Why not?

December 8, 2014


It’s a 1999 (technically a classic) so it qualifies for the cut-rate trail pass. Insurance isn’t bad, and there was so much snow last March we couldn’t move from the driveway. I chose to frame the purchase as the reaction of a rational man to last winter’s claustrophobia.

10 December, 2014, 9:37 p.m.

It’s impossible to state how much snow there is outside as it’s all drifts and bare gravel on the way to my equipment shed. Suffice it that there’ll be snow in the fields for the Ski-Doo tomorrow.

Today I bought a trail pass online. Now I have to wait until they send the sticker to me, but the Ministry of Snowmobile Trails hasn’t opened them yet, anyway.


11 December, 2014

The recently-purchased Ski-Doo’s o.k. I’ve had a bit of trouble starting it when cold due to flooding. Maybe I’ll try without the choke next cold start.

The ’99 Touring LE offers an excellent ride with good steering which allowed me to follow paths through the woodlot without difficulty. This stands in sharp contrast to the behaviour of its predecessor, a ’76 Alpine, whose single ski worked more to separate the saplings for the massive, pointed bumper than it did to direct the sled. I had found it dangerous to sit on the Alpine’s seat when hurdling drifts, as the landings sometimes compressed one’s spine in a shocking manner. The long-legged Touring acts as though it would prefer a 20-mile run on packed trails to a poke around the sugar bush. It certainly shows more power than I’ll need in the woodlot.

This anti-Alpine will no doubt show its shortcomings in future rides, but for now I like the easy steering and cushy ride.

13 December, 2014

Apart from the use of a spark plug wrench to start the machine in the morning, it works very well. I’m studying everything written on the subject and watching every video even tangentally related to Ski Doo carburetor problems. Some headway has been detected.

The 13.6 mile tour took me across our fields to Forfar, through “town” on asphalt, then onto the Cataraqui Trail, across Hwy 15, and ending at Little Lake, a large pond accessible only by snowmobile.

The skis occasionally ground against coarse gravel on the old railway bed, but the machine’s ride reminded me far more of a Lexus sedan than an off-road vehicle. The hand and thumb warmers quickly warmed up digits frozen on that spark plug wrench.

I discovered that 25 mph is plenty fast enough on a straight, graded snowmobile trail at this time of year. 35 mph is marginally acceptable along a familiar path on a large field.

But the ’99 Ski Doo Touring is surprisingly competent and easy to drive. This has never been more apparent than when I tried to reverse my course. I turned off the trail onto an upward-sloping driveway, then reversed downhill. Starting off on the slope offered a whiff of warm drive belt, but the long sled turned as easily as an SUV and we were on our way home without fuss. A similar move with the intractable ’76 Alpine would have required considerable effort.

A cold start this afternoon brought the machine to life without the use of the spark plug ratchet, so I may yet learn how to operate this promising addition to the Young’s Hill motor pool.

14 December, 2014

This morning’s start with 1/2 choke didn’t work after a 2 second attempt, so I released the choke and rolled it with open throttle for a couple of 5 second bursts until it started. As usual, the engine performed flawlessly, once started.

The Ski Doo passed a milestone this morning when I climbed on behind my fishing buddy Tony for a spin around the field. Online advice had it that the machine was too light for anyone over 200 pounds, though it had seemed pretty good over rough fields with just me aboard. This test was with two passengers, combining considerably more weight than the sled’s modest 440 pounds. The ride was fine. It didn’t respond as readily to steering inputs as with a single rider, but handling was certainly controllable enough for an occasional ice fishing expedition.

Observing the machine in operation from a distance, I was amazed at its quiet. The more we drive it, the better it seems to run.

Next step: installing the hitch and modifying the snowmobile sled we found in the barn to carry a power ice auger and fishing tackle.

15 December, 2014



Today I put a fire on in the shop and attended to some of the maintenance tips I gleaned yesterday from a variety of online sources. First was the new belt, which went on easily with the tool I found in the carefully-packed tool case. The old belt’s still in good condition, so I stashed it under the rear seat.

The gear case dip stick had a few filings on its magnet, but the oil looked good, was at the correct level, and I saw no evidence of leaking below.

The main task was to grease the underpinnings, those unmentionable parts only a stern list of must-do’s could make me examine. The manual said to roll the machine onto its side… Uh, I stood on the edge of the running board and pulled on the handle bar, but it didn’t tip, just slammed its left ski down on the shop floor.

Further examination revealed a broken case for the right mirror: I’ll bet I know how that happened. With no desire to do further damage to the rather pristine coachwork on the Touring, I opted to use the system I developed for the 5′ mid-mount mower on my Kubota. The auto lift had no trouble with the weight, and I found three of the (alleged) four fittings under the track. The four fittings on the steering loosened up the my grease gun, and then I let loose with rustproofing oil on the various metal-to-metal moving parts.

The suspension immediately felt less notchy, and we glided fluidly over the local bumps as I put the machine away. Interestingly, the rear bumper now sits at 16″. Before the grease it sat at 17 1/2″.

Over the day I’ve learned that if 1/2 choke doesn’t start the engine, a second or two on the starter with the throttle open will do the job. At least at the freezing point.

There’s a good chance the starting problem is with the operator, not the machine.

Diesel tractors and the cold

November 22, 2014

20 November, 2014

While conditions local to the Newboro/Portland area have proven much less extreme than those to the south of Lake Erie, we have had more than our share of wind over the last three days, and today required that the mothballed snow removal equipment get to work.

For the first time in memory the 35 hp TAFE loader tractor froze a fuel line. At first it lit up in the best diesel tradition, but then starved for fuel and quit. Ulp.

Next on the depth chart was the Kubota whose normal role is mowing lawns. When I tried to hitch it to the snow blower, the abandoned implement was frozen so solidly into the ground that the little tractor couldn’t move it. I had to whack it with the old Massey Ferguson 35, which promptly decided it didn’t want to go any further in either direction because of a lack of hydraulic fluid and a large blade on the back.

The little Kubota dragged its belly out the lane and back again willingly enough, but cars don’t usually have 12″ ground clearance. With a sneering look at the idle TAFE with its cozy cabin, I took a deep breath, hooked a logging chain to the Kubota and yanked the now-loosened 5′ snowblower out of the tines of the Massey’s loader and around to where I could hitch it up. The wind kept dislodging my hat to the point that I squeezed into a snowmobile helmet I found in the shop.

Much fussing ensued before the blower was properly installed on the little tractor. What I had thought was a seized pto shaft turned out to be a telescoping shaft too long for its job. Shortening it by 1 1/2″ did the trick, but I had pounded on the thing in the blowing snow for about an hour before this insight came along.

Because it wasn’t all that cold outside, I was able to complete the blow-out of the driveway and related parking areas without a change of clothes, though by that point I was soaking wet. The 21 hp Kubota could handle the heavy drifts in low range if I eased off on the go-pedal when the engine began to labour. Without the three suitcase weights on the front it wouldn’t have had much steering control, though.

As I said the temperature was rising, so I tried the TAFE before retiring for a shower. It lit up a bit reluctantly but settled down once it had coughed that drop of water through its injectors. Next time I’ll park it out of the wind so I can have fun playing with the TAFE’s loader while sheltered within its cabin, instead of ducking a deluge of damp snow.

November 21, 2014

My neighbour Peter Myers provided an anti-gelling compound for the fuel because the TAFE repeated its trick of starting up, running for a short while, accelerating and then dying. This conditioner stresses on the label that it’s not for regular use, so I need to find something else, as well.

Dealer Paul Carson told me that an additive is necessary nowadays, as diesel is of much lower quality than it was even two years ago. He agreed to order new canister filters for the TAFE’s fuel supply.

I have never touched the diesel part of the tractor because I had little idea of how it worked, and my only experience with injector pumps occurred on a bitterly cold morning several years ago when I ran the Massey Ferguson 35 out of fuel while straddling Young’s Hill Road. Peter’s comment when I sought his help to restart the engine: “That’s an awful job! You … only … do …that … once!”

From that session I learned to keep the tanks full and pray the filters didn’t plug, because bleeding the system requires two men with frozen hands and feet, a portable generator, and a large tractor to chain-start the MF when everything else fails. Now that I think of it, add a new starter to the bill. It seems Lucas starters run on smoke, because when I let the smoke out of that one, it wouldn’t work any more. The rebuild guy in Smiths Falls tossed the Lucas into his dumpster and handed me a much cheaper Delco which has worked fine ever since.

After an hour with the block heater and the anti-gelling compound, the TAFE lit right up, but died again before I could get it into the heated garage.
I tried to tow it to where I could drag it in with the 12v winch I once bolted to the garage floor. The little Bolens scratched away at the frozen ground until it got the behemoth to move, but then it rolled off course and stopped on top of the chain. I hadn’t realized that a power steering tractor not only won’t follow a tow vehicle, you can’t steer the thing at all without the engine.

In desperation I tried the starter again. Perversely, it lit up and idled as if it had no memory of its earlier tantrum. Several breathless seconds passed before the tractor sat in the garage, beside the box stove. Then, of course, it ran perfectly. Perhaps the water has worked its way through the system, but I won’t trust the TAFE until the new filters are installed and the system bled.

It’s been a reliable workhorse for four years, so I won’t call it an evil beast yet…

UPDATE: 2 December

After I changed the fuel filters on the TAFE it started up well and continued to run as expected. The job wasn’t all that bad technically. I’ll still wait until it starts on a cold morning with a heavy snowfall before I pronounce the TAFE redeemed.

UPDATE: You’ll find this year’s ongoing ice report near the top of the column on the right of the page. Please contribute your observations as other readers consume them eagerly.

After a very quiet fall my inbox jolted to life this morning with urgent messages regarding the new ice.

Competition is already warming up for the ice-out contest, but the most interesting addition to Maggie Fleming’s email chain this morning has to be from Stephen Wasteneys, who thinks his brother Hardolph might now be trapped at the cottage by the ice.

The Len’s Cove camera is now in a new location, so you may wish to check out this link:


Update 9:20 a.m.

Stephen Wasteneys commented:

(My brother) is on Holder island. I just spoke with him and that part of the lake is still wide open so it is probably just the harbour where it is sheltered that has frozen.

He said the high winds of the last few days have significantly cooled the lake off however and with the right conditions it will go. He still has a few more days work up there, so hopefully it won’t ….



“We no longer seek the high road so into a valley of consequence we tread.”

Stephen Harper has led Canada from the middle of the road with his personal foreign policy project in Israel and armed adventures in the Arab world.

The ease with which a gunman made his way through the Parliament Buildings yesterday underlined the basic disconnect of this government from reality: Harper’s warnings of threats from IS were to scare up votes, not to justify preparations for an actual attack. No doubt he was as astounded as everyone else in the building when the mad gunman appeared.

Government by Stephen Harper is all bombast and spin with no thought of consequences except at the ballot box.

Canadians will absorb this week’s hits and resume our lives because we are a resilient people, but we must not allow anyone to take political advantage from this egregious error.



First came the cabin frame from Black’s Corners Motorsport to replace the original “roll bar” and screen on the Ranger TM. Turns out the stock cabin frame on early 2000’s Rangers wasn’t ROPS certified, so dealers had to install more robust frames for commercial use. Steve had three still in their original packages in his warehouse, so he sold me one for $250.

Then came a Kijiji purchase, a leftover metal roof ($150) from the dealer in North Bay. A centre-mounted mirror came from eBay for about $60.

As summer faded into fall I started to look for a windshield. The cheapie I picked is built from 3/16″ Lexan, ($256 from Extreme Metal Products). Then the exhaust fumes forced the dog to hang her head out into the slipstream, so the rear half of the enclosure was in order.

I had used spring clamps and red duct tape to hold the stern cover off our old sedan cruiser in place on Tony’s Ranger 500 last winter. This worked surprisingly well for ice fishing, so I ordered a pair of rear windows online at the lowest price I could find, $40 USD. The rather flimsy plastic in the new rear cover led me to suspect that it will likely break from impact during the winter, but if it does I’ll sew in a heavier vinyl panel from a boat canopy shop. The canvas portions and velcro straps should work well to hold a more durable rear panel.*  (See update below.)

The Ranger’s definitely more liveable now on dog-walks in rainy or cold weather.

A new battery from Ward’s Marina in Kingston ($165) gives the starter a lot more torque than before and should help in cold weather. The guys at the counter were surprised when I asked for parts for a TM. They had thought their red 2004 TM was the only one in the area. Used on the lot as a tow vehicle since new, theirs has 1300 hours on it with just normal maintenance.

“They’re bulletproof,” the owner commented.

*UPDATE:  7 November, 2014

I had to move the rear window down a couple of inches on the cabin frame in order to block exhaust fumes which were permeating the cabin from below the seat back.  The $40 rear window is a couple of inches too short-waisted to do its job properly.  When I get around to it I’ll screw on a 9″ strip of plywood or metal to fill the gap between the bottom of the cabin frame and the lower edge of the rear cover.  Then it should work fine.  With the device lowered to where it shows 3″ of air below the cabin roof the fumes are no longer a problem, though it’s not a viable long-term solution.  Next time I’d buy a more expensive model ($65.) which appears longer in the illustrations online.

UPDATE 7 December, 2014

It took a piece of 1/4″ plywood 59 7/8″ X 16″ to seal up the stern cover. The plywood sits on the frame and just under the black canvas of the stern cover. It does not interfere with the operation of the dump box. I drilled two oblong holes for the lower velcro straps of the stern cover to go through and over the plywood and still hold the roll bar in a death grip.

UPDATE 13 December, 2014

This may seem a bit extreme, but it’s a lot warmer in the cabin for the dog. As long as I don’t take the Ranger onto a lake, what’s the harm?



The plug in my 16′ boat lost its centre tonight while I was fishing. When I got to the dock I called my slip-mate Tony and he told me he had a spare on the rear deck of his boat, but it was too small, so in the dark while the water gushed in I had to take his plug apart and fit it with the rubber from mine. Then it went in and the pump began to suck air.

It’s been a long time since I have had to fight to keep a boat from sinking. I’d forgotten how much fun it is.

The failed plug’s mechanism had corroded off some months ago and I had substituted a piece of steel for the brass, and then tonight the metal parts disappeared, leaving a drinking-straw-sized hole.

Just for the record, the plastic envelope artificial worms come in makes a lousy emergency bilge plug. A plastic bag is somewhat better until it washes upstream beneath the floorboards.

From now on I’ll keep two fresh plugs of the correct size on the rear deck by the engine.

With some shame I have plagiarized the following article from the excellent Winnipeg Free Press because I’m pretty sure it’s important to all Canadian gearheads.


By: Ashley Prest
Posted: 05/6/2014

If you are planning to buy a used vehicle in the United States and bring it home to Canada, a new U.S. government rule means a bit more legwork. If you don’t do it, it could cost you a lot more money.

What is the Automated Export System?

The Automated Export System (AES) is a mandatory filing requirement by the U.S. Census Bureau of Electronic Export Information (EEI). The exporter or authorized agent must file the vehicle’s EEI information using AES.

From AES, the importer (or authorized agent) will receive an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) number in a confirmation message. This number must be presented to U.S. Customs to bring the vehicle into Canada. (www.riv.ca)

The rule requires electronic export information (EEI) to be filed for any used “self-propelled vehicles” — any automobile, truck, tractor, bus, motorcycle, motor home, agricultural machinery, construction equipment or any other kind of special-use machinery designed for running on land — through the U.S. Government’s automated export system (AES).

“Starting April 5, the exporter in the U.S. is required to file automated export system information. They have to report to the U.S. Census to tell them who they are, what they’re sending, whom it’s going to, in a nutshell,” said Trevor Franzmann, sales and marketing manager at A.D. Rutherford International, a Winnipeg customs broker who works with customers on both sides of the U.S./Canada border.

“This is absolutely making it more difficult to buy a vehicle in the U.S. and bring it across the border.”

Statistics Canada’s international accounts and trade division figures for 2013 showed there were 1,332 self-propelled vehicles imported to Manitoba alone from the U.S., for a total value of about $44 million. Across Canada in 2013, there were 18,441 vehicles brought in from the U.S., for a total value of more than $555 million.

Since April 5, self-propelled vehicles exported from the U.S. to Canada are no longer exempt from AES filing. The filing must take place 72 hours prior to crossing the border.

A fine up to $10,000, under the U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade regulations, can be levied for failing to submit the AES information.

“It’s excessive, to say the least. The bottom line is it (the vehicle purchased) is not going to be allowed in the country (Canada) if you don’t file your AES filing,” Franzmann said.

An “informed compliance” period is in place until Oct. 2, giving people time to figure out the new requirements. Franzmann said Canadian buyers of vehicles from the U.S. should start complying right now or risk having the vehicle held up at the border.

“People should also be aware that, even though there is informed compliance right now, U.S. Customs has the right to deny you entry if you don’t file the AES,” he said.

Once the AES filing has been completed, an internal transaction number (ITN) will be assigned. The importer or a customs broker needs to present that number to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to bring the vehicle across the border.

“Simply, it ends up being the Canadian (buyer’s) responsibility to make sure AES filing is done, because that vehicle is not going to get into the country (Canada) unless you are provided with an ITN, an internal transaction number,” Franzmann said.

A potential problem is that to complete the AES filing, the U.S. seller is required to have a federal tax identification number called an EIN. Private individuals in the U.S. might not have an EIN number but, under the new rule, the American seller will have to get one to comply with the AES filing.
That means taking the time to apply to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and some private sellers don’t want to do that.

“What we’re telling our customers is find out if the seller has or will get an EIN number. If the seller won’t, don’t buy or get your money back,” Franzmann said.

Another possible point of confusion is which person is ultimately responsible for the AES filing.

Dale Kelly, chief of the U.S. foreign trade division, said that can vary with the location of the Canadian purchasing the vehicle.

“If the person from Canada (the importer) is actually in the U.S. at the time the goods are purchased or obtained for export, then that person/company/individual is considered the U.S. principal party in interest and responsible for the filing of the AES,” Kelly said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“Only if the merchandise was sold by a U.S. person or company and the Canadian person never came to the U.S., then that U.S. company would be considered the U.S. principal party in interest.”

Canadians importing a vehicle must be prepared to meet all requirements at the U.S. border in addition to paying fees and taxes. Canadian Border Services Agency spokeswoman Esme Bailey said Canadians should contact the CBSA before they plan to import a vehicle by calling 1-800-461-9999 and visiting the website http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2014 A6


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