Troubleshooting can be rewarding; Matt's boat story

I have been slacking on my Geek.com reviews due to a bit of troubleshooting that has consumed most any free time I had. Here’s the story: We bought a 1989 Beechcraft/Reinell 19 foot cuddy cabin boat with a OMC 5.7L (Chevy 350) inboard engine last year from a guy on Craigslist. We used it like crazy at the end of the season and then it sat under storage in the winter. I started it every month or so to make sure she ran fine. A couple weeks ago I started it up and it ran like a champ. The next day we towed it 200 miles to Crescent Bar, Washington on the Columbia River. I backed the boat and trailer up to the water, my wife started it and then it died. Then turning the key would do nothing at all. I jumped in and tried to get it going with no luck either. I then spent about 3 hours that weekend trying to troubleshoot it in the 100 degree heat and gave up after being unsuccessful. We then towed it back home with us on the 3rd of July. I then spent several hours over the last week replacing older, corroded parts (starter, solenoid, coil) and making new wire connections, testing things with a multimeter, visiting the library to copy pages of the repair manual, and more. It was a challenge and after putting in several hours I was not going to give up and take it to a shop (they were all backed up a couple weeks anyways). 2 days ago I had the starter in and cranking, but the engine just wouldn’t keep going. I checked fuses, connections, etc. and even jumped some wires to test connections. I was using the repair manual that showed a purple wire with 20 amp fuse going to the B connection (battery) on the ignition switch, but after trial and error I discovered it should go to the I connection (ignition). Once I did this and replaced the now blown 20 amp fuse, she started right up and runs like a champ! You can see some of my tear down and troubleshooting photos in my Boat Repair Flickr set. The problem may have been the neutral safety switch sticking, but the starter and coil were quite corroded and I really learned a TON about my boat. I feel more comfortable letting my wife and daughters take the boat out during the day while I am at work now that I have replaced some critical parts. The neutral safety switch (located in the throttle controller) may act up again, but we are getting a new throttle since this one is older and tough for my wife to operate so that will then cure that possible issue. It is very rewarding to work on something like this and achieve success without having to spend hundreds in shop troubleshooting. It is also a good thing I have lots of patience and a patient wife 🙂

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  1. #1 by Robert on July 13, 2006 - 03:08

    That’s an understatement on the patient wife. I am visualizing mine standing there for three hours, patting her foot, kids wearing life jackets, “Are you done yet?”.

    You seem to have overcome the Mantra of boat ownership ….”The two happiest days of owning a boat is the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.”

    Had you heard that before? Hope you have a blast with it. The Chevy 350 should be a reliable engine, with parts readily availible, but just in case…KEEP SEVERAL PADDLES ABOARD!And a tow rope.

  2. #2 by Camille on May 16, 2007 - 13:38

    I have a question about your neutral safety switch. Mine is also bad and I cannot get the throttle off to get to the control box where the switch is. How do you take off the throttle handle?.?.?

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