Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The End of the Whole Affair

Okay, it's been almost 2 months since the last post.  I've been psyching myself up for this one.  And things keep happening, so I keep thinking that when the dust settles, I'll finally update.  The dust hasn't settled yet, but it should soon.

When last you heard about our intrepid adventures, we were hatin' on the ole Florida ICW.  Because it was awful.  Anyone who has cruised that section in a slow boat will agree.  The rude boaters, the muddy water, and the current that was inexplicably working against us most of the time.  We stopped in Fernandina on a mooring ball.  We raced a storm and just barely tied up to the ball before it hit.  (We're awesome!)  It was exciting.  And wet.  The town of Fernandina is really cute.  Little shops and restaurants on the scenic little main street.  I'll admit, though, I was a little put-off by the $7 loaf of bread at the bakery.  That's more than in the Bahamas!  I don't care how "artisan" it is, that's just silly.  But we enjoyed walking along the street.  So cute!  But with a factory spewing out some serious funk, it was a smelly night out in the mooring field, and we were happy to leave the next day.

Then we crossed into Georgia!  And you know what?  It's prettier there.  The trees are green.  There are less boaters.  And we heard a marina bash someone on the radio because they didn't obey the no-wake zone.  Yep, they yell at people for being douchebags.  Go Georgia!  As it had for the last week, the afternoon brought rain and thunderstorms.  We anchored next to a water park.  Due to the storm, it was quieter than usual.  And we discovered the joys of a bimini bath.  The rain had made little puddles in the bimini top, and instead of hopping in the dirty salty water to bathe, we just used the bimini water to splash on and lather up.  Soap works better in fresh water, too, so it was a really refreshing (if slightly chilly) way to clean up.  And then we warmed up by using the last of our solar shower water.  Delightful. 

The next day (I think we made it into Brunswick on June 30), we made it in to the Brunswick Landing Marina.  Huzzah, floating concrete docks!  Those are the best.  And we learned later that they have 8-foot tides there, so floating docks are very important.  The showers were huge and awesome, and they even had free laundry.  Free laundry, people!  We were psyched.  Almost wanted to hang out there instead of going home for a month.  Nah, we were ready to go home.  Take a break from the boat, see family and friends, and enjoy air conditioning and other amenities of non-boat life. 

In the three weeks we had been on the ICW, we had a crazy amount of growth and barnacles on the bottom of our boat.  We thought it might be worth it to haul the boat out and repaint the bottom while we were gone.  If we left the boat in the water the whole time, we would have a whole coral reef down there by the time we got back.  With a good quote on bottom painting, we decided to go ahead and haul the boat.  It's always nerve-wracking to see your boat (and home) pulled up by a couple of straps, swinging in the breeze, looking very out of place.  Then they scraped the barnacles off (unreal how many there were) and gave it a pressure wash.  We knew we needed to raise the water line.  We thought it was because we had so much weight on the boat.  Nope, some idiot who owned the boat before had the water line lowered.  Lowered?  Why in the world would you do that?  So we'll get that taken care of.  So we think.  Then the boat yard guys start looking things over. 

They found that our prop shaft (and engine) were out of alignment.  So the prop shaft was really worn and could fail at any time.  Holy smokes!  We were pretty mad that the guys at Sale Creek Marina didn't notice it (or if they did, they didn't mention it) when we had the boat out before the big trip.  We noticed it, but assumed that since they didn't mention it, it wasn't a big deal.  Crappity crap.  How could they let us go on a long trip with this huge potential for propulsion failure?  And now we were going to have to shell out money to have it fixed.  New prop shaft, engine alignment, fixing the strut that holds it in place, replace the cutlass bearing.  We just wanted to paint the bottom.

So we left to go back to Tennessee.  They would send us an estimate for the work that needed to be done.  Two weeks later, after many phone calls and a lot of nagging, we finally got our estimate.  $4500!  What?!?!  And that doesn't even include paint and blister repair.  We study the estimate.  $2000 for rudder repair.  The rudder is fine (good enough anyway), so we'll knock that off.  That still leaves us with $2500, but we can manage that if we have to.  And it has to be done, right?  So we tell them to go ahead, starting with engine alignment and then seeing what else needs to be done.  (Take note, starting with engine alignment is important.)

So they order the parts and start to work.  The initial work ends up only slightly more than the estimate.  But wait, the engine isn't aligned yet.  They did a mock-up so they could work on the shaft support strut, but the motor is not in place yet.  Hrm.  Then we get a call that one of our motor mounts is toast, and they can only order them in pairs.  Crap.  But necessary.  Add another $500, that's just part of boat repairs. 

Another week or so goes by, and we get another call.  Once the new motor mounts were installed and they were going in for the final alignment, the bolts kept spinning.  The wood underneath must be rotten, and they'll have to replace it or the engine can't be aligned.  This means moving the motor, ripping up fiberglass, replacing the wood, reglassing, and finally putting the motor back in place.  Seriously?  You guys know we're working on a budget, right?  Yep, they know.  But what can we do?  If this isn't fixed, none of the previous repairs matter.  And here was our biggest mistake: we didn't get an estimate for this work.  There was no warning about it being expensive, even though they knew we were running out of money.  There was no indication about how much it would cost.  Communication break-down.

Another week or so goes by.  We call and call to see where things are with the boat repairs.  By this time, we've decided to ship the boat back to Tennessee.  We can't afford to cruise it back, and hurricane season is in full swing.  Wrong time of year to cruise around Florida.  So we're just ready to be done with the whole mess and get our boat back.  We've decided the blister repairs and bottom paint are something we'll have to do ourselves once we get it back.  Can't afford to pay them to do it.

And then we get another phone call.  When they took the mast down for transport, the boat settled.  The hull flexed.  They say it's a structural issue that Hunter knows about.  What?  Is our boat on the verge of death?  Have we spent all this money for a boat that's suffering hull failure?  You've got to be kidding me!  The next day we talk to the boat yard manager.  Trevor tries to understand what's going on, and Robert gets combative.  "No, Jeff never said that!"  You need to watch your attitude, mister.  We're just trying to understand what's going on so we know what next steps to take.  Turns out it's not as bad as we thought.  The hull settled a little bit, 1/2", but without the stays giving support, this isn't so surprising.  But you know what?  Now they can't align the engine.  Can't align the bloody engine!  That's the first, very first, number one on the list of things we  told them to do.  And they can't do it. 

And then we get the bill.  Another $3500, on top of what we already paid.  $3500!  Where in the world did this number come from?  That's more than the first round of repairs.   This brings the grand total to over $6500.  Not including haulout, not including dockage.  Yep, they're charging us to keep our boat there while they're working on it.  I've never heard of any boat yard that charges you to keep the boat there while they're working on it.  If we're doing the work ourselves, sure, they'll charge us.  But this is the only place that charges dockage while they work.  And you know how much I paid for the boat?  The boat cost $6000.  The repairs (that aren't finished) have cost me more than the boat is worth.  It's a nightmare!  If we'd known how much it was going to be, we never would have let them touch the boat in the first place.  Hindsight is 20/20, of course.  But this is just wrong.  The repairs are at almost triple the original estimate. 

We are very unhappy.  There's an understatement.  We're going down tomorrow to check the repairs, go over the bill, and pay them what we owe (our souls, first born, etc.).  Monday, we have a truck coming to ship the boat back here.  Remember the reason we wanted to haul the boat in the first place?  Bottom paint, that's right.  We'll do that ourselves when it gets here.  All this money, and we didn't even get done what we wanted.

The cruising kitty is empty.  The boat isn't finished.  Our trip is completely over.

It was a great trip, we wouldn't trade it for anything.  Amazing experiences, great new friends, more good times than bad.  We just hate that it had to end so bitterly.


  1. I am so sorry to hear all that has happened. What a sad way to end such a wonderous trip. I knew that your month at home had been extended, and it seemed you were working to get your terra firma legs under you more, but I had no idea all that was going on. If I had known, I would have offered to sell you the "Ad Meliora" for $6500.00 and you could have had your boat shipped up here, and had one plus a spare for parts... Looks like Susan and I are going to be looking for a buyer for her, so if you know anyone... (-:
    Well, no matter what, I am glad you are here, and you are safe, and have such wonderful plans in the future. In the words of the great Bob Marley... Don't Worry... About a thing... 'Cause Every little thing is going to be alright.

  2. Bummer it had to end on a sour note but it stills sounds like it was great!

    Also, my sister's fiance is from Fernandina!

  3. Oh you guys our hearts totally go out to you! Wow, we had no idea that this horrible of a situation had developed!!! We are stunned and depressed to hear this news!
    (and I also totally agree with you comments about $7 bread. I heard that in France they have a law that requires all bread be affordable for even people making minimum wage, I wish it could be like that here too!)
    Well, the boat we are on the verge of buying ( we havent handed over the money or signed papers yet) is directly in the hurricane path, so we are waiting with held breath to see what transpires with Irene and our new dream boat....

    Anyway, we send our deepest condolences.

  4. Hi, you don't know me, I'm a friend of Janae and Dave, just drifted over here because you're linked on their blog. Just wanted to comment that to me it sounds like you've been swindled, and altho it might now be too late (it's now 8/25), I'd suggest you look into the reputation of these people if possible. I hope you don't just fork over all this money without making sure you haven't been 'took'. If they are licensed to do the work they do, you have some recourse if you suspect some of this work has been invented. Get some other expert to look at things or something. I say all this understanding that at this point you might just want to get out of there and go home. Real bad luck, folks.