Zen and the Art of Outboard Maintenance

What do neuroscience, Buddhism, Taoism and Stoicism have in common?  They all figured out that pleasure is not happiness. Everything to do with the pursuit of fish with a fly makes me happy.  Yesterday, I have  never been as happy catching a big fish as I was extracting a seized spark plug from my old Honda BF90 outboard.

In Buddhism, it is said that what keeps us suffering is the constant seeking of pleasure. That got me to thinking what about fly-fishing gives me pleasure?   From a neurobiological standpoint, for most fly fisherman, pleasure is the act of hooking and landing a fish on a fly and it is this event that releases the most dopamine in fishy brains – everything else is foreplay.  Very similar to Social media addicted teens, Dopamine release in the brain controls our pursuit of pleasure and all dopamine wants is more dopamine. “It is the molecule of more and it is never content”.   Dopamine is the primary driver of addiction. From a neurobiological perspective, seeking pleasure ends up being not about the pleasure itself but more about alleviating the suffering and pain that exists in pleasures absence.

So how do we lead happier more pleasurable lives as fly fishing addicts?  Do you suffer from not being able to fish more?  Do you feel bad when you see other fly fishermen catching big fish?  Do Instagram reels and Tic Toc vids of exotic destinations leave you feeling depressed and jealous?   This can’t be healthy.  We need to retrain  our brains and retrain ourselves to crave peace over pleasure and to find happiness and joy within the process of fly fishing.   For me, nearly  everything I do is within the process of fly fishing – even dentistry.  I joke that if I’m not fishing, I’m preparing to fish. Preparing to fish is making a good and ethical living so that I can buy gear and trips. It is fly tying, gear building, boat building and maintenance, photography and videography, drone flying, RV maintenance and Van design. It is reading all books on flyfishing, and collecting old fly-fishing equipment.  It is learning from my relationships with other fishermen and showing respect for those who are more skilled and older. It is sharing and teaching and it is writing this blog so that I can remember lessons learned years ago.   It is in the art and designs that surround me daily.     It’s nearly everything!

The boat has been running rough for the last three trips to the lake. Although I try to change the oil, plugs and filters every year. There has been a single spark plug that I haven’t replaced in 7 years which was my last service with Custom Weld Voyager Marine (MR Lee).  Years ago, my impeller output hose sprung a leak around a zip tie and put water in the lowest spark plug socket. As a consequence, it oxidized and seized the plug. Because the motor was running fine despite not replacing the 4th plug. I decided not to chance ruining the aluminum block by breaking off or stripping the spark plug out until a time that the engine wasn’t running smooth because of it. Four weeks ago the engine started running rough and I felt it  was time to remove that plug. It is amazing how much knowledge you can gain from friends and the internet on pulling a seized plug. I even called Honda about it, and they gave me the worst advice which was, “why didn’t you put anti seize grease on the plug.”   Ill remember that advice next time someone asks me how to treat a toothache.

I bought a Honda outboard 10 years ago because they were reliable and easy to maintain. What I didn’t research is that there is only one Honda Marine mechanic within a 2 hour drive of my house and he is booked months in advance and you have to leave your boat with him sometimes for months even for simple tune ups. Sometimes you just need to buy a Motor that can be easily maintained as local as possible.  Honda’s are not easily serviced in South San Jose.   I suppose that why there aren’t alot of Teslas in Paris.  The thought of not having my boat for 2 months is  panful and thus I do as much as I can myself.

I managed to get the plug out after 4 weeks of working on it by using a pneumatic impact wrench on high.  Many people were encouraging and the experts said to be patient and keep cycles up no matter how long and it would eventually give.   Yesterday was the last day  to make it or break it when it finally got loose.   I don’t remember feeling that good in a long time!

Recipe for removing a seized plug in Honda BF90 Outboard

  1. Soak Plug in Penetrant by tipping motor up to get the plug vertical  after removing ignition coil
  2. Attach Ignition Coil and Water and heat motor by running at 3000 for 10 minutes with Seafoam in tank one oz per gallon.
  3. Turn motor off and put a socket and breaker bar on and try to get mini movement right and left turns alternating.
  4. If you get movement, keep working larger and larger turns right and left till plug screws out easily.
  5. Replenish penetrant  if unsuccessful and let soak for another day or three and repeat.
  6. After 5 cycles of no movement of plug, repeat cycles with hand held impact wrench alternating right and left rotation on low impact.
  7. After 5 cycles of no movement, use pneumatic impact wrench to unscrew or break the sparkplug out of socket.
  8. Asses how the plug has broken. Either remove broken sparkplug with Kit or repair or rebore damaged threads with a kit.
  9. Finally, if no joy, Make appointment with shop or buy a new motor NOT a HONDA from Bass Pro down the street.
  10. be diligent about plug replacement and tune ups. Use anti seize paste.

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