They say a good Helmsman is hard to find…

My wife and I decided to take our Thompson out for a nice evening cruise on Friday night. A beautiful day in Northwest Ohio, and we expected a nice sunset.  So we set out with our trusty little wooden vessel, and cruised to Maumee and Perrysburg, then to downtown.

I don’t really know what my wife knows about boats and outboard motors, other than she gives me a courtesy nod an smile when I speak of either.  “Hey Honey!  I just put a brass 12 pitch prop on the Thompson’s motor.  Boy does it run like crazy now!!!”

The smile and glazed look with a simple “Great?”

Then the unexpected happens.  While out on our journey, she looks over and says “The motor seems to be running hard.”

I listen and yes it sounds like the carb could use a tweak.  We slow to a stop and I tell her I’m going to the back of the boat to adjust the carb.  She asks if I would like her to drive while I’m fiddling around with it.  Seems like a plan.  She’s been through this before.  So off we go!

She runs the motor to wide open throttle, and I adjust the carb high speed needle a bit on our trusty 1956 Johnson 30 hp outboard.  Sure enough…we pick up a few hundred extra RPM’s!  We slow down, and she gets a nice idle for me, and I tweak the low speed carb needle, and everything is great.

Our 1956 Johnson RD-18 running flat out on the Maumee River.

Our 1956 Johnson RD-18 running flat out on the Maumee River.

I ask if she would like me to take over, and next thing I know…I’m displaced from the helm and left sitting in the back seat while she runs the “Fibber McGee” through its paces.  Up to full throttle.  I’m pushed back in the rear seat.  Erin is off and running.

Erin is running "Fibber McGee" like an old pro.

Erin is running "Fibber McGee" like an old pro.

Now I’m not necessarily nervous, but have you ever ridden in the passenger seat of your own car?  It feels weird!  The same feeling was coming over me.  Then along comes the first boat.  I wondered how she would handle the wake coming at us.

Great!  She just turned the wheel a bit and let old “Fibber” roll right through the wake.  I’m thinking “Fantastic…she’s pretty good!”.  Then along comes a nice sized cabin cruiser “plowing” furrows of water because the “Captain” hasn’t the foggiest notion what trimming your trim tabs or outdrive might do to reduce the displacement of water and subsequent ENORMOUS WAKE YOU’RE MAKING BECAUSE YOU ARE STUPID AND UNQUALIFIED to operate any thing over 10 hp.  Money isn’t equal to smarts on the water.  Just ’cause you can buy it, doesn’t mean you should buy it!

Here comes the wake and swells.  This ought to be interesting.  The “new helmsman” showed her prowess by slowing to a reasonable speed and again just rolling right over the swells like a pro.  After the “threat” has gone, back to full throttle, and running all out down the river.  She did a great job!  I was very at ease after a few minutes and was amused slightly at how well she does handle the boat.

My wife is not someone who takes compliment gracefully.  She’s self-effacing.  When she returned control back to the “Master of the boat”…uhem…I told her she really impressed me with her skills.  Of course she just shrugged off the compliment because of her personality.  But she really did a fine job!

Then I remembered a trip a few weeks ago in our Feather Craft Vagabond.  Same scenario with the carb, but the Johnson Javelin has no tiller to steer with, so she had to steer while I adjusted the carb.  Away she went.  When we got to our destination, I asked if she wanted me to dock the boat since she never had done so.  “Nope, just tell me what to do…”

Against a cross current she turns into the dock and made a perfect landing…first try.  PERFECT.  I just sat in the backseat and told her what to do.  She’s amazingly skillful for someone who is new to this work of boating.’

We had a lovely trip, and saw a beautiful sunset and later a full moon as shown below. 

The sun setting in the west over the Mighty Maumee River.  Who knew Toledo could look so beautiful.

The sun setting in the west over the Mighty Maumee River. Who knew Toledo could look so beautiful.


The full moon is rising with an incredible twilight beam on the water.

The full moon is rising with an incredible twilight beam on the water.


A Moonlight Serenade...

A Moonlight Serenade...

The "Helmsman".  A job well done.

The "Helmsman". A job well done.

3 Responses to “They say a good Helmsman is hard to find…”

  1. 1 Diana Dunkle
    September 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Just wanted to say “thank you.”

  2. January 28, 2011 at 6:04 am

    You have done a superb job, sir. I have always loved the “Holiday Bronze” colored Johnsons of the late 50’s. Your Javelin is absolutely gorgeous! To any man’s eye, these outboards are ‘art’, pure and simple. Enjoy it. – Jim Ault

    • 3 conductorjonz
      January 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Thanks Jim!

      I love the Holiday Bronze too. This spring a few friends and I will be getting together to have a “Holiday Bronze Fest”. I have two ’56 fifteen horse, one ’56 5.5hp and my buddies ’56 Javelin to paint over a weekend. The following weekend will be Evinrude Blue, Aqua, and Charcoal Fest.

      Take care!


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