Mercury 25, Part 2

When we bought the Mercury, we wanted a used motor.  It was a prospective purchase; we’d never hada RIB before, didn’t know whether it was going to work for us, and had no ideahow much horsepower we wanted.  We alsowanted electric start and power tilt for Tanya, since she would be a primaryuser.  It would have been a veryexpensive motor new, and we were trying to be frugal and limit our exposure to a bad decision.

Now, we think a brand new motor is warranted.  We’re committed to the RIB and we are willingto make the investment for reliability.  We're ready to leave Florida and don't need the additional risk of a grumpy outboard.  Our mantra has changed to "the motor we don't know doesn't work is better than the one we do".  We’vealready determined that used motors aren’t economical for us anyway.  The only downside is that a new motor has to gothrough a break-in period, and we can’t start abusing it right away.


We have never seriously considered a 4-stroke motor.  They use less fuel and have cleaneremissions, and it would be great not to have to fool around with mixing oilinto the fuel, but for us the costs outweigh the benefits.

For starters, 4-strokes are more complicated.  They are now standard in the US because of ouremissions laws, but this is not the case in much of the world.  We envision ourselves going to developingcountries where we have to rely on ourselves and locals to keep our enginesrunning.  A sophisticated motor thatnobody understands and requires special tools and parts would be a liability,and possibly completely useless.  We’remuch more comfortable with a 2-stroke design that has been manufactured for 20years and is used worldwide.

Four-strokes are also heavier.  To my simple mind, the piston has to cycletwice as many times for each power stroke of the engine.  It can’t run twice as fast, so instead it hasto have a larger displacement in order to deliver equivalent power.  That means a larger, heavier block and flywheel.  Because we eventually have to lift it, either when moving the motor on and off the boat, or hoisting the boat in the davits, the weight is a problem.

The 4-strokes are the beneficiaries of more modern engineering,which helps with the power-to-weight ratio.  It’sone of those cases where improvements only occur when the manufacturers areforced to make them.  Progress is painfuland it took years for manufacturers to figure out how to make a good4-stroke.  It does appear that they’rethere now and today’s motors are fairly reliable.  But mandated progress is often misguided,like what they’ve done with ethanol in gasoline.

We compare the 4-stroke revolution to the way cars changedto electronic fuel injection.  Suddenlyyou can’t work on your car anymore, but the cars are more efficient and reliable. 
Like an old VW bug versus a HondaAccord.  But everything breaks eventuallyand back to my original point: try getting your Honda fixed in a coastal villagein Nicaragua.

So 4-strokes are pretty much off the table when looking atnew motors.  But we did make the roundsto the local dealers to kick the tires and let them help solidify ourposition.  And we learned a few things,too.  For example, a 4-stroke is harderto pull-start, which makes sense with the lower cycle ratio and largercylinders.  Electric start was already arequirement, but we want a pull-start backup. 
A 2-stroke will have both the electric button as well as a pull-starthandle, but to pull-start an electric 4-stroke you have to take the cowling and flywheelcover off and install a handle (at least on the models we've seen).

The Yamaha dealer was not very helpful, nor was the factoryrep, who happened to be there.  Neitherof them knew the product very well, and between them they gave us a couple of mis-truths. 
For example, they said the warranty could beused internationally, when Yamaha’s website clearly says it can’t.  But we did get to see the models (and how bigthey really are).  And we were surprisedto learn that Yamaha’s 4-stroke 20hp is only 10 lbs heavier than the 2-stroke25, which is almost acceptable. 

Of course, all the models he had were 4-strokes.  New 2-strokes are very hard to come by in theUS these days, and can only be had from dealers with the foresight to stock upon them before 2010.  We know of a dealer in St Petersburg that has them, but haven't given up on Miami yet.

The Mercury-Suzuki-Evinrude dealer was great.  When we explained what we want to do, he saidhis money would be on a Yamaha 2-stroke if we could find one.  He lamented not stocking up on the 2-strokeMercury motors, but Yamaha was still #1 internationally and he thought Mercurywas a distant second.  Apparently Suzukionly lets dealers carry above or below 40hp, so he couldn’t tell us much about thesmaller motors, except that he’d heard the Suzuki 25 was a turd. 

Evinrude is an oddball because their E-Tec motors are2-strokes that are actually cleaner than 4-strokes.  However, they do this with oil injection andelectronics and are therefore even more complicated.  This technology doesn’t scale down well andtheir smallest motor is a 25hp.  Itweighs 146 lbs, which is 35 lbs more than the Yamaha 2-stroke, so not acontender.  Otherwise they’re greatmotors and we see lots of them.  Thedealer has one himself, but said that 3 years between scheduled maintenanceoften leads to nasty surprises.

A new Mercury holds no attraction for us.  The only real differentiator is how theyshift.  On a Mercury you twist thethrottle one way for forward, and the other way for reverse.  Everyone else uses a handle on thepowerhead.  We tried to see this as anadvantage when buying our current motor; that a person could shift gears one-handedwithout fumbling for a shift lever, but previous experience told us this wasnot as simple as it sounds.  This hasheld true, and after using our Mercury almost every day for the last 5 months westill screw up the gears, or have to look down to be sure.

It is a major disappointment is that nobody has a power tiltoption in combination with a short shaft and a tiller on a new motor.  But our old Mercury 25 2-stroke does.  Actually, the Nissan 25 4-stroke does too,and it’s even fuel injected, but it weighs 182 lbs.  The only hope we have at this point on a newmotor is an aftermarket solution from CMC. 
This is a separate tilt bracket that bolts to the back of the boat andthe motor clamps onto.  It weighs 24 lbs.  It’s either that, or we continue to invest inour Mercury, or we give up on Tanya and the kids ever taking the dinghy ashorethemselves.

So assuming our old Mercury is a lost cause, our next choiceis a new Yamaha 25hp 2-stroke with a CMC tilt bracket. 

The final consideration for a new Yamaha is domestic orinternational.  We can buy a new Yamaha2-stroke 25 either in Florida or in the nearby Bahamas.  I don’t know if the motors are actually different,but the US dealers don’t recognize the international model numbers.  We discovered this with our old Yamaha 4hpthat Take Two’s previous owner bought in the USVI’s.  This really forces us to decide where themotor is going to spend its time.  A USmotor will come with a warranty that can only be used in the US, but we knowhow to get US parts shipped internationally, so that may be our best bet.  We have not checked the motor prices in the Bahamas,but we should since 2-strokes are not the rarity there that they have become here.