The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has instituted a program for training and certifying marine technicians. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has instituted a program for certifying boat dealers.
All of which points up and underscores a growing problem in the marine industry: The lack of knowledge and skill demonstrated by a huge number of dealer and boat yard service personnel. And you got to know that when an industry association acknowledges and undertakes to solve a problem, the problem has got to be big.
And big it is. Just how big is underscored almost every day in our daily work of surveying boats. There just seems no end of foolish mistakes made in the installation of hardware and equipment by both dealers and manufacturers. This article concentrates on those made by dealers.
I saw a stunning example not long ago when I witnessed two men attempting to install a T-top on a new boat. The legs didn't fit right, so they each had in hand an 8 lb. hammer that they were applying to the anodized aluminum legs of the top in order to force them into place. Probably more notable than the level of ignorance being displayed was the fact that the two men were third world immigrants, Haiti to be specific, which suggested to me that this dealer had sought out the cheapest possible labor he could find.
A greater level of incompetence you couldn't find, but there they were bashing the hell out of an $8,000 top with hammers. All this to ensure the maximum profit levels to the dealer. This is perhaps an extreme example, but judging by what I see so frequently, it's not far off the mark for the level of competence that has become the norm.
Some typical examples:
- Dealer installs a windlass on a cored deck without suitable backing plates and protection against water getting into the core.
- Dealer installs anchor pulpit and roller that is not matched to anchor.
- Dealer installs top or tower on boat structure that was not designed to support it.
- Non submersible pumps installed deep in the bilge where they get wet and damaged.
- Careless and incompetent wiring. Wire connections installed in wet locations. Equipment wired with hidden or inaccessible inline fuses. Undersized wiring. Sloppy, unsecured wiring. Improper wire connections.
- Careless drilling of holes in cored structures. Hardware installed without bedding.
- Screws and bolts installed in plywood cored transoms without bedding.
- And, horror of horrors, through hull fittings installed through cored bottoms and hull sides.
- Substandard plumbing installations with substandard materials.
- Trim tabs installed with screws, no bedding and no bonding.
- Outboard motor controls installed by making hull entry holes below level of motor wells.
- Electrical equipment installed in locations where it will get wet.
In several cases I found a boat that had six empty fuse holders on an electric panel, with five pieces of electrical equipment installed with hidden inline fuses, all because the installer was too lazy (or wanted to save labor time) to properly wire the devices into the panel.
This list could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point. The level of dealer service personnel competence is going from bad to worse. The most troublesome aspect of this is that novice boat buyers are generally themselves ignorant of proper standards, and so aren't aware of this. Virtually all of the conditions listed above will result in future problems such as equipment failures, and in worst case scenarios, serious damage to boat structures.
Very often, improperly installed hardware causes core damage to structures, the source of which is never identified until it is too late. Normally, the damage is discovered by a surveyor at the time the boat is being sold, and the warranty has long expired. Thus, the owner gets stuck with the cost to remedy the problem.
At the risk of sounding like I'm just trying to create more business for surveyors, I'm urging all new boat buyers to have their new boat purchases checked out before you take delivery. I can guarantee that you save the cost of the surveyor's fee many times over by getting potential problems nipped in the bud.
In fact, it would be even better to consult a surveyor before you have the installations made. It's a lot easier to get it done right the first time, than it is to attempt to correct a faulty installation. Moreover, you won't encounter resistance from the dealer about correcting problems if you can get him to agree to do it right in the first place. Then the dealer won't have a problem and you won't have a problem, and you can go have fun in the sun instead of wasting your time haggling with a dealer or fixing his mistakes.
It just makes good sense, doesn't it?