I Like To Smell My Boat!

Drive with your nose

As dumb as you may think I am right now, I bet you by the end of the story you will realize you feel the same way. now, maybe I am just an odd duck, but since I was 16 racing around in old Road Runners, Souped up VW’s, Mach 1, all sorts of Mustangs and Camaro’s,

Owned this in California. Black plate perfect.

I could smell those push rod tube problems – Richmond 1980

Firebird, Road Runner, Corvair’s, and yes even a 1955 Studebaker. I learned how to tell what was wrong with the car by smell. Transmission fluid leaking has a different smell than sweet antifreeze and oil burning. Even where its burning. Exhaust manifold smells from leaking valve cover gaskets are different than exhaust in the pipe and so on. Heck you can tell if an engine is running rich or lean by smell.

Sniff sniff. It was a clogged fuel filter.

So while out on my boats, my nose is in full gear. Sniffing away, and because of the air flow design, you defiantly get a wif every now and then. The smell I am always on high alert is fuel smells. I have been able to tell that one of the fuel lines needed a bit of a tighten. Or that I have over filled the oil. So next time you are out on your classic boat, take a sniff while running, it wont look strange, tell them all the cool kids are doing it.

J-W Gas Sniffer, apparently I am not the only one that does this

31 replies
  1. Wiseboater
    Wiseboater says:

    When my aunt Donna was a kid, she would run around the Wise Boat Works while my Grandpa would work. When I brought Cherup to Fl from Minnesota from the auction, she was there to meet me and my brother. The first thing she said after walking around the boat was that it smelled like the boat works.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Those are flags that would hang in a yacht club. I have about 6 of them from around the Huron area I think. They are part of another story in the works.

  2. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    My number one favorite smell is the one I get to enjoy when my old cruiser’s been closed up on a warm day. It hits me as soon as I open the cabin door. Can’t really describe it, but it’s just heavenly! I wish it could be bottled. Woody Boater Cologne?
    Can’t get that on a glass boat.

  3. Old Salt
    Old Salt says:

    Woodyboater Public Service Announcement

    A working unclogged nose is a good thing to have and to use to sniff with especially in the bilge before you start your boat! Just Saying!!!!!

  4. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    There are a lot of smells on a boat. Of course who does not love the smell of varnish fresh or old. With an old outboard you can tell what kind of oil your running from the smell. One of my favorite smells is on an evening boat ride smelling what different people are grilling for dinner. Loved the reference to Mach I and souped up VWs. I had a souped up VW, and still have a 69 Mach I. Lets all keep our nose to the wind and keep smelling good smells !

  5. Kevin Fitzke
    Kevin Fitzke says:

    These smells could be made into scented candles and cologne just in time for the Holidays….

    “Smoked Applewood and Plug Wires”
    “Burnt Gaskets and Ginger”
    “Fresh Linen and Fuel Lines”
    “Baked Pan Oil and Mango Peach”

    Holiday Musk of 2017: WD40
    *Available in 100ml and quarts

  6. Pappy
    Pappy says:

    When I was a teenager, my dad told me to be careful not to let the fumes get to me. Car fumes, perfumes, etc., etc……. Sound advice. Now as I’m bumping 70, the fumes that give me the most pleasure are the ones emanating from under the cover when I lift it off the old Barbour. A quick cure for the blues for me.

  7. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Damn Matt we had some of the same rides back in the day…and you admitted to a Corvair…..talk about smells, not only could the exhaust from the manifold heater kill you….it stank of leaking oil (the Pep Boys 2 reclaimed gals or 2 bucks) so I stuffed soiled gym socks into the air outlet.. Glad Ralph Nadir didn’t have a Chris Craft!
    and I had a 56 Stude too!……get in a wreck with a Studebaker truck and you win. 2 tons of ugly out of control.
    John in Va.

  8. Matt
    Matt says:

    HAHA! Yes the Corvair was the king of smells. I had several, including a Spyder which was insane, and fun but always had some issue. As a buddy used to say, its good its leaking oil, that way you know it still has some in it.

  9. Howard Beaumont
    Howard Beaumont says:

    I answered an ad for a 1962 18′ Holiday and arrived at the boat to inspect it. The boat was fully covered and the owner was standing next to me. I lifted the side of the cover and half stuck my head in and I instantly said, it smells like a Chris-Craft! The owner instantly responded……YA, MOLD and MILDEW!!

  10. Leslie Best
    Leslie Best says:

    Mid 60’s Chevy engine always had that reassuring oil burning smell sneaking past the stem seals when knee boarding or skiing behind them. Also engine temp could be seen and smelled by the steam you were making.

  11. R. Harris
    R. Harris says:

    I was at a combo car boat show this past summer and there were two guys there with a former race car. They would fire it up several times a day to the sounds of clapping hands and a lot of yells from happy fans. But I noticed the smell and after the crowd was gone I said to the two guys “methanol and nitro”. They looked at each other and smiled and nodded their heads. Can’t miss that smell as well as my were burning…

  12. Martin Field
    Martin Field says:

    I did some modelmaking work for a silversmith whose workshop was above Tough’s boatyard in Twickenham, London. But as we approached it for the first time I saw a row of OLD cruisers, so I threw myself over the gunnels and took in a long sniff. “Agh!!!, bilge”, said I. The silversmith actually jumped back a step, he was so horrified. Unimaginative fool! Tough’s was the boatyard that commissioned all the Dunkirk Little Ships that rescued the troops from the beaches in WW2. This was some special bilge!

  13. ScottK
    ScottK says:

    High octane race gas or nitromethane, tire smoke, hot race cars, 100LL avgas. The best mechanical smell memories for me.

  14. Don Skizenta
    Don Skizenta says:

    We have a local candle maker that is creating a Sandusky Bay scented candle. It isn’t out yet. But should be soon.

  15. Alex
    Alex says:

    I can tell each of my boats by their scent, blindfolded. It’s funny how each one is that distinct.

    My favorite scent among them is hands down the one of this boat: Scotch. The combination of the vinyl, flooring, mahogany, paint, and big 427 is pure sweetness.

    Sometimes it even smells like Scotch but that’s only after 5:00.

  16. Floydrturbo
    Floydrturbo says:

    And if your boat has a head on it there are going to be smells you’re familiar with but probably want to avoid, just sayin’

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