All Just A Bad Dream?

The day we discovered that our freeboard paint didn’t hold up seemed to be the start of a unique streak of bad luck. Since then, unbelievable things have happened that beggar description. And we were right in the middle of it.

Prologue to the chain plates

You will remember the episode with the parcel in Mexico – the package that had only found its way to its destination in California after some back and forth. We had ordered new titanium chain plates from Colligo Marine. And to make sure to get exact copies, we sent our old ones there. A few weeks later they were to be delivered. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Prologue to the water tank

It was a similar story with the new water tank. We had chosen the model, built it out of wood, determined the position of the fittings, put them in the corresponding technical drawing and ordered it. Actually, we wanted to install the fittings ourselves, but the manufacturer Ronco Plastics insisted that it would be better to have this done directly by them. Again, the delivery time should be about 3-4 weeks.

The spectacle begins

We ordered both in the same week and 6 weeks later both packages arrived on the same day. Actually, like Christmas and Easter on the same day. Except that our initial euphoria quickly faded. Dave unpacked the first new chain plate and compared it with the old one. And well, what can I say. They were not identical. We also unpacked the remaining 6 chain plates and 2 backing plates and things went from bad to worse.

Many deviations…

It wasn’t just the one that didn’t fit exactly. It was all of them! Some too thick, some too thin, some too long, some holes not where they should be, too small an angle in the bend and wrongly bevelled edges. The full programme! We still had the faint hope that it was all just a bad dream. So, we ate fresh empanadas together with the other residents of the yard to distract ourselves a little.

This does not fit

But the next morning, despite twisting and turning, the new chain plates still didn’t quite want to match the old chain plates. I documented all the discrepancies and we called Colligo Marine. We directly had the boss on the phone, who immediately apologised and wanted to give us our money back without discussion after seeing the photos. He also offered us that we could send back the wrong chain plates and they would send us new ones. However, our challenge was the time factor. Could we wait another 6 weeks for new chain plates?

If it doesn’t fit, use a bigger hammer

We had discussed the chain plate situation with Marga beforehand. For the holes that were not quite in the right place, we could make the holes in the boat fit. For the plates that were too thick, we could enlarge the hole in the deck. We couldn’t see the effect of the backstay plate not being at quite the right angle until the mast was back in, but that requires the chain plates to be fitted. And we still had to clarify with the manufacturer of the rigging whether we could compensate for the almost 1-inch extra length of 2 chain plates.

But we came to the conclusion that we could make the boat fit with a few days’ effort. However, we would have preferred to have the chain plates fitted to the boat without any extra effort. So, we told Colligo our decision and they refunded us the same day. We exchanged money for time so to speak – free titanium chain plates, but extra work.

It continues

After this debacle, we looked at our new water tank and noticed that one of the four fittings was not in the right place. Was that really necessary? We sent an email to our contact person and asked what our options were now. The answer came surprisingly quickly – in the months before, mails were only answered after a few days and calls usually went straight to voicemail without a call back. Seriously, it took us a week to pay for the tank because we just couldn’t get hold of the company to give them our credit card details over the phone. And no, it wasn’t because of the time zone.

That’s not how it works

We were also surprised by the content of the mail: no apologies, but we could do the installation of the fitting ourselves in the right place and plug the wrong hole. Or we could send the tank back and they would correct the installation. So actually, do what we had been advised not to do, or send back a package on an odyssey again and wait another 6 weeks. We did not want to do that. After some queries and our counter-suggestion that they should send us a new tank directly while we sent the old one back, an even more surprising answer followed. That was not possible, they said, and besides, they had installed the fittings exactly where we had marked them. Boom.

The water outlet was installed on the left instead of the right

Or was it?

We did not agree with that at all. In Swiss style, we replied in a discreet but firm email saying, among other things, that our drawing was correct but their installation was wrong. After all, three out of four installations were in the right place. And that we couldn’t wait another six weeks for a new tank. We don’t know exactly what happened after that. Anyway, two hours later came an apology and an offer that they would send us a new tank for free the very next day. Wow – we were still a bit disappointed, but happy about the quick solution to the problem. And we may find a place on Milagros for the water tank with the wrong installation and double our water reserves in one fell swoop. 2 for 1, so to speak.

The next surprise?

Now that two special orders had already gone wrong for us, we immediately had to unpack our new rigging and check it too. We had left it packed to keep it clean for as long as possible. So, we grabbed Betty, the yard car, and took the old and the new rigging to the paint booth. We laid everything side by side to check the lengths. We were very pleased to find that everything was right – except for one missing turnbuckle. The manufacturer Hayes Rigging immediately sent us the missing part, and so the rigging is now complete.

Another custom-made part

The fourth custom-made part was our new gooseneck (the attachment of the boom to the mast). We sent all the specifications, including mast profile and template, to Garhauer Marine and 2 weeks later we were supposed to have the finished fitting in our hands. 5 weeks later it finally found its way to us. After our previous experiences, we were a little nervous, but still in good spirits. But when we unpacked the shiny new stainless-steel piece, we immediately saw that it didn’t look like it should. And the fit check confirmed it: the thing didn’t fit. That simply couldn’t be true. We can now send the part back and it will be made to fit. It will probably be back here within a week. And finally, as with the chain plates, the water tank and the rigging, everything will probably be fine.

The new gooseneck did not quite match the specs


But how many times is the same story going to repeat itself? How can it be? Why don’t things work out right away? Why do our nerves always have to be strained first? What could we do differently? We spend hours discussing solutions, documenting, phoning, emailing, adjusting, sending back, etc. We don’t know what the problem is. These are well-known US companies in the marine industry, and our custom designs are not exotic. Is it our sketches or our Swiss way of communicating? Is it the lack of competition? What about quality control? But maybe it’s all normal and it’s because of my personal expectations of American quality and customer service.

But in the end, we always find good solutions – like with our new freeboard paint, by the way. Our will to persevere, our motivation and our resilience are greatly challenged by this, but also strengthened. Nevertheless: enough is enough.

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