State of the art outboard engine trainer is ideal for mechanics

A boat on wheels—that’s how Gabe Dunham describes his new outboard motor training setup.

Dunham, Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory agent in Dillingham, has been teaching an outboard repair and maintenance course for four years, often using older equipment in the classroom.

Outboard motor training setup.

“I built the unit using a brand-new engine, so people can learn using current technology. Other training aides with older engines may be cheaper, but sacrifice the ability to back up theory with current technology,” said Dunham.

Dunham trains Bristol Bay mariners to troubleshoot and fix their outboard engines so they can reliably fish, hunt and travel—activities that support and feed families. The remote, roadless locations of rural Alaska communities make servicing small engines dependent on an owner’s personal skills.

Dunham used state funds from the Alaska Technical Vocational Education Program to build the outboard training setup.

“Steering, electrical, and fuel systems are fully outfitted on the unit, and they are set up the same way as typical boat installations found throughout Alaska,” said Dunham.

The unit is about 6 feet tall and weighs 500 pounds. It has wheels and is operated in conjunction with a large water tank.

Gabe Dunham teaches the outboard engine class using standard equipment in 2016.

Outboard engines use the water around them to cool the engine. The training unit is rolled up to a 250 gallon tank and tilted in, and is ready for operation. With this indoor engine–water tank setup Dunham can teach the class year-round.

The hands-on outboard training unit is a success and has been the center conversation during classes. “People were impressed with how easy it was to see all of the systems on the training unit versus on a real boat,” Dunham said.

Graduates of the 2½ day class include setnetters, sportfishing enthusiasts, owners of commercial fishing vessels, people exploring a marine technician career and even non-boaters.

The outboard engine maintenance course that Dunham developed has been taught to more than 120 students. Dunham and other instructors use his curriculum to teach the course in Dillingham, King Salmon, Unalaska, Homer, Kodiak, Ketchikan and Petersburg.

Students master engine theory, part replacement, troubleshooting and winterizing. They perform compression tests, learn how to change spark plugs and more. The next outboard class will be taught April 20-22, 2018, in Ketchikan. Register through the University of Alaska Southeast website.