2019 Boat Project #2 Engine Change (Update 02/20)

UPDATE: We replaced our port engine in February 2020. See the update at the end for a more realistic shipping time.

This is a long story. You may have followed it on our FB page while it was happening (or just don’t care). If so, just skip down to the installation pictures. If not, I’m telling it here so I don’t have to tell it again. Ugh.

Right after we splashed the boat for the season, we ordered a new starboard engine (January 11th), then started the upholstery project and somewhere in here decided to list the boat for sale. Here’s the saga of the engine that will “be there in 11 business days…” {spoiler alert, NOT!}

The engine

Our main engines are Yamaha 9.9 outboards, but they are not just any outboard. They have a super long shaft, larger gear reduction with a large diameter prop for a lower RPM. Other engines have been dropped in with slight modifications, but it’s a tight space. On the advice from the PDQ owner’s forum, we order from “Andy at Shipyard Island Marina” (also known as SIM Yamaha in WI. I don’t know why we assumed they were in Florida. Our bad). They had one in stock and Andy Sr. quotes us 5 working days to do the necessary modifications for our boat (convert electric to manual tilt and change to 7-pin wiring harness). There is a sales event with $250 off and they get a quote from Arrowpac for shipping of $426. It sounded too good to be true.

First, SIM Yamaha tells us they had to order the parts for conversion. That adds a few days. Then the worst snow storms on record for the upper midwest roll in (dock neighbors from MN assure us it was epic). Apparently, SIM Yamaha is located on an island in the Lake Michigan, so they have to wait for the ferry to start running again and then to truck to Chicago is also delayed for weather. Tick, tock.

Seasonal Rate

Side bar. The “just fell off the turnip truck” catamaran rate at Puerto del Rey is something like $2.25-4.48/ft A DAY (they try to put the big cats on the t-head). We quickly learned our first season that the weekly rate for a double-wide slip on dock 10 was $1.65/ft.

We always try to limit our stay to a week, but over time–projects and weather delays–we learn there is a monthly rate of $1.43/ft plus electricity. (We average $50/month with our window a/c unit running). So, if you end up getting stuck for 3 weeks because of the Christmas winds, you might as well sit back, relax and stay the month.

We had scheduled a month after splash for the upholstery project.

Then cruising friends tell us about the “seasonal” rate. As we worked our way into month two of waiting for the engine, Customer Service confirms the 3-month, contract, “seasonal” rate of $0.90/ft plus electricity. Suddenly, we are committed to living in the marina for three months (I convince myself we can still go out for a few days to get away…). Our monthly bill is $1005.73 (off-season Jan, Feb, March, April. It jumps slightly in May) which includes a gym, wifi, water and trash. $1000 more than anchoring out for free but down into mortgage/rent territory.

Apparently, you can also become a “member” to drop it down to “dirt cheap”. We haven’t got that far, yet. Anyway, back to the missing engine…

The Shipping Debacle

Now things get weird–our engine sits in Chicago for a month. Every time I call the shipping contact we were given, we are assured “it didn’t make the last shipment but it’s being loaded now.” Being friendly, begging, yelling and speaking to the General Manager gets me nowhere. My blood pressure can’t be good. I’m convinced they’ve lost it (sitting on the dock under a pile of snow). Ultimately, I call SIM Yamaha back to see if they could intervene on our behalf, but they had a death in the family and had closed down for a week. At this point, I’m contemplating cancelling the purchase on my credit card. FINALLY, after a short train ride to Florida, our engine is quickly loaded onto a cargo ship and heading to Puerto Rico (which was, surprisingly, the fastest part of the trip and on time!).

And then, the comical part of the tale that most Caribbean cruisers are used to. On March 15th (just past the two month anniversary of our order), we receive a call from a nice young lady at ArrowPac San Jaun, who advises us our shipment has arrived and we need to either contact a broker (um, no) or go to the website to pay the sales tax (Hint: we wasted half a day using Google Chrome with built in Google Translate to poke around http://www.hacienda.gobierno.pr/ and trying to set up an account before we got to the SURI page (pic above)–which has it’s own translate button & doesn’t require a log-in). After a few more phone calls back to Arrowpac, (who promptly answered our calls & spoke English), we completed the “Non-Merchant Declaration” and paid the “SUTA” (tax). We were supposed to email her the receipt when we got it, so she should get the engine released and loaded on the truck for delivery. We’re not overly excited. This could be another week–when we receive a phone call that it is on the way. Huh? Really?

It’s HERE!

Our driver calls to let us know he is close and to confirm our location but he doesn’t speak English. We sprint up to the office (like kids on Christmas morning waiting to open the REALLY BIG BOX), trying to find a marina employee to translate but our driver isn’t picking up. We see the truck crest the hill and it’s a comical scene as I run up to the entrance gate and ask our favorite gate guard, Edwin to 1) let him in and 2) translate and tell him to head towards the golf cart station. (I try to follow the conversation but again, it seems to involve 1000 more words than necessary!). Meanwhile, The Captain is explaining to the dock hands that we need 1) help communating to our delivery driver 2) to get the engine out of the crate and down to our boat. Like all employees at our marina, they calmly say, “No problema.” Like they do this everday. Maybe they do. We have seen some weird {poop} go by on a golf cart.


Men are like moths to a flame where engines are concerned. The dock hand that helps us unload it from the truck onto the golf cart, then from the golf cart onto the dock doesn’t seem too keen to leave. He wants to stay for the unboxing. Then a neighbor we have never seen before, appears out of nowhere to help lift it onto the boat!

Engine Install

Old engine in the retract position.
Using the bimini frame to lift it out of the well.
Choke upgrade
Freshwater flush upgrade
New engine installed with the upgraded aerodynamic cowling
Ugh! The hardest part of the install.

The Hardest Part of the Install

It turns out the forward/reverse are flip-flopped on the new engine. After much reading of the Yamaha manual (& an email to SIM Yamaha) we confirm it can’t be changed on the engine. “Do we have a maintenance manual for the throttle quadrant?” {crickets}. And of course, like any part on a boat (or airplane), it’s no longer manufactured by Morse (the name stamped on it), so it’s a scavenger hunt to find that Morse was sold out to SeaStar and the maintenance manual for the is available online. Score! The throttle cables at the throttle quadrant need to be changed from “push-to-open” to “pull-to-open”. Not as easy as the diagram implies.

Here’s the link for the throttle quadrant on our PDQ Classic, MT-3 CH5300P, because SeaStar makes HUNDRED’s of different variations of throttle quadrants. Another half-day lost…


Looks easy, doesn’t it?


In the end, the engine & modifications were perfect. It dropped right in and started right up. More follow-up communication from SIM Yamaha would have been ideal–as we sat at a slip in a very expensive marina for two months–still thinking we might actually get to go somewhere this season. All told, you can’t call it “island time” since the engine spent most of that time sitting in Chicago. But it’s SHINY and purrs like a kitten!

UPDATE 2020: In January/February 2020, we replaced the port engine on Odin. After last years shipping debacle, we contacted a local Yamaha dealer in Puerto Rico to check pricing and shipping speed. The bit of trivia we learned is that the Yamaha dealer here gets their engines from China (and no, they can’t or don’t want to order one from the US). Since no one could determine the comparable engine from China, they told us they couldn’t help (although 2 mechanics and an engineer came down to see our installation–we learned there is a Yamaha trained engineer at the marina!). Luckily SIM Yamaha had the engine in stock and WAS WILLING to try a different shipper. God bless ’em!

It took two weeks to prep for shipment and one week to arrive at the marina:

  • Ordered Jan 17th.
  • Yamaha doesn’t make the wiring harness anymore so they had to order it from China.
  • Shipped on January 30th.
  • (Apparently, FedEx sent the instructions ahead for the SUTA the week before but we weren’t expecting it–and didn’t receive it, so she emailed the instructions and I was able to knock it out in under an hour. The ladies in the San Juan office were amazing 787-793-0339)
  • Came by ship
  • FedEx delivered to the marina on Feb 7th!

Everything went up slightly in price: the engine, the shipping, and the SUTA, but IT’S DONE.

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