Skip to content

Fixing Things

Airship Goes to Alaska


Since Tuesday (sunny!!!) it's been pretty rainy here in Juneau, so we've been focused on work, and fixing things that need fixing.

Here's our Fix-It list:

1. The carburetor on our outboard motor

This outboard has never been right in the head. It's a Mercury 6HP 4-stroke that we inherited it (came with the boat) and I think due to the fact that it was part of a fractional ownership program, perhaps it wasn't always taken care of in that "as if it were your own" manner. It's NEVER idled. It revs up and then settles at a high RPM, and then dies. Over and over and over again, and you have to constantly monitor things so the engine doesn't die. Pulling up a crab trap? Dang, motor quit. Getting too close to a swimming grizzly bear? Oh crap, motor quit.

We've taken the carburetor apart and cleaned it several times, replaced the gaskets, and still it suffers (as do we). Kevin called Gary of Gary's Outboard in Sitka while we were in town, and Gary said these Mercury motors are actually very good. He said he could give our carburetor a good cleaning, but he didn't have all the parts so he'd have to order some (and also, that the cleaning may or may not fix the issue). Kevin did some research and learned that a brand new carburetor wasn't that much more than the cost to clean one, so we ordered a new one from Gary and paid the extra to have it quick-shipped to Sitka. Unfortunately, it still didn't get there in time and we had to leave without our new carburetor. Once in Juneau, Kevin contacted Gary and had him ship it to us here. The office at this marina doesn't accept packages (first one we've ever come across that doesn't) so we had it sent General Delivery to the Juneau Post Office, which is just a couple blocks from the marina. We picked it up yesterday.


Kevin made the carburetor swap in just a few minutes, started the motor, and whoa! We heard the unfamiliar sound of….idling!! Success! This should make our dinghy life MUCH better. 

Kevin came in and said "I kinda wish that project had taken a little longer."

Here is a photo of the shiny new carburetor in the outboard as it idles nicely:


2. My iPhone 6+

I've dropped my iPhone a normal number of times, but for some reason, on a very tame drop onto its back onto the galley floor (well, half onto the wood floor and half on the Chilewich mat), it must have hit just right and, well, I cratered my screen. This happened out in the Frederick Sound boonies near the bottom of Admiralty Island, days from anywhere to try and do anything about it.


It was still alive inside (and paired via Bluetooth to the stereo, so when the stereo was on I could hear when people called me…I just couldn't see who it was or answer it). I backed it up to my computer and kept it charged until time for surgery. 

Once we had a little connection (outside of Taku Harbor) I Googled around a bit and found a guy in Juneau (Tim Miles) who has a mobile repair service. I called him and left voicemail, and then we texted back and forth a bit (on Kevin's phone) about what I needed, and he ordered me a new screen. When the screen arrived, he came out to Airship and replaced my screen while we chatted about travel and airplanes and boats and stuff. 


Pretty sweet! If you're ever in or near Juneau and you break your iPhone or iPad, you can find Tim here.

3. Fresh water tank sensor

Turns out the sensors and tank gauges on boats work about as well as they do on Airstreams (meaning, not well at all). 


We'd been filling our fresh water tank until it both overflowed AND the sensor read "Full" for months. But when we left Juneau with Tiffani and Deke (and a full tank of water, 105 gallons) after just a day or so the needle dipped to half. The four of us are VERY well-versed in the ways of water conservation and knew there was no way we'd already used 50 gallons, so we went on super conservation mode until we got to Kake and could refill the tank. In Kake, Kevin and Deke decided to do a little experiment with the water tank capacity. They measured the rate of flow from the hose (how long it took to fill a 5-gallon bucket). That gave them the gallons per minute that the hose was putting out. Then, they timed how long it took them to fill the tank, and how long between each "tick" up of the gauge. When it overflowed, they stopped and gave the tanks time to cross-feed (since they knew it couldn't yet be full) and it turns out that after the tank overflows and we thought it was full (and the sensor even read "Full"), the tank can take about 40 more gallons. FORTY!! This changes things quite a bit!

Kevin opened up the fresh water tank and inspected the sensor to make sure it was working, and noticed that it stuck a bit in places, so we ordered a new tank sensor. That arrived today (general delivery to the Juneau Post Office). Kevin is replacing it and testing it. So far so good! (That's the old one there, top of frame. The little black thing is the float that was sticking.)


The new knowledge of how to fully FILL the tank is super helpful…so in addition to a new and working tank sensor, we know something we didn't know before, which makes the hassle of replacing a part completely worth it!