Disclaimer: “Why Dutch Wharf?” articles in this section are based on actual Dutch Wharf customer experiences. The names of individuals and vessels have been changed to protect the innocent. Technical details are minimized to prevent boredom. Certain poetic license has been taken to make the stories more readable, but no less true.
Samuel Coleridge wrote Rime of the Ancient Mariner somewhere around 1797. Perhaps his most famous stanza came in Part 2 of the 7 part poem:
Water, Water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink;
Water, water, everywhere
And all the boards did shrink.
I’d wager there isn’t one yachtsman who hasn’t recited those famous lines when at sea on a day when the sails are slack and no wind is forecast.
Water is a miracle substance. Our body is 75% water; about forty-two liters in the average adult. Water covers roughly three-quarters of the earth’s surface but only 1% is fit to drink. 97% is salty and 2% is contained in glaciers and the polar ice caps. Health professionals tell us to drink at least six 8 oz. glasses per day. Some of us even put a wee dram in our evening cocktail. What would we do without it? We all love water, right?
Well… maybe not everyone. Just ask the guy whose insurance surveyor has informed him that water has encroached into the core between the inner and outer layer of fiberglass on his favorite floating toy. Coleridge must have experienced something like that while observing his Albatross because he wrote in Part 3:
At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist,
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.That certain shape taken by water soaked balsa or other soft coring in your hull is called ‘mush’. Two risk factors increase your odds of hearing those dreaded words: “wet core”. They are: 1) your hull is over fifteen years old, and 2) it was built in the far-east. But we shouldn’t limit this discussion to just hulls. At Dutch Wharf we’ve treated vessels with severe moisture incursion in decks and in cabin superstructures as well.
So… what steps do you take if you suspect a problem with your vessel?
- Seek out a yard with experience in removing the outer layer of fiberglass, routing out the soft core, replacing it with a more permanent, closed cell material and replacing the outer layer with new glass that is finished to mirror-like perfection.
- Ask for references from other customers who had similar problems.
- Check the references and ask to see the finished product.
- Contract with the selected yard to perform moisture tests using cored samples from your hull to determine the extent of damage. Arrange to be present during the testing, if possible.
- Ask for a detailed estimate and time frame for repair.
- (Note: This would also be a good time to consider repainting or to AWLGRIP the boat if it is looking oxidized.)
Dutch Wharf has years of experience restoring older, water damaged fiberglass boats to like-new condition. Whether your surveyor has alerted you to a potential problem, or you simply want the comfort of knowing your older boat is still sound, call or drop by the yard. We’ll be happy to discuss your options and answer any questions you may have.
Remember: Keep the water on the outside where it belongs.
DUTCH WHARF – YOUR BOAT’S SECOND HOME.
Jimmy Carter turned off the lights in the White House – personally!
Ronald Reagan delegated everything – even wars. Some said Nancy actually ran the country.
Somewhere between Carter, the micro-manager, and Reagan, the eternal optimist is the sweet spot. As most successful managers know – the trick is to understand that which needs constant monitoring and that which does not.
As a boat owner this differentiation of management style is important when you select the yard to which you entrust your most valuable material possession.
To illustrate, let’s consider your boat’s appearance. I don’t mean that graceful clipper bow or the triple-tiered flying bridge. Those features you’re stuck with unless you have a masochistic tendency to change reality.
No: I mean things like her paint job, bright work, or teak decking – things that trigger the WOW! factor in others when they first see your precious toy.
Many owners think that ‘varnish is varnish’ and ‘paint is paint’, so long as it’s marine grade. WRONG! But, wrong only if you truly care about your boat’s appearance. If you don’t – stop reading this and head over to Home Depot, where the paint’s on sale. Because, as one of our old-timers likes to say: “This isn’t the yard for you.”
Paint and varnish do retard aging and they protect against deterioration, whether fiberglass or wood. But, properly applied, they also dramatically improve appearance. And – let’s be honest – the real reason you want a great looking boat is to impress your friends.
The best way to achieve the warm-belly-feeling that accompanies a new paint job is to delegate the work to professionals – not to a handful of recent immigrants who can’t even pronounce the word ‘preparation’, let alone understand its importance to the final outcome. Dutch Wharf’s crew of five refinishers has a combined total of 100 years of marine paint and varnish experience – all of it in the New England area.
Their work for you begins with an honest assessment of your hull, superstructure, decks, wood trim or other areas of concern. Some vessels will only require one or two maintenance coats. Others will need to be stripped, sanded, filled, stained and/or repaired to insure proper adherence of the new paint or varnish. You will be apprised of their findings prior to work commencing – along with an estimated cost.
Once the surface(s) have been properly prepared, the vessel is ready for taping or masking to preserve the adjoining sections of the boat. The primer and/or sealer coats can then be applied. The number of coats will depend on the smoothness of the underlying surface. Between coats, sanding will always occur and taping will be replaced. (It’s never wise to leave taping in place through numerous coats of finish. The finish will invariably be damaged when tape is pulled after the product has completely dried.)
Typically, our crews work in tandem: one man applies the finish followed closely by his partner who smoothes any ‘ripples’ and catches ‘dry spots’ while the product is still wet. Proper lighting of the work surface is critical to finding any problem areas.
Once the agreed upon number of coats has been brushed or sprayed and the final masking removed, our own version of Jimmy Carter steps into the picture in the person of Paul Jacques, the yard owner, who personally inspects each boat with a magnifying glass.
To Paul, refinishing is like religion – when you’ve got it, you feel it in your bones. Paul gets refinishing! The tiniest blemish (sin) does not go unaddressed. No matter the cost, no refinishing job leaves the yard until Paul is satisfied. Sometimes it requires an entire redo of a section (rarely the entire job) all at no additional cost to you.
Five years ago one of our principal varnish suppliers moved their manufacturing operations to England. Somehow the formulation got modified and the product was less than perfect. Seven boats were refinished that winter season using the flawed varnish, resulting in a finish that did not survive the summer. Dutch Wharf stood behind its work and completely refinished the seven boats the following winter, including stripping and sanding. The manufacturer provided new, improved varnish but the yard ate the labor costs.
That’s integrity and that’s what discriminating owners have come to expect from Dutch Wharf. Our initial price won’t always be the cheapest, but – in the long run – it’s always the best.
So… where does Reagan fit into all this?
That’s you. – You’ve delegated the hard stuff to the experts!
Nancy would be proud.
DUTCH WHARF – YOUR BOAT’S SECOND HOME.
Thomas Wolfe famously wrote You Can’t Go Home Again, a novel wherein George Webber, his protagonist, has written a successful novel exposing the furtive secrets of his hometown. When he returns home he is shaken by the fury his story has unleashed in his family and long-time friends. Outcast, he thus begins a search for his own identity eventually returning once again to his roots.
His journey of discovery, it turns out, is a metaphor for a beautiful red-hulled Aage Nielson sloop, built in 1959, that keeps returning home to Dutch Wharf for the care and comfort provided by our crew.
She’s a lucky vessel, owned all these years by a couple who’ve spared no expense in her maintenance, much of it performed at our yard. Every fall she would arrive for annual maintenance; including freshening topsides and brightwork, deck repairs and engine maintenance.
As the years went by the owners decided they needed help sailing her between Connecticut and Maine, where they maintain a summer home. Eventually, they reluctantly determined the best solution to the transport problem was to store the boat in Maine for the winter and have her maintenance performed at a local yard. Nevertheless, they continued to consult Dutch Wharf about her care and apprised us of her condition. We were, of course, reluctant to see her go to Maine but understood the owner’s angst about making the long trip.
Last season, they called to say they weren’t happy in Maine and asked if we could arrange a crew to bring her home to Connecticut. We sent two of our men to Maine and readied the boat for the trip. The transit was to be a courtesy in consideration for all the past business. Our guys joked about the provisioning provided by the owners: four sandwiches and a box of Oreo cookies.
During the three-day sail we noticed a small leak around the mast step and an engine exhaust leak. The owner’s wife, when informed of our findings said, “Maybe that’s why I kept feeling sick whenever I went below.” The owner responded: “I thought you had simply tired of cooking.”
Back in Connecticut, both problems were corrected and we now have a standing order to deliver her to Maine in the spring and bring her home in the fall – a not unpleasant assignment for our crew members. (They now pack their own provisions, however.)
We recently received a nice letter thanking us for the extra effort and telling us how delighted they are to have their special boat “Home Again”.
Thus our motto: DUTCH WHARF – YOUR BOAT’S SECOND HOME.
The day before Thanksgiving a gentleman, we’ll call him CG, strode into the yard unannounced. He was trying to locate a shackle for his twenty-five year old Cheoy Lee sloop.
Now, we don’t maintain a ship’s store but we do have a supply of miscellaneous hardware that’s accumulated over the 55 years we’ve been in business. (Some of that bronze is covered with dust.) Naturally, the stuff is scattered among our ten buildings and poorly inventoried since most came off boats under repair.
But CG was a pleasant enough guy so I decided to rummage through the supply and see if we might have the particular part he needed. Finding parts for older boats is challenging enough, but to locate a unique Chinese shackle that is no longer manufactured adds another layer of complexity. But, what the heck, it was a rainy day so I thought it might be fun to see what we had.
After an hour of unsuccessful searching through every nook and cranny I could think of, I turned to Bill Clapp for help. Bill has been with the yard for thirty years and has seen it all. More importantly, he knows everybody in the boating world from Maine to Maryland. He took one look at the damaged shackle and said, “I think I know who might have one.”
Three phone calls later he thought he’d found it. The retired owner of an obscure, out-of-business, yard in Short Beach said, “Come on over. I’ll look for it while you’re gettin’ here. If not, I’ll buy the coffee.”
Bill said to CG, “You’ll never find the place. I’ll take you over there.” CG was stunned that someone would expend so much time, especially before a major holiday, to locate a part that would in all likelihood cost less than $20, none of it going to Dutch Wharf.
As bum luck would have it; the other yard didn’t have the right part. It was close but not one that would work. So Bill said, “Leave it with me. I’ll ask a machinist who does contract work for us if he could make you a new one. But he won’t be back till after Thanksgiving.”
CG returned the following Tuesday with a stunning announcement. “I explained to my wife the effort you guys went to over a lousy shackle. We decided that if one shackle failed there are bound to be other parts that will soon follow. Now, we love this boat and expect to keep her for another twenty-five years, God willing. So we’d like your yard to replace her entire rigging.”
From that humble beginning, the job grew to include: installing new teak decks, stripping and refinishing all brightwork, an AWLGRIP finish for the hull and substantial carpentry and joinery work in the interior.
When the job was completed, Bill said, “Imagine if we’d had that damned shackle. I’d have given it to him free.”
Sometimes we just scratch our heads and marvel at how little courtesies result in long lasting relationships. Even after fifty-five years we’re constantly reminded that customer service is the most important product we sell.