WHEN CHAOS REIGNS
We were replacing two engines. They had to cut two holes in the bottom of the boat, disassemble the engines and pass them out through the openings in the bottom. It was scheduled to take two months. The owners decided to redo the cabins too, so all new carpet, wall coverings and linens were ordered.
At first, work was on schedule, but some parts were late arriving. That meant workers did not have anything to do — some were temporarily laid off, so they quit and went elsewhere. Everyone was falling behind. Tension between the contractors and the captain and engineers was heating up. The owner, who was prone to yelling, was impatient to get the boat in time for the Caribbean season. The engineers were under a ton of pressure to get the work done and start rewiring the boat. And of course, once the engines were installed, the bottom would have to be welded, then painted.
All the contractors for the different projects were falling behind. This was costing them overtime charges trying to get caught up, which was added on to the existing budget for the captain to approve.
The interior was scheduled to be installed that last week of the yard period. With everyone else running late, the interior outfitter also was behind schedule and had to cancel or reschedule other projects to complete this one.
Finally, the owner gave an ultimatum to leave by a certain date. The captain and engineers nearly came to blows arguing over whose fault it was that the job was poorly scheduled and the bid was too low to cover the extra fees.
When we got underway, we had electricians on board trying to complete the wiring, and one of the interior outfitters came with us to finish the installation. So we had five extra workers sleeping in the guest cabins, which would have to be detailed and set up after we arrived at our destination. We only had two days to completely clean and set up the entire boat, launder and iron all the new linens, provision, and complete pre-arrival duties before the owners came aboard. The crew was exhausted before the trip even started.
IT’S OK, TAKE YOUR TIME
I’ve found dealing with a union yard the most difficult. The manning require- ments to do even the smallest of tasks can be exasperating. One of my favorites from a big Florida shipyard was during the fitting of a new outdoor cabinet. There was a fire hydrant standpipe that came up from the deck. On top was a 90-degree pipe bend that was fitted to the standpipe with a four-hole bolted flange. To fit the new cabinet, it was necessary to unbolt the flange, turn it 90 degrees in a different direction, then replace the four bolts, spring washers and nuts. Apparently, this task would require a minimum of two men and cost $850. A deckhand managed to do the job in about 15 minutes.
At another yard it was promised that the treads of an access staircase from the dock would be covered with corflute sheets so that all the dirt, mud and grit didn’t get tracked up onto the boat. Two workers were sent out to tackle this highly technical task. We watched with utter frustration as it took them three hours to cut corflute rectangles and tape half of the 12 steps before knocking off for a long lunch break. The afternoon session to finish the work dragged on until the finish whistle sounded, and they packed up the tape and scissors and headed home. It made us wonder how the other work would get done when it had taken two guys a full day to cover 12 treads.
WAIT — WHY ME?!!
Picture this. The owner has fired the captain and for some reason has put you in charge of an entire refit. Interior, deck, engine room — the works. The contractors are confused: Where is the captain and who the heck is this person? The owner is angry that jobs are not getting done as quickly as anticipated. People are getting fired. This is your first refit. You cry a lot in secret. Who are you? You’re the chief stewardess, and you’re living your worst nightmare.”
I heard a story from a boat I used to work on that was recently sold. The new owner is now replacing all the teak. One of the contractors was walking on the deck and his foot went right through the deck. We had previously had a lot of work done to the boat — basically a whole interior refit, took the hot tub off, etc. Turns out, when the contractors had taken the hot tub off, all they did was put cardboard down. They just literally took cardboard, cut a round circle, put it in and put a little resin on top, then chucked the teak on. It was ridiculous. We had a leak in the salon for years that we could not find. Now I know why.
LAST IN LINE
Find out when in the yard period the galley part will happen, because the galley will be shut down. I had a galley that was refit at the end, and that was horrible. The subcontractor finished off the project at 11 p.m. on the day before the owner arrived. It was a nightmare. There were still metal fragments lying around, and things that needed to be cleaned and sanitized.
We were having all three decks sanded and we did not want the dirt brought inside the boat, so workers had been told to use the public restroom in the yard, which was very close by. One day, doing their usual round of end-of-day checks, the deckhands found that someone had used the top-deck day head, which had all gold fixtures. Even though it had been taped off, with a “Do Not Use” sign on the door, they had defecated in the sink!
HE SAID, SHE SAID
The owner and his girlfriend would visit the boat occasionally to check on progress. Afterwards, the girlfriend would call me up to say she wanted a wall removed, or a door relocated, and a host of other changes that I hadn’t heard about and were not on the spec.
I would call the owner to explain what the new changes were and the cost. Most times he would go ballistic and yell that he didn’t want those changes and not to listen to his girlfriend. Later, she would call me back and ask how the changes were going. I had to explain that the owner didn’t want those changes and they weren’t getting done, which then led to another dressing down as to why I wasn’t following her instructions.
If you don’t have clear specification beforehand and know who’s paying the bills, you might just find yourself the meat in the sandwich.
FISTICUFFS AND COPS
We had our usual trip to the Bahamas coming up, but the guys were running way behind on getting the teak work and swim platform done. The boss was arriving about 5 p.m., so they were really under the gun. About 3:30, they started getting heated on the platform. One of the guys got up and punched another — hit him right off the swim platform, straight into the water. He had to swim to the catamaran behind us to get out. Then someone grabbed a screw- driver and was going to stab the guy.
By the time the boss got there, there were cops in the parking lot. He’s saying, “Oh, I wonder what’s going on here,” and I had to make up some story that there was some crazy person around. Poor planning, high pressure — it was classic.