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Fishermen's Journal

She's Toast!

Halfway to Catalina the meager CharkBait stops dead in her tracks

by Chark (a.k.a. - Mark Smith)

(Borrowing from the Blair Witch Project, ah, don't read this tale if you have a weak stomach.  The horrible, horrible, disgusting pictures will likely cause vomiting and loose bowels.  Read on at your own risk...)


Well, we had our Catalina Flotilla buddy boat day Saturday October 2.    As I tried to pull the boat out of the garage, I noticed that my yearly replacement of the trailer jack was due.  (When will someone make one that doesn't require yearly replacement?)  Luckily I had a spare, so I made a quick installation and still arrived on time, meeting up with Dan Wilson, Chuck, Michael Toorop and Ray Maxey.  Four boats grouped up at Sunset Aquatic at about 4 AM ready for a day fishing Catalina Island.  We all headed for the bait receivers.  I hit the inside receiver and got some good deens.  Nacho had some squid, but was only selling full scoops, but one of the guys blew the $50 anyway.  So off we went.

A couple miles out we discovered that one of the other boat's radios wasn't sending, only receiving.  That was one good thing about our buddy boat day.  Safety in numbers.  Thankfully, that boat didn't conk out.   But, my time was due.  About a mile off the outside rigs (about halfway towards Catalina for the folks from out of town) the meager CharkBait quit on me. 1002a.jpg (16174 bytes) Wouldn't start, dead as a doornail.   Upon trying to restart, finally the warning buzzer went off.  Intakes were just fine, not clogged.  Motor wasn't hot, no smoke.  Popped the cowling, tried to spin the flywheel, sucker stuck.  Starter couldn't spin it, neither could I.   The other boats stopped to check on what happened to the day's "organizer" and were told to get going, I'd be visiting with Vessel Assist.  

I was driving the boat at full throttle, RPM's 4300, boat at full weight capacity (carried a lot of extra fuel, full bait tank).  Okay, so what do you think happened?  What's the damage....and what's the $damage.  Read on for a very sad description.  Remember to have your vomit bags handy.  The pictures are unsettling.


1002b2.jpg (5735 bytes)This isn't the view you want to see first hand. My best guess is that there wasn't enough lubrication, I was running at full throttle (conditions were great in the morning) and things froze up.  I've had 620 hours on my motor (a bargain basement Force) with no problems up to this point.  So, I guess my time was due.  I did some fishing out there, for nothing.  On the plus side, not one bait croaked...  Had a very nice troll back to Huntington.  We did see one thresher working bait way inside, by the rigs right outside Hunt.Harbor.  Vessel Assist membership is a good thing to have.   But, I'm not looking forward to hearing the report from the mechanic on Tuesday...

The other guys managed to fish Catalina for fair bass action, a couple barracuda, and a hooked and lost WSB off the East End. Lots of short halibut as well.  They also visited the West End for some great sight seeing.  Lots of divers were out there, it was reported.  And, the pirates were thick at the Isthmus.  On the return leg, the guys reported one mako sighted as well as a huge sunfish estimated at about 200#. 


I took the meager and now lame CharkBait to Clark's in HB to see what the damage was.  (Actually I started out going somewhere else, but the outboard mechanic quit the day before at the other shop). Mike Clark was well worth hooking up with, as several CharkBait visitors have mentioned.  I'm going to need a new powerhead.   Peaking into the engine after removing the plugs showed a piston that has seen god.   The breakdown was entirely my own darn fault.  Maybe someone else will benefit from my numbness and hardheadedness.  Roy Patterson, you'll be saying "I told you so," on this one.

After looking at the piston - peaking through the spark plug hole - Mike Clark asked me what type of gas and oil I used.  He indicated he'd worked on 18 other outboards, from several manufacturers this season that had the same damage, and required the same expensive repair.  All of 'em used Arco gas and or Lubrimatic oil.  They'd all seized at high rpm.  I always use Union 76 gas, but, I'd been saving shekels buying Lubrimatic's oil by the 5 gallon jug.  Fishing on my lonesome (typical with my small boat) I rarely push her too much.  I'd get on plane and be content cruising at 20 mph or so.  But, for the Catalina trip planned on Saturday, I pushed the boat at max speed.  The other guys I was fishing with all had 200hp type motors, and I wanted to keep pace; plus the water was flat calm.    I also had her loaded down with a lot of extra fuel, an extra 30 gallons, bait tank full as well.  So, the boat was being pushed to her max.  Mike suggested that the Lubrimatic oil seems to be breaking down, likely the result of the effects of the newer gas additives and the particular properties of the oil.  Of course he recommends Yamaha's oil products (as Roy has been saying for a couple years).  At high rpm, high load, with the oil I was using, a catastrophe was just waiting to occur.  It did.

Use the best oil you can get, especially if you push your motor.
Don't push your boat beyond her limits.
Keep about half your boat's $ value in liquid reserves....

Mike can't get to the repair until the 14th so I've got some time to go over options.   Should I sell the boat as a fixer upper and move into a bigger boat?  Should I get her fixed then sell?  Should I just learn the maintenance lesson, get her fixed and keep on fishing the same boat once the work is done?   Regardless of which option I take, I think it's time for me to sell off my motorcycle and turn that toy into cash.  Anyone want a Yamaha 600 Seca, 6000 miles, great shape.



boatd.jpg (11925 bytes)I went back to see Mike Clark for our second round.  This time he'd take the power head off the boat and have a better look at the problem.  He'd keep the part that needed the work, I'd keep the boat back in the garage... to remind me of fishing.  Yep, right when the marlin finally show, the meager CharkBait sits in the garage...


boatc.jpg (43036 bytes)boath.jpg (39350 bytes)He unhooked all the gizmoes then took the motor right out of the outboard's casing.  Would the repair be better than he led me to think?  Ah, not exactly.  You could see there was some aluminum inside the top cylinder once you pulled the plug.  But, I'd not expected to see the amount of metal scrapped, chipped and crunched once we took off the head.
boatg.jpg (41969 bytes)boate.jpg (54407 bytes)This is the bad news.  One cylindar shows sign of a catastropy.  Gouges in the wall, fragments of the piston and gears.  Frozen, stuck, seized, this puppy is pure toast.  Mike at this point is figuring I've just helped him buy his new condo in Hawaii.  Looks like I'll be in need of a new long block and rebuild... Feeling squimish?  You can bet I am, absolutely squimish, noxious, better grab that barf bag fast!

Talking further with Mike raised another issue.  When I mentioned that the boat was full throatle at only 4300 RPM he said, "The motor should have been spinning at 5500!"  The motor was lugging, something else must be wrong, perhaps the prop also contributed to the failure.   But, the common thread to several motor failures Mike has worked on was the Lubrimatic oil and an engine pushed hard.  In the future, I'll not use the stuff unless it's all I can find.  And, if I ever do use it, I'll be more conservative with the boat.

I left Mike the business end of the motor.  His plan was to take it down some more and let me know the shape of the block.  That's the next consideration.  If the block is good the repair will be considerably less expensive.  If it's a new block, we'll need to replace the whole darn powerhead.  That's going to be like buying a replacement motor, heck it will be a new motor - requiring a break-in period and "new" performance and expectations for service.

More to come....more $ to go....!

cbt2.jpg (33090 bytes)cbt3.jpg (49400 bytes) Well, I had to shell out $3K for the longblock.  Mine was cracked, small crack, but cracked nonetheless.  Checking parts, you could sure see pretty clearly that things werecbt4.jpg (26811 bytes) dismal indeed.  The picture on the right shows off the crack and gouges on the cylender wall.  The piston didn't look too good either...  Yep, she's toast.  Thank goodness this isn't some $20K motor!  That would be some kind of terminal hurt'n.

I also contacted Lubrimatic.   They suggessted that I send them some of the oil.  I was first told this has never happend.  Then I was told that it's usually gas related.  Then I grew to understand that there's always the possibility of a bad batch, and that this conversation has occured before.  Frankly, I blew off sending out the sample.  Figure if they really wanted to check things out they'd want the mix I fed my engine, so they could check the fuel's effect on the oil.  Since they didn't want the whole ball of wax, I came to the conclusion they were just blowing me off nicely. 


12/02/99 - Got the boat back, now comes the break-in again...   For the new break-in process Mike suggested going with the regular 50:1 mix on oil.   He wanted me to idle the motor for a good 30 minutes, then run for a couple hours varying the rpm up to 2500.  After than comes another 10 hours or so of varied cruising.  Figure by the next millennium the boat will be loosened up enough to run.  

Now that I've been boatless and reflecting for a couple months I've come to some conclusions.  Number one: boat problems are expensive (Duh).  Number two: you've got no way out. A guy can either spend $ fishing/boating or for a shrink.  At least with fishing you get a meal every now and then, and a good reason to go to work in the morning (to help pay for the associated expenses).   Boating expenses should be considered a medical deduction.  Number three:   If I hadn't been pushing my boat so hard, with such a high load - gas, bait tank... - she wouldn't have come undone.  Last conclusion: Oil may make a difference.  But, the manner in which I operated my boat caused the failure and expense, maybe... 

How's the boat now running?  GREAT! It's honestlly running a bit better than before.  Fingers are crossed I get in another 600+ hours.

I've had some great email exchanges with folks regarding my motor's demise  since posting this article.  The feedback has been constructive.  The lubrication I used, my cheapskate nature, both contributed more to the failure it seems than the way I was operating the boat.  With proper lubrication the failure would not have occurred in the manner in which it did.  

Here's one of the more educational exchanges:

I just read your sad storrie about your moter becoming toast. sorry to hear it . but at the end of the storrie you said you should not of loaded the boat as heavy as you did .  you still havent gotten it through your thick skull that it was the oil you used nothing else. regardless of the fact that you had one of the cheepest moters on your boat the only way a moter will do what yours did is eather you didnt replace your water pump before the season started or you used cheep oil.even if you had to spend 20 bucks more for 5 gal. of oil it is alot less then 5 to 10 grand to replace or fix a moter
what ever outboard you run stick with the manufactures oil dont mix brands
in a pinch yahama lube will work in merc and merc in yahmaha but only use omc in omc . good luck in the future jim from minnesota
Thanks Jim, my head's not as thick as you might think from my writing.  I felt, and my mechanic, that the oil I used was the problem, and tried to reflect that.  But, I needed to keep things a tad less direct since I could not necessarily prove that point in a court of law if that's where the manufacturer wanted to put us after reading my write-up and saying exactly what I think.  I also did not want to take anything away from my own responsibility for pushing things hard with the motor.  But, my hope was help point folks towards not making the same mistakes I did.  I think a guy could walk away with the idea that Lubrimatic might not be the best thing to use.  That's still my take.. 
Great Stuff<
hope you didnt take offence at what I said . I check your site quite often and get out to cal 4 or 5 times a year . I fish out of helgrens in oceanside mostly with jerry . I had 14 years in the marine business hear in minnesota . and we saw lot of the same things happen the oil you used is ok for moters under 15hp . you have good articals and I do enjoy them . one thing you might want to stress to your readers is changing their water pumps yearly even if it looks like they are pumping alot of water they do fail or not pump enough , and the life expectency of a outboard is 30 seconds to a minn. if it fails . 20 years ago when you took your moter in for a tune up the water pump was automaticly replaced but the cost for the part was only 2.50 now it is 35 dollars and up . still the cheepest insurance a person can have .And running in salt water is even harder on them then fress water maybe 2 time a year out there would be better . hope the fishing picks up for you soon . 2 years ago I spent 109 day on the water with helgrens . hope to be able to again this year if the stock market picks up alittle maybe I can Thanks for taking the time to respond . Oh ya forgot got out for tuna on my last tirp it was a blast. First time I tried it and it was the last run of the season last november . I didnt do as well as most only ended up with 5 and 1 alby but the guys were chearing me on because I caught 19 sharks ,so you guessed it they waited for me to hook up then they would catch the tuna while I had the shark on my line . Hoping to get out the first week in june think the yellows will be running by then sure hope so .   All for now 
Jim Engval
Thief River Falls Mn.
 thanks again for the response
Thanks Jim,  the exchange has been a pleasure.  I've been called much worse than hard-headed, so I'm feeling quite complimented.  Heck, you're reading the site!  That's darn re-inforcing, and you've provided some great info for other folks, too.
Great Stuff<


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