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Seven Questions to Ask Before You Start That Outboard Motor
July 12, 2005
Mike Davenport

Just the other day an email arrived from a reader who was all excited about rigging. (Yes, it does happen - some people do get excited about rigging.) He wanted to know what to bring in his launch in case he had to do some quick rigging on the water.

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry so I quickly responded, "Ask a few simple questions before you start your launch, then you'll know what to bring." I sent the message and went about my business.

Not satisfied, he wrote back, "Questions, what questions??"

Still in a hurry I shot back "Questions . . . ?" I told him, "You know . . . about stuff. Important stuff." As soon as I hit the send button I knew that was a lame response.

He called me on it. Two minutes later he sent another request for details.

Trying to do three things at once - and realizing that I was doing none of them well - I took a break and gave the writer the time he deserved. "Okay, seven questions. You need to ask seven specific questions. Without them no rigging is going to happen on the water, and you're going to get into trouble somewhere along the line. And here are the questions:

Question #1: Got gas?

Question #2: Wearing your PFD?

Question #3: Paddle handy?

Question #4: What's the weather?

Question #5: Who knows where you are going and when you will be back?

Question #6: Communication device (cell phone, radio) nearby?

Question #7: Got spare parts?"

Now this time when I hit the send button I thought, "Ah, that should satisfy him."

Nope. My email beeped, and there he was again.

"Those questions are about safety. They don't have anything to do with rigging. I want to know about rigging."

Sometimes email can be as subtle as a hammer.

The reader had brought up a really good point. In one aspect he was right, those questions were in fact about safety. But he was wrong in another aspect - very, very wrong in thinking that they have nothing to do with rigging on the water because they have everything to do with it. And, you bet, I will explain.

Question #1: Got gas? Gas in the launch gets you places. No gas, no go. And that means without gas you're not going to be able to get to the shell on the water to do the rigging. Simple, simple.

Question #2: Wearing your PFD? You need to wear your PFD - not just have, but wear! Without that PFD you're going to be in for a horrible surprise as you make a desperate grab for that wrench you just dropped overboard and you follow it. (Keep in mind, there are two types on rowing coaches. Those who have fallen in and those who will fall in.) And an extra PFD might just come in handy for that short coxswain who is having a hard time getting comfortable in a big bow loader.

Question #3: Paddle handy? A paddle is one of those items that when you need it you usually really need it. For instance, without one how are you going to get to the shell to do rigging when you don't have enough of item #1? Also, when a shell has a broken rudder it is possible to give the coxswain a small paddle and for her to use as a makeshift rudder to steer herself home. Yup, done it.

Question #4: What's the weather? Simply put, without checking the weather forecast before leaving the dock you might be setting yourself up to be doing a whole lot more than just some simple rigging (hint, hint . . . like major boat repairs and insurance forms).

Question #5: Who knows where and when? Okay, okay. This is really more of a safety item. But, if you are three miles from home and break a rigger and a seat you are going to be late, maybe really late getting back to the dock. Someone should know exactly where you went. Greatly keeps the excitement level at the boathouse under control.

Question #6: Communication device nearby? Prime use, to call for help in an emergency. Secondary use, to call to ask how to adjust the height on that new fangled boat of yours. Creative use, calling to have pizzas delivered to the dock after one of those terrible I-wish-I-had-never-taken-up-this-silly-sport rows.

Question #7: Got spare parts? Rowing is one heck of an equipment intensive sport. No doubt about it. With that said, when something breaks the best designed rowing practice in the world can come to a screeching halt. Spare parts . . . you'll need them sooner or later.

Seven simple questions. Ask them before you start that outboard motor. They could very well keep your crew(s) on the water longer (and safer).

Mike Davenport is the author of the Nuts and Bolts Guide to Rigging. For more info on saving money check out his Special Report: Buy It Right: Eight Steps To Buying The Rowing Equipment You Need At The Price You Can Afford. It can be found at

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