As a boat captain, I have the opportunity to pilot boats that do not belong to me. As a result, I end up running engines I never would have chosen to operate (like Mercury). The fact is, after years out on the water, I have discovered there are better-engineered outboards out there and they rarely develop issues that keep me from going out fishing.

A while back, I was standing next to the transom preparing to gaff a nice mahi when I noticed the center engine was flopping about every time a wave rocked the boat. I was amazed to see the bolt designed to connect the center engine to the heavy-duty tie bar (that steers all three Verados) was missing. I had never heard of a steering bolt failure and since we were 20 miles offshore, I knew this was going to be a challenging situation. Luckily, I was able to make a temporary repair that allowed us to slowly limp back toward shore.

After a long trip home and a ruined fishing trip, I called the repair shop to advise them about my steering disaster. When I told them about the critical missing steering bolt, they matter-of-factly responded “Yeah, that’s not too unusual for Mercurys.” Dumbfounded by this revelation, I jokingly asked: “Do you know what Verado means? ... It’s French for ‘I need a tow!’ “

A few weeks later, I got a call from a guy who was stuck out at the reef after his steering failed. I towed him in, and as soon as we docked I climbed onboard to check out his steering system. I was surprised to find the boat manufacturer had installed a Mercury steering pump on the boat (especially since the boat came powered with a Yamaha). I pointed at the black Mercury steering pump and said to the boater: “Do you know what the difference is between a Mercury and an anchor? While they will both keep you from going anywhere, one is painted black!”

A month ago, I was fishing offshore when the boat’s Mercury power steering pump failed. Trying to steer the triple 300HP Verados became almost impossible, even when using two hands and a substantial amount of force. Fortunately, I was able to utilize the auto-pilot to make course changes and get back home, but when it came time to maneuver the boat in for docking, I once again found myself in a challenging arm-wrestling match with the locked-up Mercury steering system. Apparently, Mercury somehow managed to design a steering pump that is prone to overheating, so once again I found myself heading back to the repair shop to try and resolve another Mercury engineering snafu. Unfortunately, the replacement steering parts are out of stock at Mercury’s parts warehouse, so now the boat has been out of commission for more than a month while waiting for the Mercury steering parts to arrive.

I jokingly suspect the Verado engineer who oversaw the quality control for the steering bolt used on the engine bracket was somehow involved in designing the steering pump (creating additional chaos), so they finally moved him down to the Mercury parts acquisition office!

Given my ongoing problems with Mercury products, I am convinced they should have branded their engines using a different planet in our solar system, maybe using a real catchy name like “Uranus Outboards!”

Note: To be fair, Mercury outboards are fast, quiet and fuel-efficient. In fact, sometimes exceptionally quiet … like when they won’t start, or when they are stuck on land waiting for repair parts to show up.

Capt. Pete Peterson welcomes comments and suggestions sent to petersonventures@aol.com.

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