Boat Builder Blues – Part 2

The 2000 season was a major turning point that finally brought these recurring rattle problems to a head. I had discovered a hairline crack in the transom (the stern end of the boat) the prior summer, and had closed it off with marine sealant. The crack was just beneath the bottom of the outboard support pod, but I had not considered the possibility that the crack might extend past the bottom of the pod, from where it could allow any water inside the pod to drain into the boat’s bilge.

During the third run of the year on May 14, new rattles beneath the forward part of the cabin developed suddenly and alarmed my passengers. I phoned Thomas the next day and arranged for what would be his FOURTH attempt to fix this ongoing problem. That was especially frustrating, since the repairs the prior August were supposed to have fixed the rattles once-and-for-all. Now there were these new rattles coming from beneath yet a different area below the cabin deck.

I had two water taxi runs the next day. I left a message on Thomas’ answering machine about this latest problem before I left that morning. When I returned later that afternoon, Thomas had not returned my call. I then left a message on his answering machine informing him I would be bringing my boat to his shop in Palmer the next day, and I expected him to not delay fixing the problem.

I was able to finally tow the boat to Palmer for Thomas’ forth attempt at repairs on May 16. Thomas first tried to get me to sign a paper, that in exchange for this being his last attempt to repair the boat, it would absolve him of any further responsibility to honor his lifetime warranty. I phoned Atty. Yale Metzger, who advised me to not sign the paper.

During the very first run three days after that “repair,” with kayak outfitter Perry Salmonson along as a witness, noises coming from below deck were still evident. After a couple hours of being thoroughly frustrated and angry, I vowed to run the boat through the summer as it was. Getting it repaired by a competent builder this late in the season was out of the question. Even if I had the money (which I didn’t at the time), the time required would have eaten well into summer, and threatened putting me out of business. I knew I would have to have as full a summer season as possible to even afford a down payment on a rebuild. Soon after, I arranged with Heavy Weather Boats, a long-time top-notch boat builder in Anchorage, to turn the boat over to him right after Labor Day weekend for the rebuild.

The remainder of summer 2000 was tolerable businesswise, but it was awkward and embarrassing having to explain the noises to several clients. My son and I kept a very careful watch for any new cracks or noises that might develop as the summer progressed. We pulled the boat from the water weekly to carefully inspect the hull and to drain any water that had collected in the bilge.

To our great relief, no further problems developed by the time Labor Day weekend arrived. Under this circumstance of needing money for the rebuild, it was especially frustrating having to pass up a few $1,000’s in September charters. But it was a greater relief to realize that I would finally have the charter-ready boat I had first envisioned when I first talked to Thomas five years prior in summer 1995.

The final installment on this tale will tell what Heavy Weather Boats found when they removed the decks, what they did for the rebuild, and how the boat finally ran soundly and rattle-free for the 13 years I continued the biz until it finally sold April 4, 2014.

To be continued . . .


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