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On the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, contestants are given the opportunity to phone a friend in order to obtain help in answering a question. Yesterday I would have given anything to have had that same chance, or even a decent internet connection to perhaps email a friend for help. Sadly, we had no phone, no Wi-Fi and no friends nearby that we could go to for help. In other words, we were on our own.

Much like the day prior, yesterday began on a positive note. Even though I was doubtful that I would find the part that we needed in stock here on the island, the Yamaha dealer just around the corner from where we were anchored came through for us. Not only did they have the water pump housing on their shelf, they were even selling it for basically the same price that you can pick it up for in the US. Surprised? We were!

The beginning stages of reassembling the engine went well enough but we hit a major sticking point near the finish line. I’ll describe it in a bit of detail in the off chance that someone reading this can steer us in the right direction before we get it sorted out. If you don’t care about the dirty technical bits, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

The problem arises when we try to get the lower unit reattached to the engine. We know that both the drive shaft and the tube running to the water pump need to mate properly in order for it to fit. As the service manual recommends, we have the engine in reverse so that when we start to get it together, we can attach the long nut onto the shift shaft. After doing that though, when we shove the lower unit the rest of the way on so that we can tighten the nuts securing it to the intermediate housing, the engine shifts into forward as the shift shaft pushes up. That doesn’t seem like a huge issue except that once together, we are unable to shift the engine out of forward, no matter how much we push on the shift lever inside the engine. I know that it is sometimes tough to move that little lever by hand but this is not tough, it’s impossible. I assume the shaft has to be in the correct spot because when we turn the prop, the flywheel spins. Where are we going wrong?

We spent a good part of the day trying to get the engine back in service. We even went to the trouble of putting it back into the well one time to check to see if we could shift it with the cable. We had no such luck and were forced to take it back out again. We continued fighting with this until shortly after 2:00 PM when, knowing that we were not going to have the engine repaired in time for the 2:30 PM bridge opening, we decided that we needed to move the boat inside the lagoon with only one engine. Yeah, yeah, I know, monohulls do that all the time. I, however, am no longer a fan of bridge transits, even when everything is operating perfectly. Why move at all then? Take a look at the swell which is due to begin today. Note that Marigot Bay, where we were anchored, is totally exposed to the north.

Fortunately, 2012 did not end with a bang, or at least, not one caused by our boat running into a bridge. Moving the boat was pretty uneventful and we’re now safely anchored in a spot protected from the coming weather. Hopefully everyone had a pleasant evening last night and is ready to have a memorable new year. I know we are!

  • Additional info:

Since writing the above we have come up with a hypothesis. I think that when we took the engine out and the lower unit off, it was in forward gear. We can not attach the shift shaft unless it is in reverse though. In my mind this means that we need to somehow push the shift shaft down into the lower unit, changing it into reverse gear, but it doesn’t seem to want to go. Suggestions?


  1. Mike,

    We had a similar problem when we changed our impeller. If I remember correctly, a Yamaha repair guy in Marathon told us to back the nut down enough to allow the gear shift to be in neutral rather than in gear then connect the lower unit to the middle unit. It worked well for us but make sure the lever on the top of the engine is in neutral as well. I wish I could give greater detail. Unfortunately it was three years ago so my memory isn’t crystal clear regarding it……..too many other boating issues have arisen in the mean time!


    • The problem at that point (since resolved, somehow) was that I was unable to shift it at the lower unit end. Now we’re on to other issues. 🙁

  2. The double-ended nut that joins the midsection shift rod to the lower unit shift rod always needs a bit of tweaking at this stage.

    If the double-ended nut is disconnected, you can freely shift the powerhead into reverse (watch which way the midsection shift rod moves when you do). Then use needle-nose pliers to push the lower unit shift rod the same way, while slowly turning the prop. You can then insert the double-ended nut and draw the two rods together.

    Once you get it lined up and connected, the nut has to be extended / shortened (like a turnbuckle) until the shift linkage on the powerhead hits its detents at both ends and the prop freewheels when the shifter is at its neutral detent.

    It’s fiddly as hell the first time you try it but is not too hard the second time.

    • No, I could not FREELY shift it. It was stuck.

      • Never heard of a midsection (upper) shift rod sticking, that would be weird indeed. The part that pokes out of the lower unit can jam, but I’ve yet to come across one that couldn’t be freed by rotating the prop while pulling/pushing the rod. Apparently that’s not the case for yours; I wish I could have been of more help…. best of luck with the rest of it.
        (And enjoy those SXM beaches, eh?)

        • It was the one coming out of the lower unit that was jammed. The Yammie tech got it sorted though. He must have had the “touch.”

  3. Addendum- it looks like your Yammie might have a setscrew collar instead of a double-ended nut, which makes things a bit simpler… if that’s the case, just loosen the set screw and move the two shift rods independently to the same gear, then re-tighten.

  4. I agree with Eliza. Try neutral. You should be able to move the lower gear change lever if you turn the prop (or its shaft) very slightly to and fro.

    Check very carefully against the other engine. Make sure you know the relative height of the gear change rod for the two gears and neutral, then work out what to do with the nut so as to achieve this when the upper part is in position. It took me quite a while to work this out when I did it.

    Good luck with it. Otherwise, ask the Yamaha agent to come out and help!


  5. You may have to turn the prop or the shaft while shifting; I remember something about that. once the gears are lined up, I recall it shifted rather easily, just pushing the rod with the fingers.

    I’ve done this about 6 times, always starting in reverse, and never had this specific problem.

    • Yes, it did require that, and I was trying that. I eventually took it to the yamaha shop and the second guy who tried it was able to get it to move. The first technician had no more success than I did.

  6. Courage, I think you’re close. Check out page 6-14 of the service manual (LIT-18616-01-24.pdf). Make sure the shift rod moves freely up and down, going from forward to reverse and back, and that the rotation of the drive and propeller shafts corresponds to the directions in the diagram.

    If the shift rod is stuck in the up (forward) position, that’s your problem. You might want to remove it for inspection at this point anyway while things are apart (pages 6-8 and 6-14). If it’s in good shape, make sure it is pushed all the way down into reverse position (page 6-23). Then attempt to reconnect the lower unit.

    It seems the critical steps are first, backing the long nut up on the upper rod. Then put the engine shift lever in reverse position, and thread the long nut back down and onto the lower rod 5 turns and secure the lock nut against it (page 6-24). If everything is able to move freely (shift lever, upper rod, lower rod) adjusting the length of the combined rods is the key to having access to both forward and reverse.

    Elisa’s advice may be spot on too. It gave me a head start.

    Hope this makes sense and is helpful. Thanks for sharing your adventures. I’ve enjoyed them greatly!

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