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For the rest of the summer the engine ran OK but it took treatments of Marvel Mystery Oil to ultimately keep that valve free. For some time the valve was still a bit sticky and upon cold start-ups the motor would run very slowly – so slowly that you could barely hear it and the tach would barely register – but it ran. It did this for as much as a minute until the valve freed itself up. Then it would come up to normal speed and we were good until the engine got cold again. Eventually the valve remained free and has never been any trouble since.

For the last couple of times out on the water that first season, before hauling in mid September so I could get started on the “big” projects, the motor wouldn’t get up past about 1,000 rpm. It became this way gradually, suggesting something was deteriorating. The final sail of the season was a race in honor of Joyce’s late father, who was a master at sailing, but even more of a master at getting people into it and racing, including me. After the race (we won) we limped back to the mooring and my sister-in-law’s husband, the PO, decided to take a look at the engine. He felt strongly that the problem was electrical and since he is much better than I at electrical stuff I was confident he could fix the A4. It was Sunday and Monday the boat was to be hauled, upriver past a drawbridge, so I needed that motor. In true brother-in-law fashion, when he got done the motor would not run at all. No spark. At least he was right about the problem being electrical.

I took Monday off for the haul and rushed to an auto parts store and loaded up with plugs, points, a condenser and a coil, hoping I could get the A4 running by the time I had to head upriver around midday. In the end the problem was simply that the screw holding the contact points in their set position had loosened enough to gradually and finally permanently close the points just as brother-in-law was tending to it. I fixed it in time to make the hauling appointment, but started to get interested in electronic ignition.

Despite all this I am a huge fan of the Atomic 4 and I have no desire to switch to a diesel. Once you know it as I do now, it is one trustworthy power plant and easy to work on. As you can see by the list of add-ons to the engine I invested in it for the long haul. The Atomic 4 has a bit of a cult following and there are some companies that provide practically any spare part as well as offer upgrades to this very basic engine. I sprung for electronic ignition; an oil filtration system after I tried to change the filter only to find it didn’t come with one, freshwater cooling to extend the life of the engine, and some new and improved components. Ayacucho even sports a propeller that was designed specifically for the direct-drive A4.