Just wanted to post an update.
Today Mr. Cthoops and I removed the carb, sprayed it with carb cleaner (black, dirty stuff was definitely coming out), used a can of air to dry it out, emptied the external fuel tank into the car, put brand new gas into the fuel tank, and added a different carb product to the gas (can't remember the exact name right now, but it's supposed to keep the jets clean). We also changed the spark plug for good measure (the old one was looking kind of dirty).
After putting the carb back in, we crossed our fingers and started it up. It's purring like a kitten. I don't think its sounded this quiet and smooth since we bought the boat in April!
This was the first time either one of us had done anything resembling outboard maintenance, so we are pretty darn proud of ourselves. Everyone was right - it really wasn't that hard. And we didn't drop anything in the water!! Hopefully this will be the last of our outboard issues for the rest of the season.
Thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement.
Good for you!!, Thanks for the feedback. Suggest you drain the carb if it is going to sit more than a week or two.