(Note: This blog is by Kevin Falvey, the editor-in-chief of Boating Magazine. He recently repowered his boat with a new Mercury outboard and select SmartCraft digital technologies. You can follow along with the project in a multiple-part series that Falvey ...
Family-owned dealership focuses on service and satisfied customers
Sumter, South Carolina, is a great place to be if you love boats and boating. Within a couple of hours’ drive you can be on any number of great recreational lakes or storied bass fisheries, not to mention the estuaries and offshore fishing opportunities on the coast.
Sumter is where McLean Marine has made its home for more than 65 years, and where Harvey Achziger Sr. and Harvey Achziger Jr. continue to offer top-flight products and a level of technical expertise that’s known well beyond the immediate area.
Customers will tell you, in fact, that the team at McLean can diagnose complex issues that have stumped other dealerships. McLean Marine is also a Mercury Repower Center that provides excellent advice and service to customers looking to upgrade their outboards.
“The repowers we see are everything from 40hp up through 300,” Harvey Jr. said. “A lot of people come to us, with the economy being what it is, and maybe can’t really afford a brand-new boat. So if they have a 10- to 12-year-old motor that’s failing, but they’ve still got a functional boat and trailer, it’s more feasible for them to look into a repower. Especially if the boat’s still in really good shape or has sentimental value.
“We’re seeing aluminum boats, pontoons, center-consoles and bass boats. We’re getting a wide variety now. It used to just be center-consoles that were getting repowered, but we’re seeing a little bit of everything these days.”
Harvey Jr. added that most of the repowers he sees are coming because the customer is facing a major repair to an older engine. He tries to help his customers make the best decision, functionally and economically, whether that means recommending the repair or a whole new engine.
“I just don’t like to see people throw money away. They come in here and say, ‘Harvey, what do you suggest?’” he said. “If the repair is within reason, we go ahead and repair it, but if not, I tell them that a repower is going to be the avenue they need to take.
“If the repair is going to be almost as much as the repower, and with the repower you get brand-new controls and a new warranty and all of that with it, that’s a no-brainer.”
According to the Achzigers, repowers consistently result in satisfied customers who really appreciate the peace of mind that comes with a new Mercury outboard.
“After the repower they’ve got a smile on their face,” Harvey Jr. said. “They’ve got the latest-and- greatest product on the back of their boat, and they know they’ll be taken care of.”
Rickey Bell, 2004 Carolina Skiff V2380
When Rickey Bell, of Lancaster, South Carolina, started contemplating a new boat in 2020, he knew precisely what he wanted: just what he had. Not sort of like what he had. Not a newer version of his boat. He wanted his beloved 16-year-old Carolina Skiff V2380 – with its exact add-ons, setup and capability.
The more Bell thought about it, the more he realized that the best option for him and his family was to repower with a new engine in place of the 115hp direct-injected two-stroke outboard that was on it.
“For someone who really uses a boat, it takes them so long to get it set up the way they want it, whether it be lighting or electronics or simple seating,” Bell said. “My boat was fine, and it was set up exactly how I wanted it to be, so there wasn’t any real reason to replace the boat. In fact, it would have been counterproductive.”
Bell did his homework, looking at the pros and cons of each major brand before deciding that a Mercury 150hp Pro XS® outboard was the right engine for the next chapter of his boat’s life. One major factor in his decision was the location of the water pickups on the Pro XS engine.
“Because it’s a skiff it’s a really shallow-running boat,” he said of his V2380. “I wanted to be able to use my jack plate and get my motor high enough to still be able to have propulsion while still being able to cool the motor. Mercury has very, very low pickups on the Pro XS motors, to the point that I can actually take my jack plate all the way up and tilt and trim to where the engine is 6 inches in the water at best, and it still has the capacity and pressure to cool the motor.
“So, when we’re going into shallow coves, or even up on sandbars so we can get out and play with the kids, it still allows me to get full propulsion.”
Bell found McClean Marine by searching for Mercury Repower Center dealers on MercuryMarineDealer.com, and with one phone call he knew he’d found the right place to repower his boat.
“It was like I’d found a long-lost friend,” Bell said. “Harvey (Jr.) immediately was personable. He immediately engaged in conversation about what I wanted. We sent emails back and forth, and he checked stock status, and he just made it happen. He went above and beyond what anyone would do. It was wonderful. It came back to me ready to go in the water and start the break-in period.”
Bell was so excited when he got the boat back in December 2020 that he and a friend donned snowsuits to go try it out in subfreezing temperatures. He’s had ample opportunity to run it in more hospitable weather since then, and time has only confirmed his first impressions.
“It has worked marvelously,” Bell said. “It just flat-out goes. It cranks quickly, and the fuel consumption is equivalent to, if not a little better than the 115. The way I had Harvey set up the boat, it’s got VesselView® on it so I can see my actual performance data, and the VesselView is hooked into my two Garmin® chartplotters. As I’m running, I can look at a chartplotter and see the actual fuel consumption – the actual miles per gallon. Because of that I can find the sweet spot by playing with the throttle and trim. It’s a 150 on a decently heavy boat, and we’re getting almost 5 miles per gallon at a pretty good rate of speed.”
Bell has also become a big fan of the SmartCraft® Active Trim feature that came with his engine.
“I’d use it, then switch over to manual trim, and I’d get worse fuel economy and speed with my trim settings,” he said. “So I learned a couple of things, too. Now, it doesn’t account for sea conditions, so if it’s rough and you need to get the bow up a little you need to switch to manual. But if it’s smooth water, just turn it on and forget it.”
Bell enthusiastically recommends repowering for anyone who already has a boat they really enjoy.
“Look at the boat you have,” he said. “If the boat does what you want to do and you’re happy with it, then there’s no reason to change it. The repowering of the boat itself was simple. Once we determined what I wanted, it was a no-brainer. I had looked at replacing the boat, and it was going to be quite a bit of money, and I was still going to have to tinker with it for a year to get it the way I wanted it. Whereas with repowering, I spent a third of my budget and got exactly what I wanted and started getting enjoyment out of it right away. It was ready to roll.”
Tony Amerson, 1996 Skeeter ZX200c
When you think about repower candidates, a fourth-owner, 25-year-old bass boat is probably not on the top of the list.
But then again, Tony Amerson’s Skeeter isn’t just any boat. Before he acquired the boat a few years ago, Amerson had fished out of it many times. He personally knew each of the previous owners, including the one who preceded him, his good friend Mike Tolson, who died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) about six years ago. Amerson acquired the boat after Tolson’s passing and has been pleasure fishing and competing in a few tournaments with it ever since. But it wasn’t just sentimentality that had Amerson, of McBee, South Carolina, working to keep the boat on the water.
“You’d be shocked; this boat is immaculate,” he said. “When I got it, it had some fading it to it, but I water-sanded it and buffed it. Now, I’ll pull it up beside any new boat and be proud.”
Amerson bought the boat with its original engine, a 1996 Mercury 200hp EFI two-stroke outboard. It was a good engine, he said, but it started having some issues due to its age. Though McClean Marine was able to get the engine running reliably again, the repower deal the dealership offered was just too good to pass up.
“Harvey (Jr.) knows his stuff when it comes to motors,” Amerson said. “I wouldn’t take a boat anywhere else if I had to drive 200 miles to take it to him. He stays awful busy, but I know why: He’s super. It’s like talking to a college professor when you talk to him about a boat. I’d put him up against anybody. His whole outfit is first class.”
Amerson opted for a Mercury 200hp Pro XS outboard and also upgraded to hydraulic steering and added a jack plate to better fine-tune the running height of the engine. Now, he said, his quarter-century-old baby is just hitting its stride, and he’s using it regularly to fish with his fiancée, Hilary, grandsons Aaron and Jesse, and granddaughter, Brynlee.
“It runs great, the gas mileage is unbelievable and the torque is unreal,” Amerson said. “It’s a strong motor, no doubt. It’s a lot quieter, too. Now, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be quiet when you turn the key, but that first rumble is the best sound in the world. It’s got a great sound, like a hot rod cranking up. But it’s super quiet when you’re running, and it’s super fuel efficient.”
And if you think this boat is going to have a fifth owner anytime soon, think again.
“I’ll never get rid of it,” he said. “If anybody gets it, it will be my grandchildren.”
Visit MercuryMarineDealer.com to find a Repower Center dealer near you.
Individuals interviewed for this article provided recommendations on boating equipment. These recommendations are solely the opinions of the individuals quoted. They may or may not reflect the guidance or recommendations of Mercury Marine regarding the operation of Mercury products.