May 8, 2005

Mid-Sized Boat Motors

In early 2000 my soon-to-be-wife and I bought a MacGregor 26x motor/sailor and outboard motor. We chose a Mercury 30HP "bigfoot" four-stroke, which cost around four grand. It was quiet and a good fit, but it had a huge problem that ended up stressing me out every trip and almost stranded us once.

Carburated engines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carburator) like to run hot for long periods on newer gas. Burns all the carbon. We usually run slowly for short periods to get in and out of docks. In typical sailboat usage we found that carbon built up quickly in the three carbs of a Merc 30.

We then had to have the engine serviced too often, the engine would kill at low speeds, we could never achieve full speed, and it ultimately got so bad that we had to have all three carbs replaced for about $1300. Ouch! I think that was due in part to a bad servicing at a place on Central Ave (can't recall the name).

Dan's Southside Marine in Blomington, MN replaced the carbs and it helped a little, but we later decided we'd had enough and traded in the Merc, still worth about two grand, on a Suzuki 40HP with EFI - electronic fuel injection. The trade-up wasn't cheap. With tilt/trim, start, mounting, deluxe controls and all, it cost us our entire tax return plus the trade-in, but the new Suzuki purrs like a kitten at any speed and runs as fast as the old one ever could - without even breaking a sweat (4000 rpm).

I have yet to push our new motor beyond 4100 rpm, which gets us a nice 10 mph even upwind - plenty for the average motor/sailor. If we drain our ton of water ballast and push it to 5000 rpm I bet we can hit 14 mph, plenty for tubing or maybe to get from Madeleine Island in the Apostles (WI) to Barker's Island near Duluth, and back, in two days. We plan to try that trip this summer.

EFI is the way to go. Never again will I buy a mid-sized boat motor without EFI. Upgrading when we did also got us double the warranty, so we're covered through 2011. Having a good motor removes much of the stress of owning a boat. The rest depends on planning, crew, and experience.

Posted by tapli005 at May 8, 2005 5:55 AM