This is my fifth boat, a 1989 Sea Ray Pachanga 22. This boat was powered by a Mercruiser 7.4L 300 H.P. engine, connected to a Bravo One stern drive. I purchased this boat as a leftover in July of 1990, as a "cure" to the rough riding characteristics of the Hydrostream in "bumpy" water. This boat had a top speed in the 62 to 65 MPH range, when equipped with a 23" pitch Cleaver prop. Better ski performance was obtained, at the cost of a few MPH off of the top end, when pushed by a 21" pitch Mirage prop. The Pachanga had a small cuddy cabin, with just enough room for 2 adults to stretch out and relax. There was not much in the way of headroom though. There was a decent amount of storage space under the cabin floor, as well as under the back seat. I could keep my skis, rope, and a variety of tubes dry and pretty much out of the way. The boat also came equipped with a ski tow eye, mounted just forward of the sun pad, which provided a better tow height and angle than a typical transom mount, although not quite as good as a tournament ski boat. By utilizing this mount, along with the two rear cleats, and the two stern tie down mounts, allowed us to pull up to 5 different tubes at once. What a blast that was!
We had many fun days out with this boat. It was still fast enough to whet my desire for speed, yet it was considerably more mannered in the rougher stuff. With the standard twin Vernatone water lift muffler system and a fairly tall windshield, you could actually have a conversation, or listen to the stereo, while cruising at our normal 3000 RPM/37 MPH speed.
But as is often the case with many other things, you never get too many good points, without a few bad ones thrown into the mix. While the boat was generally well built, I soon noticed a chattering noise coming from the stern drive on its inaugural run shortly after taking delivery. The noise would occur when the drive was turned to the extreme right or left, and when it was trimmed up. As this was my first experience with a Mercruiser stern drive, and not knowing if this was normal or a symptom of a potential problem, I asked a bunch of my boating friends about it. None recalled ever hearing drive noise that bad. So I took the boat back to the dealer who confirmed, at that point, that the noise did seem "excessive". They then proceeded to replace a bunch of parts, including U-joints, and the gimbal bearing. They also checked engine/drive alignment. Nothing seemed to make the problem any better. When the dealer ran out of ideas, Mercury Marine sent out their factory service rep to assist, and he came up with a modification where the U-joints were ground in different places to eliminate potential contact points. Still no better. Then the transom was checked for thickness, around the drive cutout, and it was found that it was not consistent. After grinding down the interior of the "thicker" side, and rechecking, the problem was still evident. Then the engine coupler was replaced, under the assumption that the original was "out of round".
At this point, many weeks of trial and error had gone by and the 1990 boating season was over. The dealer offered to winterize and store the boat for me while they continued to work on it. Ok, I thought, that was decent of them to offer. But in the following spring, someone broke into the boat yard, stole the drive off of the boat, and damaged the engine hatch in the process of trying to pry it open. At first the dealer tried to say that they were not responsible for the damage, but after realizing that I had never signed a contract for storage, and therefore not bound by their terms, they quickly changed their tune and agreed to get me a new drive, and to make repairs to the vinyl seat cover and the surrounding fiberglass. After mounting the new drive, I had hopes that this would cure my problem. But alas, no dice.
Now, after all of these repairs, the boat's bilge had gotten quite dirty, and there were a few incidental scratches around the engine cover. I was not pleased about that, and did my best to clean it all up. By now it was closing in on the Memorial day weekend, and I had a camping/boating trip planned with Art, his wife, and another guy, down at the Ponderosa Pines campground, near Havre de Grace on the Chesapeake Bay. But the boat was still not ready. It seems that one of the hydraulic trim lines had been stolen along with the original drive, and the dealer had none in stock. They came through at the last minute for me, by "robbing" one from one of their new boats on the floor.
Memorial Day weekend in 1991, was a scorcher, with temps in the high 90's. This was my first trip to the Chesapeake Bay, and I was like a kid in a candy store, with all the room to cruise. My wife was a bit nervous around all that "big" water for the first time, but we had a great time. I vowed to come back to this wonderful water playground. But this would be the only time that the Pachanga would see this big bay.
The dealer spent more time trying out different "fixes" to cure my drive problem, but nothing seemed to cure it. I was given a new Mirage prop, to attend to a related ventilation problem, which I had on turns (thanks!), and even later a High Five prop. I really can't fault the dealer. They really tried their best.
The next year, the local branch of my dealer closed up, and I now had to drag my boat down to Brick township, on the New Jersey shore, for service. A new group of mechanics looked at it, and one even owned his own Pachanga, and didn't have the drive noise to the same level that I did. They replaced the gimbal ring and housing with an "updated" version, and still no dice.
In 1994, they made a last ditch effort to solve the problem, by replacing the engine coupler with a special "dialed in" coupler, which was hand picked and tested at the factory to be true. The drive alignment was again checked and the drive re-attached. After all that, and the noise was actually a little worse. At that point, the Merc rep put an end to the whole affair by stating that the problem was "normal" (after 3 years of playing around?), and further advised that I shouldn't raise the drive above the max trim point, despite the fact that the manual said that it was ok to do so at slow speeds. Mercury was now officially washing their hands of the problem. Great! Three years later, and this is where I stand? I had flirted with the idea of litigation and, in fact, the addition of a lawyer to my case made them move a little quicker toward the end. But it looked doubtful that I could win a really big settlement (After all, I didn't spill hot coffee in my lap). So I let it drop.
In retrospect, I think I now know what was happening in the drive and why some of the things the dealer did, actually made the problem worse. But by that time, I was tired of it all and wanted a new boat. So in August of 1994, I traded the Pachanga in on a new boat, a Stingray 698zp.
The Stingray dealer who I dealt with, was located in central Pa, more than 100 miles away, so it was ironic that my old Pachanga ended up back in my area again. I used to see it from time to time, although I never got to talk to the owner.
The photos were taken at Lake Wallenpaupack, in the Pocono mountains of Pa.