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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


When I used to work for GM, I'd hear the guys who retired say that they had nothing to do at home. They would complain that, after working and staying busy every day for 30 plus years, life around the house was boring because there was nothing to do around the house to stay busy. People who live on a boat NEVER have that problem!

When we docked at A.Y.B. on Wednesday, I asked to have the batteries checked because I’d been having some problems with the XANTREX 3500 inverter/charger. It would overheat and kick out on us while charging the batteries; normally a sign of a shorted cell in one of the batteries. Steve “Sparky,” A.Y.B.’s electrician, came by the boat early Thursday morning and ran a stress test on both house batteries. The test showed that there was nothing wrong with the batteries, so some exploratory boat surgery would be required to isolate the problem. So, after returning from our trip to the lighthouse, I exposed the inverter and found that the inverter cooling-fan was dead. Damn! Friday is going to be a busy, busy day.

On Friday, I got up early, disconnected and pulled the inverter and hooked up our emergency battery charger to keep the batteries topped off. I then opened the inverter, pulled the cheap little computer style fan and called XANTREX to buy a replacement. After 6 minutes on hold, I explained the fan problem, but they refused to either sell me a new fan or refer me to where I could buy one. Their position was, I had to ship them the unit, then they would repair it and ship it back. Total time: two weeks. Total cost: $485.00. And all for a $20.00 fan that just plugs into the inside of the inverter.

After a bit of arguing, I appeared to give up and asked the agent for the correct spelling of his name and his employee I.D. number. After giving me the info, he asked why I needed it, to which I responded, “I want to make sure I have your name spelled correctly when the boat sinks and I have to fill out the cause on the Coast Guard and E.P.A. Oil Spill forms.” There was a pregnant moment of silence on the other end of the line. Suddenly, the agent was super helpful, checked distributor’s inventories and provided me with the phone number of a distributor with the fans sitting on their shelf. It was an amazing transformation of personality and position.

I called the distributor, Mobile Power Systems, in Hackettstown, NJ, (908) 852-3117, and what a difference in attitude. These folks were knowledgeable, helpful, extremely courteous and had a fan on the way to me that morning. They also said that, if I ever needed any other XANTREX components, they’d be happy to ship me what ever I needed, wherever I was located at the time.

Well, knowing I’d be at A.Y.B. a few days, I ordered some additional parts, so I could complete some other projects I’d been putting off. These included installing an Ammeter (500 amp) to track the power ins and outs, installing a new, non-leaking, hinge seal on the back hatch, replacing the seawater pump on the engine, (the old one was really worn, leaking and it cost more to rebuild than replace) clean the alternator, replace the engine V-belt and scrub and clean the bilge. I figured that, with this laundry list, I wouldn’t be bored for the next 4 days.

As work progressed over the next four days, the pieces and parts all arrived on schedule and projects, one by one, were tested and marked as complete. We now have a fully functioning inverter/charger and have the ability to monitor the boat’s power usage to the nth degree. Also, the engine runs cooler, the back bedroom is now dry and the scheduled service is done on the engine. So, we’re now clear to get on with our trip north.

1 comment:

ohioredsfan said...

I don't have anything to do at home, but don't tell Pam. This retirement is a great gig.

Sounds like you have been a little busy. I would feel sorry for you boss, but let's compare this. I am stuck in Ohio and you are on a sailboat, sailing where ever you want. I mow grass, pull weeds, take care of flower garden and stuck in Ohio. You are sailing up the east coast of the United States and have to fix an occasional problem on your boat. Hmmmm want to trade........didn't think so. LOL

Smooth sailing.