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As Good as New

Four owners explain why they chose to repower their boats with brand-new outboards
A repower can be undertaken to improve reliability, power, control or torque. Or it may be forced upon an owner due to engine failure or even theft.

A repower can be undertaken to improve reliability, power, control or torque. Or it may be forced upon an owner due to engine failure or even theft.

Last May, Nick Carter of Homosassa, Florida, went to pick up his 2018 Robalo 246 Cayman for a fishing trip when his plans were rudely interrupted. The boat’s 300-hp Yamaha outboard was missing.

“I had used the boat on Wednesday and when I went back on Friday, it wasn’t there,” Carter says of the motor. “The boat was kept in my [homeowner’s association] offsite storage facility. There were 60 boats, some RVs and trailers, and they stole my motor and another motor two boats down from me.” Oddly, the thieves didn’t take anything else. “They didn’t take my trolling motor, GPS or radar, and my power poles were both there.”

Clearly, the burglars knew what they were doing when they stole Carter’s outboard. The cables, wires and hydraulic hoses were cut, and the motor was gone in minutes. “They never scratched my boat,” says Carter, who had insurance coverage on the boat and engine. “The only saving grace is that I now have an engine with no hours on it versus 500 hours, and it only cost me a deductible.”

After the theft, Carter’s next fear was that he wouldn’t be able to find a replacement engine. “I called about 26 different Yamaha dealers throughout the United States, and nobody had any,” he says “I called Central Marine in St. Petersburg, Florida, and spoke to Mike Bishop [the sales manager] and he said, ‘Let me give you a call tomorrow,’” recalls Carter. “He called the next day and said, ‘We have a 300 horsepower that’s available. Do you want it?’”

Pim Van Hemmen

Repowering can be expensive, but if you like your boat, it’s more cost-effective than buying a new one.

Central Marine had to order a new wire harness and replace cables and other parts, but less than six weeks after the theft Carter had a new engine on his boat. The cost including taxes was $35,000. Hoping to avoid a repeat situation, he moved his boat to a different storage facility, put in a Blink security system and added a 500-watt streetlight on a 20-foot-tall utility pole. He also purchased an Apple Airtag and a Tile electronic security tag and hid them under the engine cowl.

While Carter didn’t have a choice when it came to repowering, upgrading remains a popular move. When the popularity of recreational boating increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for new boats made it harder to find engines, but dealers are finding ways around that, and owners continue to take the plunge.

Chris Leeman of South Portland, Maine, retired from his welding job for the City of Portland to chase his dream of introducing people to fishing and the water. A licensed captain, he has been on the waters off the Southern Maine coast since he was a young boy. Now 46, he founded Fore River Sportfishing and specializes in what he calls “family-fun” mackerel and striper charter fishing trips. Last year, he took people from 23 different states fishing.

He uses a 1996 Grady-White 27 Sailfish powered by twin Yamaha 200-hp outboards of the same vintage. While most people who stepped aboard the boat were shocked that the 1996 outboards ran flawlessly, last year Leeman decided to repower. “Everything on the boat is original equipment including the motors,” says Leeman. “They’re two-strokes, and there’s a lot of maintenance with them.”

Last winter, Leeman worked at Portland Ship Yard, the home of Portland Yacht Services. He discussed repowering his boat with company general manager Jason Curtis. The most readily available outboards were Hondas or Suzukis.

“I know the Coast Guard runs all Hondas and I’m looking for dependability and durability,” says Leeman. He chose twin 200-hp Hondas, which means he will be getting new controls and instruments as well. By the second week of July, one motor was in, but the yard was waiting for the second one. To go from the old Yamahas to the new Hondas, the retail price would be about $45,000 for the motors and $7,000 for the rigging.

His boat is rated for a maximum of 450 horsepower, but Leeman feels that the two 200-hp engines will give him plenty of power, and he’s hoping for improved fuel economy. While he was waiting for the motors and related equipment to arrive, Leeman continued to book charters. “The majority of our trips are for stripers and in a few weeks, we’ll start running shark trips,” he says. “It’s absolutely what I love.”

Leeman is not the only fisherman to repower. Rick Murrell is 75 years young and enjoys heading out from his home near Palm Beach Inlet in Palm Beach, Florida, for a couple of days of “Ironman fishing” with friends. “We’ll go out to the Bahamas or run down to south of Lauderdale and we’ll fish all afternoon and evening, sleep on the boat on bean bags and fish the next morning,” he says.

He has a 2007 40-foot Sea Hunter center console, Kawama, powered by quad 300-hp Suzuki outboards. Many years ago, Murrell started with a 31-foot Jupiter that he bought from Nick Scafidi, the owner of Nick’s Creative Marine in Riviera Beach, Florida. That boat was originally powered by twin 250-hp two-stroke Suzukis, and Murrell’s first re-power was to upgrade to four-strokes of the same power. The next time around, he upgraded to twin 300s. He typically repowers after about 1,200 hours. “My runs are anywhere from 20 miles offshore for swordfishing or running 100 miles out in the Atlantic for yellowfin,” says Murrell.

When he stepped up to the Sea Hunter, it had triple 300-hp Suzukis. On one trip, he spun a propeller hub during the run home. With two engines, he only managed 18 knots. “Running 18 knots in Florida didn’t give me enough margin of safety to be able to outrun a storm or get to port quickly,” says Murrell. When he repowered, Murrell upgraded to quad 300-hp Suzukis. “If I lose the one I can still run 40 mph,” he explained.

When Murrell decided to go with quad engines, the Suzuki 300s only came with 35-inch shafts. Because of the V-shape of the Sea Hunter’s hull, the outboard engines needed to be placed higher than the inboard units. To make the switch, Murrell and Scafidi—who does all of Murrell’s work—decided to mount the engines on four brackets. The brackets let the outboard engines be set at the proper height. Scafidi said the triple to quad upgrade costs in the neighborhood of $100,000. The next upgrade might involve replacing the hydraulic steering system with SeaStar’s electric steering.

Murrell chose to repower, but for Dr. Erick Salado, an orthopedic surgeon in North Miami, repowering was a necessity. Salado uses his 2008 Boston Whaler 32 Outrage to get away from his stressful job. But recently, one of the two original 250-hp Mercury Verados blew a lower unit. Then the next one did the same, and finally one of the motors burned up.

He initially tried to find a pair of used motors but didn’t have much luck. Then one of his neighbors, John Tomlinson, the co-owner of TNT Custom Marine in North Miami, told him just the powerhead for the burned-up motor would cost about $14,000.

Repowering made more sense. TNT found Salado a pair of new 300-hp Mercury Verados. “There were no engines available anywhere, so Johnny was able to get these from scratch and dent and they’re fine,” said Salado.

Salado waited six weeks for the engines, and TNT called him the day they arrived. He brought the boat in, and the swap was finished by the end of business. For peace of mind, Salado purchased three years of extended warranty in addition to the standard five years, so his new motors are covered for 8 years. He says the cost for the repower was $52,000.

Salado estimates that he puts about 1,000 hours on his boat every year and he’s pleased with the extra power and reliability of his motors. “I increased my torque and improved the boat’s maneuverability. The engines I have now turn 10 degrees more than the older ones, they weigh less and they sound like nothing is back there.”

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.

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