After years of wanting a Sea Doo jet boat, I finally decided to take the plunge and purchase one, but looking to save money (just in case I might not be impressed) I looked around for something less "pricey" overall. I almost got scammed on an E Bay purchase, but some pertinent questions to the "supposed owner" uncovered a fraudulent scam. I did not give up on E Bay and found a "brand new" 2001 Sea Doo Utopia 185 that had been at two different boat dealers and had never been sold or registered, with practically zero hours on it. I was thrilled as the boat was for all practical puprposes in "mint" condition except for some very minor gel-coat cracks. The dealer was professional and helpful, even though they were located in CT and I was in NY.
I brought the boat home and started to dive into learning as much information as I could about the boat. To my dismay I did not get an owners manual, and eventually found one and purchased it online as a download. To further add to my disappointment, I found out the owners manual is "highly deficient" and virtually no help at all to the average first-time boat owner, and I'm one that grew up around boats and water. My complaints about the lack of help in the manual are enormous, but as an example, if you want to try and do something as simple as changing fuses, forget about it. It's just poorly written, and for the price most buyers pay for Sea Doo products, the manual should be "top-notch" instead of vastly inferior.
As for the boat itself, it quickly became a "love-hate" relationship. The first time I got the boat in the water, I discovered that it would not turn or steer at all. I took it to a local dealer who checked it out and it seemed someone had robbed a small part off of the boat and had not replaced it. After spending $138.00 I had the boat back and ready to go. The next weekend I took the boat out for the first time to speak of, I had my wife, son and two grandkids with me on a good size lake in central NY. About an hour out, an alarm started to go off which sounded like an "overheat alarm" so I turned the boat around and headed back towards the launch area. Soon the boat began to drop RPMs and so I meandered over towards the shoreline so we would not be stranded too far from shore. At short intervals I would go back and lift the engine cover and notice the engine was running cool to the touch, yet the alarm was still going off and the RPMs continued dropping. As I was fairly close to shore (within 200-300 feet) I soon ran into shallower water, and in a minute or two there was a noise and the motor stopped. I was waived ashore by some friendly lakeside people who allowed me to use their dock and a nearby boat ramp to reload it onto the trailer. I tried to restart the motor but heard a slight "knock" so I turned it off.
I took the boat to a different authorized Mercury marina owned by a friend. After a month and a half I had to go get the boat back as they had yet to attempt to repair it, they had only taken it for a "test run" and said it had "seized up" on them. I was told by them it would need a new block as a piston seized up and a new block would be cheaper than a rebuild. I found that very hard to believe with it being virtually a new motor, so I took the boat back to the local authorized Mercury dealer that had done the first repair. After a couple of days the dealer told me exactly what had happened. A small rock had been "sucked up" into the blades of the jet drive (which was the slight knock I had heard). After the other marina's attempt to test drive it, the rock had seized up the jet-drive wedging between the blade and housing. Also due the to their attempts to restart the boat after stalling, it had broken the teeth off of the flywheel. $2600.00 later (new jet-drive and flywheel) I got my boat back home, hopefully ready for some trouble-free service.
The next weekend I was back out on the water only to have the "overheat alarm" go off again. I quickly brought the boat back to shore and took it home, and another trip back to my local dealer. Two days later a Mercury Rep was on site as they discovered the "outdated software" was responsible for the "false overheat alarm/" In fact, someone (likely a mechanic) during the 10 years between the two original dealers, had robbed another part off of the boat, and in doing so had broken the alternator. This caused a "low-voltage" signal erroneously reported as an "overheat alarm." The dealer sounded disappointed as they told me a new alternator for the M2 engine was $590.00, not including installation. I was disappointed and asked if I could look elsewhere to try and save money. The dealer agreed completely, so I went online and found an exact replacement for the alternator (NOT genuine Mercury however) for $190.00 so I ordered it and had it sent direct to the dealer. In a few more days I had my boat back and hopefully "good as new" again.
I took the boat out the following weekend and enjoyed hours of fun, and the next few trips out were uneventful. My Sea Doo was indeed finally as good as new. Now for a few other more direct descriptions of "pros" and "cons."
Pros: With the Mercury V6 M2 motor, there is more than ample power, especially on the low end. It rises out of the water (almost jumps) from a standing start. Although Mercury and Sea Doo are awful with providing any accurate specs on the Utopia 185, it took me a while to realize I had the 240HP EFI version and not the others that are more common on this year and model of boat. It has not been as bad of a "gas-hog" as some say, but still is not thrifty on fuel either. Although the speedometer is not an accurate gauge of true "speed" on the water, the Utopia routinely hits between 54-57 MPH with little effort, 2 adults and a good bit of safety equipment and items on board. The fit and finish of the boat seems to be as I would have expected. Controls are easy to reach and use. With a 40 gallon fuel capacity it is quite sufficient for the average boater.
Cons: The Utopia 185 (like many jet boats) is almost impossible to steer at any speed, which of course is part of the fun of driving a jet boat if you are fearless on the water. There is plenty of storage space on board, but the instrumentation from the factory is mediocre at best. The upholstery is held onto the interior by what seem to be called "upholstery darts" which I have been unable to find anywhere. Needless to say the seat backs/bolsters have pulled away and fall down each time the engine cover is lifted. The upholstery will need to be completely redone, and so the factory seating is poor in the quality of installation and fit. The lack of owner information as far as the engine and boat itself is appalling to say the least. The intake grate on the hull is too wide and allows for many large items (rocks, sticks, etc.) capable of being sucked up into the jet-drive as there is a tremendous amount of suction anywhere near the intake. Unfortunately I expected much better out of a product produced by BRP. Each time I need info I have to do an exhaustive search online, and frequently come away empty-handed.
Overall: Am I happy I bought a Sea Doo Utopia 185? Absolutely, but the main reason I'm happy is because I had saved over $10,000.00 by purchasing an old/new boat from a dealer. If I had paid full price I would have been very disappointed. In my opinion Sea Doo builds exciting watercraft that are very appealing to the eye, yet leave much to be desired in fit and finish as well as owner information. The knock on the M2 Mercruiser V6 is the cost of parts to repair, yet with a little effort anyone can find parts that are more than suitable, even though they may void any factory warranty. Although my boat was in essence "brand new" from the dealer, Mercury would not offer any warranty due to the age of the boat itself. When these boats run, they run well and are exhilarating to drive. With good care they can outlast any product on the market, and futhermore Mercury dealers are all across the country and easy to locate if this model needs any engine repairs. In addition, although the manufacturer states you can run in as little as a foot (12") of water, do NOT do so as the likelihood is you will pull up something that can easily damage the jet-drive.
Longevity Review: 2001 Sea Doo Utopia 185
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