Monday, March 30, 2009

Dissing Navico, Changes

Noticing water in the control head of our 25 year old Danahelm autopilot in Annapolis we very responsibly decided to replace the system electronics. How long could controls last once water got in, we reasoned.

A bit of research and price shopping and we bought a brand new Northstar AP380 autopilot system. In November we spent a week installing it.

Then we went home for a month.

Returning in January the system had a hickup or two but seemed ok. The autopilot carried Meredith across the Gulf Stream and into West End, Bahamas and then... it died.

Total death. No function at all. This was January 23, 2009. We had used it about 20 hours total.

The cpu burned out 20 amp fuses (the specified amperage) as fast as I could replace them. Used all 10 spares I had as I removed each input in sequence trying to isolate the problem.

A dealer in Marsh Harbour looked at the system and informed us the drive transistors were shot and that it was a manufacturing defect. He returned it to Northstar for warranty repair or replacement. That was February 26, 2009.

As of today, March 30, 2009 our autopilot is still not returned to us. Northstar tells us they repaired it but they cannot find out what they did with it after that.

They also do not care. We have now spoken to two customer service reps in two days both of whom have told us they will call back in a "few" minutes after they "check" something.

Northstar is owned by Navico. Navico is a company that does not actually make anything. It buys companies that make things.

There is a business model that suggests a lot of profit can be made by buying companies with areputation for quality and then substituting schlock. Such companies then shut down the customer service department and pocket all the revenue. When reality catches up to them the company just buys another "quality" cash cow.

Could it be Navico's business plan: Sell a brand to people which has a reputation for quality while substituting schlock?

Here are the brands this Navico outfit has bought so far: Northstar, Navman, Simrad Robertson, B & G, Lowrance, LEI. I would not buy any of them based on our experience with Navico to date.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Down Not Out in Stuart and Vero

Meredith in Motion: Ten Thousand Miles (Nautical) Under the Keel
since 2004.

What to Do when in Vero?

Watch the airplanes come in to the fuel docks:

The Vero Beach Marina is a FULL SERVICE marina apparently. Connie was sitting in the cockpit reading last Sunday when this float equipped Maule landed on the waterway and taxied up to the gas dock.

Having filled the tanks the Maule lost no time scooting back onto the waterway and resuming flight home.

Earlier in the week Meredith experienced "Hurricane Randy": a visit from Randy Chamberlain from Toronto who with his partner Donna Querenguesser purchased a new to them Bertram 30 sportfisher at a brokerage in Stuart, FL. Randy is now madly outfitting the vessel with all the essentials: airconditioning, latte machine, 19" LCD TV, Stereo.

We asked Randy why he wanted the daunting Tuna Tower on his new boat, Randy not being much of a fisherman and all.

Randy who bought the boat to film episodes of his Sail TV series explained that a Tuna Tower was ideal for filming entries into harbours and for giving the "big picture" to his viewers.

That and it makes a great penis substitute I suppose.

Randy and Donna now embark on a taxpayer financed tour of the US Eastern Seaboard while filming for their new show.

(Actually it is very hard work - we have seen them in action - and when Donna gets here on Wednesday the work starts in earnest).

Republican Dave and His "Gay" Dinghy

The Character of the Week aboard Meredith is Republican Dave, a single hander aboard Carina Mara which he says means Big Hooters. We are not so sure.

Dave figures when the US needs oil they will just send the marines into Canada and take it. "What are You faggots Going Do? Try and Stop Us?" he cackles.

We got Dave cranked up at the weekly potluck and damn near needed the Referee to break it up before it turned physical. You can tell from the photo that Dave and Bob are well matched. Being guys we then had a beer and laughed like hell.

When I took his picture this morning for the blog he says "Sure, and now you will describe me as a Republican Ass*(O(e?" "No" I replied, "I hate repeating myself".

Sickness has stalked the decks of Meredith for the last week. Most people will be familiar with Asian Chicken Flu, well we have been attacked by the Barrie Lepidopterus Virus (rabbit flu). It laid us both flat as the keelstrake.

No onehas left the deck of Meredith for 4 days save for essential functions.

Everyone seems to be coming out of it now and we hope to be off to Miami as soon as possible. After that we are not sure.

The autopilot due in 4 weeks was, we thought, overdue. However on checking with the Bahamian dealer we found they did not actually ship it when they said they did and so the manufacturer is still within its stated time limits.

Gotta love that Bahamian business culture.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to Identify a Blessing

Written at Vero Beach, FL
N 27 38 59
80 25 11 W

This blog prompted by emails from friends on two points:

  1. Too bad you are stuck in Vero Beach waiting for parts,
  2. We are facing job changes/job loss/career move back at home.

The crew of Meredith finds itself sailing only as the result of a series of "disasters" none of which, obviously, was a disaster at all. It just took some time to recognize our good fortune.

This is not some treacly dripping in honey kill the writer he's so damn nice, Christian exercise in "isn't the world such a wonderful place" article. Read on if you will.

Disaster No. 1: We lost our boat.

Our first boat, Quidam, was our pride and joy. The first season we owned her we took her to the North Channel as early in the year as we could.

First day out we wrecked her on the rocks: tore the rudder off, put great huge gouges in the keel, scraped her beautiful paint.

Our season was over. Connie sat beside Meredith's broken hull and cried. I would have but I am a man and men don't do that.

Upside: We had the boat repaired by Hadyn Gozzard and Ed Presczator. These guys were amazing. We found shipwrights of distinction.

When we found Meredith she was derelict.

Hadyn came to Toronto with us to inspect the hull and with the confidence we had in him and Ed we quickly closed a deal to purchase what is our dream boat.

There is no prettier nor more seaworthy hull afloat. If we had not lost Quidam we would never have found Meredith.

Disaster No. 2: Being Pushed Out of Business

For several years before we left to cruise we had invested time and a lot of money in a closely held business, the idea being that we would gradually take over the operation of that business.

By the time we went cruising it had become very apparent to us that the promised turnover of authority would never happen.

On one view it seemed we had wasted a lot of money (a LOT of money) and a LOT of time on a failed venture.

Coming to the understanding that we would never be in charge we chose to take a different path. We went cruising.

Upside: Had the business plan developed as hoped we would now be chained to our desks sweating the details on a lot of precarious business deals.

Disaster No 3: Losing our RRSP to a Shyster

When we set off cruising in 2004 we invested most of our loose cash in an RRSP which offered a modest return but guaranteed the principal.

Then, this little rat bastard shyster from Toronto by the name of Boaz Manor, stole the money and ran away to hide in Israel. (We were not alone in our misery: Manulife had $350 million invested with this piece of garbage)..

When the bankruptcy was over and the blood sucking accountants finished pursuing Manor and other assets the investors were paid out, on February 27, 2009 about 95% of the original investment.

What could be the Upside about losing 5% of our money after 5 years investment?

If we had not had our money in the ill fated Portus Asset Management we would have had it invested in the stock market. Where in God's name would we be now? Broke, that is where.

So guys:

  1. We do not consider disasters to be disasters for at least 5 years. There is insufficient data.
  2. Even the bleakest outcome may prove to be a blessing. You just had the wrong perspective.
Waiting in Vero Beach for parts really isn't a hardship. We have met a lot of really nice cruisers and have arranged get togethers up and down the eastern seaboard.

It works for us.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remarkable Events

The Tail from the Space Shuttle Launch -
One of the Remarkable Events Celebrated aboard
Meredith last evening
Look carefully to the right of the tail - you can see
a small pinpoint of light, the shuttle on its way.

The breeze was up a bit, just enough to slowly erode the oppressive heavy heat of the day. We had spent the afternoon strolling about the local "Art in the Park" and enjoying long slow talks with our children. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

The evening improved. Knowing there was a shuttle launch scheduled we invited friends Benoit and Andree from Douce Folie V to dinner and the show. Sam's Club provided some 2 inch thick steaks and the intention was that they would form dinner almost on their own.

Ben and Andree arrived with a couple bottles of wine and some additions to the appetizers and our evening began.

In addition to the shuttle launch we were all in a celebrating mood. After months of crossing each other's path as we each made our way down the waterway we had taken separate routes on arriving in Florida. We were happy to have a reunion.

So too were Ben and Andree for they brought with them a bottle of champaigne to celebrate. And not just any bottle of champaigne but a bottle corked at the Perceval winery in the champaige district of France - Perceval being the family name of Ben's brother in law. The Brother in Law had made the wine. Fantastic.

We discovered that Andree had retired effective January 2009 and had received her first pension cheque. This called for a whole new celebration and we brought out our last bottle of Veuve Cliquot which we had had chilling in anticipation of an excuse to be opened. Meredith was enjoying a recent business success and all parties were ready. To party of course.

Our evening began with champers, Asiago and Blue cheese, Greek Peppers, Calamata olives from Andree. We sat in animated conversation - the only kind of conversation one can have with Ben. Discussion with Ben is like an evening at the symphony - the players are ideas and he conducts and coordinates the intensity and timing of their flow with exquisite precision.

He is the only man I have met who has more opinions than Bob.

About an hour prelaunch a crowd of shuttle watchers began to build on the bridge in front of Meredith. By launch time the bridge, at least half to 3/4 of a mile in span, was packed with keen observers.

The line of onlookers (little bumps)
is just visible along the bridge

All at once the crowd began to cheer. Being 80 feet higher than Meredith the bridgewatchers could see the launch in the darkening sky nearly a minute before we could.

The launch was nothing short of majestic. A long tail of flame as the propellant burned, or exploded I guess, to move the incredible mass of a shuttle, first from the surface of planet earth and then, more significantly, from the gravity well our home represents. One physicist, watching an earlier launch, commented that NASA was burning a 1,000 dinosaurs a sec ond to effect the mission.

We watched the slow steady progress of the launch vehicle making its way eastward towards the dawn sky. How slowly it moved through the sky from our perspective.

When the first stage of the rocket separated we caught a photo of the tail, which you saw above. After 20 minutes the shuttle was long out of sight but its tail was still visible, reflecting light from the dieing sun declining in the west.

When sailing there are many ways to enjoy a perfect evening. None are planned, they just happen.

All you need are the right people.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pictures from Allen Cay and a Few BIG BOATS Just for Randy

Godzilla Revisited

Maestro Nick Conducts the Allen Cay Orchestra in a Lunch Time Performance
He is not lunch

For their week in Paradise we decided Nick and Linds would like to visit Allen Cay in the Exuma chain of islands. Allen Cay is famous for its iguanas, the Allen Iguana, found only on Allen Cay.

Arriving in Nassau on Monday afternoon Nick and Linds rested on Tuesday. The weather was down anyway so we rested on Wednesday too.

On Thursday conditions were forecast to improve so off we went. Conditiions did not improve. Poor Nick and Linds suffered 3 hours of 25 kn wind tight off the bow and 8 foot waves right on the beam. Two sick kids. This was solved on arrival:

Allen Cay on Approach

Next day we started two of the best days we have had since we left Ontario. Allen Cay is famous as the home of the Allen Iguana, largest land mammal in the Bahamas and protected under Bahamian law. What is the big deal you ask?

The Reeve of South West Allen Cay extends
a welcome to the Crew of Meredith

Not much more need be said. You can figure things out:

Actually I am growing a bit irritated with the blogsite editing and will put the photos in a separate blog. Have a good one.