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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 11-23-2002
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Boatyard Discussion

I recently purchased an 8 year old boat that required some work. Since the season was close to the end, I wanted to have the local yard perform the work. I''ve learned quite a bit from this experience- here are some of my findings:

1. estimates are given for each total job (labor and materials). The invoice lists these in separate places which are not subtotaled- you therefore have to comb through every screw, wire, and ty-rap cost to determine the total actual cost and compare it to the estimate. This seems like a convenient way to make it difficult for the customer to reconcile the totals and compare to the estimates.

2. to my surprise, most of the ''actual'' numbers on the invoice exceeded the estimates by 20% or more. Some were off by 200%. These variances were not communicated prior to receiving the invoice. Is this unusual? This quickly turned a $40K job into a $50+K job.

3. there was very little quality assurance on the completed jobs. Hinges were not tightened back up, paint overspray remained, deck hardware was not rebedded properly with the correct washer/nut combinations, wires were not labeled, wire runs were cut too short and therefore were not routed around the edge and out of storage areas, wiring was not protected by looms or panels when installed in stowage areas, panels and cabinent doors were broken, etc. It seems like everywhere I looked, there were signs of taking a shortcut. I''ll spend months verifying some of the work in the hard to reach places on the boat.

4. the series of jobs ran behind schedule by more than 30%

5. Following up in person once a month for several days each visit during the past three months and numerous telephone conversations did not seem to prevent the above issues.

6. Parts specified six weeks earlier by the customer did not arrive on time and delayed the project. The yard then attempts to charge an expedited freight fee because of the ''rush'' order.

This is a very reputable yard on the east coast. I''m sure you would recognize the name and be equally surprised.

I''ve seen a lot of articles regarding ''how to'' maintenance and ''boat buying tips'' etc. but I''ve never seen any infromation on how to contract and manage projects with a boatyard. What are their common ''tricks'' that they try to pull over on the unsuspecting customer?

Anyone have any thoughts and experiences on the subject that they would like to share?
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Old 11-23-2002
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Boatyard Discussion

That sounds about normal. My father always said that when he wanted to estimate how much a job in a boat yard would cost, he would estimate how long he thought the job should take to do and then double that. He would then multiply that number of hours times the prevailing yard rate. He would then add in the price of part and multiply the sum by two. And that would be the yard estimate. The job usually cost twice that. He first said that in the early 1960''s.

The other thing was our gag about a professional job. When I was a kid, Dad and I (actually mostly Dad but I did try to help) did most of the work on our boats. Occasionally he would run out of time before commissioning and ask the yard to do something for him. The work was really not up to the standard of quality that we would have done and so when one of us did a less than perfect job, the running gag was "You sure did a professional job that time".

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Old 11-25-2002
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Boatyard Discussion

alas, it is "normal." completely unacceptable and boarding on fraud but normal. I had a series of jobs done last season by a major shipyard in the state of Rhode Island and then managed to come in way over estimate, more than a month late, and, in some cases, of questionable quality. Basically they hold your boat hostage until you pay the bill so you can either pay it and get your boat back or fight with them and potentially lose alot of sailing time. I have a 35'' sailboat and this particular yard caters to megayachts. I am not sure if I got shafted due to the size of my boat or what.
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Old 11-26-2002
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Boatyard Discussion

It is quite a sorry state of affairs. Good Quality workmanship, On-time delivery, and on or under estimate. It seems the people doing the work just want to take the easiest way out with the most shortcuts. The yard manager does not want to bother to check the quality of the work or whether it meets the original requirements. And when it comes time to have the work completed, all I get are excuses about how they''re going through ''growing pains'' and how busy they''ve been this season.

I wonder if anyone has contracted with a yard and included a penalty clause for variances from time, cost, or quality specifications. Maybe that would give them some incentive to meet expectations. Anyone ever hear of such a thing?
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Old 04-29-2008
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Boatyard follies

Well do I remember, about 20 years ago, when my Dad's Mariner 47 was at a well-known "marine railway" (hint, hint) on the upper Cape (Cod). Her toe rail had been damaged in a blow, and one of the a/c systems wouldn't cool. I had to show the yard refrigeration "mechanic" how to leak-detect a water-cooled condenser, as he hadn't a clue (at about $85/hour-in 1989). Later, someone was getting aboard from a dinghy while I had the generator running; he grabbed a stanchion and was knocked back into the dinghy by 115 Volts a.c., which I confirmed by connecting a voltmeter to the stanchion. After nearly a week of tearing things apart below, I discovered that the yard people, when replacing the stanchion on the new toe rail, ran a long wood screw through the deck and straight into a cable bundle. (Originally the stanchion had been, properly, through-bolted with a backing plate-only a lazy idiot would use a wood screw). I own an 18' Marshall cat, on which I do all of the work. I will only buy a larger boat (hopefully to live aboard) when I'm sure I'm in a position to do all of the work on that, as well. I will NEVER trust a yard to do anything more than perhaps remove and apply bottom paint.
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Old 04-29-2008
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hamiam,
at 35", they probably had a tough time getting someone to handle the interior work.
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Old 04-29-2008
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Old 04-29-2008
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yep, yards (and professional marine work in general) are like that. they quote an outrageous number (if at all, some just say "time and money"), do a job that is decent at best and downright shoddy quite often, and then bill you significantly more than originally estimated.

this is why I try to do almost everything myself (except when I don't have time, tools or expertise).

On the upside I asked my yard to do a few small jobs on my boat about 3 weeks ago. Well, they are presumably done as of yesterday (though I haven't seen the results yet) and the charge is $500. There was no estimate (they work for time and materials) but this is only about a $100 more than I thought it may cost (and right on with the amount I thought they would bill for the job). 3 weeks to do something is a HUGE improvement over most other yards I dealt with (where nothing would EVER be done for months without constantly reminding them). Now if they didn't screw things up too much - I will consider them a perfect place.

They did fix something on my boat last year in about 3 days and I was on the way, so this would be a second decent experience. Not to jinx it - I'll report on results this coming weekend.
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Old 04-29-2008
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Another note. There are no good yards in Annapolis and direct vicinity. By "good" I mean "able to do reasonable quality work in reasonable time for reasonable price". I dealt with virtually all of them and all fail on each of the three counts. They are late, overpriced and do bad work. Interestingly, my best experiences with marine work were with companies located in Florida. I don't know if it's the air or the sun or something. Of course YMMV.
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Old 04-29-2008
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A rebuttal

Okay, the other side of the coin.

I work in a marina - Hartge Yacht Yard, in Galesville, Maryland. (And it is near Annapolis)

For the most part, we have a good reputation. I'm not saying that we don't go over estimate in some cases. You can look at a job all you want to, but until you actually get into it, you don't know how long it is going to take.

Example number one:
I've been given a varnish job to do. I assess the job and gather my materials on Monday. I check the weather report for the week. No rain in the forecast. So I tape out the boat (this takes longer than you might think to do a good job) and start sanding.

I find some areas where the varnish has lifted and it peels off down to the wood. The guy making the estimate couldn't have known that. So I try to feather in the edges and seal it. Then I discover that the bedding is bad - which is why the varnish lifted in the first place. So I dissassemble and rebed. And I continue.

By now it's Wednesday and the forecast was wrong. It starts raining. Crap!

Thursday, you pull all of your tape and retape because the rain has lifted the edges of the tape. Then, you clean everything and get a coat down.

Friday morning you are informed that the customer wants to use his boat on the weekend. You can't put down another coat. And you have to pull the tape and put the boat back together.
Monday, you come back to the job to find that the customer has stepped all over the dry but uncured varnish. Retape and a hard sanding... shall I go on?
These are the things we face.

Example number two:
Customer wants some electric circuits added. You get into the boat and discover that the existing wiring is insane.

You tell the yard manager; he calls the customer; the customer says, "It's always worked before - just add the new circuit and leave the rest alone."

So you try to do it - but there is no room for another circuit breaker. You try to find an unused circuit. Tracing the old wiring takes all day long and by the end of the day you haven't accomplished a thing. Supervisor says - "How come you're not finished - we told the customer this job wouldn't take more than four hours?" You try to explain, but the supervisor is under pressure from the yard manager, who is under pressure from 87 customers.

Nobody wants to hear it. 'Jist git 'er dun!' is all we hear. So we 'git 'er done.'
And sometimes we screw up. I know none of you ever screw up, but sometimes we do. And I know we shouldn't. And I know we are charging $85.00 an hour. And I know that all you can see is a screwed up bill with an inflated price. I'm sorry. But some of us do the best we can under the circumstances.

There are about 35 guys that do the work on the boats here at Hartge Yacht Yard. Many of them have been working here for 20, 25, 30 years.

We have very few youngsters coming into the marina looking for work. The work is too hard. They don't want to do it.

So us old farts carry on. We'd like to retire. Our backs are sore, but our wallets are thin. Prices of food and fuel keep going up. We do not get paid the $85. an hour that is charged for our services. $15 or $20 is all most of us get.

We are a bunch of five figure people living in a six figure world.

So we carry on.

Fixing your boats.

Fixing things that you have no idea how to fix properly. Trying to undo what the owner has crapped on. Trying to fit into spaces and reach things that midgets with three elbows can't. Going home at the end of the day exhausted. And bruised.

And having gotten no thanks from the supervisor. (Compliments are unmanly, you know.) And no thanks from the management or the customer. Just complaints. Always complaints.

If we do something right - and believe it or not we often do - nobody says a thing.

I recently did a cetol job for a customer who had done the job before, himself.

It looked as if he had done it with a broom, from the dock. Without benefit of tape. There was cetol all over the deck, there was cetol all over the metal rubrail so bad that there were places you could not see the rub rail. I spent days cleaning up his mess. (Not included, I find out, in the estimate.) The thing is, if I leave the mess, it is MY fault. If I clean it up, I take too long.

Then I was told that the customer only wanted two coats on, because he wanted to do the third. I'm afraid to go look at the boat.

This turned into a rant, I know. But, I hope, probably in vain, that some of you may be able to see the other side of the coin.

We are not evil. We are, for the most part, not incompetent. We are just workers who are trying to do our job under difficult circumstances.

If you don't like the work, if you don't like the price, just do it yourself.

But when you're finished, turn the same critical eye on your work as you turned on ours. Keep track of your hours spent. Don't do a half-assed job. Do it right. Buy the tools you need. We have to. Work in the hot sun. Work in the freezing cold. Work in the wet. Work eight hours a day. Work with someone who doesn't know what he's talking about criticizing you for doing something that you know is the right way of doing it.

Damn, I'm still ranting. I've had a tough day today. I'm going to drink a healthy dollop of rum and forget I ever saw this damned thread!
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Last edited by LarryandSusanMacDonald; 04-29-2008 at 07:31 PM.
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