If you happen to come across this stuff, beware, for it is evil.
On July 8, 2011, only a couple weeks after launching Ellie for the first time, my son and I set sail for the annual Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous. Helping us along was my brand new Suzuki 2.5hp outboard motor. We arrived at Fossil Bay about 2:30 in the afternoon, beached Ellie, greeted the new arrivals, and set up camp. A while later, as the tide ebbed, I noticed that the shoreline was littered with sharp rocks so I decided I'd motor around to nearby Fox cove, which had a much less rocky beach.
So I hopped aboard Ellie, fired up my brand new motor and set off for Fox. A few minutes later, it sounded like the motor was losing power. A few seconds later, it died. I turned to look at the motor and saw it was smoking. Smoking! I removed the cover and watched in horror as smoke billowed from the engine. It looked like it was about to burst into flames at any moment. Located inches away from this smoking mass of metal was a plastic fuel tank containing about a quart of gasoline, all strapped to a boat made of wood and dacron. I quickly reached over and scooped up a handful of seawater and splashed it onto the engine. It immediately sizzled and turned to steam. I did this a few more times in a desperate attempt to keep the engine from bursting into flames. The engine eventually stopped smoking. I waited for several minutes for it to cool, then attempted to start it. It wouldn't start. I sailed back and beached Ellie on the same rocky beach that I'd left minutes before. It was then that I discovered the source of the problem.
My water cooled Suzuki had choked on a seaweed hairball.
Later, I got the motor running again after an hour of picking seaweed out of the water inlet with a bent paper clip. The motor had gotten so hot that it melted the insulation on the kill switch wire, grounding it to the case, which actually saved the engine from total destruction. But the motor has never run right since. It runs OK at slow speeds, but overheats, gets smoking hot and dies after running for more than a few minutes at anything over about 1/4 throttle. I removed the thermostat and found seaweed stuck to it. I'm certain the cooling jacket is clogged with seaweed. But the overheating may have warped the cylinder head or cracked the block. The cost estimate to have the engine disassembled, inspected, cleaned and rebuilt was close to that of a new engine, so, that means it's time to...
Break Out Another Thousand
Meet my new air cooled Honda 2.3hp outboard. The air cooled Honda BF2.3D has many nice features. Three of its nicest features are:
- It is air cooled.
- It is not water cooled
- It is cooled, by air.
There are a few other differences between the Honda and the Suzuki DF2.5. The Suzuki has a shift lever, which allows you to manually shift between drive and neutral. The Honda has a centrifugal clutch. At idle the prop doesn't turn. Give it some gas and the prop starts turning. This takes some getting used to, and can be potentially dangerous if you're not careful. The normal starting throttle setting is about 1/4 throttle, which means the engine will always be "in gear" when it's started. Someone could easily get tossed overboard if they happen to be standing when the engine starts, or your boat can take off unexpectedly if not secured. So be prepared. This is one feature of the Honda that I do not like. I'd much rather have a shift lever so I can safely start the motor in neutral. On the other hand, the clutch makes docking more pleasant. No need to fumble with a shift lever to switch out of gear when approaching a dock. Just throttle down.
I had to modify my Duckworks motor mount to get the Honda to fit. At first glance the two motors look identical in size and shape.
But there are differences. The Suzuki is slightly larger, and longer. The Suzuki measures about 17.5" from the top of the motor mount to the anti-cavitation plate and about 21" to the prop. The Honda measures about 16.25" and 19.5". It's odd that there's a difference. I thought short shaft engines were a standard length.
In order to clear my transom, I have to turn the motor on its side when it's raised. The Honda can be turned on its side. The Suzuki cannot, unless you remove the bracket that is designed to prevent you from doing so.
|Remove this bracket to allow the Suzuki to be raised on its side|
[UPDATE July 2015: The solution to prevent fuel leaks on the Honda is to raise the motor on the "wrong" side (with the tiller handle down) In doing so it does not leak oil or gas, nor does it have any ill effects. This places the carb above the fuel tank, the crankcase breather on the top side (presumably) and the motor is not tilted far enough to allow oil to get into the cylinder. Problem solved.]
Another concern I have about the Honda is how the power head is completely surrounded by ductwork. I'm not sure how to rinse the saltwater off the engine when it's buried inside all this ducting. There's no way of knowing what's corroding inside without removing the ductwork. This is not a problem on the Suzuki which had no ducts.
There are some other differences between these engines. The Suzuki is noisy. The Honda is noisier. The Suzuki has an aluminum prop. The Honda's is plastic. I'll have to try and remember not to hit anything with it. They both weigh about 30 lbs. The Honda has a slightly bigger tank at 1.1 liters vs 1.0 liters. The Honda has a 5 yr warranty, the Suzuki has a 3 yr. The Honda costs more.
All in all, I think they're both good engines (if there is such a thing) but they each have their own pros and cons. If you get one, take good care of it. These tiny engines are sensitive to everything, not just seaweed. Always filter your gasoline through a coffee filter. Always run them completely dry after every use. Never run old gas in them. Buy ethanol-free gasoline if it is available in your area. If not, always add fuel stabilizer to your gas if you plan on keeping it longer than 2 weeks. If you don't know how, consider taking the time to learn how to disassemble and clean the carburetor. It's easy to do once you know how, and it's only scary the first time you do it. There are many how-to videos on YouTube. It'll save you about a hundred bucks every time the engine won't start, idle, or run right because the carb needs yet another cleaning. The 2hp Honda uses their GX series carburetor. This video shows how to clean a GX series carb.
And if you live in an area with hairy seaweed, consider an air cooled outboard. Or a lovely pair of nicely varnished oars.
Epilogue: It's now several years later. Having nothing to lose, some spare time on my hands, and armed with a service manual, I dusted off the old Suzuki and tore it all apart. The entire engine block and cylinder head was clogged with seaweed, as I suspected. Plus salt crystals and some corrosion caused by the trapped water in the cooling jacket. I cleaned out all the passages, ordered a new set of gaskets, and reassembled the engine. It runs.....well, mostly. It starts, idles and runs just fine at all speeds, except if I run the engine at wide open throttle for more than a couple minutes then it dies, but not from overheating like it did before. I suspect this is due to an unrelated problem, like a partially clogged fuel filter, or something got warped or cracked due to the overheating. I'm not sure what to do with the engine at this point, except maybe hang onto it as a backup for the Honda. It's still usable to me since I never need to run it at more than 1/2 throttle anyway.
Epilogue #2: I disassembled the carburetor and discovered a teeny-tiny spring on the float valve was missing. Instead of ordering a new spring, I said "screw it" and ordered a brand new carburetor. I installed the new carb and voila, the engine now runs perfectly. It no longer dies after running full speed for a couple minutes.