Thursday, 26 June 2014
How to Operate and Handle a Motor Boat
By A. Hyatt Verrill
From The American Boy magazine, July 1910. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, June 2014.
NOWADAYS small power boats are so cheap, so reliable and so simple that many boys and even girls, own and operate their own boats very successfully. But even though the makers’ boast “That a child can run one” may be literally true, yet do not think that because you can “run” your motor that this is all that is necessary or advisable to know. As long as the motor goes well and nothing unexpected happens, the boat will almost run itself, but gasoline motors have a peculiar habit of stopping now and then and balking like a fractious horse with apparently as little reason. At such times the boy that can merely “run” his boat is in a bad fix for unless one knows what the trouble is and how to remedy it, he must call on some other boat to tow him home or depend on his oars and must then go to quite a little trouble and expense to hire some “trouble man” to put his motor in order again. In this little article I shall try to tell you what to do and what is of more importance perhaps, what NOT to do, to operate, care for and handle a power boat intelligently, safely and in a way to get the greatest pleasure and service from your craft with the least trouble and expense.
In the first place always bear in mind that a gasoline engine must have gasoline, proper lubrication, good electrical equipment and proper water circulation in order to run. If your engine has been properly installed and tested any failure in its operation will be due to one of these primary necessities failing, unless something is broken, bent or injured. Nine-tenths of motor troubles are due to electrical faults while the other tenth are usually due to gasoline trouble. Old batteries, broken or worn wires, poor connections, wet or dampness on batteries or spark coil, carbon on spark plug or electrodes and in fact a great number of other little things will stop an engine and cause it to absolutely refuse to work until the proper repair or adjustment is made. And right here let me advise you to always bear in mind that the little things are what count with a gas engine. If your engine has been running smoothly and suddenly stops, or begins to miss explosions and gradually slows down and stops, first look over all your wiring and batteries. Every power boat owner should be equipped with an “Ammeter” a little watch-like instrument for testing batteries. Fig. 1. These Ammeters cost only a couple of dollars and will save you many times that amount in batteries, time and worry. If your wires are all whole, in good condition and the connections at batteries, switch and engine, clean and tight, look to your batteries. Disconnect the wire from spark electrode (on make and break engine) turn on the switch and rub the end of the wire against some part of the cylinder. If a bright spark appears you may be sure that your batteries are not at fault. Turn over your fly wheel (with wire still disconnected) until in the firing position and then rub your free wire against the electrode end. If a spark still shows the trouble is other than electrical. If a spark fails to appear it is a certain sign that your firing points are either dirty, worn or improperly adjusted. Take out the electrodes from cylinder and clean them thoroughly with gasoline and if they move stiffly lubricate with a little kerosene. Now try the spark again and nine times out of ten you will find it sparks all right and as soon as wires are connected your motor will run along smoothly again. Much of such trouble can be avoided by proper and not excessive lubrication.
In the case of your engine being of the jump-spark system you should proceed differently. Remove spark plug, lay it on the cylinder or some other portion of the engine, with wires connected, turn on your switch and turn wheel over until the vibrator on coil buzzes. If your batteries and wiring are in order a bright blue spark will run between the two electrodes on spark plug end. If they do not appear, turn off switch, connect a new plug to wire and try again. If on this trial you do not get a spark your wires are short-circuited somewhere and you must find the spot by going over the wires inch by inch and trying all connections. Also test your batteries and discard any that register lower than ten amperes and place new ones in their places. The vibrator on coil should buzz clearly, steadily, and with a high-pitched tone but unless it works unevenly, or refuses to buzz, you had best not try to adjust it yourself as vibrator coils are delicate instruments and a slight mistake in adjustment may ruin them beyond repair. If you find your sparking apparatus in first class shape and your motor still refuses to work, look to the carburetor or vaporizer for trouble (of course I take it for granted that you will be sure that there is gasoline in the tank) for the cheap vaporizers furnished with many motors are sources of constant trouble and you cannot spend a few dollars to better advantage than by investing in a really good carburetor of the float-feed type Fig. 2, and having it properly installed and adjusted. If the motor refuses to make even one revolution open the drain cock at base of cylinder and turn the wheel over. If gasoline issues from the cock it shows your engine-base is flooded and probably after working the excess out by turning the wheel while the cock is open, your motor will start. As soon as it does so, turn oft your gasoline supply, or needle valve, Fig. 3-A until the motor begins to miss explosions, or back explosions occur. Then turn on the valve slowly until the engine runs smoothly. Flooding will seldom bother you if provided with a carburetor but will happen right along if you depend on a vaporizer. Fig. 3. Sometimes your motor will stop from too little gasoline but this usually is shown by back explosions,—a bumpy sort of sound accompanied with puffs of blue smoke issuing from engine base joints and carburetor. In this case open the gasoline supply, Fig. 2-A, a little more, or turn off the air supply Fig. 2-B-B slightly, until the back-firing ceases. After once adjusting your carburetor so that engine runs smoothly never change it until you have made sure that any trouble is not elsewhere. Sometimes, too, an engine will stop suddenly without apparent reason and even when batteries, coil, and spark are all right and base is not flooded, it will refuse to budge. This may be due to dirt or water in the gasoline. Take the pipe off at carburetor, Fig. 2-C, or remove the cap on top, Fig. 2-D, and let a little gasoline flow through. As soon as the gasoline is clear try your engine again. If your carburetor supply-pipe is provided with a settling chamber this trouble will seldom occur and if you have a float-feed carburetor you can avoid water troubles by draining off a little gasoline from the bottom of carburetor, Fig. 2-E every morning before using your boat. The best way to avoid all trouble of this sort however is to carefully strain your gasoline through chamois skin when putting it in the tank and by keeping the tank well covered and protected from rain and spray. If your motor gets hot, pounds and stops, or begins to slow down, stop it at once and look after your water cooling system. A water cooled motor—and most motor boats have this type—must have a steady circulation of water through the water-jacket on cylinder. If your engine uses a rotary pump you will seldom have trouble but if a plunger pump is used you will often find that a bit of dirt or weed has caught in one of the check-valves of the water pipe and thus stopped the circulation. To ascertain if this is the trouble loosen the cap to the check valves, Figs. 4 and 5 A, A, one at a time, in the pipe either side of pump and see if they are clean. Then try the engine for a few revolutions, and if water is circulating properly the pipe next to cylinder will feel cold and you can also open the water-jacket drain cock on cylinder to see if water is filling the jacket. Still another way is to loosen the cap on the check-valve nearest the cylinder and if pump is working well the water will spurt out from around the loose cap. As soon as this happens tighten up the cap again. Sometimes your pump may need tightening of the packing around the plunger and if the water fails to circulate after valves are clean, try tightening up the packing-collar a little. Fig 5-B. A great source of trouble in pumps comes from the all-too-common habit of using the pump for a bilge pump at times. This should never be done for even if a strainer is provided so fine as to prevent anything passing through the pump that will clog the valves, yet the fine grit and mud will in time wear out the check-valves as well as clog the water-jacket.
If your engine turns over very hard, open the relief valve on cylinder-head and if it still turns hard you can be sure that your lubrication needs looking into or that something is bent or out of line. Too much lubrication is almost as bad as too little and the common practice of allowing your oil cups to run a perfect stream for a time and then shutting them off altogether, cannot be too strongly condemned. Adjust the oilers until the oil drops evenly and steadily from six to fifteen drops a minute, keep them filled and keep them open as long as engine is running. The compression grease cups on shaft should be kept filled also and should be turned tight now and then. Do not waste time and strength in cranking an engine; unless something is radically wrong it will fire on two turns as well as on twenty and to keep on turning it over is likely to result in flooding the base with unburned gasoline. If after proper oiling it still turns hard, disconnect the engine shaft from propeller shaft and try it: a properly adjusted and properly oiled motor (up to ten horse power) when free of shaft and load and with compression relief open, should turn easily with thumb and finger of one hand; if it takes more than this amount of muscular effort something is wrong in adjustment or lubrication. Sometimes the cylinder,—especially if the engine has been overheated,—will become dry and the piston will stick. In this case remove cylinder head and pour in a good lot of kerosene. After this has stood some time, wipe out and pour in oil. Then turn engine over a few times, put head in place and try running it. It is not always necessary to take off the head as many engines are provided with a relief and priming cock on cylinder head and oil and kerosene may be poured through this. In the case of a jump-spark motor the plug may be removed and oil poured through the hole. Sometimes an engine will be hard to start, especially in cold weather. If it fails to start on one or two turns it should be primed by injecting a little gasoline through the relief or priming cup. This will usually start the motor but if it gives one or two explosions and then stops, the trouble is in the gasoline supply or carburetor. Always keep all joints and nuts tight and free from wiggling and wipe all grease and oil from your engine after running it. A good engineer can always be told by the condition of his motor or engine and if not neglected a motor can be kept as free from dirt and grease as a sewing machine or typewriter. Learn to know the sounds your engine makes when running smoothly and you will soon find that you are able to detect the least trouble long before the motor stops. Have your batteries and wires where you can reach them quickly, and easily but see that they are thoroughly protected from the weather. A watertight box holding the batteries, coil, etc., placed on a thwart near the engine is very handy and is far better than having them thrown into a drawer or locker under a seat. Fig. 6-B. In very bad, rainy weather or when not in use for some time, the whole box can be taken out and placed indoors thus rendering your boat thief-proof and protecting the electrical equipment at the same time. If you have a jump-spark engine it is wise to provide some sort of protector for the plug, Fig. 6-P, most spark-plugs will short-circuit if wet with rain or spray and cause a lot of trouble. The “Reliance” plug will spark under water but when hot from the engine and then wet by spray, the steam will cause short-circuiting even in this plug. There are numerous inexpensive protectors on the market but even an old cap or a piece of rubber cloth thrown over the plug will help a great deal. Short-circuiting at the plug is easily detected by a crackling sound and blue streaks of sparks running across the plug itself. In case this occurs turn off the switch, wipe the plug dry and smear with thick grease. Have a good kit of tools handy at all times; there should be a hammer, screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a monkey wrench, pipe wrench (Stilson) and an “S” or Westcott wrench. Cotton waste, oil, grease, kerosene, and extra gasoline should always be stored in some convenient locker or box. Fig. 6 (T). Make a point of keeping your brass work polished or at least oiled and clean and free from horrid, green verdigris. Nothing looks worse than neglected brass work and a few moments spent cleaning it is more than repaid by appearances and the saving of corrosion. If you cannot keep it bright and clean, it is better by far to paint it with a good enamel paint.
A few extra screws, nuts, bolts, nails and some electric wire should always be on hand and in case of a jump-spark motor an extra plug should always be carried, as a plug is liable to give out at any time and although usually they can be repaired it saves time and lessens danger to change to a new plug and fix the old one at your leisure. Keep your engine covered with canvas or oil cloth when not in use and cultivate a pride in the appearance of your motor as much as in your boat. I have seen many a finely-finished and “yachty” boat in which the engine was neglected, rusty, dirty and covered with old grease and dirt. Such conditions are inexcusable and point to either slovenly habits in other matters or else to ignorance on the owner’s part as to the requirements of a motor. No piece of machinery can be depended upon if neglected and a gasoline motor, although so strong and simple, is in reality a beautiful and delicate piece of machinery. Such an abused engine may, and at times does, run remarkably well but you may be sure that it would run a hundred per cent better if properly cared for. I cannot tell you everything about a motor or a motor boat in an article like this but I hope that with the above hints you will find many of your troubles ended, but before closing I must give you a list of don’ts which every boy using a boat,— whether power or sail,—should memorize, or if this is not possible, they should be pasted up where he can see them at any time. I have boated and sailed for thirty years in all sorts of craft under all sorts of conditions and have never suffered from any accident or weather, mainly because I have always taken proper precaution and have not been afraid to be on the safe side instead of trying to be smart or "showing off.” The more experienced the sailor, the more cautious he will be and lack of precaution and care only shows ignorance and bravado. Scores of lives are lost every year by boats becoming unmanageable or disabled and not being provided with food, water, oars or anchor.
Don’t go on any trip, no matter how short, without oars and anchor.
Don’t go any distance without a jug of water and a can of biscuit. It is safer to always keep them in a locker. You never know when you may need them.
Don’t overload your boat or needlessly go out in bad weather.
Don’t see how close you can run to larger boats to "get the swell.”
Don’t push your boat at full speed in heavy seas, it strains the boat and engine, throws spray and may result in swamping.
Don’t run before a very heavy sea, go across it diagonally if possible.
Don’t run in the trough of the sea, bring her head up to meet each wave.
Don’t try to lay to (keep your boat motionless) in rough weather without a sea anchor, drag or riding-sail. An old oar, a tin bucket, a bunch of canvas, some cushions or in fact any object that will float, fastened to a line passed over the bows will keep your boat head to the seas and make her ride easily. If you cannot arrange this, a piece of awning or cloth lashed to a pole, or oar, and held upright at the stern like a sail, will keep your boat head on to the wind. If oil is poured on your drag it will help a great deal in heavy seas and even oil thrown overboard from the bows will do wonders.
Don’t expect every other boat to get out of your way, the rules of the road on the water are as definite as on land and must be adhered to. If the other fellow violates them it is no reason you should. Keep to the rules and if anything goes wrong it will not be you that is at fault.
Don’t go out in misty or foggy weather without horn, compass, and bell. A small compass should always be on board.
Don’t go out at night without lights.
Don’t run fast in waters you are unfamiliar with. "Haste makes waste” and a sunken pile, stake or reef can send a small boat to the bottom very easily.
Don’t try to come to a dock under full headway. Better stop too soon and paddle up or start over again.
Don’t allow anyone to smoke near your gasoline tank, or to drop cigar or cigarette ashes in your boat, or to light matches near the bottom of your boat. Friends may not like to obey your orders but friends are cheaper than gasoline explosions.
Don’t look into a gasoline tank or fill it by lantern, or candle light. Use an electric pocket search lamp,—or do it in daytime.
Don’t run your boat when on the mud or sand if you can possibly avoid it.
Don’t let weeds, ropes, or lines get twisted around your propeller.
Don’t start out without gasoline, batteries, and oil.
Don’t fail to use judgment, care, and caution, and follow all directions furnished with your engine or boat without fail.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.