I have had many occasions to develop a strong and deeply held faith in outboard motors. Spent many cold dark nights out in heavy seas pulling nets in a small boat with the only the strength and experience of a fine fishing partner and the reliability of a four cylinder Mercury outboard to get us safely back to shore. Regularly launched a skiff off a grey gravel beach into rolling breakers, pushing out waist deep into the sea, clamored aboard to start, rev up, and throw into gear a trusty Evinrude with only seconds being the difference between punching through the surf and getting swamped and pushed back to shore. Crossed the Upper Cook Inlet with Les and Lowell after a weekend of king salmon fishing on the Ivan River in what must have been 12 foot breaking swells in the 16' long Halibut Warrior, bailing the entire trip past Fire Island and on into Anchorage harbor, all with one hand on the tiller of an older Mariner 60 hp.
It is kinda surprising how rarely it is that these old motors have let me down. Time and time again and year after year we have built up relationships based upon mutual trust shared expectations and the history of having been tested in difficult situations. On my part I provide the clean fuel, do regular maintenance, and take the time to learn the particular needs and habits of each individual outboard (squeeze fuel ball 5 times, full choke, pull cord twice slowly, back off to half choke, quarter throttle, let her rip). For it's part the outboard motor just has to start and run when it is called upon. Like when navigating around a large tree that is hung up on a gravel bar in in 6 knots of current that wants to pull us and everything else under it.
On this trip we will need to rely on a 1978 Evinrude 35 horsepower two cylinder classic and a 1967 Fisherman 6 . Jeff has been the chief mechanic responsible for getting these old girls in good running shape but to be clear, they have never been put to the test that they are about to be put to. These vintage motors from before the disco era not only have to get us the 1800 miles downstream to the village of Emmonak but also up many tributaries, into village boat basins, back upstream more than once no doubt, and buck the headwinds and waves all the way down to the Bering Sea.
I suppose we could have bought a new outboard, or two, but what is the fun in that. I have faith that this outboard motor will get us where we need to go and, when we really need it, when the consequences of it not starting or running are dire I have faith in our ability to handle that too.