Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to work.. Unstepping the Mast

[Kyle]I spent another week in the frozen northeast USA (at work) and was relieved to come home to St Maarten for a day, even though I knew that it was to have work done on the boat. We had made arrangements with FKG Rigging to do the remaining work on the mast and rigging after our little Atlantic incident. Maryanne (in her way), as soon as we’d arrived in St Martin, visited FKG and followed up with a detailed email explaining the work required, part numbers and everything. We needed the mast unstepped (removed) so we had to be at the dock with access to a crane.

We’d arranged for the work so far in advance as this seemed the best use of a single day at home for me; I would not be able to do much else with a single day and this way I could prep/watch/learn/help with the process. FKG assured Maryanne (dismissively) that it would be a day job, and they’d reserve the crane so it would be ready. As often happens with boat yards (I recall Portsmouth Boating Center!), we’ve had many instances in which we’ve shown up for work at an agreed time and were told they were busy that day, try again later! With this in mind, Maryanne sent a confirmation email (not-acknowledged), and visited them the week and the day before the agreed work. All to ensure no problems on the day.

We arrived on the dock just before they opened for the day, giving us time to remove the boom and slacken off the stays that hold up the mast (we did as much work as we could ourselves to save time and $$s). Eventually the main guy came to see us and said – “No rush, the crane won’t be here until 1:30pm”. Maryanne asked if they’d seen the list and is there anything else they need to know (she was waved off, “yeah, I just read it all, I’m up to speed”). This made it definitely tight to do all the work in the time available. So, stuck at the dock in wait mode, we checked out some local stores and purchased paint (for the following week's jobs) and a nifty new cockpit table.

First Meal at our new fold up table (with our French Wine!) - Perfect for the cockpit

The crane did arrive after lunch, and our fist real sign that the job would now take more than a day, was the fact that the crane left right after they’d removed the mast (not day rental after all, but hourly rental we assume?). Immediately, this changed the job to a two day job (AND they are charging us dockage by the day!). Worse, it would mean that, yet again, Maryanne would have to manage the work (and get the boat back to the anchorage) while I returned to work. Once the mast was down, I spent much of the afternoon trying to pre-do as much as I could of the work required on the mast (again to speed things up and keep the bill down). At this point, we realized that the new tang (the part that links the mast to the forestay, which stops the mast from falling backwards) was completely different from the old one (was this wrong? Or have they deliberately changed this? – either way it no longer fit in the hole). We pointed this out to our assigned rigger, but he did not seem overly concerned, he said he may have the correct part, or would be able to fabricate it, he’d make something work, not to worry!

Over the course of the afternoon, my treatment from the staff moved from grudging acceptance to rude “get the message - leave me alone” grunts.

Once they’d closed for the day with our mast now locked behind a chain linked fence, we decided to take advantage of Lagoonies bar – just staggering distance from our dock. As luck would have it, Tuesday was “happy day” $1 beers all evening. We met a really nice couple visiting from Boston who’d been to many of the same places we had. It was a pleasant evening enjoying good company. Just as I was thinking “enough”, we were bought a round, and this went on for far too long, far beyond my limit I suffered. The real cap to the evening came after we returned to the boat and collapsed into bed. The mega-yacht beside us (which must remain air conditioned at all times, just in case the owner shows up) ran its generator all night long (it is generally considered impolite to use a generator at a dock, where mains electricity is available to provide the same role much more quietly, and cleanly). We were lucky enough to receive the generator exhaust directly in our bedroom hatch (and later discovered black persistent soot marks all over the water/splash line of our boat). The combination of the alcohol and the exhaust gave me a splitting headache in the morning, which did not make me happy about the 2 mile walk to the airport.

I was still home on the boat when FKG opened. We found them even less friendly. We felt like a definite nuisance and did not feel welcome. By the time I set off for work around Mid-day, it seemed apparent that we would still not have the mast re-stepped that day; I left Maryanne to manage alone.

[Maryanne]Once Kyle left for work, I decided to make the most of being at a dock with ready access to fresh water and set to scrubbing the decks and cleaning up our boat. I did the whole boat, with the back steps the last to be cleaned. I stepped down to the 4th step to enable me to clean the upper steps without bending, the only problem is we only have 3 steps – SPLASH! I took a swim. Nobody noticed, I climbed out, back aboard Footprint, and figured I’d finish off the cleaning and then get myself some fresh clothes and a shower. At this point, our rigger arrived to tell us that there was a problem with our foil (metal sleeve that fits over the forestay wire. It has a groove to accept the fore sail and a roller furler drum at the bottom that allows the sail to roll up / wrap around the sail), it was not put together correctly and was all messed up (he was convinced from original build) and needed some extra parts (which, luckily he had) – much of the repairs we’d scheduled were most likely a result of this build error and not our incident at sea, he explained. I was frustrated, but at least relieved there would be no delay in waiting for more parts. At this point, I made an effort to contact Selden (Makers of the roller furler and foil) and PCI (manufacturers of the boat) to try and understand the tang issue and now the new furler issue. What did we need to do? Was there really a problem? Of course by then it was late, FKG closed and I didn’t expect answers from my emails to Selden and PCI that day either.

While walking along the dock later, I managed to trip over some rigging that had been left stretched across the path (about 3” above the ground) – I managed an impressive dive, landing first on my knees, then my hands, and then my face – Ouch! Witnesses this time, but as is the way, I was more embarrassed than wanting to share my injuries.

It was a pretty depressing evening for me, but that evening I did get an email back from Selden, explaining the tang was a factory approved replacement for our old tang (so it was correct, and we should go ahead and install it), and explaining some (undocumented) difference in the build of the furler specifically for PCI (so maybe it was built correctly??). The next morning (now our 3rd day at the dock) I printed and took the email to our rigger. He looked at it, dismissed it and told me he was doing things the right way. I felt terribly conflicted? Work was going ahead on our furler and I wasn’t sure if it was correct work, nor if it could be undone if it wasn’t. I could not get an internet signal good enough for a phone call, I didn’t know where to turn for help and advice. About this time Kyle called me, he had a short break between flights and he agreed to call PCI and get better details of the special PCI difference. He spoke with the guy who assembles the roller furlers at PCI (he was extra friendly and helpful) and Kyle was assured that the “special PCI difference” was just an internal core extension down into the drum to stop any rattling. It would not affect safety or performance at all – apart from that minor modification, the Selden handbook build was correct. We decided to leave the rigger to do his thing and put up with any rattle we may be left with.

Later that day, the mast was ready to be returned to the boat. The crane arrived and a host of riggers descended on Footprint. I popped out to offer help (ignored), and offered the lead guy the rigging tension chart for the boat – he waved me away; he did not want to see it. I hoped that meant he knew what he was doing. I watched the work while feeling very unwanted on my own boat, and noticed them not placing the back stays correctly – I intercepted and managed to get them to route it properly (while taking a rash of sh*t, since the guy was sat on the step and getting a wet arse while he corrected the problem). Eventually, the work was done (nobody told me that, they just disappeared and left me to surmise it – with a nice dirty deck now!). I sought out the bill and asked for help to walk my boat away from the crane. Eventually I got the bill – GULP!!!! We had deliberately delayed this final work until we reached St Maarten under the expectation it would be cheaper; that certainly was not the case! It was my fault for not getting a quote from the start. What I did know is that we’d spent 3 days at the dock for work that should have taken a day, and it could have been done in a day if they had only ordered the crane for first thing (as initially agreed) – I asked them to remove one day’s dockage from the bill – they refused “non-negotiable”) – for an $1700+ bill, they wanted to quibble over $20. I did not leave in any way a fan of FKG. I still had to reconnect all the electrics, and the boom.

[Kyle]I arrived home, of course irritated at FKG for both their attitude and their price. The first job was to check over the rig, and specifically the tensioning (Maryanne had warned me it seemed very tight). To their credit, the mast was very straight (no bends or S-turns). However, it was leaning slightly to one side and so tight I’m surprised it didn’t crush the cabin top. It was so tight that they had bottomed out the screws on the check stays (they could not have got it tighter if they tried). I spent the rest of the day loosening and correctly tensioning the rigging to specification – fuming at FKG even more. Now the mast is straight, pointed upright and tensioned correctly – no thanks to FKG.

Jumping ahead a few days later, we were at the cruisers sun-downer and mentioned we’d had work done at FKG; we got a knowing look of sympathy from everyone. We even met with one guy that once worked there who said their poor treatment of cruisers has been a real problem for a while and while he felt for us. He said the treatment we received and the price we paid was not at all unusual for FKG. He explained they favor mega-yachts (with mega-budgets) whose captains want it fixed before the owner arrives, no matter the cost. Cruisers like us who remove all the rigging tape and split pins to save an hour of shop labor are not their core business, and they don’t care. This seems to be policy more and more in the boat world, small spenders are an irritant, not worthy of their service/effort. I wonder if this will change with the poor economy? Lesson learned!

[Maryanne]Just in case you didn't get our very subtle message, we DO NOT recommend FKG.

1 comment:

kate said...

in my opinion it is very, very clear exactly what FKG stands for! sorry you had such a poor experience.