Owner’s View: Great contractors, like great crew, are the ones you can count on

Aug 28, 2017 by Peter Herm

Owner’s View: by Peter Herm

My 2004 Suburban has 184,000 miles and was last washed in 2006. When it breaks, it gets fixed; otherwise, it gets used daily. I have a different view of the maintenance of my crewed boat — now boats. We plan our cruising around the required maintenance. If you want reliability, you have to do preventative maintenance. Not a surprise. Next month’s column will be about preparation for our upcoming Lloyds survey. Greece anyone?

But first, thanks to all those who actually read my last column and to those who submitted some insanely over-qualified resumés. I really want the guy who is a helicopter pilot and who has driven a lot of 200-plus-foot boats, but I think he is out of my budget. And yes, I am writing this from the aft deck of the boat while texting, but not working or driving.

A heartwarming boat contractor story: Last week I was cruising down Las Olas at 0630 on my fine Chinese scooter and it died. I pulled it up on the sidewalk and was completely befuddled as to what to do next. I was not about to push it back to the office and was sure that Fort  Lauderdale’s finest men in blue would not take kindly to a random dead scooter left in the middle of their high-dollar shopping district.

So, of course, I texted Lucy, the omniscient publisher of this fine publication. She suggested I call the folks at Yachty Rentals. And what followed is exactly how contractors for yacht maintenance and repairs should handle their client interactions.

My outbound call, 0700: “Help! My scooter is stuck on Las Olas, dead.” Yachty Rentals:  “We will have it picked up within the hour and fix it.”

Yachty Rentals scooters

Inbound phone call, same day, 1130: “You had crap in your carb. We fixed it, changed the transmission oil and washed it. It is ready to pick up or we can deliver it to you.”

Total cost: $102. I was ready for the pick-up fee alone to be $100! Note: This was my scooter, not a rental.

So what was my reaction to this? Amazement and shock. Someone did exactly what they said they would do — and more! And they charged me a fair price. I find this a rarity in the boat maintenance/repair business.

In the previous weeks I have been dealing with the survey, sea trial, haul out and general mental preparation for the new boat. “New” being, of course, a relative term for a boat that basically has been unused for a half decade and needs lots of love and attention.

I needed a Caterpillar guru who, for some reason, would not return my calls. Next guru, please. The survey haul out reminded me of why I love my crew in Europe. When I surveyed the Euroboat, the crew (all of them) were scraping off the slime and barnacles before the yard’s pressure washer could even start up. The U.S. experience was a different story.

Crew Tip: A great way to keep a job with a new owner and/or get a good reference is to help the selling process.

But the moral of this story is that great contractors are the ones you can count on, and great crews think and work even during the sale process. Crews may be out of a job upon sale, but word travels in this small industry, both good and bad.

The great contractors in this industry get rich for a reason: They do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. None of this comes cheaply in the yachting capital of the world, but those who execute as promised earn it honestly, only because it is so rare.

Bow west and high tide only!

Peter Herm is the pen name for a veteran yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. Comments are welcome below.