Oh No! Our Car Is Stuck In Reverse! Macgyver-isms Necessary.

Ok, we don’t have an actual car, but our dinghy is the equivalent of our car on Ticket to Ride. And although I like to tease Frank that driving in reverse is one of his “super powers,” we really don’t want to live out our dinghy life in backwards motion.

Slow and backwards to the dock.

Can you imagine always driving in reverse? How about driving in reverse and having water come in through the back of the car?

Essentially that was the problem we were having with our dinghy, Day Tripper. The day before we left on our passage from Tikehau to Fakarava, the motor became stuck in reverse. It would shift from reverse to neutral to forward, but it continued to move backwards the whole time!

Frank searched for parts or a new lower unit for the engine. He called Yamaha dealers in Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand but none of them had the parts he thought we would need to fix the outboard.

“We might be able to ship them to you in a few months,” Frank heard more than once.

This was not an acceptable solution especially because in reverse, the waves spill water over the transom of the dinghy and everything gets wet. Not too mention we surely don’t want a ton of water inside the dinghy! Basically in reverse only, we would be without transportation from TTR to shore unless we swam or took the paddle boards. We could row the dinghy, but that isn’t very efficient and severely limits our exploration.

Fortunately Frank scored a shaded area near the boat ramp.

So Frank packed the dinghy with tools and reversed his way to shore to see if he could somehow fix the outboard engine.

Fortunately the diagnosis was pretty easy; a broken pin and a wire spring that was in bad shape. However, without replacement parts available, Frank had to get creative to “make” the pin and spring.

Orthodontic wires, retainers, springs? Frank can bend them all with precision!

Thankfully due to his profession of orthodontics, Frank has some great tools on hand and he is excellent at bending wires!

Although needle nose pliers are not the precision instruments Frank’s ortho pliers were, reshaping the wire spring was a quick and easy fix for him. As long as the wire holds up, that part will be just fine now.

Cutting the drill bit with a dremel.

The pin on the other hand had broken in two and was beyond repair. Frank decided a drill bit might be the perfect Macgyver fix. Scrounging through his three sets of drill bits, he found one the same size as the pin. The trusty and often used dremel was perfect for cutting the bit to the correct length.

A quick polish using the dremel again.

Next up was a bit of polishing to smooth out any rough edges from the cutting process. (Seriously, I think dentistry prepared Frank well for the various jobs he performs fixing things on board.)

The pin and spring fit snuggly in place and the propeller was reseated.

All together and looking good.

Next up was a bit of general clean up for the lower unit and the outboard in general.

And VOILA! the outboard is working!

Woohoo! We are going forward again.

I am so thankful that Frank is very capable at fixing things on the boat. He often says he doesn’t know how to fix things but just has to “dive in” and figure it out. I am not very mechanical and that thought makes me nervous. I’m glad he is confident and smart enough to keep us running smoothly!

Even though this post makes the dinghy fix sound easy, it takes a good deal of creativity to keep engines and other systems running well in a salty, caustic environment, especially when parts are difficult to source. I am super thankful this fix worked and we hope it lasts until those new parts can arrive “in a few months!”

I hope you found it interesting to see how we handle fixes on the fly, so to speak. We are by no means unique. All boater sailing in foreign lands or far from large resource centers have to be creative at times. Maybe you can’t find the perfect part or maybe the foods available are not those you know. Flexibility, imagination and ingenuity become important in these circumstances. Sometimes the requisite creativity is fun. Sometimes having to figure things out is tiring and causes me to miss the ease and familiarity of home. But always I am thankful to have a partner who is so capable and energetic.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read our blog. This one is a little different, but I thought it might be interesting to show that it isn’t all turquoise water and white sandy shores. I’m just glad it turned out so well. We wish you good health, fun adventures and a very blessed Holiday Season.

9 thoughts on “Oh No! Our Car Is Stuck In Reverse! Macgyver-isms Necessary.

  1. I’m impressed, too! Henk was a civil engineer and could fix MOST everything.
    We sold Windhover and bought a condo overlooking the Caribbean Sea, in Santa Marta, Colombia. The people here wonderful and prices are very low. We have two dogs , Miami and Daytona and walk them every morning and evening on the beach. It’s a great life!

    Liked by 1 person

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