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Dealing with Diesel Envy

Finally, in late February we were able to go for a sail on Head-Over-Heels. I once heard someone define a comfortable boat as one that "sails like an old Buick". That pretty much describes Head-Over-Heels. Like cruising in a big, old Roadmaster. All it lacks are giant whitewalls and those mysterious ports on the side.

Towards the end of our sail we needed to motor. Rob put his Yanmar on high. Boy it sounded pretty; just like a well balanced, well oiled sewing machine. I wanted one... Not because we need a new engine, but just because Rob's is such a wonderful, admirable piece of machinery. So that night, as on other occasions when I've been tempted to betray my loyal A4, I reread the inspirational story below and renewed my faith.

From Ariel's World by Susan Peterson

The tale starts as Susan's "vintage gas fueled two cylinder Universal Blue Jacket Twin ... stuttered and died with an apologetic wheeze... I ran thru my limited repertoire of mechanical diagnostics, a process that took about two seconds. One of them was check the gas supply. A half inch of wetness on the end of the dip stick told the tale, out of gas...

During my extensive diagnostic process, I had removed the lid of the engine box. I now gazed down on the familiar square chunk of cast iron with its two sparkplugs, brass carburetor..., and its big flywheel guard casting emblazoned with "Universal Motor Co., Oshkosh, WI". I thought about an old tractor of my childhood hobby farm memories. It, too, had come from Wisconsin. And I remembered it wore a decal on its engine block that said something like start on gasoline only. Then the old Case C was expected to operate on cheaper kerosene fuel.

"This thing's got low compression and low rpm. Maybe it'll run on kerosene, too." I hauled out my gallon of anchor light fuel and dumped it into the tank. Then thinking to boost the octane a bit and make it perhaps more palatable to the motor, I added a dollop of stove alcohol and then tried the starter key. The still warm Twin immediately fired up and cheerfully ran for forty five minutes pushing us to the fuel dock at Oswego just before closing. She never missed a beat on that unlikely stew of gas, kero and ethanol. I filled up with regular and we chugged on, finally reaching an anchorage west of Oswego in the wee hours of the morning.

That night as I tumbled into the bunk I was a Twin convert. From that day on I ceased to covet a new diesel. The rhythmic chuggity click of the old Universal's loose tappets and the putter slub of its galvanized waterpipe exhaust was music to my ears. No longer did I view it with mistrust and entertain thoughts of converting it to a mooring.


This delightful book about cruising Lake Ontario can be found at , a regional bookseller worth looking at.