a bit concerned when too many people agree with me, I felt that the decision was justified regardless of motives.
The choice between the remaining categories was simple. I felt that spending $1400 on a new motor was a bit excessive, seeing as how the whole boat thus far has cost about that much. As for used, June is not the ideal time for shopping - supply is running out, demand is high, and unsurprisingly the prices go up. Fortunately outboards hold their value remarkably well and thus I can probably get my money back. After some craigslist hunting I found the perfect motor: A Mariner 4M 2 stroke. The boat can take a 10 hp 2 stroke but I don't want to carry anywhere near that much weight. The little Mariners seem to be very well liked, and after a bit of failed negotiating I had it for a spring-time price of $375. It ran great but showed signs of poor cooling flow, and so of course I wound up pulling it apart.
The Mariner 4M on the stand
I'm now officially a redneck!
Here is what the impeller looked like:
It was Sunday, but I managed to find the impeller on West Marine's site and headed over there, only to discover that what they claim is a fit for my motor is not anywhere close. To my great surprise I discovered another store right next door called "Lockwood Boat Works", also open on this day of rest according to local customs. Not only was the man in this store a walking encyclopedia of all things boat and motor, but he had my impeller. To his own detriment he advised me not to spend my money on a half dozen other parts I considered replacing, and was clearly approaching the concept of commerce from my point of view rather than his - something that will earn him repeat business.
Here is the comparison of old and new:
It took me nearly an hour to close the motor back up - getting all the rods and tubes to line up was unusually tricky - but it runs, it cools, and it's happy. And it purs like a kitten at idle! Hopefully I'll get to try it out soon.