As mentioned in my last post, Savannah was the next port of call for some service work. Arrived Weds., June 5th, and hope to leave either tomorrow or Thurs., the 19th or 20th. It’s been a mixed bag. Not everything is a storybook adventure on a boat but rather some prove the definition of a boat buck. B.O.A.T. = Break Out Another Thousand. We are docked at Thunderbolt Marinawhich is next door to Thunderbolt Marine.
The diver came and cleaned the bottom. It was overdue not having been cleaned since it was painted in late Feb and marine growth, barnacles etc. can occur quickly in these warm waters. However the diver said it was in pretty good condition. He checked the props and all were well aligned with the shaft spline and bolts tight. He said I did have a nick on one blade (of 4) on the port side but since I have zero vibration, I’ll let it go until I really do something stupid that requires repair. I had him pay special attention to cleaning the thru hulls as far as he could because of what seems to be impaired cooling water flow.
A marine electrician was aboard 3 different times. He reported nothing wrong with the Pilot house air conditioner circuit breaker which trips immediately when that ac units comes on. He did say the compressor was drawing 57+ amps at startup vs specs in the high 20’s. He also replaced one solenoid for the bow thruster which fixed the mysterious intermittent start ups but not the faulty motor operation. There was a reverse polarity fault (a bad thing) when operating on the inverter. Power was fine when hooked up to shore power and when running on the generator but not when converting battery dc power to ac power via the inverter. A new inverter was installed by Owl Creek’s electrician but something is wired wrong. Surprise – not. The electrician traced the fault back to one circuit, which includes one of the fridge/freezers, but ran out of time to determine the exact culprit and fix. So that will have to be done at another stop and another time. We’ll just remember when off both shore and genny power to turn the breaker off on that circuit and not open that fridge as much.
I got all the oil changed in the engines, trannies and generator as well as all the oil and fuel filters. Some 15 or 17 gal of various weight oils if I remember right. So now I have a good preventive maintenance baseline. They also replaced both transmission oil pressure sensors both of which has a stud broken off. Strange. Received a good report from the Cummins tech on the engines.
The TV antenna dome was not working and on arrival KVH, the manufacturer, had a tech on board. It was not something fixable on board so they removed the dome on the flybridge roof and the signal hub from under the pilot house settee and sent it to KVH in Rhode Island. When I had called KVH tech support at first, it was a weekend and no one answered except voice mail. So my message included a complaint about the company only believing that problems occur between 8-5, Eastern, Monday -Friday. Usually my blunt comment get me in trouble. This time it got the attention of the national service manager and he called me and from then on he’s been shepherding the process. It is supposed to arrive back in Savannah today for reinstallation. Maybe I can then catch up on the news of the day.
Being without TV had a benefit. I figured out how to use the sophisticated sound system on the boat. I can now insert my flash drive containing about 8 hours of some of my favorite songs from favorite artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon & Willie, Sandi Patti and the Gaithers. With the email help of the former owner (he has to do that from time to time) I also found the secret to moving the sound to the speakers on the various levels of the boat. Woot!
Then there is the issue of the Pilothouse air conditioner. Three of the air handling systems had been replaced within the past couple of years but the Pilothouse unit was still original and failed. A few posts ago, I reported that a new Dometic unit was installed in Ft Pierce just as we were ready to leave. We did not test it before we left and it has never worked. It would blow the breaker within milliseconds of start up.
So Thunderbolt Marine sent their air conditioning tech to troubleshoot the problem. My electrician had already confirmed that the breaker was not faulty and that the ac unit was drawing more than double the specified amps. Mr AC specialist with “40 yrs of experience” spent little time on the boat and, without so much as the benefit if a screwdriver, meter or any other tool, proclaimed that Ft Pierce’s Whiticar Boat Works installed it wrong having “changed the gas, having overfilled it and having not installed an inline dryer all of which made the motor freeze and draw too much current.” Over the next days, this was repeated numerous times. Finally I got an email from Thunderbolt Marine stating that Dometic had (past tense) voided the warranty due to these installation “sins”. The next sentence stated that Thunderbolt Marine would sell me a replacement for $4,075 plus nearly a grand for installation.
I said OK but first I needed a copy of whatever Dometic put in writing voiding the warranty on this unit and why, listing the serial number, so that I could go to VISA and dispute the Whiticar charge. All I got was nada, zilch, bupkus and crickets from Thunderbolt. So I wrote Whiticar, told them of the Thunderbolt diagnosis, sales attempt and subsequent silence and Whiticar responded that their install was perfect. I got a Thunderbolt email the next day with the bad news that there wasn’t even one of these new units in stock anywhere in the country and that it would be two weeks before this model was back in production by Dometic. Meanwhile I’m hearing from Whiticar that they’d been in contact with Thunderbolt and that Whiticar continues to stand by their installation. I challenged them to arrange a conference call by 10 am the next morning between themselves, Thunderbolt and Dometic to resolve the issue or I would dispute their VISA charge by days end.
We also sent an email to the Dometic exec in charge of the marine division about how it looks for them to have two of their authorized service centers feuding and name calling and copied to him the Thunderbolt warranty void/sales pitch email. Received word from Dometic that their records did not show the warranty voided nor even any inquiry.
The next morning, last Thursday, around 8 am the phone rang and it was a gentleman from Dometic’s warranty department. He said that the Whiticar installer was in the Thunderbolt marina parking lot and that Dometic would like permission for him to come aboard to inspect the compressor. It should be noted that Savannah is 350+ miles from Ft Pierce. I readily agreed but noted to Dometic that it might serve to settle the issues if Thunderbolt was also present. He said “it’s your boat but we’d prefer that Thunderbolt not be aboard the boat.” Message received loud and clear.
Joe, the original installer from Whiticar came aboard and within 15 or so minutes was back up out of the engine room with pics. He’d opened up the electric part of the compressor and had pics of his meter showing that there was a internal electric short. He reported that he had already spoken with Dometic and that the 2-3 week old unit was under full warranty. In that short period of time, Dometic also located a new one on the shelf at a S FL dealer. Joe reported he was driving back to FL, would pick up the new unit and would be back in Savannah first thing Friday morning. He was good on his word and spent most of Friday swapping units. Testing it, we had air in the Pilothouse!!
Checking below decks, Joe was concerned that the unit was running hot and discovered that it was not getting enough cooling water. Having already been concerned with Owl Creek’s so called flushing, I had a chemical flush scheduled for the AC lines with Thunderbolt. Though it was now 4 pm on a Friday afternoon and Joe was still a 5 hour + drive from home, he disconnected the water hoses and manifold, took them on the dock and cleaned and reinstalled them. Not as good as a chemical flush but the stateroom ACs work better too. Apparently the 3 times Owl Creek said they flushed, and I paid, didn’t actually happen. I’ll still get the chemical flush, which would dissolve barnacles, done but at someplace other than Thunderbolt Marine. Interestingly, Thunderbolt is trying to bill Dometic for 4 hours labor and me for 4.5 hours labor for troubleshooting (incorrectly) a warranty issue. Wonder how that will work??😂
Now hoping that the KVH system does arrive back in Savannah today and gets reinstalled tomorrow so I can leave.
It hasn’t all been a bust. The marina is nice with good floating docks (9.3’ tide range) power and water.
They have good fuel prices and I took on another 430 gal of diesel. They have a loaner car available for 2 hrs at a time so re-provisioning was easy. They have a very nice “crews quarters” with lots of comfortable indoor seating, computer room, large furnished exercise room, pool table, kitchen and two luxurious showers. Outside is a massive covered screened lanai with a fully jetted huge spa or small swimming pool. The patio is large with various chair and settee seating areas, ping pong, dining table and chairs and large barbecue pit. Outside is also a nice park bench to use while waiting for Uber or Lyft.
A block away is a shrimper dock where the boats come and unload their catch. It’s a short walk to pick up fresh jumbo shrimp for $10/very generous pound. Did that a couple of times. Delicious! I could eat shrimp every night.
About a half block further is a very popular indoor/outdoor seafood restaurant (Tubbys Tank House). Also went there a couple of times. Hint: The shrimp on our boat were bigger by far, fresher and more plentiful – half pound at the restaurant = 8 smallish shrimp.
Ubered to downtown Savannah several times. Ate at Paula Deens twice and at an outdoor pizza restaurant (Vinnie Van Go Go’s) in Market Square. Market Square is a very interesting 4 block square – veeeerrry old – and charming but not enough diversity of stores. Lots of homemade candy stores and even two pet food stores – one dedicated to dogs and the other entirely to cats.
On the other hand the river walk area downtown is fantastic. My guess is about 2 miles of small stores of every type interspersed with charming restaurants along the cobblestone street and opposite the river plaza with boats, freighters, and paddle wheel cruise boats. Eye candy wherever you looked. That one block wide, river to store, area is about 40-50’ below the rest of downtown grade level and the steep hill and historic old staircases make it somewhat of a pedestrian challenge – one that thousands apparently accepted. I chose to get to that level by going into the downtown level of a hotel and taking the elevator down.
So there have been discussion on the boat about the continued feasibility of doing the Great Loop. Eight weeks of delay so far haven’t helped the schedule. Most Loopers by this time are in NYC and beyond with many much further north awaiting some of the flooding to subside in Canada for their locks to become operational. My boat has the engines/size and speed sufficient to go off shore and catch up but the trade off is to travel every possible day, long days and not stop and smell the roses. That’s a serious trade off. There is lots to see and do and not physically beating oneself up were both part of the goal. I am truly surprised how exhausting a day of boating is.
Further, catching up costs fuel efficiency. Boats aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient mode of transportation anyway and increasing one’s avg speed even 50% from 10 to 15 mph is significantly more than a 50% fuel penalty. So do you want to spend significantly more to see and experience less just to say “I did it”. Who will care?
Weighing on the other side is 2020. This is most probably my last chance. I’ve read so far of a couple of 80 somethings doing the Loop and though most Loopers are probably retired, I’m guessing most are very recently retired and physically younger.
The Great Loop pretty much can’t be done next year. There are a number of locks in IL that will be shut down for major repair to all summer traffic next year. There’s really not a navigable route around which means one has to be in position to do upper IL in the Spring or join all the pent up commercial river traffic in late fall but before marinas and fuel docks close for winter – assuming the construction finishes on time. As my home, I don’t have the option of interrupting my Loop and having the boat hauled for the 2020 winter somewhere in Michigan or Wisconsin and restart in the Spring of 2021. So it’s pretty much now or never.
The alternative isn’t bad. I can either stay a month here or there or continue leisurely and get well into NY or Canada or even head to Maine and then turn back towards FL by the same east coast route this fall. Next winter in a FL, Keys or Bahamas marina(s) needn’t be impacted. So the next few weeks and how things go will probably be decisive. My crew needs to be at the U of MI at the end of the month for a doctor appointment so the current task is to figure a good port from which to fly or drive.
I’ve had two requests. I’ve been asked to include more “fluff” in my posts – as in pictures. This post certainly does not do that but I will try. I get out of the habit of taking pics – underway there are things to do and in Sharon and my prior 14+ yrs of full time traveling we’ve been to or near lots of these places albeit from a road perspective and I don’t think to take pics. And anyway, who wants to see pics of workmen carrying a wrench and there would have been lots of those. I will make an effort though. What I think would be interesting to see might be videos taken over a mile or two of a pretty canal or of locking through or going under a bridge that had to open. I don’t know how to do that effectively. You don’t want to watch a 15 minute video and I don’t want to upload one. I’ve experimented with iPhone slo mo and time lapse but not very successfully. Suggestions for how and settings would be appreciated.
Pictures are pretty easy to upload to this site but videos have to be hosted (and of course require a good internet connection). I’ve only tried YouTube and it is hard for me. I apparently haven’t watched their instructions often enough and they assume I understand their language. Any hints there would also be good.
I also had a suggestion that I post in this blog the boat pics that I originally posted to Facebook when I bought the boat. I can do that and will append to this post since it’s pretty void of much interesting travel material anyway.