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Old 05-06-2017, 02:54 PM   #1
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Circumventing the tyranny of low-effort marine services

Greetings.. I am seeking a few final sources of good advice before becoming a former boater.

The situation is this.. I'm good at taking care of and diagnosing mechanical things and my work never EVER needs to be redone, but I'm pretty used up now. I've observed providers of marine services around my marina for several years and come away severely disgusted with the business practices I see, the general level of skills at work, and the low level of delivered quality. As a businessman, the things I see all comprise immediate walk-aways. The first evidence you don't do what you say you're going to do... gone. Trust matters. No warning shots. The nearly total non-existence of anyone with something good to say about you... gone. You clearly don't see being trusted as part of your business philosophy. You tell someone they need a $10k rebuild without even setting foot on the boat when it's a $42 lift pump... dead to me. Etc. Etc. Etc. I've been taking notes. As have my more business-savvy and mechanically proficient dock mates. There is....... literally...... nobody anyone who can find their butts with both hands recommends for anything.

I have made the effort to engage in ways that also protect me. My company does business on multiple continents and avoiding lousy service providers on larger projects has its own methodology... progressive validation of the quality/biz practices working your way from small projects that don't sting too much if the guy's a bum up to the high-dollar jobs. Never front-end load the trust unless you love getting screwed. Trust is always earned.

It appeared the only remaining option is the marina. Though the chant from my dock friends is difficult to ignore... "do NOT use the marina!!" idiot that I am... decided the stories about the marina just cannot possibly be true... not that many. No business who manages to stay in business would ever remain satisfied with that kind of word of mouth. So in November I asked them to talk to me... nothing. In December I asked..... nothing. Must be great to be that rich. In Feb I tracked down one guy who was/is VERY much conscientious who split the work discussions with another. I had some things I wanted to do with the first, in conjunction with a specialty provider of services from outside. Marina guy #2 strung me along for months... "I'll get you numbers this Friday"... "I'll get you numbers this Friday"... "I'll get you numbers this Friday"... Screw him. This guy pulled the pin on the grenade taped to my season because his slacker communication and follow-thru with a paying customer blew up the project I had that external service provider lined up to do since Feb. The window for that project effectively closed while I waited for the marina guy. Invest in both jobs or invest in none and quit.

It is LIFE-SUCKING and infuriating to try and juggle/manage the staggering half-a$$ing one has to push thru as a boater. It transforms boating from something that's supposed to be fun to something that perpetually tempts you to write a book about how crappy some kinds of business are practiced. The "I told you so's" among my friends at the dock are 20' deep now and they don't even try to hide their laughter... and clearly I deserve it, though my life experience still tells me tolerating this level of customer disappointment is IRRATIONAL and fully counter to any business' best interests.

So how to react... when you encounter stupidity or crappy business practitioners or garbage quality... you don't just turn the other cheek because that encourages more. You owe it to the universe to discourage more of the same. I cannot lower my dignity or these rules of engagement enough to just say screw it... It would 1000 kinds of wrong to give these guys my slip fees... or to keep my word of mouth to myself. I cannot begin to understand why a business owner wouldn't do everything POSSIBLE to capture the slip fees I WOULD HAVE PAID ANYWAY... the work revenue I RIDICULOUSLY TRIED TO GIVE TO THEM... and prevent yet another now very negative word of mouth to be in circulation WHICH I HAVE NO REASON TO KEEP TO MYSELF. But.... in 30 years building building/growing that company and working with Jesuit-like devotion to figure out the things that make it the best, what not to do and how to treat people, I've seen PLENTY of crap businesses and business practices and marine services is the king of that hill. I can definitely name a handful of solid individuals in marine services, it's beyond bizarre how lame the business, the integrity and the quality is.

I don't appear to have any good options that are consistent with my beliefs of screwing bad practitioners right back with my wallet and my story when it's time. My only "plan" is to leave the boat on the hard until I can bring myself to a final decision, for which I'm doing some of my due diligence here to see if I can find another idea for the option list. I can't USE this stupid thing without 2 important and pricey mods... do both or do neither are the only acceptable paths, and again, I did the right things to be in the queue for both at the end of last season. There are 4 other important maintenance items my body just cannot do as well and they are definitely "yard type" items. I'm used up and incredibly can't find anyone credible who wants the revenue. And by the way, *I'm* not the AH here... I was THE GUY who among the people I know at that marina actually made the effort to try them in the face of that daunting word of mouth. I'll pass how that philosophy turned out when the time comes too.

Any good ideas out there about how to remain in boating without either rewarding slackers or applying more lube and thinking happy thoughts? Like my boat.. not so enamored of the fog of slackers lining the shore.

G
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Old 05-06-2017, 02:54 PM   #2
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Sorry I didn't have time to write something short.

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Old 05-06-2017, 03:09 PM   #3
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Sorry, can't help in any way other than to suggest taking 'some time' to decompress before any big decisions are made. Hope smooth waters are in your near future!
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Old 05-06-2017, 03:10 PM   #4
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I agree, 98% of boat mechanics are shit. I have used and know of 2 or 3 that are dependable and reasonable. All others suck.
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Old 05-06-2017, 03:20 PM   #5
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Maybe all true, but boating can be difficult including finding good repair.

Based on your post, my recommendation is get out of boating.
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Old 05-06-2017, 03:28 PM   #6
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Yes, if dealing with incompetents in the marine industry gives you such distress, then you need to sell your boat and take up some other hobby.

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Old 05-06-2017, 03:31 PM   #7
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Old 05-06-2017, 04:42 PM   #8
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Sounds to me, like it is worth either travelling to a known good provider, or paying to fly them in to you.

There obviously is far greater demand than supply.

This is an industry where "the high end of the market" is people who literally have layers of management infrastructure just to service their silly-money toys, think nothing of spending 6-7 figures per year for something they'll use maybe 20 days.

I suspect that's where the top-notch reputation guys get sucked up, and in locations where it's nice to live and there's lots of boats, those who try to pay not-silly rates get stuck with the dregs.

Look for providers that usually wouldn't touch your piddly little job and offer them triple what you think it should cost, then you might find a higher level of quality.

Which still may not come close to what's demanded in more competitive industries.
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Old 05-06-2017, 05:17 PM   #9
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You do not tell us where you are located. The industry is full of tech's who do not know what they are doing. But there are other service providers who do invest in formal training for their employees. I know, I have run boatyards: I've hired and fired quite a few techs. . So where are you located?
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Old 05-06-2017, 05:36 PM   #10
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Wow. That was quite a vent. Sounds like you needed to get it off your shoulders.

It appears you are in Greenland. Its not surprising that where there is limited services that the lack of competition breeds incompetence.
I'm guessing Greenland would be a fairly expensive place to do business due to the isolation. Stiil, that's no excuse for poor workmanship. In fact, I'd expect most people would want their boat in tip top condition in those isolated waters, and be willing to pay extra for it.

You say you are a businessman. Do you have the time on your hands for another business? (I know - you are probably already working 50 hours a week) If there is the demand for it, bring in a top class marine services manager from outside and to set things up properly.
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Old 05-06-2017, 06:12 PM   #11
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Wut?

Total population of Greenland is 56K, not even considered a big town here.

And 90% of that number are Inuit, around 6,000 Danes in total.

Yes totally changes the situation, is a major understatement.
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Old 05-06-2017, 06:13 PM   #12
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G, Sorry about the frustration. I feel your pain. I have been dealing with the same type of issue myself for a few months.

I suggest first write a long rant to get the frustration out. Check
Then look around for another provider to try.
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Old 05-06-2017, 07:36 PM   #13
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I think you are seeing it in the extreme, but I sympathize none the less. What you describe is all too common, and not just in the Marine business. We just pay a premium for it here.
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Old 05-06-2017, 08:14 PM   #14
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I agree and still haven't found a fully trustworthy place in or around the Neuse. Still looking though.

Here is my thing... Being on the hard is one of THE MOST expensive things you do in boating. It's ten thousand+ nearly every time! But when you look around the yard, meet and talk to the senior techs who are trusted to do your work, they always drive shi##y cars and live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, a lot of this is circumstantial, but there has to be a connection. It just sounds like greedy yard owners that charge exorbitant fees and pay their workers jack. Again, there are a few bright spots out there, but it does lead to the frustrations felt by the OP. And I concur.

Several times I left jobs to them on trust, only to show up and have to make them do it the right way. So now I make sure I don't trust anyone. I check with them often. I show up unannounced in the yard and check behind their work. I don't like that I have to do it, but I have learned my lesson that until someone PROVES that I can trust them, I won't.

I won't say that it would ever force us out of boating. It is just one of the elements you learn to live with.
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Old 05-06-2017, 08:35 PM   #15
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So far I have done 98% of my own work on anything I've owned. I can pay someone $100 an hour do a half assed job, or I can do it myself for free

I've never had to deal with anything you are going through, so I have no idea how it feels

What I can add is, buy a starter tool set and a Chiltons Manual (do they even exist for boats?) and get to wrenchin'!

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Old 05-06-2017, 09:18 PM   #16
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I can't judge the talent and skills available in Greenland. I read those saying 98% of mechanics are bad and I strongly disagree. Perhaps 98% of those he's chosen to deal with. We use reputable boatyards and have no issues. Their initial price seems high to others but the price considering no return trips, work done when promised, turns out very fair.

I don't know if there is a shipyard in Greenland you can trust.

I'm going to toss out something else. Now, admittedly we're warm weather people. However, I don't see Greenland as a great area for boating. I have no idea what boat you have or what your boating intent was. I think though that it may not be the best place to own a boat. I'd likely either live in Greenland and not own, but charter elsewhere, or move. I think what you're finding in mechanics may well reflect the size of the boating community.

Also, when you're judging someone in your profession, it becomes much more difficult. You sound like you micromanage and that may well be because you don't trust them, but that's not ideal. Better to find someone you do trust and step back.

Now, if I felt like you seem to about boating for 30 days, feel the same 30 days from now, I'd get out of boating and find something that gave me far less stress.
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Old 05-06-2017, 10:34 PM   #17
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I'll take a bit of a different stance on this one.

From what I've seen a good part of the problem is that recreational boat owners are generally cheap skates and unrealistic regarding their boats.

Yes there are incompetent technicians out there. Yes there are bad boat yards out there.

But unrealisticly cheap owners are a good part of the problem. What I see is that owners are sometimes unrealstic as to the time required to do a job.

Here's a great example.

Mr Boat owner calls Mr Boat yard owner and asks how much bottom paint will cost on his 50 foot boat.

Mr Boat yard owner responds that they will rough up the existing bottom paint and apply two coats of super duper bottom paint for say $50 per foot. Any other prep work is time and materials at shop rates. Haulout is at shop rates, blocking is at shop rates, etc...

The owner hears $50 per foot and assumes that the bill will be $1,000 give or take a bit.

The boat gets hauled and blocked and the owner gets a call that the boat bottom requires more work to the tune of an extra 15 hours of labor. He is pissed.

The work is completed and thge owner gets the bill for $3500 and he is really pissed, thinking the yard are all crooks.

The invoice is broken down as follows

$200 for the 2 people an hour to haul and block the boat
$1500 for the 15 hours of prep time
$1,000 for the bottom paint job
$350 for space rental because the owner couldn't make it back to launch the boat until Saturday and the work was completed on Tuesday Morning
$200 for the two guys to launch the boat
$150 for consumables
$100 for hazmat fees

To me that sounds like a fair and reasonable invoice. When I get work done I assume that the actual work is only part of the total charges that will be billed.

But to many boat owners the bill would be very excessive.

Here's another one

Boat owner calls boat mechanic and asks that he replace the two water tank level sensors that are defective.

Mechanic does the work and sends the owner a bill for $950 The owner is floored, and calls the mechanic a crook.

What the boat owner does not realize is that his request, while sounding simple required the mechanic to completely dissassemble his bed, dresser, etc... to complete the job. What the owner thought was gong to be a 1-2 hour job actually took the mechanic all day.

I know this to be true... Why because I just replaced my water tank level sensors and it was a HUGE job. Took me all day. Hundreds of screws. I had no clue my bed needed to be taken apart to that level just to replace a wayer tank level sensor.

So...

Yes there are bad techs, and bad yards. There are also unrealistic boat owners.


The moral of the story is to either do your own work, or expect the unexpected.
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Old 05-06-2017, 11:22 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knotheadcharters View Post
I agree, 98% of boat mechanics are shit. I have used and know of 2 or 3 that are dependable and reasonable. All others suck.
Definitely that, and then... the business practices (doing what you say you're going to do being at the top of my list/filters)... Integrity...

Very rough numbers.. I've probably had contact with over 100 marine services guys the last few years. I can name 4 that are recommendable though 2 of those work for a yard and you have the rest of the slackers affecting their work when they want it to or not.

I'm used to be being able to out-wrench and especially out-diagnose so-called professionals. I don't expect to find skills where they haven't been on the planet long enough to be able to do the same things but I do still maintain high expectations for the other aspects of their approach... business practices and integrity.

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Old 05-06-2017, 11:40 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Sounds to me, like it is worth either travelling to a known good provider, or paying to fly them in to you.
If you really need to do that pushup, it's not for me...

Quote:
This is an industry where "the high end of the market" is people who literally have layers of management infrastructure just to service their silly-money toys, think nothing of spending 6-7 figures per year for something they'll use maybe 20 days.

I suspect that's where the top-notch reputation guys get sucked up, and in locations where it's nice to live and there's lots of boats, those who try to pay not-silly rates get stuck with the dregs.
The local bums who think preparation for being in the services business is to print up nautical looking business cards tend to emit a strong signal that they're full of shit early in the process... we only ever got to quoted numbers after that strictly out of perverse curiosity. The marina however..... the investment and the outcome are on a different scale. There just aren't that many guys with larger boats that you can afford to throw away 1. slip fees... they had me... why screw that up? and 2. growing my business from the beachhead of my slip fees? And after decades... not just me but every tech business owner I know... of doing whatever it takes to make customers happy, I will not be able to get my arms around NOT CARING someone could write a book about how little they care.

Quote:
Look for providers that usually wouldn't touch your piddly little job and offer them triple what you think it should cost, then you might find a higher level of quality.
Thanks... it makes sense though I think about $40k worth of work is the sort of deal that shouldn't need a fluffer to set up. It's already a good number but at the same time simple enough that it should be routine.
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Old 05-06-2017, 11:42 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by tadhana View Post
You do not tell us where you are located. The industry is full of tech's who do not know what they are doing. But there are other service providers who do invest in formal training for their employees. I know, I have run boatyards: I've hired and fired quite a few techs. . So where are you located?
I'd rather not get that detail on the web but thank you.
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