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Featured Bristol 40s WoodWorking Boat Projects Runabout

New Motor

2009.10.08

The old 1969 Johnson has been an issue since we got the boat running. There wasn't a single outing in which it didn't die at least once. Usually, when it died, it meant that repairs were in order in some shape or form.

Even though it ran well when it was running, I was getting very frustrated with its reliability issues and the fact that when I ordered parts, it was usually a three week down period. Ultimately, we only had about a half dozen outings in the boat between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So, with our beautiful Indian Summer upon us, I started getting serious about finding a new or used motor I could A. Afford and B. that worked. I had been saving my spending money since January and had about half the cost of a new motor saved. It was beginning to come down to saving (and going without more outings) until spring or early summer next year.

It even got to the point where I was looking at the possibility of buying a smaller motor and how that would affect performance. Del Walter recommended I stick with at least a 40 hp motor, since the whole intent of this boat is to pull the kids on the Tube and eventually water ski.

Just when I had all but given up on finding a short shaft 40 hp used motor, (there are currently only two manufacturers who make one new) After a summer of watching, I finally found a used one on Craigslist. A gentleman by the name of Mark had one on the western shore on a 13' Boston Whaler he used for crabbing. And, since he runs a trot line, the fact that the Johnson idles at about 5 kts was a bit too fast for him. Since it sounded like it was a good runner, I jumped at the opportunity, took a day off work and ran and got it so I could install it over the weekend.

Silly me, I thought I could install it on Saturday and Use it on Sunday... d'oh.

The "new" motor is a 1994 Johnson 40 hp. It starts and runs with one quick shot and has not even hinted at faltering in three outings this past week. What a concept. Plus, I am getting an extra 1.5 kts of speed out of her.


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It was necessary to over drill the holes and fill them to avoid water penetration to all that precious marine ply Sean and I worked so hard to get in place.


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The new motor has a built in bracket for attaching the steering cable and it necessitated running the steering cable down the starboard side of the boat. It also entailed cutting additional holes and digging out some of the transom in order to accommodate the new travel path of the steering rod. The good news is, this new motor will not have any issues with sloppy steering or tilting due to a changing angle on the steering cable.


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Changing the cable path of course meant I had to strip out the seats. The good news is, that while I had the seats out I made a couple of small but very ergonomically satisfying improvements.


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First, I swapped out the seat backs for plain straight boards. The adirondack style stakes were too short to provide the comfort they do in the real adirondack chairs and when it was a bit choppy provided plenty of pain when they repeatedly jabbed one in the lower back.


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The other change was adding a bevel to the steering column. For this, I used some Starboard Keith Henry had given me several years ago, but I hadn't found a good use for as of yet. It was perfect for this application and for the beveling shims needed to mount the motor on the curved transom. Thanks Keith!


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What a difference those three changes make. The new motor is fantastic and quieter too! (Thanks to a thru the prop exhaust) The seat backs are much more comfortable and the addition of the steering column bevel allow me to comfortably get my legs under the wheel. Fantastic! I'm hoping to get to use it this weekend on a trip to Annapolis that is still in the plans to visit Kate and Chuck Munson and Dennis Scanlon.






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