Hi, I have a (new to me) Columbia 31 with a Atomic 4 that is not running at the moment. I am new to sailing and want to get some time under sail, practice and learn the boat. What difficulties would I have taking her out with auxiliary power? or should I just wait until I get the motor up and running?
Ed, sailing a 31' unpowered boat in and out of a marina requires a great deal of skill. I have never known a novice who had that skill. The consequence of a mistake is that you might lose control and run into and damage other boats, and there's a high likelihood that you'll make such a mistake(s).
If you want to practice sailing, I suggest you get a small, inexpensive sailing dinghy, until your engine is up and running, or crew on racing boats. In either case, you'll learn a lot.
I agree that the A4 is a wonderful old engine. It's very simple and reliable, and fairly inexpensive to maintain, and, notwithstanding the concerns about gas engines generally, it's safe. My engine is a diesel, but I have sailed on a friend's A4 powered boat a great deal, in all conditions, and it is an impressive little engine.