Does anybody remember outboard motors that weren’t fuel injected? The ones you had to use the “choke” lever on to get them to start? I have a story about this.
My 18 ft. Lund Mr. Pike was my pride and joy. I bought it new back around 1982 and to me it was the best boat I had ever had. It was designed for a fisherman and just seemed to be perfectly laid out for that task. It had front and rear casting decks, 2 live wells, side rod locker, could easily accommodate 4 fishermen, was stable in really rough water, and would handle like a dream. Best of all it had an aluminum hull which was perfect for fishing the rocky shield lakes in northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario.
We live in the very southwestern tip of Indiana and at the time finding a authorized Lund dealer wasn’t easy. In the 1980’s aluminum hull boats weren’t popular south of Chicago (300 miles to the north). Everything was fiberglass and designed for southern lakes or rivers. Mud and sand bottoms meant that a durable aluminum hull wasn’t necessary. Plus, “glass” hulls didn’t have those pesky rivet heads on the bottom that would slow a boat down at full speed.
But hey, I knew what I wanted and finally found a dealer about 100 miles away who did sell Lund boats. Didn’t have the boat I wanted, but he did have the brand. I visited him a few times and finally decided I would have him order the boat of my dreams, an 18 ft. Mr. Pike. We agreed on the set up, trolling motor, and main power. In this case the choice was very limited. If he (the dealer) was to set the boat up then the power had to be a Suzuki outboard.
Truth be told, I had zero experience with Suzuki. It was a new brand for outboards and this guy was surely one of the first dealers in the Midwest. But he was convincing. “Best outboard in the world today”, he assured me.
And so my dream boat was delivered with a 130 HP Suzuki outboard.
We used the boat on several fishing trips the first season and my only complaint was the sensitivity of the choke. Position the lever just right and the motor would fire up after a brief crank. Miss and it became an issue. But it would usually start. I mentioned this to the dealer, but he was less than reassuring. “Just the way those highly tuned Japanese motors are”, he said.
Soon my pride and joy Mr. Pike was in its second summer season. The choke problem on the Suzuki had gotten a bit worse and on a few occasions the motor wouldn’t start until I had almost cranked the battery down to nothing. But it did always start.
One day I took our oldest daughter Kristy out fishing on Lake of the Woods in Canada. It was July and we decided to do a 40 mile run from Nestor Falls up to Whitefish Bay. We got a nice early start and were on our spots before most others were even in their boats. Fishing was good and by around 5 PM we had a nice mess of fish. We agreed to head for the cabin so Dixie would have plenty of time to prepare dinner.
The rods were secured, trolling motor clamped down, boat policed for loose trash, and all ropes accounted for. I lowered the power tilt all the way down, raised the choke lever, and turned the key. The starter engaged and the Suzuki seemed to want to start, but it didn’t. I paused, lowered the choke lever, and tried again. No start.
I repeated this sequence which involved waiting 5 to 10 minutes, then try again, then wait again. As attempts mounted I could sense that the battery was getting weaker. I checked the fuel lines, gas tanks, and just about anything I thought might be causing the motor not to start. But it just wouldn’t fire.
Finally there was the ominous click, click, click; the battery was out of juice. It wouldn’t turn the motor over. And now it was closer to 7 PM and most boats had headed back to their respective camps. I waved at a few. They waved back. Great, friendly folks who don’t understand I need help!
Those of you who remember these “good old days” may also remember that inside the motor hood there was an emergency “pull cord” that you could, at least theoretically, use to start the motor assuming you were a fullback for some pro football team. But that was all we had. So I gave it a try.
If you’ve never done this I can assure you that not only do you need some muscle, but you also need some leverage. I wrapped the cord around the motor’s flywheel, braced myself on the rear casting platform, took a deep breath, and gave a tug. The flywheel spun but the engine didn’t start.
My daughter was patiently setting in the front seat, no doubt attempting to isolate herself from my frustration and a few profanities that inevitably entered my vocabulary after each pull. I was now drenched in sweat and getting more and more concerned that we might have to spend the night out on the lake. There were no cabins close and our single “requisite” emergency paddle was fairly useless given the distance we would have to paddle to anything resembling civilization.
I knew Dixie would be getting very worried. Maybe that would be good as sooner or later she would be sending out friends to search for us. “Did I tell her where we were going?”, I wondered.
I suspect every fisherman has at some time experienced this sort of angst and helplessness, but with Kristy on board it was worse. We had no food and only the lake for water. It was warm but I knew it would be a cold night. Best bet would be to paddle to a shoreline and settle in for the night.
Midsummer in Canada has long days, but now the sun was dropping down below the tree line. I grabbed the paddle and started positioning the boat toward shore. After a few minutes we bumped into the rocky shoreline. I grabbed the bow line and tied the boat to a fallen tree at water’s edge. Kristy looked almost as helpless as our situation.
I looked at her and at where we were. I just had to give it one more try. I raised the choke lever, wrapped the now somewhat frayed pull cord around the motor flywheel, and gave it as hard a pull as I could.
Wrump! Putter, putter, putter…it started! I looked at Kristy and her big, broad smile. I lowered the choke lever, revved the engine, and untied the bow line as if speed was imperative and any delay might kill our chances of heading back to the cabin.
Now there are boat rides and then there are fabulous boat rides. This one back to the cabin was fabulous. I put my arm around Kristy, gave her a big hug, and smiled. We were OK and in a short time would be back with the rest of the family.
We got back about 10 PM. Dixie and the other girls were relieved. We shared our story and Dixie and I had a few beers. Dinner was chips and cheese. And it was so good!
The next day I got up, called my buddy who owned the hardware store in Emo, Ontario (which sold outboard motors), and asked him if he had a motor that would work for my pride and joy Mr. Pike. He assured me he had something that would be perfect.
A day later I was fishing with the family again in the Mr. Pike. And you know what? That Mercury started perfectly every time!
Being old school I always think that the holidays start right after Thanksgiving, but today that’s just not the way it works. So, this week we’re rolling out some great holiday items that we’re sure you will want to take a look at. We are proud to have finished our Holiday Gift Guide in record time. Be sure and give it a good, hard look. It has some of the best gifts ideas you will find anywhere. We also have a great promotion offering $20 Off any order of $150 or more plus FREE Shipping.
Thank you for your friendship and loyalty. We are here because of you and hope you will always be willing to let us know what we can do better. Giving you the best fishing experience is what we’re all about. If you have suggestion how we can do this better please let me know. I promise to be “all ears”!