I discuss the work plans with the yard

I was at the lift yard at 9:01 this morning with all the mast rigging and the vinyl lettering. The office wasn’t open yet so I snapped some pictures of the boat from the parking lot, but couldn’t get any pictures of the mast because of its position in the yard.

Bisous in the yard  as seen from the other side of the fence

The manager arrived shortly after me and we went inside to discuss the work. He wanted first of all to know what I had used previously for bottom paint. The yard guys had asked that question yesterday when I had delivered the mast, and because I didn’t know, I told them I’d look at my records and find out, which I had done and so I was ready with the answer this morning. I told Dave that it was Interlux Micron CSC. He started frowning and seemed all upset, telling me that the paint on my boat was an ablative, and nobody uses an ablative on a boat that’s in the water all the time, because it’s designed to slough off, and that it’s not designed to be sanded off for this reason, and he told me that only do-it-yourself-ers use it. He said that it’s used because all that’s needed is a recoat, no sanding, just a continual recoat of paint.

He explained that because he uses a different type of bottom paint, he’d have to tent the boat to sand it off because this ablative paint would create a dust that would invade everything around it. I was horrified at what he was suggesting, so I asked if he could simply put another coat of ablative on the boat rather than his own preferred paint, and he quickly agreed to do that instead, to my very great surprise. I told him I’d like the same red, and he told me he uses a better quality paint than I now have, the Pettit brand, and I wondered to myself how he gets away with being so insulting to people.

It’s just that I’ve done business with this yard before and this is all such a change from that time. Granted I’d never spent time in this yard because I’d only used it as a lift, a power wash, and later a return trip. But back in 1999 this yard was run by someone else and I was allowed to freely roam it like everyone else.

Anyway, we went on to the next subject, which was putting on the vinyl lettering. I asked him if I could have the graphics guy come in and do that since he wouldn’t let me do it myself. He said he’d have to charge a contractor fee of $45 an hour for any outside person to come in and do any work on my boat. Horrified again. He told me he was a full-service yard and his workers could do anything necessary, so I asked him if he could have his workers put it on in that case, and he agreed to have them do that. He told me that Bryan, his premier guy, was superb, considered an artist, and would take care of it.

Ok, next subject: the head valve that needed to be turned. I told him that although I had originally thought I would do that myself, and since he wanted to charge extra to have an outsider come in and do it, could his people take care of that as well? He agreed to have Bryan take care of it, and that I would actually be allowed into the yard to show Bryan what I needed done. Some concession there.

Next, the paperwork. I looked at his typed estimate. It all looked like the original estimates he had given me over the phone except for the mast stepping. He had it down for $95 an hour instead of the $85 an hour he had quoted to me back in May. I pointed this out and he insisted that was what he had told me, so I didn’t fight it. He didn’t offer any kind of break for not having to sand my boat and I didn’t bring it up. He told me he’d let me know of the additional charges for the lettering and thru-hull and I made all the financial arrangements with him, then went down to the yard with my cart full of rigging.

Bryan met me down in the yard and we discussed the mast and what I had done. He thought he wouldn’t have any trouble with it at all and I left the cart alongside the mast. Then we went over to the boat so that I could discuss the lettering and the thru-hull. He found a ladder that just barely made it to the top of the toerail and we went up. I showed him the plumbing and I think he understood what I was trying to do, but I felt uncomfortable because it’s so hard to know if someone who’s never seen your boat before understands where you’re going with this.

I leave her in their hands

I leave her in their hands

In any case it’s out of my hands at this point and I’ll just have to hope for the best. Portland is becoming such a weird town for sailors.


  1. wow this guy sounds like a real jerk, i don’t blame you i wouldn’t use his yard again either

  2. That’s funny. I don’t know if I’d call him a jerk. I’m sure he’s doing this for a reason. There are certainly other places I can go. And, I found out today when I talked to Rob that he let Rob into the yard to take a look at my boat and their progress. Rob said he talked to this guy about what I’ve done and what I’m working on. That was encouraging. But yeah, I’m not going to use this yard again.

  3. Unfortunately, yards can get away with this sort of treatment now because the boating business is “hot”, with large amounts of business on all fronts–and particularly with higher-end clients with no interest in doing work themselves anyway. Frankly, they probably couldn’t care less whether you end up returning or not. They are looking to eke as much from you–and each customer–as they can now, for the quick payoff rather than looking to build a quality long-term relationship that might prove mutually beneficial in the end.

    But boating is an activity that could drop of drastically if whatever part of the economy that is driving the boating surge now should change. In my opinion, yards that take this sort of stance could find themselves in trouble should that happen. It seems that so many businesses now don’t care about customer service. It’s all about cash, and I hate this about society today. Your yard is symptomatic of a far larger problem, unfortunately.

    Remember that this is your boat, and only you can properly ensure that she is cared for according to your specifications. INSIST on being able to see her, check out the work, and specify how things should be done. The yard works for you! You must be able to watch out for your interests.

    I don’t know what this guy is talking about with the paint. Ablative paints are mult-season when you apply several coats, and are widely used by professionals and DIYers. The beauty of the product is that it does not require sanding; the paint does not build up! Indeed, the paint wears away over time, continually exposing new antifoulant. The best way to approach an ablative paint job on a boat that stays in the water year-round is to apply 3 coats, the first being a different color as a “signal coat” so that when you begin to observe the different color showing through, you know it is time to recoat. Both Pettit and Interlux make high quality paint, and only a misinformed person would say that Micron CSC is somehow inferior. It may be a matter of opinion which brand one prefers, but they are essentially equal in quality. (But maybe not in profit margin for the yard…)

    Bottom painting is a cash cow for boatyards. They hire flunkies at $8.00/hour to slap paint on, often use cheap paint, and charge premium prices for this service, often justifying the high cost under some “environmental” sticker. Profit margins are extremely high on bottom painting jobs. This is my guess as to the reason for the manager’s stance on the issue.

    This fellow is either horribly misinformed, or a thinly veiled crook. Either way, this yard does not deserve your business. It sounds like a territorial, unfriendly yard that is overly defensive as to its motives, business practice, and reasoning, and is far more interested in taking as much money from you as possible.

    I am angry on your behalf! Sorry you have to be hauled at such an unpleasant place. I can’t even believe that it seems as if they somehow feel like they’re doing you a great favor by letting you, or someone associated with you, into the yard to see your boat. I have never heard of such a thing.

    I hope it turns out OK in the end. I would have only the minimum work done while the boat is in the yard–only those things that must be done with the boat out of the water (now that she’s already out), and hightail it away from there as soon as humanly possible. Yikes. I fear this may be an expensive lesson learned, but I sincerely hope that it costs only money and that at least you get the quality work that you expect.

    Good luck!

  4. By the way: the boat looks great, and it’s quite clear to me how well your Interlux ablative paint has held up since the boat was painted last.

  5. Thanks for these insights, Tim. I was really feeling horrible about all of this. I’m sure you’re right, but its a cruel reality. Still, it’s a good lesson for me, all things considered. I won’t let this happen again.

    Rob, my shipwright friend, is going to keep an eye on her because I’ll be out of town for the next 10 weeks. He is particularly obsessive about her safety since he painted the hull so painstakingly. He and I have not always seen eye to eye, but I realize now that he’s a great ally and worth more than his weight in gold.

    She’s only in the yard for bottom paint and mast rigging and stepping. Rob will motor her back to her slip as soon as this is completed, probably by the end of next week.

    Meanwhile I’m reading up on bottom paint and what you say is absolutely right. Practical Sailor also says nothing at all about the merits of one over the other, and it all comes down to personal choice. I appreciate your feedback more than you know.

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