Another Update

OK. I promise that Chapter 5 is coming soon. I will address our insurance company problems and the last of the repairs.

The good news is: s/v Mollie Jean is fixed!  There are two minor things to be done, but this boat floats and is ready for some sailing time. We are really looking forward to it. Thanks to the guys at True North, Stix n Riggin, and the Seabrook Shipyard.

On our last trip down, we went to the boat show and purchased a new 45lb Mantus anchor. Our next trip down will be to pick up 200′ of chain for the anchor, change all the filters and the oil, then take her out to the bay and go in circles to calibrate the autopilot.

We are currently getting new canvas installed along with a dodger and all the inside seats re-covered. When done, she will be “real purdy” and we will be ready to take a break from repairs and upgrades and enjoy her.

A quick update – Jumping ahead

I’m trying to chronologically walk through our “adventure” in getting Mollie Jean back to full sailing status. There are a few things still in-flux so I’ve delayed posting about the adventure until those issues are resolved and I can give a full assessment of the parties involved.

But, I’d like to jump forward a bit and let everyone know the boat is now sea-worthy. We’ve joined Texas Mariners Cruising Association and look forward to many great events with them including sailing to Galveston in May and to Port A in October.

The people here in the marina are great. We are slowly learning everyone’s name (which I’m not good at).

Once all the updates about our adventure getting here are posted we will move to more video blogs and pictures of the boat and our travels.

Chapter 4: We’re Outta Here

With patience running thin, we allowed the marina to start working up a quote. Again, communication along the way: both finding out where the process was and prodding it along was important.

Because of the poor economy in our lake area, plus management issues that are too long to discuss, the “trades” used to complete the quote were very difficult both to work with and even understand.

We continually kept up with quotes, missing items, incorrect items, and just plain mistakes. This required phone calls and regular visits to the yard. If you have ever heard the advice take pictures of your house and property to use in the event of an insurance claim: this also is true for a boat. I recommend everyone, the next time they are on their boat, to take pictures of everything. And I do mean – EVERYTHING.

After a few weeks of still not having a valid quote and some tense conversations with the marina and insurance company, I made a visit to the boat to determine the progress. You think the camel had a broken back before? Now, he had two broken kneecaps and was bleeding profusely. Let me explain.

When I arrived and got on the boat, I found a young man on the boat performing an “inspection” his shirt indicated he was with a car stereo shop in a neighboring town. He was proud to tell me he was the person performing the electrical inspection on the boat. Then he proceeded to spend 15 minutes explaining how he had installed a “Primo” stereo system in another boat and would make sure I was “hooked up” with a great system in my boat.

Great. Nothing works in my boat. It’s been on the hard forever with no progress, but this guy is going to make sure I can listen to great tunes when he’s done.

I turn to the nav station and find the nav light literally ripped from the wall. Not “lightening” ripped – “person” ripped. There are food wrappers, dirty rags, and half empty drink cans inside. I’m sure third world communes looked better.

At that point: We were done. We requested and received the invoice for the boat haul and survey, storage, and ancillary items. In 3 weeks, we had the boat on a trailer and heading to the coast: at our expense. Our thoughts? If this “marina” was not able to complete an estimate in under 3 months – how in the world would they be able to fix the boat? (Side note: Another boat in the same marina had been hit by lightning the previous year, when we left, the boat had just gone back in the water after 12 months – and was still not finished).

Moral of this part of the story: If the marina where you are located does not have full time, documented, capable technical staff to perform the work you need – leave.

The lightning strike was in April. We shipped the boat to the coast in October. Six months passed with zero being accomplished.

Next: There are professionals at the end of the tunnel.

Chapter 3: Assumptions

You know the old saying: Assumptions make an …, well it’s true in a situation like this.

Not knowing how long things take, we sat back and waited for the magic of inspections, quotes, etc. so we could get approvals and start repairs. My business was very busy at the time, so weeks became months. Finally, one of the two straws that broke the camel’s back appeared.

Straw #1: After such a long period of time with no progress, I drove up to the service center to see where we were with quotes. The insurance company had authorized everything. The surveyor had been onboard. Just what was taking so long?

I arrived at the marina, found the service manager, and the response was: “Oh, so you are ready for us to start our quote?”.

If Lesson One is: Take lots of pictures, Lesson Two is: If a service center or marina milk fees for all they can – they will. With the boat just sitting in the yard, the marina was making money. They didn’t care how long it took. Realizing this, we learned we had to talk at a 3rd grade level with a big stick to get anything done.  So, from that point on, the emails and calls were on a very, very regular basis.

A side note on communication:

1.  Email is best: Both sides of the conversation are recorded.

2. If your state allows it: record all calls. It is amazing the short term memory of marinas and trades.

3. Document everything! Our claim is not complete, yet our folder is over 3″ thick and we have hundreds of megs of emails, documents, phone conversations, and pictures.

Straw #1 was the delay. Straw #2 done broke the camel’s back.

Chapter 2: First Actions

On a boat, you learn, prepare, and practice things like man-overboard drills, equipment failures, and medical emergencies. But it’s rather difficult to practice a lightning strike. The first few things done turned out to be right, but there were plenty of mistakes along the way.

Checking the boat for hull damage, calling the marina service center, and calling the insurance company immediately were important. The hull was intact and there was no water incursion. A service center tech came out to the boat and confirmed no visible hull damage and removed the destroyed power cord. The initial contact with the insurance company to get “the process” going also was quick and painless.

In hindsight, the next things we did could have been either different or better. We inspected the whole boat and took pictures before starting to clean things up. Dozens of pictures are good, but we should have taken hundreds of pictures. As the cleanup, surveys, inspections and discussions moved forward – pictures were critical. We learned pictures before and after any adjuster or estimator is on the boat is also very important. We had some very unfortunate things happen with the trades and inaccuracies with the insurance adjuster that pictures helped resolve.

With the trades (marina service center), some items on the boat were damaged further by workers literally tearing things apart to look for other damage. Pictures before and after confirmed the additional damage. The insurance company adjuster confused our boat with others and accidently marked an item as prior damage. Pictures resolved that issue, too.

I would recommend that every boat owner, when next aboard, take a bunch of pictures inside and outside your boat and put them in a safe place. “Before” pictures are critically important after a disaster.

The boat was hauled out and further inspected. The hull, prop, and rudder all were fine. The lightning bolt did truly follow the 110v lines out the back of the boat and not down through the keel. The process of getting repair estimates and communicating with the insurance company then started.

That’s when things went downhill.

Chapter 1: The Event

What got us off our duffs and got this started? A single bolt of lightening.

We had talked about moving the boat to the coast for years. There was always a reason not to: too busy, this event or that, it will be easier next year….. blah, blah, blah.  All that changed on Friday, April 29th.

I had been on the boat the weekend before. The weather was nice. I spent most of the evening in the cockpit reading a book under the light of an old railroad lantern. That next friday, though, I unlocked the companionway, slid back the latch and stepped below into what appeared to be the results of a violent act of vandalism. There were plastic shards everywhere. The faceplate to the stereo was on the far setee. Then, I saw the breaker panel.

The breaker panel was pulled off the bulkhead. Wires were everywhere. I stood there both pissed and puzzled. My first thought was “why would someone do this to our boat?” but my second thought immediately was “and why would they carefully lock the boat back up?”.  Then, I looked up.

The wires from our mast come down through a sleeve under the mast and next to the compression post. There the access panel to that wiring used to be were charred remains of cabling. The stainless steel compression post was a mix of blue and purple. The cover? Black.

After a few hours of surveying, it became clear that the boat had taken a lightening strike. Boat neighbors said they heard a deafening clamp of thunder at 2am the morning before. That was the hit.

Lightening had hit the VHF antenna on top of the mast. The VHF cable was the largest, and easiest conduit for all that energy, so the bolt followed that cable down the mast and to the compression post. When the cable took a 90 degree turn, the cover was the victim. Next, the bolt followed the VHF cable to the breaker panel. It jumped to the galvanic isolator which literally blew up. This blew the breaker panel off the bulkhead.

After taking out everything in the panel, the bolt continued along the 110v cable to the back of the boat, out the back – severing the shore power cord – and then to the dock breaker box, which was destroyed.

On the boat, everything 12v was destroyed. Lights and gauges vaporized. Everything 110v still existed, but didn’t work. So, the cleanup and phone calls began….

The Website is reborn

After much consideration, I decided to start fresh with the website. Soon I will provide details on the lightening strike and our adventures (I’m using that term loosely) to get the boat repaired. The story has heros and villans – but the final chapter is not complete.