Every time I visit Walt Broderick he has a new old outboard motor out in the garage. We sit around and talk for a while and then he says, "Come on out and take a look at the new motor."
Right now he has two Sears air-cooled motors, a 3-horsepower and a 7 1/2; an old water-cooled Johnson 3 that hasn't been used in 20 years; a 7 1/2 Mercury, and a 4-horsepower British Seagull. There may be more.
Each has a place in Broderick's heart, but the seat of honor these days is reserved for the Seagull. It came with a 24-foot sailboat last fall. The motor didn't work, and when he finally got it going he found it wasn't big enough to push the boat anyway. But he loves it.
He loves it for its stark simplicity, for the way you can see everything work, from the flywheel to the carburetor; for the quality materials and workmanship that went into it, for the brass gas tank and the little butterfly-valve choke that takes the place of nuts, bolts, dials, cables and other things-to-break that they pile on American machines.
But most of all he loves it for its owner's manual, which reads like a Churchillian war address to the troops.
On motor failure, for example: "If the engine cuts out suddenly, without warning whilst running, it's ten chances to one that it's plug trouble," we are advised.
"Now this is the vital point to remember. This is the whole crux of the matter . . . if the engine won't start (always supposing that there is fuel in the carburetor, and that it hasn't run out of fuel), and shows no sign of life after three or four pulls of the starting cord, and ONLY three or four, WHIP OUT THE PLUG AT ONCE . . . don't go on pulling the cord.
"The cause of trouble, initially, is more than likely a speck of fouling bridging the points of the plug . . . if the plug is removed at once, and the points cleared, on replacing the plug the engine will start immediately.
But will people do this? No, they won't . . . instead, they go on pulling the cord for twenty minutes or so, pumping more and more fuel into the engine, and filling the plug with oil, and then have to row home, and sometimes (if they've got the strength) write a furious letter to the manufacturers.
"We have no sympathy with these people at all."
Nor, or course, do we.
On the subject of adjustments, the manufacturers are equally firm: "With the exception of regular attention to the gearbox, which should be made AFTER EBERY TEN HOURS' RUNNING, don't make any adjustments at all. The SQUARE HEAD design is such that decarbonising is unnecessary, and in no circumstances should joints be disturbed or the engine taken to bits. Leave it alone."
Broderick particularly likes the opening page of the manual, which announces in the biggest letters found anywhere in the book, "BEWARE!" and offers a philosophical approach to some common problems:
"In many ways a motor is like a human being. Normally it is fit and well, but it must have some essential things in life, and if it doesn't get them, if falls sick."
And he likes the end, too, just before the final-page WARNING, where the stiff-upper-lipped Seagullians provides some insights into predictable perils of yachting.
"Lastly," it says, "remember that in any motor boat, however quiet, your voice can be heard much more clearly by surrounding craft than by your own companions.
"A supposedly confidential and innocent comment about people or their boats may well become unknowingly a public broadcast . . . there's probably enough trouble awaiting you when you get ashore without adding to it!!!"
Undoubtedly so, and if there isn't we can always create our own by pulling on the starting cord, disturbing the joints, taking the engine to bits and neglecting to provide its essential things in life.