Cruising with Soggy Paws
Soggy Paws is a 44' CSY Sailboat. In 2007, we set sail on a 10 year around the world cruise.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
The Saga of the Sputtering Tohatsu - Part 2
March 27, 2008

Originally this was in the 'Bocas del Toro' entry, but it turned into such a tale... This is Part 2 because Part 1 was the 5 or 6 days Dave spent working on this same problem while we were in the Rio.

While we were at Bocas Marina, Dave asked around and found cruiser who was reputed to be a good outboard mechanic. Dave has already spent about 20 hours working on the problem (runs fine at idle, runs fine on a plane, but just knocks, coughs and chokes when trying to accelerate). We didn't want to pay someone to re-do everything he's already done. We needed someone who really understood outboards, and would listen to Dave, provide guidance, and let Dave do the work (both as a learning experience
for Dave, and to keep the costs down).

Dave did most of the work (with Sonny advising at critical points) and he spent the better part of two days (between rain squalls) working through the engine troubleshooting guide. (I had been fortunate to find a downloadable service manual for the exact model, finally, for only $15, and we had good enough internet here to download it (after 3 tries).

Sonny is a cruiser who lives on a small sailboat with his best friend (a cute Skipperkee). He is rumoured to have 4 degrees to his name. He works on the approach 'If I can't fix it, you don't pay'. This was perfect for our purposes, because we knew it was not going to be easy. He is also a guy who does not like to be stumped. After the first day, when they had run out of easy ideas, he called Dave on the radio several times late that night with questions and suggestions... obviously it was bugging
him that he couldn't figure out the problem. Finally they (think) they have tracked it down to a faulty ignition coil. Once we had the correct specs and some tips from the manual on how to check it, all signs pointed to a coil with not quite the right amount of resistance, which means the spark doesn't develop with enough voltage. Dave felt Sonny's input was helpful, and they'd probably located the source of the problem, so he paid Sonny $60.

Then it took some doing on my point on the computer to try to locate a coil and get it here. Tohatsu dealers are not exactly a dime a dozen around here (if you're going to cruise the Caribbean, buy a Yamaha!).

I spent several hours online and finally located a dealer with an online store in the States, with prices, who said they had it in stock (in the States). So we placed an order to be sent to Sam in California (a friend of Caliente's, who is flying here this weekend). Then we headed out cruising for a few days in the Bocas area.

We had placed a couple of requests in the comments section of the order... 'No Signature Required' on the delivery and 'Get it there by Friday' (5 working days from when the order was placed). Well, this totally UNHELPFUL place would not ship 'No Signature Required' even when we said we'd assume the risk. Since there's nobody home at Sam's house during the day, then it had to be there on Thursday instead of Friday (and we'd hope that Sam could figure out how to get it in his hands on Friday).

Now remember, internet on a boat not connected to a dock, in Panama... it ain't like having Roadrunner. We literally had to pick up the anchor and go to a wifi 'hotspot' and circle around for awhile, to get the internet connection to do the communications. Finally, after a couple of emails, on Monday morning, when we were expecting a confirmation that it had been shipped, the #$%@!&&^%!!! jerk at Online Outboards ( emailed us that he'd canceled the order because we were placing
unreasonable demands on him and they couldn't guarantee service. Talk about unhelpful!! We had just wasted 3 precious calendar days and a lot of time and were no closer to getting the part.

We spent more time online (circling in another wifi hotspot we found, seriously) trying to find a place in California that had the part (so that shipping was less of an issue), but really, the problem is that everyone wants to sell $2000 outboards, they don't want to bother with stocking and selling the $70 parts. And 2 stroke outboards are banned in California, so there isn't much demand for them there.

Finally, I got the bright idea to check to see if there was a dealer in Panama or Costa Rica. We located and called the Panama City dealer ( Wow, what a surprise. The guy spoke english, had the part, and offered to send it on a plane to us in Bocas (a common thing in Panama) for $50, which INCLUDED SHIPPING. But... we had to go to the airport and send $50 cash in an enveloped (marked 'Documents'). This is also a common thing in Panama. We did. Our part is supposedly at the
airport waiting for us this morning.

March 31, 2008

We did finally get the part in our hands, but didn't get a chance to install it and try it out until today. We were again totally bummed to find out that this ignition coil did NOT solve the problem. There is a definite different in resistance readings between the old and new coil, but the engine still has a significant acceleration problem.

John on Caliente is going to Panama City today, so we might have him try to pick up another part from Tohatsu Panama. Dave did some more reading last night in the troubleshooting section of the service manual, and found another part, the pulsar coil, that could lead to acceleration problems. It states that if the pulsar coil isn't working, the engine might run well at some speeds and not others. This resembles our problem. Maybe this is Part 3 of the Saga...

Labels: ,

Anonymous sailsamsail said...
I came across this site while looking for an electric module for my Yamaha outboard. Looks like karma is alive and real.... I run an electrical business and if someone put demands on us like "no signature required" or "must have by Friday" crap... like I actually have control over UPS or the U.S. Mail... I would have told you to go fly a kite also. I've done it before. Customer are not always right. Your example is exactly why I prefer dealing with electrical wholesale warehouses and not the individual retail customer who is usually more trouble than it's worth. Kudos to them and looks like you got what you deserved.

Anonymous Sherry said...
The point was that I was WILLING to accept the risk of no signature (I told him so in writing in an email) and the cost of expedited delivery, and he wouldn't even consider it.

We're a small bunch with special needs... the cruiser in a foreign port. Some retailers do an outstanding job of helping us out, and we always post kudos. Those that aren't willing to go the extra mile for the customer, should go into wholesale business!!!

Anonymous sailsamsail said...
I know how hard it is to get outboard parts, trust me... but Sherry, might I ask... if you order something and the package never showed up and UPS said it was delivered... would you just pay for it without question because you said "no signature"? That might sound good in theory but it doesn't work in the real world. I used to do it all the time and stupid customers dispute their credit card receipt every time - some who actually received it! Guess what, I don't send electronics anymore without a signature. If you want things delivered without a signature you should execute the 4-page signature waiver (which requires notarization) from the major carriers that make you 100% liable in the event the package shows or not. Simply saying "no signature" doesn't cut it. Ask your credit card company and the carriers and you'll see. And why get so upset with that vendor... why not just buy it from someone else? It appears the the OP took it personal that the vendor had a signature required policy.

For older posts, see the Posts by Date
or Posts by Topic links in the upper left!
For newer posts, see our 2009 Blog