Sunday, October 9, 2016

Guy Crudele: A Class Act

Readers will recall that early in September I terminated a scheduled 1000 hour maintenance visit with Hansen Marine as a result of that their attempt to overcharge me $600 for a number of engine parts. See my article "Hansen Marine: Lazy Greedy and Stupid."). Noteworthy is that my part price calculations compared Hansen's estimate to pricing from Wheelhouse Technologies, my online maintenance program, who freely admit that their pricing exceeds retail. Hence, Hansen's overcharge may well have exceeded $700. I'm too lazy to figure the exact amount. Hansen's estimate for the project was $7,732, which included 39 hours of labor.

Meanwhile, I obtained an estimate from a Caterpillar dealer in Florida. They came in at just under $13,000. Their estimate consisted solely of a list of the 1000 hour scheduled maintenance tasks. Missing was a list of required parts and their prices, their labor rate and their estimated number of hours. Very sloppy. Oh did I mention that the Cat dealer only services the engines. Hence, the maintenance required on the transmissions and generators would be extra and would need to be performed by another shop. Add at least $1,000 more to complete the project.

The Cat dealer was literally double Hansen's price. Maybe I should have bit the bullet and had Hansen do the work. Unfortunately, Hansen's defensiveness and belligerence eliminated that possibility.

So, back to the drawing boards (i.e., the internet). I researched Caterpillar Authorized Marine Dealers and found Guy Crudele Repair in Ipswich Massachusetts. I reached out to Guy Crudele and two things happened. First I learned that he was very busy and was unlikely to be able to fit me in. Second, his wife and partner, Kim, responded to my request for an estimate with part pricing that was at retail across the board.

Guy called me in response to my desire for a labor time estimate. His position is the labor time is what it is. He records his start and stop time each day and that what you pay for and nothing more. He went out of his way to explain that he does not pad labor time. He listened to my description of how the boat is operated (i.e., 1400 RPM or 30% load) and proposed to borescope the heat exchanger and aftercooler. His position is that there is no reason to spend the enormous amount of time to remove these items if they are in good shape. I ended the call saying I would like to work with him if he could fit me in.

Well he did (find some time). Working with Kim I arranged dockage at Cape Ann Marina in Gloucester for Monday October 3rd ($480 on a weekly - a good deal). So on Monday, accompanied by my sister, Myrna, I cruised the boat north to Gloucester on a beautiful fall morning.

Guy arrived on Tuesday morning with his assistant and went to work. 22 man hours later the project was completed. Guy found problems with a raw water pump on the 12 KW generator and the coolant pump on the 16 KW generator, which added additional parts and labor cost (included in the 22 hours.) Bottom line. $6,032 for the entire job and Guy arranged a meeting with an engineer from Soundown to address a problem with my transmission coupler.

Did I mention that he left my engine room spotless?

Kudos to Guy Crudele and his wife Kim. Guy Crudele Repair, Inc. is a very high class act.

Did I mention that we had a good time in Gloucester? Stay tuned for an adventure in Gloucester article.

Written by Les.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Brush with Death and Much Discomfort

This blog was silent during the month of July and August. The cause was a medical issue.

The event started on July 6, 2016 at 10:00 PM when I went down below to floss my teeth. I discovered that I could not lift my left arm. I returned to the salon hoping the problem would go away. It did not. In fact my left arm got numb and my left hand began to tingle. Something was definitely wrong.

I searched the internet for my symptoms and learned that I was having either a heart attack or a stroke. Oops. I woke up Diana and announced we were going to the emergency room.

Fortunately, South Shore Hospital is only 17 minutes from the boat. So somewhere around 1:00 AM, I presented myself at the emergency room and announced that I was having some kind of cardiac incident. They took action quickly. An EKG revealed that I had atrial fibrillation (no surprise - it was diagnosed in 2005), a Cat Scan of my head showed that I did not have a stroke (good news), a subsequent CAT Scan of my left arm showed a massive blood clot from the elbow to the wrist (not good news).

It was now around 5:30 AM. Enter Dr. Kevin McBride, a vascular surgeon. Dr. McBride explained that I had a massive embolism lodged in my left arm and that he needed to "dig it out." He also explained that I was very lucky. Had the embolism gone into my brain, whose arteries were mere centimeters away from the path it took, I would have died (not good). He also spent some time getting to know me. Dr. McBride was a class act.  I signed the papers authorizing surgery.

According to Diana, the surgery lasted seven and a half hours. During that time Diana went home to take care of Kodi's needs and when she returned I was still in the operating room.

The next thing I recall is waking up in intensive care. It was now 1:00 PM. I was asked to urinate and that's when thing got even more complicated. I was barely able to do so (read as a few drips - perhaps less than 10 ML - not good). Turns out I could add urology problems in addition to my cardiology problems. Enter Dr. Feldman, a urologist, who informed me that I needed to have catheter inserted (not good at all).

I remained in intensive care for four full days, I had no use of my left arm, was unable to sleep and was stuck with a catheter, which by the way I had "installed" until August 1st. In total I spent 7 days in the hospital. Discharge was July 14.

The next big question was where do I go next. The options were back to the boat or to a rehab center. Diana investigated local facilities but in the end we decided that I would return to Guided Discovery. The doctors approved and arranged continuing care (nursing and occupational therapy) from South Shore Visiting Nurses, which worked out very well.

My sleep problems continued. The combination of pain in my left arm, the catheter, intermittent restless leg, fatigue from lack of sleep and anxiety about falling asleep resulted in chronic insomnia for about 40 days.

Being in the hospital for 7 days is no fun at all and fraught with risk. Throughout the ordeal there was Diana at my side. She was with me almost all the time including staying through the night. This involved frequent trips back to boat to take care of Kodi. Diana was on top of everything as I was out of it most of the time. Supporting Diana was Lesley who visited frequently and stayed over two nights. While it's no fun sleeping in a hospital bed, especially with a left arm out of commission and a catheter, sleeping on a hospital chair with the frequent interruptions that occur throughout the night is also no picnic.

I was also cheered up by visits from friends and family including my sister, Myrna, boat neighbors Skip and Jan, our friend Betsy and a surprise visit from my former brother in law Michael. I had company most of the time. That said, I'm not sure I was such good company.

Overall, I was impressed with the care I received at South Shore Hospital. The nurses were friendly, responsive and efficient. My vascular surgeon Dr, McBride, my cardiologist, Dr. Schubert and my urologist and Dr. Feldman were all impressive and I felt they took a genuine interest in me as did the interns who supported them.

Meanwhile, recovery on the boat proved to be a good decision. I enjoyed sitting and reading on the aft deck and being able to sleep in my own bed. I also enjoyed being with Diana and Kodi 24/7.

Now to urology. According to medical sources, all men will have an enlarged prostate if they live long enough. Well, I've made it 73 years and up until the July 7 surgery was not overly concerned. Yes, my internist had reported an enlarged prostate but had not recommended any treatment. For the record, I noted on the medical record that I maintain that I was urinating 3 to 4 times per night and that the stream was not strong. I also noted that day time urination was OK.

Now after surgery I could not adequately empty my bladder. Dr. Feldman explained that retention of urine would lead to kidney failure and dialysis. Hence the need for the catheter. I did not tolerate the catheter well and constantly begged for its removal. Well, that occurred twice between July 7 and August 1 and each time I failed to void enough urine to be catheter free.

On August 1, Dr. Feldman's nurse taught me how to how to self-catheterize (no fun). My task was to do it four times per day and track my urine output. Then things got more complicated when the doctor's office informed me that I had a UTI (urinary tract infection), a common problem with long term insertion of a catheter). A five day regimen of antibiotics was prescribed with a urine test on the 6th day. The sixth day turned out to be a Friday so I did not get the results until Monday. Bad news. The infection was still present. The doctor prescribed 7 more days of the same antibiotic. We questioned this course of treatment - why would two more days of the SAME antibiotic make a difference?

In the middle of the UTI, I had a Urodynamics Test. This test is a study that assesses how the bladder and urethra are performing their job of storing and releasing urine. The test involves measurement of urine output naturally and with catheterization. Note: According to sources on the internet this test should not be done while the patient has a UTI.

Fast forward to Thursday of that week (August 18). I was not doing well (characterized by frequent urination - 20 times per day) and experiencing pain in my kidneys. While visiting Dr. McBride on Thursday I urinated almost nothing four times within 40 minutes and started shaking. Dr. McBride told me to IMMEDIATELY report to the emergency room at South Shore Hospital.

When I was two minutes from the hospital I got a call from Dr. Feldman, which I had expected, and told him that Dr. McBride had ordered me to the hospital. Since Dr. Feldman's office was next to the hospital, I stopped to visit with him, Dr Feldman informed me that I would need prostate surgery and that that would require coordination with my cardioligist because of the blood thinner, Xeralto, that I was taking. Boy was this getting complicated.

At Dr. Feldman's office I exhibited an elevated body temperature, was shaking and in pain. Dr. Feldman called the emergency room and gave instructions to put me on a VERY powerful intravenous antibiotic. This hospital stay lasted four days. I was discharged on Sunday, August 21 with an oral prescription for 7 more days of the powerful antibiotic.

My ability to urinate and void my bladder continued to improve day by day. Additionally, I researched "inability to urinate after surgery" and found that the problem was not uncommon (i.e., up to 70 percent of patients have minor trouble urinating after surgery). Additionally, I met most of the criteria for this occurrence of this problem:
  • Over 50 years of age.
  • Male.
  • Preexisting enlarged prostate.
  • Lengthy surgery and anesthesia time (i.e., 7 1/2 hours).
  • Large quantity of IV fluid (that over-stretched the bladder making it harder to empty after general anesthesia).
  • Beta-blockers (for my atrial fibrillation).
Time for a second opinion. Diana arranged an appointment with Dr. Carpinito, the head of urology at Tufts Hospital. Dr. Carpinito was also rated the top urologist in Boston in 2015. I met with Dr. Carpinito on August 26 and shared with him my urination data, which by then showed that I was on the mend. Dr. Carpinito advised me to catheterize once a day to verify that I was not accumulating excess urine in my bladder. He also advised that I should have a cystoscopy to get an accurate assessment of my condition.

The cystoscopy took place on September 7. A cystoscope is a thin tube with a camera and light on the end. During a cystoscopy, this tube is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder so the doctor can visualize the inside. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of your bladder. The doctor also gets to view the prostate as it surrounds the urethra. The procedure is tolerable (but like everything else - not fun).

Good new and bad news. The bad news. The cystoscopy revealed significant blockage (three on a four scale according to the doctor). The good news, I was able to void the bladder with the urination at the end of the procedure. This was verified with an ultrasound that showed zero urine retention. More good news, my ability to urinate had returned to normal by August 31. Dr. Carpinito gave me a pass on surgery, took me off off self catheterization and said he would see me in a year. HURRAH!

Today I am clearly on the mend as evidenced by that fact that I am back to walking three miles a day with the furry kid and have been doing that for the last 15 days. I have 95% usage of my left arm and I am sleeping at night. Definitely a happy ending.

Written by Les.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Marblehead Adventures: Historical Treasure Trove

Marblehead, originally settled in 1629is a coastal New England town located in Essex County, Massachusetts. Its population was 19,808 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Crocker Park, the Marblehead Lighthouse, Fort Sewall, Little Harbor and Devereux Beach. Archibald Willard's famous painting The Spirit Of '76 currently resides in Abbot Hall.

A town with roots in commercial fishing, whaling and yachting, Marblehead was a major shipyard and is known as the birthplace of the American Navy. It is also the origin of Marine Corps Aviation. A center of recreational boating, it is a popular sailing, kayaking and fishing destination. Several yacht clubs were established here in the late 19th century, which continue to be centers of sailing.

For perspective, the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts on September 6, 1620. FYI: We visited the Mayflower and Plymouth in September 2011 while on our Great loop adventure.

No this is not the Mayflower
We spent four fun filled days in Marblehead harbor at the town dock and I think we shall start our history lesson here. The town docks also known as Tucker's Wharf has a plaque showing an amazing history. Originally known a Pedrick's Wharf, it dates from 1770. From this wharf in 1775, the 12- gun sloop Polly and the four-gun schooner Spring Bird sailed against the British and later, Washington's Navy schooners Hannah, Franklin, Hancock, Warren and Lee sailed against the British..

Yes, I know it's upside down
One on the highlights of our Marblehead adventure was visiting Abbot Hall. Abbot Hall, constructed in 1876, was a bequest from Benjamin Abbot who died in Boston in 1872. Abbot stipulated that the building could used for any purpose as determined by the town fathers. Today it serves as the town hall and a historical museum. As shown in the photo below, it is a prominent landmark.

Abbot Hall houses the original painting Spirit of '76 by American Archibal MacNeal Willard, which was widely reproduced. Of note, he used his father, Samuel Willard, as the model for the middle character of the painting.

Spirit of '76
Also at Abbot Hall:

Plaque commemorating the Hannah, the first ship in the US Navy
Scale model of an LST (Landing Ship Tank)
Encounter between the USS Constitution and the British frigate Guerriere
A decisive victory for the Constitution
Source of the nickname "Old Ironsides"

.We are in the room with the painting, The Spirit of 76" Notice the older man in the chair. He is the local historian. I did not get his name. He was chatting with a couple about Marblehead history and we joined the conversation. You can see Kodi listening intently to every word. So did we.

Note: I did not have to take notes. The town fathers published a 48 page book entitled "Celebrating Abbot Hall" containing an explanation of everything in the museum.

Now to the historical district.  

Map of the Marblehead Historical District
The town docks were right in the heart of the district, which made it easily accessible for us. The following is a quote from the Trust For Architectural Easements: "The colonial town has preserved its sense of time and place with picturesque streetscapes of densely-clustered Georgian houses with low-pitch gable or hip roofs, double interior chimneys, and pedimented entries with columns or pilasters. There are many commercial buildings too, such as the Old Town House, one of New England’s oldest, continuously used public buildings. But it is the concentration of Georgian architecture, which reflects the pre-Revolutionary War prosperity from fishing and commerce, that is most striking."

We agree. Walking through the historical district is like going back in time. In fact here's another excerpt that captures the mood of the district:

"It is said that the houses came first, and then the streets. This is certainly believable when one walks or drives through the old town. Houses face in many directions, front doors are not always in the front, and streets don’t always seem very well thought out. In early times people walked or rode on horseback, following dirt paths. When carts began to be used, the streets were made, working around large rocks, streams and ledge. They don’t seem logical now, but they did at the time."

House from 1718. See plaque below

Stock photo of historical homes
Ariel photo of the historical district.
A few more things about this wonderful city. Eating was great. We had dinner a Five Corners Kitchen, Cafe Italia Trattoria and Maddie's Sail Loft. All were excellent. Getting in an out of Marblehead, however, was a difficult. You have to drive through Salem and there is a two to three mile stretch that takes an hour to get through and there is no alternative route. The locals confirmed that "Yes, it's a bear every day, especially when school is in session."

Finally, I have to comment on the town dock's provision for dingies. Notice that it is low tide and how the dingies are secured. If you look close astern you will notice a heavy weight on a pulley. This arrangement allows the boats to maintain there position as the tide rises and falls. Very clever.

Written by Les.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Marblehead Adventures: Yacht Clubs and Dogs

A considerable amount of work went into arranging the 1,000 hour service with Hansen Marine on both ends. All of that work was lost when Bob Hansen stubbornly refused to address $600 of overcharges on 15 of 25 parts listed on the estimate. Bob's unfortunate defensive and belligerent response resulted in us losing faith in Hansen and cancelling the project. Clearly a lose/lose on both ends. Oh well.

So it's Monday, late morning, and the boat is in Marblehead at their town docks. We have the dock for 4 nights and the question was should we return to Hingham. We informed the harbormaster that we had cancelled the project and were considering an early departure. The harbormaster indicated that if we left early she would refund the unused nights. Nice response. We decided to stay as Marblehead is a rather spectacular town.

The 18 nautical mile cruise north to Marblehead was smooth as silk. My friend Skip Roper (and former crew member on the 2015 November run from Hinghan to Sarasota) accompanied me. We departed Hingham Shipyard at 7:15 AM and arrived in Marblehead around 10:00 AM. The weather was perfect with sunny skies and low winds. However, the 62 degree water temperature forced us off the flybridge and into the pilothouse for most of the run.

Passing Marblehead Light to port as we approach Marblehead Harbor

Marblehead is both a historic and wealthy community
Approaching the town docks. That's Skip on the bow
Marblehead Harbor is unique in may ways. As shown in the photo below, Marblehead is primarily a sailing harbor. Your view is southwest with the east side of Marblehead in the foreground. Marblehead Light is in the lower right hand corner and around it you'll notice some very large and expensive homes. Two yacht clubs, the Corinthian and the Eastern are within a half mile of the light.

Marblehead Harbor
Note: Permission was requested ftrom the owner. Response pending.
Across the harbor at the right center of the photo is a barely visible red building. That building is Abbot Hall, a museum at the highest point in Marblehead and the site of the town hall. Stay tuned for an article on Abbot Hall. The western side of the harbor contains the historic district and the venerable Boston Yacht Club

Below is a photo of Abbot Hall with the town docks in the foreground.

 Abbot Hall with the town docks in the left foreground
Guided Discovery at the Marblehead Town Dock
Looking aft (east) at the Town Docks
The harbormaster's office
There are no marinas in Marblehead Harbor, which I suspect is due to northeast orientation of the mouth of the harbor. That orientation exposes the harbor to northeast storms. My hypothesis is supported by the design of the town dock ramps. Notice the A-frame at the head of the ramp. The harbormaster has the ability to raise the ramps when the harbor gets rough, Below is a link to a YouTube video showing waves breaking over the sea wall in the Blizzard of 2014.

Boats on a mooring can tolerate more turbulence than boats in a marina. Add the fact that Marblehead is the 23rd wealthiest town in Massachusetts (out of 351) and it not surprising that Marblehead has three really spectacular yacht clubs and except for three large (60+ foot) motor yachts, a harbor full of sailboats. Note: There are two other more modest clubs, Dolphin and Marblehead.

Older motor yacht on a mooring
Note: I have seen very few large motor yachts on a mooring
We visited two of the three yacht clubs. We started at the Corinthian. This 125+ year old club was organized on July 7, 1885 "to establish racing among smaller sailing vessels in busy Marblehead Harbor." The club has 475 member families. The bylaws require that 70% of the members be boat owners. The initiation fee is $12,000. The club has tennis courts, a large swimming pool  and fine dining.

The imposing Corinthian Yacht Club viewed from the ramp to their docks

30 foot plus launches at Corinthian
Kodi posing with the cannon at the Corinthian Yacht Club
Then we visited the Eastern Yacht Club, about a 1/4 mile down the road from Corithian. This club was founded in 1870. Below is an excerpt from their bylaws. According to a knowledgeable local, Eastern is 'old money" and Corinthian is "new money.'

"Article II, Section 5 of the By-Laws states that "priority shall be given to those candidates, otherwise qualified, who are yachtsmen or whose primary interest is in yachting or sailing, regardless of yacht or boat ownership". In addition, the By-Laws provide the Committee with the option of electing a candidate who is "a sole owner of a yacht" or "has, in the judgement of the Committee on Admissions, demonstrated outstanding participation and interest in yachting" notwithstanding the membership limit of 450 regular members."

Eastern Yacht Club with Marblehead Light in the background
By the way, they too have a cannon and so does the Boston, Dolphin and Marblehead Yacht Clubs. All five clubs fire their cannons at sunset. This is a lovely tradition but, unfortunately, Kodi HATES cannon fire (along with fireworks and gunfire).

Explanatory Note: Cannon fire, rifle fire, gun fire and fireworks all scare Kodi. Once the "guns" go off, Kodi shuts down. She will not respond to commands and refuses to leave the boat. This can be problematic especially in the evening when she needs to be walked. Unfortunately we live next to Stoddards Neck Park where the "locals" light off fireworks for weeks after July 4th. Did you know fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts? The "local cops" do not enforce the law so we struggle through a month of getting Kodi off the boat for her evening elimination.

Laurie and Summer
Speaking of the Kodi, we had a rather unusual incident while in Marblehead.  I noticed a man on our dock with a yellow lab and invited Kodi to go greet. Kodi and I walked onto the dock as the man and the dog departed on a skiff. I called to the man who then headed the boat toward the dock. The lab, whose name was summer, proceeded to jump off and greet Kodi. Then Summer jumped back in the boat and Kodi followed. The man, whose name is Laurie Willard, asked if Kodi could go with Summer and I said OK.

Kodi and Summer arriving back after an hour ride
An hour or so later Laurie, Summer and Kodi returned to our dock. We learned that Summer was a rescue and that except for a little separation anxiety was getting along well. Laurie invited Kodi for a puppy play date but we were unable to put it together.

Laurie supplied the following photos;

Kodi and Summer returning to Guided Discovery
Stay tuned for more on marblehead.

Written by Les.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Labor Day Fireworks and Tropical Storm Hermine

If you have followed this blog over the years, you know that once we get to Hingham Shipyard Marina we tend to stay in port. In fact, since arriving on May 8th, the boat has been away from the dock a total of four times. One was a day cruise to Boston Harbor on a beautiful June Saturday.  One was a 2 mile maintenance run to Grape Island for bottom cleaning in August (Note: My marina will not let a diver clean the bottom at the dock). The third was an overnight at Fan Pier in Boston for the Labor Day Fireworks and the fourth was the run to Marblehead for the aborted 1,000 hour service. The latter led to the article Hansen Marine: Lazy, greed and Stupid, which if you have not read it is worth reading.

This brief article deals with our overnight cruise to Fan Pier to view the Labor Day Fireworks and with Tropical Storm Hermine. I suggested to my sister, Myrna, about a week earlier that it was time for a cruise and she suggested that we see the Boston fireworks. Myrna is the chief legal officer for the Fallon Company, which is developing Fan Pier.

Fan Pier artist rendering of the completed project
In the top center of the photo is Rowes Wharf, the unofficial center of Boston Harbor
and one of my sister's legal projects
According to Wikipedia, The Fallon Company is currently developing Boston’s Fan Pier, one of the most sought-after waterfront sites in the United States, and a catalyst for the revitalization of South Boston’s waterfront. Fan Pier is a nine-acre, 21 city block site which consisted largely of underutilized parking lots when the Fallon Company purchased it for $115 million in 2005. Today, it is a neighborhood consisting of four commercial towers – One Marina Park Drive, 11 Fan Pier Boulevard, 50 Northern Avenue, and 100 Northern Avenue – and a luxury condominium tower Twenty Two Liberty. A second residential building, Fifty Liberty, is currently under construction. Two more high-rise towers are planned. When complete in 2020, the $4 billion Fan Pier project will encompass three million square feet of commercial and residential real estate, public, civic and cultural space, including two parks and a 6-acre marina.

Myrna arranged dockage at the marina, which, by the way, looks nothing like the above photo. The marina is currently operating with temporary docks and will be the last part of the site to be developed.

Guided Discovery at Fan Pier
The tower at Logan Airport is in the background (right side of photo)
Tropical Storm Hermine also got into the act. We had been following this system, which had briefly reached hurricane strength while making landfall between Apalachicola and Steinhatchee Florida. By Saturday, Hermine had stalled east of New Jersey and south of Long Island. Sustained winds were 50 knots. The surface map showed that strong slow moving high pressure over northern Maine was holding the storm south of New England. I calculated that the situation would remain stable for at least 24 hours before the storm started moving north. You might say we had a weather window for our Boston overnight. The plan was leave Saturday afternoon and return to Hingham by mid-day Sunday.

We departed Hingham Shipyard Saturday at around 4:15 PM and arrived in Boston about at hour later. We enjoyed cheese and crackers on the aft deck and then proceeded to Babbo Pizzeria for dinner. Dinner ended and we returned to the boat just it time for the fireworks, which we watch from the boat deck.

We had a spectacular view as the fireworks, which were about 1 mile northwest of our position.  Our view was enhanced by a clear night with a easterly wind that blew the smoke toward the city. The display lasted 20 minutes.

iPhone photo by Diana
Sunday morning we awoke to beautiful day with clear skies and low winds. Tropical Storm Hermine was still stalled exactly where she was on Saturday morning. We took advantage of situation and took a short stroll along the Harborwalk.

Here what Boston redevelopment Authority says about the Harborwalk: "One of the most important components of the City's waterfront revitalization program is HARBORWALK, a continuous public walkway along the water's edge that is, in effect, a re-established shoreline. The HARBORWALK System connects the City’s neighborhoods to its Harbor, linking recreational, cultural and historic attractions, as well as access to public transit, including water transportation facilities. Currently 38 miles of HARBORWALK have been constructed and when completed the walkway system will stretch over 47 miles from Dorchester to East Boston."

Here are a few views:

We departed Boston at around 10:00 AM and headed back to Hingham. Winds began to pick-up slightly as we traveled the 9 nautical miles to the shipyard.

Tropical Storm Hermine reached Hingham on Monday morning. You might say she was a shadow of her former, self with wind gusts only reaching 30 knots.  Rainy conditions continued through Thursday with low winds by Tuesday.  Hermine was essentially a "non-event."

Written by. Les

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hansen Marine: Lazy, Greedy and Stupid

Watch out. Hansen Marine Engineering and XRT Power Systems in Marblehead Massachusetts is a service provider to avoid.

First an overview:
  • Lazy: It took them three tries over three months to produce an acceptable estimate for a Caterpillar 1,000 hour scheduled maintenance service
  • Greedy: They grossly overcharge on parts. An analysis of 15 parts produced an overcharge of $600. Some of the overcharges were ridiculous, like charging $64.80 for a part that I had previously obtained for $4.15. Further, there was no rhyme or reason to the overcharges - like a consistent mark-up.
  • Stupid: When the $600 overcharge was brought to the owner's, Bob Hansen's, attention he became belligerent and refused to budge on the pricing. 
The estimate for the 1,000 hour service was $7,706 or which $4,000 was labor at $115 per hour. Do the math. Even paying two technicians $30 an hour leaves a strong $55 profit margin on 37 estimated hours. Add to that the profit on parts, even if charged at retail, and they had a very profitable deal, Bob Hansen's refusal to correct the $600 overcharge resulted in our cancelling the project.

Lesson for Bob Hansen: You can cut a fat hog but first you have to catch it.

Now the story.

We've had the 63 Outer Reef for two and a half years and in that time period have made five 1,600 mile trips up and down the east coast as we snowbird between Sarasota and Hingham. Each of those runs racks up close to 200 engine hours. Caterpillar's first major service occurs at the 1,000 hour mark and includes four major tasks in addition to an oil change; inspect and clean the intercooler, heat exchanger, and turbo-charger and check valve adjustment. 

Explanatory Note:  We also need some transmission and generator maintenance. My Wheelhouse Technologies on-line computerized maintenance management program designates the tasks that are needed.

We passed the 1,000 hour mark on the May run from Sarasota to Hingham. So, upon arrival in Massachusetts, I set about to arrange for needed engine, transmission and generator services. And here I ran into my first obstacle. There is only one Caterpillar dealer, Milton Caterpillar, in Massachusetts and they seem to have little to no interest in marine work. They will only work on Caterpillar engines. They won't touch the transmissions or generators. Hence, I would have to hire another service vendor for those tasks. Not efficient.

Caterpillar also has three authorized service providers in my area. Sacchetti Marine in Plymouth, Windward Power in Fairhaven and Hansen Marine in Marblehead. So, shortly after arrival in Hingham, I reached out to Milton Caterpillar and the three authorized servicers for an estimate; providing each with a detailed list of required tasks obtained from my Wheelhouse Technology application. I also called and talked with the owner or service manager in the hope of establishing a bit of rapport so they would take my project seriously.

Bottom Line: Sacchetti, Windward and Milton Caterpillar did not respond and to add insult to injury, I contacted each personally several times to remind them that I was looking for an estimate. I guess I was not very persuasive.

Explanatory Note: Not to get off the subject, but getting maintenance and repairs performed in Hingham is VERY difficult; in fact almost impossible if you are a transient boater. Why? My best guess is that due to the short six month boating season, servicers must run lean and mean (e.g., too few technicians). 

Finally, on June 3rd and after much prompting, Hansen Marine finally sent an estimate. Hurrah! Oops, spoke to soon. The estimate, for $4,031, did not enumerate the specified tasks and did not contain a complete list of parts. Essentially, what they put on paper was a very expensive oil change.

Explanatory Note: Why do I require a complete list of parts and tasks? Simple. I want specificity on the tasks, so they get done, and most important, I want to ensure that the servicer has all of the parts on hand before starting the job. The 1,000 hour service is a three day job. Missing a part could delay completion of the project.

So I sent Hansen back to the drawing boards, reiterating that I wanted the tasks specified on the estimate and a complete list of required parts. More prompting (i.e., calls every other few days) and finally, on August 8 (yes, two months later), I finally get a revised estimate. Now the price is $6,131 and the four major 1,000 hour tasks are specified on the estimate. However, the parts list is still incomplete. How do I know? Remember, I have a computerized maintenance application (Wheelhouse Technologies). Wheelhouse specifies the maintenance tasks based on time and hours and provides a list of the needed parts for each task. While it took some work on my part, I was able to audit Hansen's estimate and in doing so provided them with a list 11 missing parts including nomenclature and part numbers.

Two weeks later (August 17), Hansen sends a revised estimate and this time they have it 98% correct. Hurrah! Now the price is $7,706. Not unreasonable especially with the added parts. We schedule the project for the week of September 12 and I agree to bring the boat to Marblehead.

Explanatory Note: Caterpillar dealers and authorized servicers charge time and their standard labor charge ($115/hr) and miles ($1.25/mile) to come to your boat. Hansen's technicians would have to drive through Boston rush hour traffic morning and evening (a two to three hour 68 mile round trip). Hence, over three days, I could easily rack up over $2,000 in additional travel charges. Bringing the boat to Marblehead costs far less ($100 in fuel and $500 for dockage).

My daughter, Lesley, my granddaughter, Amelia, and my son-in-law, Scott, spent last weekend with us on the boat in Hingham. Scott is a biology teachers who runs a jet ski rental business on Cape Cod (Aquasport in West Dennis) during the summer. Scott and I got to talking about maintenance and he proceeded to tell me a story about a Yamaha dealer who grossly overcharged his company for a jet ski engine repair. Scott told me that he audited the parts on the dealer's invoice using the internet and discovered outrageous discrepancies. 

So I said, "let's, just for the fun of it, check Hansen's part pricing." Here again, Wheelhouse Technologies to the rescue. Wheelhouse, as one of their services, provide parts to their subscribers. This is a nice feature as sourcing boat parts can be very difficult. Note: Wheelhouse is upfront about their part pricing which is generally slightly over retail. Having ordered many of the parts on Hansen's estimate, I went one line and checked my order history. That's when I discovered the overcharges.

Examples. Charging $64.80 for a transmission zinc that I had previously obtained from Wheelhouse for $4.15. Two are required. Hence, a $121 overcharge. Charging $143.46 for a raw water impeller that Wheelhouse charged me $88.27. Another $110.38 overcharge for two impellers. Note: I later learned from my contact at Caterpillar that the impeller retails for $69.00. Other lower priced parts where also marked up but there was no consistency or logic to the mark-ups, which ranged from 15% to 65%. 

Unfortunately, I did not have pricing all of the parts so I called Wheelhouse on the way to Marblehead and my contact, Craig Parkhurst, provided me with their "over retail" pricing for the one's I was missing. Now I was ready to have a discussion with Hansen.

Tom, Hansen's service manager, and my primary contact at Hansen, arrived shortly after we docked. I showed Tom my parts audit and requested he go back and make some adjustments. A half hour later he called back and said that his boss, Bob Hansen, would not budge. I asked to speak with Bob and that's when things went down hill. Bob was immediately belligerent. He claimed that I should have brought this to his attention months ago. I reminded him that we had spent 3 months getting an estimate and that I had assumed that their pricing would be retail of close to that. Bottom line: I got him to concede that I could use my zincs and impellers (saving me $231 of the $600 overcharge).

Unfortunately, for Bob, Diana overheard Bob's belligerence and expressed a very legitimate concern. If he can't be reasonable on the parts, what happen if they screw up. Will he stand behind his work? We concluded that he probably would not. Diana wanted me to pack it in and tell Hansen that we would get the service performed elsewhere.

In the meantime. I called my contact a Caterpillar and reported the problem. Caterpillar expects better of their authorized repair facilities and offered to intervene with Bob Hansen. I said it was too late and that we had lost faith in Hansen.

At that point, Tom returned to the boat with another technician to start the job. I informed Tom that we were cancelling the project. I told him that a very unflattering blog article would be forthcoming and that he should bring it to Bob's attention. I also mentioned a formal complaint to Caterpillar. Bad behavior has consequences.

So here we are in beautiful (no exaggeration) Marblehead. We will spend four days here and then return to Hingham. I've already made arrangements to complete the 1,000 hour service when I return to Sarasota.

Written by Les.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hingham Adventures: Popping the Cork on a 17 Year Old NEW Boat

We were coming back from Quincy on Thursday morning (May 10) around 11:00 AM when we ran into a traffic jam at the Quincy Fore River Bridge. While sitting in traffic, I got a call from Bob Swartz, my friend and the diver who cleans Guided Discovery's bottom.

Side Story: Getting my bottom cleaned is a bit of a problem. Hingham Shipyard Marinas will not allow a diver to clean the bottom at my slip. Nor do they have the capacity to lift my boat. So, due to some insurance issue on the marina's side, or a policy to force the boaters to use their lift for bottom cleaning, I am forced to leave the marina and anchor off Grape Island. But that adds complication. Bobby and I have to coordinate weather and tide. If he could clean the bottom at the slip life would be easy. At Marina Jack in Sarasota, the number one marina in the USA (i.e., Dockage Magazine's Marina of the Year 2015), they allow bottom cleaning at the dock and supply the divers,

Back to the story. Turns out we were both caught in the same traffic jam, which was a coincidence. Bob was calling to check progress on our Sarasota to Hingham voyage. During the conversation Bob said he was headed to his cousin's home just over the bridge in Weymouth to watch the process of removing a 44 foot sailboat that his cousin had built - I repeat built by his own hand over 17 years - from the "garage" (shed - call it what you will). Would I like to see the boat?

You've got to be kidding. Of course was my answer was YES and Bob provided the address. After dropping Diana off at the boat I headed over to see the sailboat.

I arrived around 12:00 PM, met Chris Ready, Bob's cousin, and was blown away with the project.

The sailboat sits in the shed awaiting removal
Notice the wooden boards used a a ramp for trailer tires (more on this later)
A bit about the boat. She's a 44 feet long sloop (one mast) with a displacement of 26,000 pounds. She was built from 1" mahogany planking.  She has one stateroom and one head. She's powered by a 63 HP Westerbeke diesel engine and carries 100 gallons of fuel, which gives her a range of just under 300 miles when running UNDER POWER at her hull speed of 7 knots (1,800 RPM). Her mast is 50 feet tall. Running under sail her range is unlimited. She has a 100 gallon water tank and will have a water maker for long range cruising. Chris provided a machinery room for a generator but does not plan to install one.

Chris is a 52 years old semi-retired carpenter who was schooled as a boat builder. Building the boat is a dream that he has made come true.

Bobby Swartz and boat builder Chris Ready pose with the boat
Chris selected the project from a book of boat plans developed by naval architect Bruce Roberts Gibson. He's been working on the project for 17 years. The project started with the building of a shed in the back of his mother's home. Atop that shed is an apartment where he resides with his wife, Nancy. He explained that the hull and superstructure were built during the 9 months where temperatures in New England permit construction in an unheated shed. During the dead of winter he worked indoors building the interior. At present the interior is finished. Unfortunately, Chris had sealed the interior two weeks. I would have love to have seen it.

The boat is currently 90% complete. Finishing the project includes installing a 10,000 pound lead keel (fabricated in Rhode Island), which is waiting for the boat in North Carolina, and then fiber glassing the hull and topsides. That will be followed by installing the mast, boom, shrouds and stays, railing and running gear (shaft and propeller). Finally, the fiber-glassed hull and topsides will be painted.

Chris was forced to move the unfinished boat due the sale of his mother's home. The yet unnamed boat is headed for North Carolina where Chris will have a 12 month building season.

I asked Chris what was involved in building the hull and how did he bend the 1" mahogany planking to create a smooth hull. He explain that very little bending was needed due to the spacing of the bulkheads. Essentially, he laid the keel and then installed the vertical bulkheads. The planks were then installed one at a time. The hull has a very smooth finish as you can see in the photos.

View of planks attached to stringers
Now to the process of removing the boat from the shed. Certified Marine Transport was selected for the job. Bryan and his three man crew were not on site when I arrived but their transport trailer was.

Certified Marine Transport trailer parked in front of the Ready residence
Turns out that the transport trailer in the photo above was too big either to get under the boat or once under and loaded, the boat would be unable to clear the top of the shed. So, Bryan and crew had left to secure a smaller (lower) trailer.

transport trailer in position to begin loading
The transport is backed as far as she can go without jacking the stern

Chris removing the forward keel support
Removing the port aft hull support.
Notice the blue jack stand supporting the boat's weight
Now you see the starboard support beam

Now you don't
Jack stand supporting the stern. The wooden supports are about to be removed
Bryan using hydraulic levers to lower the transport for movement further aft
Chris watching as Bryan slides the transport further back
My contribution to the project
"Hey Chris. You may want to put level the steps to the driveway
The transport will have to go over the stairs so the hull doesn't contact the shed's sides
Hence the boards over the lower stair
Almost ready

Chris and Bryan confer minutes before the move
The photos will tell the rest of the story.

The bow emerges

We pause to assess the next move
Notice the proximity of the truck to the house
Bryan makes some final adjustments

The "baby" is born

Empty shed after 17 years
She's out! Now will she clear the house?

It's close!

All clear. Now what about that uneven area? Will she tip?

Will she make it?


She's safely on the street. Awaiting transfer to the larger trailer.
Putting the jack stands back in position
Bryan's team starting the process of removing the temporary transport trailer
Chris, relatives, friends and transport crew pose for a victory photo
Thanks to Bobby Swartz for sharing this with me,

Written by Les