Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rover's Time at the Boatyard

If you remember all the way back in June, I took our boat to a boat yard near Deltaville, VA, to get some work done while I went back to Colorado to help my wife wrap up some of the details of our estate.  Despite my past experiences with "having work done" on the boat, it made sense to try to have the boatyard do some work while I was gone.  When will I learn.

I met with Lee, the guy that runs Stingray Point Boat Works, walked through the boat and went over a reasonably long list of items that needed to be done and asked for an estimate before I flew back to Colorado.  It took a few days and I didn't receive the estimate until after I had left.  I reviewed the estimate and gave the yard the OK to start on a subset of items including replacement of a couple through hull valves, replacement of the black water hoses and a failing diverter valve, inspection of the standing rigging, investigation of the cause of a bit of stiffness in the steering system linkage, and remounting/rebedding a few bits of deck hardware (and gave the sail loft the go-ahead on the new stack pack and sail work).

A few weeks after I leave, I get a bill from the boatyard.  This bill doesn't include any work, only storage for the boat.  Of course, the storage rate was higher than I was quoted.  I also appeared to be charged for a half hour of labor for the generation of the estimate. When I contacted them, they adjusted the bill for the storage price and told me they had a rate increase but I would get this quarter's storage at the quoted rate.  Fair enough.  I decided I would just let the labor charge for an estimate slide even though I've never heard of such a practice.

I inquire about the rigging inspection and received an estimate for the replacement of the standing rigging.  When I ask if the inspection indicated that replacement was needed, the staff at the yard gave me the direct number for the rigger.  I give him a call and he explains the cost of replacement and how some of the parts are expensive.  When I ask if the inspection indicated it was needed, he told me he assumed the rigging was over 10 years old and he didn't actually inspect the rigging as doing that would cost extra.  Funny, the inspection was what I had asked for...not just a quote for replacing the rigging (which, by the way, I could have done elsewhere for about $2000 less). Fine, I'll check what I can when I get back and take it somewhere else to have them check and possibly replace the rigging.

Several more weeks go by and I don't hear anything else from the boatyard but I'm busy with things at the house and don't have much time to check on anything so I assume things are moving along. About 6 weeks after I left, I receive another bill from the boatyard.  It has a list of parts and some labor that hinted that they may have done the waste line replacement, but the bill for the labor was twice the amount of the estimate for the waste lines alone.  I check back with them to inquire what work was done assuming that more had been accomplished. I don't hear back from them for several days. I finally get another bill and they reduced the total by about 25% and confirmed that they replaced the black water lines.  So, now it is only 50% over the estimate and still with no explanation of the overage. I tell them to stop work as I cannot afford to have all the other work go over the estimate by 50 to 100%.

Since it will still be a little while before I can get back to the boat, I write up a letter explaining that I would like to have them do more work, but it can't continue the way it was.  I chose one item on my list, the replacement of the two through hull valves and told them I would authorize that work as long as it didn't go over the original quoted price.  If it looked like it might go over, they were to contact me so we could discuss options before any additional cost was incurred.  I specifically chose this task because I had a feeling that they would run into issues and I wanted to make sure they could communicate those to me before continuing.  In the note I asked them to let me know either way if this was acceptable.

After not hearing back from them for over a couple weeks, my wife and I made plans to return to the boat and complete the work ourselves.  It was shortly after I wrote them to tell them of our intentions to come complete the work, and reiterated that all work on their part was to stop, that I received another bill from the yard.  This time, the bill showed parts for the replacement of one through hull and valve but all the labor was zeroed out.  The parts alone were in excess of the original quoted price because the original quote didn't include the through hull itself.

I just had to laugh. Had they told me they agreed to do the work and had they told me that they would have to replace the through hull as well as the valve (which I expected would be the case), I would have OK'd the task.  But, since they did not, they ended up replacing the one through hull at a loss. They also proved that communication with their customer seems to be their biggest problem.

When we returned to the boat, we found that the waste lines had been replaced, as were some of the raw water lines for the heads (which was not part of the scope of work).  We also found that they had somehow ripped the toilet seat off of one of the heads and broke one of the lines attached to the manual bilge pump, presumably while replacing the waste lines.  And, as we discovered during the trip south, the holding system was leaking (found to be a fitting on the holding tank that was loosened during the install of the hose and not re-tightened).  So, the work they did was rather sloppy and incomplete.

While I can say that Stingray Point Boat Works is an OK place to haul your boat and do your own work, and that their fiberglass guy seems to do a good job, I cannot recommend them if you are looking for people to perform general work on your boat.  To be fair, I didn't need the services of their mechanic so I don't know about his abilities.

In general, my opinion is that the lax attitude of leadership at the yard leads to a less than professional work atmosphere and may be the underlying cause of the poor communications and workmanship.  If you need to haul your boat, intend to do the work yourself, and will be staying at the yard or visiting daily (and don't mind the very limited access to internet and lack of potable water), then it may work for you.  But I cannot recommend them based on my experiences there.

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