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We spent much of yesterday dealing with car trouble. Of course by car, I mean our dinghy, which is our only method of transport to and from shore when we are at anchor. When people on land have car issues, it’s a problem. They can often take a bus or taxi though, or hitch a ride with a friend to get where they need to go. Those kinds of things are sometimes available to us in populated areas, but not always. As we’re planning on going sailing next week, we really need to be self-sufficient.

The engine on our tender, a Yamaha 15HP 2-stroke, is one of the best models ever made. It ran very rough when we got it though, prompting me to clean the carb and change the spark plugs. After I did that, it ran great. Until I changed the fuel. I purchased some new gasoline and mixed in the appropriate amount of 2-stroke oil but since then, it has been acting very poorly at low revs. Yesterday, I removed and cleaned the carb no less than three times, alternating those bits of maintenance with trips to shore where we were never fully sure that we wouldn’t end up rowing (and inflatable tenders do not row well). It was quite frustrating for me not being able to get it running properly again.

I mentioned in a previous post that the dinghy is too large for our purposes. We spent a fair amount of time yesterday shopping, and debating what to replace it with.

  • What brand of dinghy? (AB, Carib or Highfield)
  • What length? (7′ 10″ — 9′)
  • Aluminum or Fiberglass hull? (Aluminum is lighter)
  • What size engine? (8 – 15HP)
  • What brand of engine? (No debate — Yamaha 2-stroke only)

The challenge is that at this very moment, both local chandleries are extremely low on stock. They have some dinghies in a shipment that just arrived, but they are not yet in their stores to sell. Now this wouldn’t be such a huge deal but as I said, we’re going sailing and need a reliable tender. This means that I need to get ours fixed today, buy one today, or go borrow the one off ZTC. What to do?


  1. Borrow the outboard from ZTC. That way, you won’t be making a decision under a time pressure of your own making.

  2. Bad gas??

    I agree borrow ztc s dinghy. If the wrong dinghy for you arrive, pressure may push you to choose ultimately incorrectly

  3. Hi :). I sometimes read your blog when we’re in a place with internet (like now, in rainy Valdivia). I’m still learning about all this sailing stuff, and I have the feeling that the learning will never stop…Anyway, just wanted to suggest that maybe you could consider a hard dinghy and two nice long oars :). I’ve been rowing a lot in the Chilean patagonian channels, and I love our little hard dinghy, which was awesome around here. It rows fast, oars need little attention, and the exercise is good. I think I’ve read that you wanted to come this way?

    • That is tempting, Paula! Yes, we are planning on coming your way. Are you passing through or staying around there?

      • Hey Mike. We’ll be around here until January I think (around Valdivia or a bit south around Chiloé Island), then we are going west, to warmer weather. I never been close to the tropics, actually I never sail wearing a bikini! That is the plan anyway… Please feel free to drop us a line if you’d like to chat about sailing in the south (wearing lots of layers of clothes :P)…

  4. I just want to thank you for continuing to keep up this website. I feel you give us the most comprehensive picture of what it is like to live on the boat. Boat maintenance combined with fun activities and decisions that need to be made, why, etc. Very good to see for those of us planning on this for our future. Thank you.

  5. Sea Foam is a great suggestion. What is condition of the fuel tank? Fuel lines? When you rebuilt the carb did you blow out all the passages with compressed air?

  6. With all small engines, I have found that they don’t have adequate fuel filters. I would agree you most likely have water in the gas. You shouldn’t use ‘dry gas’ additives with a 2 stroke. I would add a bit of Sea Foam, the stuff is great. If you can, I would add a cheap in-line fuel filter if you haven’t already, it will save you hours in rebuilt carbs and give you the piece of mind that the carb isn’t blocked from junk in the fuel take.

    Siphon off the gas into a large glass jar or bowl and let it set a couple of hours. you will right away see if there is water in it as it will seperate on the bottom (where the fuel pick up is…). you will also see if there is any sediment. Try to shake up the fuel in the tank before siphoning it to the jar to get all the water back into solution. If you do see water seperate out, you can slowly pour or siphon the gas back into the tank without getting the water. Another old trick is to pour it thru a chamois cloth. The water gets absorbed into the chamois, and the gas pours thru.

    Barring all that, use the dingy from ZTC. Motors are expensive, and with proper maintenence and clean fuel, should last forever. I have a 1959 Johnson 18HP on an old pontoon boat that gets used very regularily and runs/starts beautifully.

    Good luck!

  7. In addition to the other comments, I agree that your greatest likelihood is that something got back into one of the idle passages on one of the carbs. Seafoam would be a good first step at trying to get it cleared out. You might also be able to tell which spark plug is hotter or wetter to help diagnose which cylinder is acting poorly.

    Another possibility is spark. If the coils have a poor signal or a weak plug wire, you might not be getting full spark on one cylinder.

    If it backfired, there is the third possibility of a blown reed valve. I think this is unlikely, but keep it in your back pocket just in-case.

    I currently have a weak cylinder at low RPMs on my own 2-stroke outboard and will be following the same steps to try and resolve the issue.

  8. Borrow ZTC’s dinghy.

    Think. Don’t rush. Errors are made that way.


  9. Using ZTC’s dinghy makes sense but I’m not sure I would fancy the ride from Grenada Marine to St George’s. It can get a bit lumpy until you get past the airport

  10. We have a 10′ Porta-Bote. Jumps on plane with our 6hp Tohatsu. Durable. Lots of capacity. All boats are a compromise, including tenders. But, you should at least take a look at them. Will probably outlive any inflatable.

  11. Personally, I would keep at least 1 kayak, or better, get a sit-in kayak that can take a spray skirt (much better for cold waters).

    A kayak always works, only runs out of gas when you do, and can go places a dingy can’t.

    Also, I’ll repeat Steve Anderson’s thought on the filter. The 3.5 Merc I have had NO FILTER other than the strainer in the fuel tank. I added a little lawn mower filter for $5 and our problems went away; super easy to change if you pick an accessible location. As for cleaning carbs, I’m guessing you’ve got that down;).

  12. I have gone through the whole dinghy thing and now have what for me is the perfect combination. Having been involved in a search n rescue one night using a dinghy also affect my choice. I wanted something that would plane with two adults and two sets of dive gear. This combo does four adults. A brand new two stroke Mercury with gearbox on the handle on a 3.1 mt aluminium rigid inflateable . It’s perfect. I put on some good wheels and a foil plate and it pulls kids up to about 60kg on skis and wakeboard. If your going to charter there is also a safety aspect of having something that will take you quickly and safely and dry to shops and shore etc. total package was around 6k usd I guess. First pull start , safe and reliable.

  13. Oh the other thing I like about my Aqua pro (kiwi boat) is the false floor, so dry feet.

  14. Use ZTC’s dink until you get it figured out.

    We have had good success with a 10′ Porta-bote with 6 HP 4 stroke outboard. Carries 4 people and luggage and will get on a plane with 2 people.

    D & Don

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