As commuter cruisers, our boats spend alot of time in boatyards or marinas somewhere far away. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about the boat, next year’s adventures and whether the boat is OK. After all, it’s not just a boat!
Usually when we leave the boat, the only “maintenance” or “work” that we leave to others is minor — check the batteries, refill the water, check to make sure the dehumidifier is running etc. Ideally for major work on the boat, we’d do it ourselves, or at least be present when it was being done. That way when we’re off cruising with no support system, we at least know how it went together (so we can take it apart to fix it).
But as commuter cruisers, we prefer to spend our time sailing, not wasting time working on the boat. So many of our major projects are done without us present. Which can be a major headache.
This year the transmission seals needing replaced, the rudder & regular cutlass bearing needing maintenance, rudder post & cage rust, some blisters needing ground out and left to dry … there were lots of reasons to leave the boat with a reputable boatyard and have them complete the projects in our absence.
In this situation, it’s best to have some guidelines to make sure everything functions according to YOUR plan, not the boatyard’s plan (even though it doesn’t always work, hence my frustration, at least I should try!)
Rule #1: Any boatyard (and I do mean ANY boatyard, regardless of how great its reputation), is going to leave your boat’s projects until just before they expect you to return. The old squeaky wheel gets the grease routine. s/v Winterlude was hauled March 6 … it’s now almost mid-July and we hadn’t had much communication with the boatyard.
But here’s how we approach the process …
1. Meet in person with the person (and his/her supervisor) at the boatyard before you leave to go over specifically what you want done. Each project, in detail. I know this can be tedious, but it often pays off later!
2. When you have this meeting, hand each person a sheet of PAPER with your To Do List. I know, that’s antiquated but you can e-mail the same list to them later if you feel so compelled. If they don’t have a pen or pencil, hand them that as well. Then get into your list of projects.
For some reason, literally every boatyard we’ve been in seems to think this step is a waste of their time. When your boatyard seems to think this isn’t important, nicely explain to them that it IS important to YOU and that, after all, you are the customer. 🙂 They’ll grudgingly set aside a couple of minutes. If the people that are actually going to work on the boat don’t show up for that meeting (despite the fact that you quite pointedly requested their presence), tell whoever that you would prefer to postpone the meeting until they can be present. Often meeting with just the boss doesn’t translate well down the chain of command – that’s not always the case, but we’ve experienced it before.
3. After you leave the boat, become the squeaky wheel. Don’t just assume that no news is good news and that work is proceeding onboard. Because it likely won’t happen. Go back to Rule #1 above …
But honey catches more flies than vinegar and the best approach is to start with whoever the boatyard assigned as your contact and e-mail nicely inquiring about the status of each project and REQUEST PHOTOS!
These days, it’s easy enough for whoever is working on your boat to snap some phone photos and email them to show progress … or in our case, frustration.
In our case, persistence paid off and we got gazillions of photos (maybe they got tired of us asking nicely?) The good news is, the diagnostics are done, for the most part. The estimates are submitted, approved and signed (and some of them have been half billed up front and paid).
The side windows and main salon hatch glass have all been removed … which begs the question since they haven’t been replaced is the inside of the boat destroyed? Not to worry, it’s under control, just no one told us until we requested photos.
The rudder has been dropped and we’ve had a couple ugly videos on that project, but it IS proceeding. The blisters have been ground out, left to dry and are now being filled with West System Epoxy and fixed in the normal way. The transmission is scheduled to be removed this Thursday, July 16 (keeping my fingers crossed that all it needs is new seals…). Still waiting for the refrigeration folks to show up and give us ideas and estimates on upgrading our refrigerator box/s. And nothing’s been done about the hot water heater element/thermostat/ or replacement. But that’s minor compared to some of the other issues.
I understand that these are “well protected” for the wild weather in the summer in the Florida Keys, but I cannot wait until they get the new smoked acrylic installed — I’ll just sleep better at night! Plus they have 6 other hatches to do as well that haven’t been started yet.
And, of course, the Shadetree awning finally disintegrated so the hatches/side windows don’t have a proper cover, but the boatyard personnel were very helpful jerryrigging the canvas that is still OK over the spots where the hatches/windows are covered with “cover guard”.
In the meantime, I really really really want my refrigerator to stop leaking so much humid air causing condensation and frost build up … Hopefully we can get on with some of these projects and move into the more important stuff! 🙂 Although I guess I wouldn’t think the refrigerator box upgrade was so important if the rudder fell off in the middle of an overnight crossing!
Just my suggestions on how to work with boatyards in your absence as commuter cruisers. 🙂 Do you have more suggestions? What do you do differently/better? Please leave a comment and let me know! Cheers! Jan