My dad’s center console is as easy to maintain as any boat in existence. It still has an old carburated 125-hp two stroke outboard, and virtually no gadgets on board to break or go on the fritz. Every spring we pull it from the boat shed, re-attach the battery cables, fire up the engine, and go.

So it was a cause of concern when, after a morning of fishing on the first trip of the season, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Like a driver in an empty parking lot hoping it would miraculously catch, we kept goosing the throttle and turning the key. Then someone said to me, in a smart-ass way, “You’re the boating writer, you figure it out.”

I instructed we take off the cowling. I had my dad turn the key once more. “I see the problem,” I declared. “It’s the Bendix drive.” The drive wasn’t fully engaging, and I’d seen it before in the field, so I of course KNEW it had to be that. A major repair; we’d have to wait for a replacement part. Our fishing weekend was over.

We guided the boat on the trailer and towed it to the nearest marine mechanic, about 30 miles away. I brought up the Bendix drive, knowingly. He took one look at it, then looked at me slightly askew.

He opened a hatch in the back of the boat and looked at the batteries. “You didn’t tighten the wing nuts enough,” he said. “The battery’s arcing.” In our hurry to get on the water, we affixed the cables to the posts and tightened the nuts by hand. He reached into his pocket for some pliers, gave each nut a twist and had my Dad turn the key. It started right up.

He looked at me with a there you go Mr. Boating writer smile and said with a wink, “No charge.”

The point here is, when something goes wrong on your boat, always start with the obvious. It could save you hours of aggravation and, m0re importantly, embarrassment.