Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 28, 2012.

A guy called us yesterday and asked if we could take a 30 foot Sea Ray off a trailer and put it in the water for him. I figured it would be a quickie and since the travel lift didn't have a whole lot on its schedule, no problem. And then the boat showed up.....

The upper superstructure had been removed for trailering and was lashed to the foredeck. From the ground the boat looked pretty run down but whatever. We just have to launch it and it leaves for a slip at a marina down the river. After we had the boat hanging in the air the captain explained to me that he has to return the trailer to Baltimore but he'll be right back.

Fine. We'll launch the boat and put it in the only space I have available until he gets back. As the boat was lowered into the water the true condition of the boat became apparent.

The upper helm station was hanging down into the cockpit by its electrical harness and steering cables and there were boat bits strewn everywhere.
Once the boat was in the water but still in the slings its standard procedure to check the bilge for leaks. Abner, the lift operator raised the cockpit floor and almost shit himself. We picked the boat back up a few feet. We normally adjust a leaking stuffing box when we launch a boat but this was something much more involved.

Both engine seacocks were open but both sea strainers were missing their lids.
There’s zero battery power so the bilge pump doesn't work and there’s already substantial water in the bilge. So our guys grabbed a portable pump and dropped it into the bilge and pumped her dry.

We closed the seacocks and lowered her to try it again. Both stuffing boxes were leaking like sieves and one of the seacocks was loose in the hull and gushing water. So we snatched her back out again while a call was placed to the owner. It turns out hes not the owner but a marine mechanic and this gem is his clients newest purchase. He promised to be back in an hour and asked us “to please, please not block her up on land”. He'd stem the leakage and get her outta here. Fine.

An hour to Baltimore and back is impossible but after an hour and a half I was having nightmares about just having inherited a yard queen. Two hours later he was back. Three hours later the leaks were sealed and a towboat arrived to haul her away.

Just a few random shots so you can appreciate my dilemma....That clump of fur in the sunbeam at the base of the companionway stairs was the remains of some unfortunate critter that decided this was a good place to die.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 25, 2012.

Lets talk about shore power cords. Even the most anal boating enthusiast takes their shore power cord for granted. No moving parts, plug it in and forget it. Whats to worry about. Who cares that this connection provides the 70 million megajoules of power needed to run your air conditioner, hair dryer, toaster oven and microwave. Preventative maintenance is for worry warts.

Twice this week we've had power cord incidents. The first was a large sailboat that needed repair. We had to drive to the boats home marina and pick it up to bring it to our facility for service. When the delivery crew tried to unplug the boat from its cord they found that it was welded together. Combine crappy connections, complete neglect with prolonged exposure to the weather and its not surprising that failure at this simple connection is so common.

When we called the owner to tell him that his boat was ready he was floored by the fact that we had to remove his burned cord end and replaced it with a new end. Since HES never had a problem with it he was certain that WE must have screwed it up. Yeah, thats it Cap. You got me, I was just tryin' to pad your bill by an extra 30 bucks. Its got nothing to do with the fact that you haven't looked at that connection since the spring of 67 when you last unplugged your boat. Christ.

Today we got a call from a guy who said his battery charger didn't seem to be working. There was power at the pedestal. The shore power cord checks good but no power is getting to the charger.
Upon further exploration it was discovered that the receptacle mounted in the transom had some issues. You know, corrosion, crappy connection, molten plastic and fire, the usual stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 17, 2012.

The hand of God is upon us. Anybody who really knows me just read that and said WTH? I have a real hard time believing in a higher power in charge of everything. I understand that organized religion provides great comfort and fellowship for millions of people. I don't care if you pray, worship, chant or tap dance at midnight under an Elm tree. As long as it makes you happy and doesn't hurt anyone else then I'm all for it.

I say that I live my life according to Karma. I try to make a positive impact with everyone that I interact with. Could you imagine the state of the middle east if everyone just tried to be pleasant to everyone else rather than blowing each other to bits in the name of religion. Anyway....

The tall ship Sailabration was going on in Baltimore and we had a fantastic offer to attend. There were dozens of tall ships in the harbor complimented by a Blue Angles air show on Saturday. My boss was borrowing a friends multi million dollar power yacht and taking a dozen or so friends up to Baltimore for the festivities. And we were invited. Woo-hooo.

So I was pretty excited about going until I shared Saturdays plan with Christy. That was when she told me we weren't going. Excuse me? Why the hell not? She laid out her concerns. It was going to be about a 6 or 8 hour day, on a boat with strangers. We don't know anybody, what if they get seasick, what happens if somebody brings a screaming infant? Seriously. Those are your concerns?

I can get along with anyone. So what if they're strangers, I can be strange too. Vomit, just another use for scuppers, not a valid concern. Lazarette is actually French for “screaming baby receptacle”. Just open up the lid, slip the screaming child inside amongst the fenders and docklines, close it up tight and the noise goes away. Come on Honey, we're going. She tells me I can go, but she is not. I'm bright enough not to accept that offer. But Honey, its tall ships AND the Blue Angels. Nope, not going. Crap.

So we were at an impasse with no resolution in sight. And that was when a higher being settled the matter for us. At 0700 on Saturday morning our head clogged. And not just any clog. I'm talking a clog of biblical proportions. A clog so heinous that it required the complete removal of every section of sanitation hose to find and remove the blockage. Of course, it was in the last section I removed but I did find it. Lets just say it took several hours with head funk running everywhere to remedy.

The only bright spot of the whole debacle was that the town pump out boat arrived earlier than anticipated and relieved me of having to try to deal with this mess with a full fecal tank. Praise God.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 14, 2012.

Its not all work for us while we're here. Its close but there is some time for some fun. On Wednesday evenings here in Annapolis racing takes center stage. One of my co-workers has a slip right near the center of the action. On breezy Wednesdays we grab some drinks and join them for pizza and race watching.

For me the most interesting part of the race course is the section that transits the mooring field just 300 yards short of the finish line. From week to week the wind direction is often different and that combined with the amount of boats on moorings it can make the finish not so cut and dry.Sometimes the last 600 yards is a downwind drag race while other times it becomes a tacking duel through an obstacle course.

This week the wind was such that it was a bash towards the mooring field and as they turned towards the finish line the spinnakers popped out. Dozens of boats in different classes attempting to overtake each other under full chutes while blasting through a crowded mooring field made for some exciting times.

Time and again trailing boat would attempt to pull off a pass in front of our “reviewing” stand. Boats would cover the lead guy and as they caught up to him they would pull out to windward only to have the lead boat use one of the moored boats to shut the door on the attempt. Then every trailing boat would veer across their stern and try to slingshot past them through their lee.You can see it in this 3 picture series. The red spinnaker is trying to hold off the overtaking white guy. The white guy hits the reds lee, luffs and its sayonara sappy.

It was the same thing over and over. One unsuccessful pass after another as every one of them had their spinnakers luff as they struggled to pass on the leeward side of the guy they were chasing.

It was as if each trailing boat was only watching their owns sails and the position of the guy they were chasing. If they would only look 200 yards ahead of them they would have been able to see how their attempt at passing was going to play out before they had to suffer through trying it.

Finally one guy covered the guy he was chasing and then as the door slammed on him he veered out to starboard and roared down the opposite side of the moored boats. He had a bit more distance to cover but he had slowed his opponent enough and literally blew by him as he drove for the finish line.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12, 2012.

The customer is always right. Thats the expression. However the expression is not “EVERY customer is always right”. Most customers are right, some customers are wrong but when you reveal “right” to them they embrace it and because of their willingness to accept whats right, they become “right” themselves. And then there’s the other 1%, the dumbf@k.

Today I dealt with a dumbf@k. This couple has lived on their boat for 15 years. They've decided to swallow the hook and sell their boat. We pulled the boat from the water and blocked it up for a local broker. As a result of being in constant use for 15 years there’s a few items that need to be taken care of before the broker is willing to dedicate any effort by showing the boat. So we have a very short list of repairs to make.

One of the items was to remedy the “odor” in the head. So I climbed up into the boat to gather the necessary intel to give a proper estimate as to what it might cost to eliminate the airborne foulness. The inch and a half poopie hoses were of 3 different varieties. Ancient black hose, some newer white hose and some clear hose. I've never seen clear poop hose but it would be kinda cool to watch the corn from last nights chili con carne as it made its way to the holding tank. Then there was the leaking manual pump to pump shit overboard and what I believe to be the prototype for the original Jabsco toilet. Even more suspect than the 20 year old toilet was the shelf it sat upon. 20 years of overspray and general head funk had taken its toll on the bowls now sagging, soggy support structure. Can you smell what I'm sayin' here?

I called the owner to give him my opinion that 15 feet of new hose, a new manual pump, a new toilet and rebuilding the toilet base would do the trick in exorcising the malodorous smell. He was already a little peeved that we wouldn't “fix” the floor in his galley by gluing the delaminated flooring back into place. I told him that it would take between 8 and 12 hours to cut out the bad section and repair or replace all the bad substructure and to install new flooring. I had to explain that what we endeavor to do is “fix” problems while what he was asking us to do was “hide” the problem. Huge difference, especially if our names going to be connected to the “fix”.

At one point I thought we had been disconnected. It turns out that he was probably just counting to ten. He was furious that I was insinuating that their head was a shit hole (pun intended). But its really the only way to “fix” the problem because there’s not enough potpourri on the planet to “hide” this one.

He was screaming, I was mondo polite which only seemed to make him madder. After I got off the phone with him we arranged with the broker to have the broker talk to the customer and relay his wishes to us as nobody should have to talk to a dumbf@k like this guy.

While we're waiting for a head odor remedy decision to come through the grapevine from the owner I sent a mechanic onto the boat to knock out the other small already approved items from the punch list.

One was to find and fix the leak at the galley sink which had destroyed the flooring. I wonder how long this has been leaking?

My favorite by far was the tach remounting. The owner left a proper mounting bracket on the boat for us to install. The mechanic opened up the panel and found that the tach was held in place by a catchers mitt sized wad of duct tape globbed over the tach from behind. What was even more interesting was the condition of the tach.

It works, we could mount it with the new bracket and a potential buyers surveyor would never find it. We just won't do it. Somewhere down the line that tachs gonna fail and when they see its condition they're gonna shit. Then they're gonna see that we “installed” it just before the sale and who's gonna look like the bad guy. Ain't gonna happen.

I'm just glad I don't have to make the phone call.....

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 8, 2012.

Christys “Parts Palace” is coming along nicely. Things are settling into place and its oh so nice to know whether or not something is in stock. Its even more refreshing to find out that something you ordered has arrived. But its not all fun and games here at the marina....

I had to fire somebody today. I'm sure it sucked for him but I KNOW it sucked for me. The dude was a fairly new hire that had embellished his abilities to the point that now in hindsight I find it,well, laughable. Of course we didn't know that at the time and nobodies laughing now.

About 10 days ago I had to talk to him about the level of effort I thought he was displaying. He didn't realize that I was delivering a monologue and tried to turn into an episode of “Point, Counterpoint”. I had 4 guys working on the same project. One of the fellas has 20 year under his belt and is already working. There’s 2 guys barely making more than minimum wage and they're at work and here comes the new guy with his cup a' java headed towards the already busy crew. Fuck that.

I made sure he was aware of my displeasure with his work ethic and since the conversation was already careening downhill I voiced my opinion on his questionable professional skills. Not surprisingly he was quite taken aback and seemed to think that raising his voice at me would help. He was wrong. One of the bonuses of being a lobster serial killer is that you gain some healthy lungs. You can't talk over me and the limits of my volume have yet to be tested.

The last 2 weeks have been a test of my patience. I was raised that when you started a job you put out some effort, some energy, you endeavored to impress. Watching this guys lethargic approach to everything has been eating at me. It was like watching a glacier move through the boatyard. When it became obvious that the quality of his work was something we couldn't be associated with it was time to part company.

I've never been fired. So I have this notion of what the impact of a firing has on the individual and their family. I figure its pretty traumatic and even though its warranted I’m not looking forward to it. A slacker like this can drag a small company full of hard working people down so he has to go.

When he picked up his check at the end of the day I told him that I was letting him go. His reaction was a complete lack of reaction. No anger, no despair, nothing at all...just an “Oh, okay”. I've been stressing over having to turn his world on its ear and his reaction is.....nothing. I still can't get over it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3, 2012.

Here's a helpful hint from the galley of the Veranda. If the tub of Sour Cream is stuck to the wall its time to defrost the fridge.
Who says I don't know my way around the kitchen....

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 1, 2012.

The biggest benefit of my new job is that I get to see what everyone else at the shop is dealing with. And because you're all my friends I'll be periodically passing those “dealings” along to you.

One of our mechanics, Angus, had an interesting boat to deal with. The Babbler is a 4 year old boat built along the classic lines of the fishing boats run by waterman here on the bay. Instead of reeking of fish guts and blood the boat boasts pleather seating for several people to take a pleasant, slow bell, couple o' cocktail, river cruise. Its quite nice in an old school kinda way. And then there was the fire....

Some of the electrical harness caught fire so the owners decided someone should take a look at it. Angus attended college to become an electrical engineer and after the completion of his schooling he decided that it wasn't really what he wanted to do. If I were his Dad I might have thrown myself off the roof. But anyway.....

He has an affinity for the sea and decided to further his education by attending one of the preeminent boat building schools in the country. Fortunately for me, he now works for us in the glamorous, exotic, fast paced world of fixing peoples broken boat shit. (picture wrench toting supermodels covered in bilge funk driving Ferrari’s)

When the inverter was called upon to do its thing, bad things (fire) started to happen. The fuse block in the cable between the inverter and the battery bank completely melted. The wire itself burned as well. My first thought was WTH? The fuse block melted to the point of physical failure. The clear plastic snap on cover melted like candle wax and the fuse itself distorted and twisted.

Angus had a hunch and used his meter to check the fuse and found that in spite of its condition it was still electrically sound. The fuse had never blown. It was the wrong type of fuse but it still should have blown. Like most of this newer generation, Angus went right to the internet.

Based on the length of the wire run the inverter/ charger manufacturer called for either a 2/0 or 3/0 wire. We were at the maximum length for a 2/0 while we were at the shortest length for the larger 3/0. While the 2/0 wire was acceptable the 3/0 was slightly overkill. Obviously the installer had chosen the 2/0 EXCEPT he had grabbed #2 wire rather than 2/0. So instead of being at the lower end of the suggested sizes he was 4 sizes undersized. So undersized wire + a possible crappy connection at the fuse block = excessive heat which manifested itself as FIRE!

So the Babbler's issue has been fixed by a length of 3/0 wire and a pair of proper fuses. Fortunately for the owners wallet the inverter/ charger suffered no damage and now that its properly wired continues to plug away. All hail Angus.