Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Birth of FrankenMotor

    "Don't have a clue what I am in for...."
                                 -Stitched Up Heart

   Here's the scene:
   It's mid-October, I am feeding my browsing addiction, checking the Kijiji and Craigslist traplines, killing time that would be better spent tapping out another brilliant blog post.

   Before falling any further down this rabbit hole,  let's get some semantics dealt with-  the difference between "shopping" and "browsing"

    Shopping is an act with a purpose- to acquire something, singular or plural, that you need or want.

    Shopping is focused-  it's hunting and gathering for a consumerist society.  Find it, buy it, go.  One STARTS shopping with an end goal in mind... like, oh, a pair of shoes.  I don't understand anyone who answer's a salesclerk's "Can I help you?"  with, "No, I'm just browsing."

   No, you damn well aren't.

  You want a pair of shoes, size 9, triple E, brown, casual with good arch support.  You have a goal.

   Browsing is simply seeing what is for sale.  You don't need or want anything in particular, you're just....


  I spy an ad online- dude is looking to trade his Tanaka 3hp outboard for an electric trolling motor, and some cash, either way.

  Which, I had.
  Well, the trolling motor, if not necessarily the cash, either way.

  Now, I didn't need a Tanaka 3 hp outboard.

   But I didn't need an electric trolling motor either.

   I bounced it off SWMBO, who gave me the nod, providing the new motor was running...

   (Apparently, the saga of the Trio of Dead Mopeds is not going to be lost to history anytime soon around Stately Jones Manor.)

 ... "Dude says it does."...

......  and I didn't "spend any more on it than that old trolling motor cost."

   In other words, I couldn't spend more than $25 on this motor.

   In other, other words, as the premier of Ontario puts it, this project had to be revenue neutral.

   So, after a flurry of email negotiations, and after I added an old battery box to the package to sweeten the deal, we made the trade straight across, no cash either way.

   ...and then I brought home my new acquisition and surveyed what I had.
   You've never heard of Tanaka?  You're not alone.

From Tanaka's corporate site:

     'In 1918, the Tanaka business was started in Japan by Takashi Tanaka who created “Tanaka Iron Works” near Tokyo, Japan. In 1941 the manufacturing plant near Narashino (approximately 25 miles SE of Tokyo) was built and in 1948, Tanaka began research and development of compact internal combustion engines. In 1950, the company name was changed to Tanaka Kogyo Co., Ltd. The word “Kogyo” (pronounced “Koh-gyoh”) means industries in Japanese. ....

   (lots of boring irrelevant stuff here...)

... in 1974, introduced a 2.5 hp outboard motor that would eventually be private label for Sears. ...
In 1978, Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd. was established in Kent, WA to pursue and support North American sales. In 1984, Tanaka acquired a small mail order company, Aquabug International, expanded its product offering and renamed it Sporting Edge.
In 1985, Tanaka relocated its entire operation to a new 70,000 sq. ft. facility in Bothell, WA. In 1987, the Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd/Sporting Edge assets were purchased from Tanaka Japan by an investment group led by Bill Thomson. The company, while now separate from Tanaka Japan, retained the identity of Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd and the exclusive marketing rights for Tanaka North, Central and South America.
In 1989, Tanaka’s USA assets and marketing rights were purchased by the Ariens Co. of Brillion, Wisconsin. Soon after, a new subsidiary company of Ariens, Tanaka Ltd., was established to continue marketing and support of Tanaka products. In 1990, a new line of Ariens brand 2-cycle handheld products (made by Tanaka) was introduced for Ariens Distributors and Dealers. In 1992, Ariens discontinued its relationship with Tanaka and ISM was established by a five long-time Tanaka employees....'

   So, lot's of history, of which Tanaka's illustrious line of outboard motors gets... half a sentence.

    Basically, the design brief was to build a simple, low-buck, low output 2 stroke outboard motor.

    It's essentially a weed trimmer with a prop.

                                                                                  -from the web



  If you decided to build an outboard motor with as few parts as possible, you would end up with a Tanaka 300.

   Our old 2 hp Yamaha P45 was more complicated.

   The powerhead is aircooled, with a dry exhaust that exits below the waterline.   There's a small built in fuel tank, and no provision for an auxiliary tank.  There's a choke, a fuel shutoff petcock,  a twist grip throttle on a very short tiller,a kill switch and that is the entire list of controls... and features.  There's no reverse, and no clutch- it's pull, point and shoot.

 It's light, simple and loud.... ish.  More on that in a bit.

    So, I got my new find home, gave it a once over and realized that there were some vital parts missing- like the fuel shut off petcock and fuel lines, the wiring for the kill switch, and the twist grip throttle.
   Other than that, it wasn't in bad shape.  The tank was clean, the plastic was uncracked, the engine kicked over fine and the starter cord recoil recoiled.

  Errrrm... okay, it should run, with the missing bits no longer missing. Parts are available, and fairly cheap and the manual is a point and click away online.  Whew.  As I  sat in the skunkworks  and pondered this orphan, I got thinking.

"What if," thought I, "I optimized this motor for dinghy use?"

   First things first- the tiller is too short.

   The outboards on SWMBO's Bluenose and our Walker Bay dinghy were treated to Minn Kota tiller extensions a the beginning of this season...

 and SWMBO and I both agreed that the longer reach made a world of difference in comfort and control.

 The only challenge was that a tiller extension exceeded my SWMBO-approved $25 budget.

 I pondered the pile of cast-offs that hadn't quite been cast off from the corners of the workshop yet, and discovered an old broken lawnmower handle.


  This might be better than store-bought.

  A little measuring and eyeballing and cutting and ...

...add a bicycle brake lever, a foam grip, a throttle cable from a citi moped, some zipties, a new petcock, a VW fuel filter, fuel hoses, and $23 later....


  Whuh-BAM!  Frankenmotor is born.

   Why the curved tiller?

    Sitting astride the center seat of a dinghy, a straight tiller with a twist-grip throttle is fine, in a straight line.  Start to turn, though, and as you push or pull the tiller your wrist wants to either roll off the throttle, or roll on the throttle.  It feels awkward. With nothing significant invested other than my time, I decided to try a curved tiller and a throttle lever rather than a twist grip.

  But, before schlepping Frankenmotor down the dock, I hung it from a sawhorse, added some fuel to the tank, put enough water in a bucket to cover the prop, opened the choke and gave the cord a pull.  First pull she lit up!


   True to it's weed trimmer, er, roots, it is weed trimmer loud.

   Kinda obnoxious loud.  Kinda, might-piss-off-fellow-Marina-boaters loud.

    But maybe that's just in the garage, with the exhaust above the waterline

   Well, it's the end of the season, there are few boats around, there's no better time to see how loud it really is, in the real world.

   SWMBO volunteered to be the test pilot.  we swapped out our 2.3 hp Suzuki outboard and clamped on Frankenmotor.

   SWMBO got Frankie to light up on the first pull and off she went.  With the exhaust outlet underwater, the motor was noticeably quieter.  Not as quiet as our Suzuki water-cooled outboard, but comparable to a Honda 2.3 hp aircooled outboard.



  At full throttle, according to my handheld GPS, in back-to-back sheltered flat water tests, Frankenmotor drives our porky 10' Walker Bay dinghy at a similar pace to the Suzuki-about 6 knots full out.

   That junkyard tiller and throttle?

    Success! the L shaped tiller makes for a more comfortable grip, with less wrist fatigue, and SWMBO demonstrated that a doubled up hair elastic makes a good throttle lock.

   As I mentioned, I don't need  another outboard, but now that I've got one...

  ... I should probably build a boat to fit it.

  Thanks for stopping by, and please, "Talk the Dock!"


Friday, 30 October 2015

The Slow Fade


"Summer has come and passed....."
                            -Green Day

    But, autumn has been pretty damn awesome.

   Actually, the whole season , from beginning to end, has been great, meteorologically and oceanographically speaking.

   After two reallydamncold winters with 95%+ ice cover on the Lakes, the water level has been high all season.

  At least 2 feet higher than 2012/2013.

   Usually,  the water level is highest in the late spring early summer, as snow melt and spring rains swell tributaries and upper Lakes- this year, weirdly, the water level in July was higher than June:

                                                                          -charts courtesy of  Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  ...  And pretty much stayed there through the middle of September, before gradually starting to fall.
 As an added bonus, the summer was relatively dry- enough rain to keep farmers happy, enough sun to keep beachgoers happy, and enough wind to keep sailors happy...mostly.

The  sunsets were absofreakinlutely spectacular.

   As the season slowly faded, I discovered that the sunrises were pretty damn amazing too, even if the fact that I was observing them meant that endofseason was looming:

     In September I FINALLY accomplished a task that had been out of my reach for two seasons.

     (No, it wasn't "writing another blog post", Smartass Reader.)

    When Good Old Boat  slated my account of our acquisition of  Karma, Tim, the Managing Editor, requested some high resolution photos of  Karma under sail.  clicking through the hundreds of pics on my computer, I realized I had NO high res photos of us under full sail.  There were lots of pics of us loafing along with the genny fully bagged out, there were low-res pics of us with both main and genoa looking full, fat and sassy...

     But no magazine-worthy, high-resolution, mainsail-and-foresail-as-Neptune-intended pics of Karma in full double-stitched Dacron splendour.

    So, the only pics in my international magazine debut article... are of Karma sailing half-assed.


    Yeah, shut up-  even I can see the symbolism.

    Anyfail, September saw Jack and Hilary step up and catch some full sail sunset shots.  Thanks, guys!


   Speaking of full sails and Hilary, he started flying his assymetrical spinnaker this year, making him easy to spot on the lake:

  "What of Whiskeyjack?"  the faithful hordes ask.  "Have you forsaken the ass which formerly bore you?"

   Nay, my friends, and I report  that Whiskeyjack  is in good hands. 
   Phil has been sailing her ass off, on her ear, grinning ear to ear:

  She's still in the water, still on the dock, and due for haul out the same day as Karma, November 5th.
  Frank and Lorraine and Keara are also wringing the last few sailing days out of the season as well:

   By the last half of October the Dock was looking sparse:

     Sunday, SWMBO's boat Ereni came out of the water;

      By Tuesday, there were three-  Karma, Keara, and Whiskeyjack.  

     Hurricane Patricia's walk of shame across North America forced us to move to the relative safety of virtually empty Dock Five to ride out the 50 knot gusts and 2 metre waves.  That's us, below, on the dock closest to shore.    The sunsets suck, but it sure is calm in there.

   The water level is up about 2 feet in 12 hours.

    We seldom see waves rolling deep enough, and strong enough, to make the dinghy dock hump.

      No shame here about leaving the dock- there were four freighters hunkered as deep in the Bay as their draft would allow.

  Tomorrow the three boats  leave the Marina for the season and start a new tradition- we move to the dinghy dock for the night, roll out the jack-o-lanterns and candy for intrepid trick or treaters, and enjoy one last night on the water.  Then it's under the bridge to the yard to wait for haulout.

   Then, six long months on the dirt begin.


Thanks for checking in, and please remember to "Talk the dock!"

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

So, This Happened....

  "But your thoughts will soon be wandering, the way they always do..."
                                                                                  -Bob Seger

...  And it's kinda cool.

  The story of the purchase and delivery of Karma has now been told!   Please pick up an issue, at your local fine magazine retailer, or from Good Old Boat directly.

  Karen Larson and the team at GOB were a delight to work with, from start to finish.  Thanks!

  Hopefully this is the start of a long rewarding relationship.

  And thanks to all of you, Faithful Readers, for your support of the D6C over the years- your support and enthusiasm for our small time, small town, small boat adventures are where it all began, and where ti continues to grow.

   Thanks for taking the time to have a look, and taking the time to...

"Talk the Dock!"

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The July Dock Digest- Lots of Really Good Nothing

     "I'm gonna tell 'em that I've got no one to blame..."
                                                   -Sheryl Crow

I recommend grabbing a beverage- I've got a lot of ground to cover here.*

  So, where to begin?

  At the lack of beginning, I suppose.

  As I am sure you have figured out, Faithful Reader, I have been procrastinating.

  And a near bloody thing it was.

   See here's the thing about procrastination, it's a delay of stages.
   It starts with, "I'm (tired, busy, working, sailing, eating, drinking, pick one), I'll do it tomorrow."

   Then "I'll do it tomorrow" becomes "I'll do it this week," then this week becomes next week, next week ends up in the dust and becomes last week, then last week becomes two weeks past, then becomes last month, then  Procrastination Induced Panic (henceforth known as PIP- if it's not a documented disorder, it should be)  starts to nibble the already frayed edge of my writer's psyche, and I begin to wonder if procrastination has mestastasized into writers block or worse...

.... have I run out of things to write?

  Or am I just fuckin' lazy?

   Neither diagnosis is an attractive one, and in either case , the only solution is to sit my fat ass down in front of a keyboard and pound away until I produce something fit for consumption by the voracious hungering masses handful of loyal readers who have, thankfully, stuck it out and stuck by me.

    If I can't come up with something fit for consumption, we still have this.

     So, as Inigo Montoya uttered, "Lemme sum up"

    July was a great, busy month.  But I realized I should backtrack:  Let's review who is on the Dock roster this year, who is on the disabled list and who is missing in action:

     Phil and Whiskeyjack are back, Gordon and QuidiVidi are back, the Irelands are back, Rick is back with 20th hole, (still for sale), Hillary is back, Jordan is back, with a new-to-him ex-Jack Bluenose, Buttons,

  Eric is back with After School, his DS20, a boat muskrats seem to admire:

 Jamie and Tran have upped the Soundbox fleet game with a pontoon boat.  Yes, it may arguably be the coolest boat on the Dock.

    Nancy and Drew are back with their Precision 23, resplendent with refinished brightwork and renamed in Nancy's honour...

Frank and Lorraine are back in the slip beside us with their new-to-them O'day, Keara and Bruce is back with Prolific, two slips down...

   ...and of course Jack is back, splashing a Bluenose...

 ...and with Jim's Carpe Diem returning, that's  4 on the Dock this season- that may be a record fleet west of Mahone Bay... I even got him to take the helm on Karma:

  Speaking of helming Karma,  SWMBO has demonstrated a degree of badassery at the helm.

     The rental SeaDoos are corraled at the foot of the Dock again. 'nuff said.

   John is back to work, cancer-free, and busy, so his Sirius 22 is absent from the Dock this season, although he still wanders down from time to time.

The water level is WAY up.  Two winters with almost complete great Lakes ice-over really helps.  This season, the water level is at least 3 feet over 2013, month for month.  It is a little weird to have to walk UP from land to get onto the water.

The water level is high enough that Hillary was able to safely make a run into Hoover's Marina in Nanticoke, normally a dicey proposition for a boat with a 5' draft.

We paraded in the Canada Day boat parade on July 1....

...finishing 3rd, behind Keara....

which got us $25 and a nice plaque, now hanging in Karma's saloon.

Speaking of Karma's saloon, a number of low-buck projects found their way onboard-  the tv wall was covered in the aft cabin...

and I built a new cabinet to make better use of the storage space in the saloon:

and the cockpit table is finished and installed in the, er, cockpit.

More on that later.

Pottahawk was relatively trouble-free and drama-free this year-  nobody sank in the fairway, for instance.  The return parade was relatively subdued, evidence that all had a good time.

  The weather has been damn near ideal for sailing this summer, so we sailed.  We sailed Ereni, we sailed Karma,

 We discovered what a sweet sailing boat a Bluenose is.

And I am again racing on Cyclone...

....where out crew continues to surprise with their skills including spinn pole surfing:

  And there's lots more going on- stay tuned.

  All told, life on the Dock doesn't suck.

Thanks for taking the time to read the D6C.  If you liked what you read, please Talk the Dock! Spread the word.