January 2008

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plonk & meh

Last Saturday morning, I rounded up some helpers, and put the engine in the boat. I was running the crane, unable to really see what was going on, but everything came together well enough, with only minor cockpit damage.

Saturday afternoon, I hitched a ride over to Norman Island to spend the rest of the weekend with friends on their boat. It was a nice time, with much-needed socializing, and a great hike along the ridge of the island. All the while, however, I was consumed with guilt over not being back at the yard, either working on my boat, or working for money. Besides the deep and dreadful amount of cynicism I’m exuding lately, now on top of it comes this wacky belated guilty work-ethic.

So… there I am, surrounded by some of the best friends I’ve met here, and loathing it, loathing myself, completely unable to really relax. I’m poor company when I’m this pensive, I know…

At any rate, Monday morning saw me headed back into the harbour, and by that evening I’d scored a victory in Round One of The Battle with my Engine Mounts.
Anyways, the engine is in, and bit by bit (read: stolen moment by stolen moment in between “real” work) I’m getting the engine coarsely aligned. Of course, along with any sense of progress must come an equal and opposite disaster; this IS the islands, after all: my engine heat exchanger has been discovered to be blown out, necessitating an expensive replacement (50% of what I paid for the whole engine in the first place)…

Overall, I feel like I’m making real significant daily forward progress… but at what cost to my soul?


Last weekend, I installed the new diesel tank, plumbed up a bunch of fuel fittings, and finally installed the new permanent cockpit scupper hoses and seacocks. Yesterday, working late outside under lights, I wired up the engine harness and mounted the alternator. Today at lunch I filled, primed, and tested my “filter farm”: the rack of multiple diesel/water separators, fuel filters, and pumps.

And just this evening, right before the sunset, I fired the engine up! First time running in years now… It took some cranking, until I tracked down the loose connection in the glow-plug circuit, then Vroom! it was putt-putting along.

I’m going to re-work the oil-dipstick tube for better clearance along the engine beds, then I’ll be set to install the engine this weekend. Maybe even sometime this week!

Just another brief update on the boat progress. In the last week and a half, I’ve gotten over a couple hurdles. The first was finally getting my new Maretron N2K DST800 transducer delivered and installed.

The second is that I finally have a new diesel tank! Yup, I bought a sheet of aluminum plate, cut out all the pieces, and had my welder-on-call Leo zap the works together this past Saturday. I’ve spent yesterday and today priming and painting the raw tank, as well as fitting all the bits; vents, fillers, returns, drains, draws, etc.

I’ve never had a brand-new fuel tank on any project vehicle of mine, ever. I’m really excited about this one, and am taking a bit of time to get all the details right. Next, I’ll bond hard neoprene chafing strips to all the tank contact areas before finally sliding the beauty into place. All this joy for, gee, only $700 or so… the aluminum was only $350, but the bill for the welding was yet to arrive…

Today my transducer finally arrived from Jack Rabbit. They’d come recommended by other folks on some marine electronics forums I read, and their website is really excellent. The fellow I first talked to there was great; friendly, patient, knowledgeable, and very helpful. I placed my order with confidence, and waited for the FedEx truck to come bearing my parts.

A week passed, and nothing. No email confirming my order, no call, and certainly no FedEx truck. I phoned them up, and was passed through a few folks (none the person I had first spoken too), and gained no satisfaction. I called again a day later, and finally got the message that my part had been back-ordered from the manufacturer, and that I’d get a confirmation email after they had it, and had shipped it to me.
I remained patient; after all, this was in the last pre-Christmas weeks, so everything was bound to be a little slow.

The box finally shipped on the 27th, and I received the promised email with FedEx tracking number. For the flat-rate shipping, I wasn’t expecting the same crazy 24-hr shipping I’d gotten (and certainly paid for!) from Torresen Marine, but the package still managed to show up today instead of the scheduled morrow.
I got the box, unwrapped it, and with a glance at the packing slip, was undone. Instead of the Airmar DST800 NMEA 2000 unit, they’d shipped a physically-identical (but internally different) Airmar DST800 NMEA018 unit.

I was crushed. Immediately cranky. Frankly, just plain pissed off. I tried to stay calm, clocked off work, and tried to eat a little lunch. I couldn’t calm down! Awhile later, I steeled myself as best I could, and called Jack Rabbit to request a return authorization.
Blessedly, I was quickly passed up the line to the fellow who I had initially spoken too. I explained the situation a little, but he quickly saw to the end of it all, recognizing his own handwriting on the notes attached to my initial order. Right there: Maretron/Airmar N2K triducer, just as we had discussed at some length.

Working both sides of the counter, I have found that excellence in customer service is confirmed not by the initial transaction; that is the province of mere clerks. True excellence shows when it all goes to shit, and satisfaction must still somehow be found.
Well, I got my satisfaction. Not only did he admit the error to be entirely his own, but offered to pay all the shipping to get it sorted, and asked that I keep the parts I had (the transducer is not what I need, but the mounting kit is useful) and delay returning the transducer I had, until I had everything I needed for the install, to my satisfaction.
My good spirits returned. This was all much more than I would have asked for; in fact, the exact level of service that guarantees repeat customers.

I’ll be happier still when the next box arrives, hopefully containing the exact parts I require. I need about $1500 worth of further basic electronics, and Jack Rabbit will likely get my business.

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