Monday, March 18, 2013

More Marathon News

  You last heard news about our newly installed wind generator circuit board and there were some "minor details" that needed to be ironed out. Hardly. I ran a rudimentary test suggested to me by Chris from SALT, and was not able to come to any conclusion, so then I started looking into the paperwork that came with the new circuit board and I found that the wrong boards were sent from E Marine in Fort Lauderdale.
  It appeared that SALT ordered the correct boards, the ones for our Air-X, but boards for the Air Breeze were sent. No one at SALT caught the error, and thus the wrong board was put in our unit. They look identical, and everything lines up, however, the LED is green on the Air Breeze generator, but red on the Air-X, and the circuitry is different. So what?
  Well, according to Shawn, one of the owners at SALT, the blades for the Air-X perform differently than the blades on the Air Breeze, therefore the circuit boards work differently. Our unmatched setup would mean inefficient operation of our Air-X generator, and I'm not overwhelmed with their performance as it is.
  I had wondered who would be the first to suggest that instead of changing out the boards, we could "upgrade" to the Air Breeze blades, making our generators quieter and increase their output. The very idea was suggested within minutes. I may have taken the bait, but we have our upcoming work at Marathon Boat Yard to consider, so I opted to stay on course and accomplish what we set out to do in the first place, and save upgrades for the future.
  Shawn agreed, and had already ordered the right boards, and he promised to get the incorrectly installed board swapped out, and get the proper spare in our hands, ASAP. I have faith in human nature, but did possess some protection in the fact that VISA was used in all our transactions, plus I had plenty of email verification that all would be done to our satisfaction. I also know that you can't run a business for free, so I agreed to pay for all our labor thus far, after balking at the number of hours they intended to bill us, and settling for a lower figure. More about that later.

  Marie wanted to hang out at their resort on Wednesday, but Andrea called and said she would join us at a happy hour. Rosie and her chose Sparky's Landing, and Andrea picked us up in Marie's beautiful new Audi.
  Andrea was nice enough to take us on two errands on the way, and we got to Sparky's Landing one hour before happy hour, and those .25 cent wings and shrimp. We grabbed the three best seats at the bar and met "MJ", a very personable bartender.
  The bar began filling up and was standing room only by the time 4 P.M. rolled around. We didn't wait too long and we ordered a dozen wings and twenty shrimp for the three of us, totaling a whopping eight bucks.
  While we were digging into our food, a fella on my left informs me, nicely, I think, that I was in his favorite seat. I allowed as to how it was a very nice seat, and that I scoped it out on our last visit.
  "Yep, I get here everyday at 3:30 and stay for three hours. I have three of these PBR's and spend six bucks."
  "You're kidding!" I told him, and he appealed to the bartender to verify his claim.
  The bartender gave me a deadpanned look and said, "Yes, he spends three hours here everyday and his bill never exceeds six to eight dollars".
  "Why, you're takin' up valuable space!", is what I told him. He did laugh, but then proceeded to tell me that he possessed a "carry permit".
  Remembering a true adage that, "the drop is quicker than the draw", I summed up his demeanor and decided to not give him "the drop", but instead ordered twenty more shrimp because Andrea and I were going through them like Grant took Richmond.
  We spent our three hours there, and considerably more than six to eight dollars, and hitched a ride back to the marina with Andrea while she was still legally able. As we made our departure, my PBR friend moved his seat cushion (yes, he brings a seat cushion) over to his favorite seat, happy at last.
  Thursday came and almost went with no word from SALT about our circuit boards, so I called them and was told one was in, but the other one wouldn't come in until the next day. We left it at that, but shortly after, Shawn called and said Chris would be out to replace our board on Friday, no matter what. It was just a matter of whether it would be in the morning or in the afternoon. I told him I'd be waiting for a call in the A.M.
  What would be good for everyone to know, is this practice of charging "door to door" on labor rates. I don't know how us consumers ever let this practice get a foothold, but we need to be aware of it. The labor total was calculated on this "door to door" total at $100 per hour. The original bill amounted to the one hour of diagnosis at the outset, and then an additional four hours applied for the board swap out. We settled on three hours, but I was fully aware that the time on our boat was under three hours when the wrong board was installed, but I allowed some wiggle room.
  The funny part, if there is a funny part, comes in the marked difference in the time required for our service call, between when we were paying for it, and for when SALT was doing it on their dime.
  On the first visit, Chris informed me that he had to stop by Home Depot for some Super Glue, and he would then get to the marina. Of course, there was to be a stop at the marina office to "check in". All this I was agreeable to, not knowing about the "door to door" policy.
  Chris eventually pulled up to the ramp at the dinghy dock where I was waiting patiently. He got out, walked around the truck, pulled out his tool bucket and a box with our parts in it, and set them carefully on the ground. I was nearby and asked if he needed help carrying anything, but was told that it was not necessary. He then pulled into a parking spot just a few feet away. I was still watching as he diddled around at the truck for a few minutes more.
  I appreciated the attention to detail that Chris possessed, yet was surprised as to how many times he had to revert to the lengthy instructions included with the part in regard to how to install it, even though it was the wrong one.
  When Chris showed up on Friday morning with the right part, he whipped into the parking lot, power sliding his van into the nearest parking spot. (Just kidding here, but no stop at the dinghy dock ramp was necessary this time, although the amount of things to be carried was identical.)  It took about 90 minutes to swap out the board and he went on his way.
  Bottom line though, I will do business with SALT again. I'll just make it clear about what I expect in regard to the "door to door" policy, and always use our VISA card to help in our protection for potential exorbitant charges.
  We still need to stop by the SALT office to collect our spare board and then there is still the issue of us getting a credit applied to our card when and if any warranty claim is judged to be in our favor. I'll keep you posted.

  Marie, on my right, and Andrea of Rosie's left, met us at Lazy Days on Friday afternoon for another happy hour. Their discounts start at 3 P.M. and you better get there early as the happy hour prices are at the bar only and it fills up fast.
  We took the dinghy over as the wind was from the East, but we had the protection from Vaca Key, making our ride a dry one. Holly had to stay on Swing Set, as Lazy Days recently changed their pet policy to exclude them. Marie and Andrea both inquired as to her well being, a little disappointed not to see her, as they were leaving the next morning to head back north.
  They took their leave a bit earlier than us. Rosie walked them out to their car after I hugged them both goodbye. I don't know how it fared in the parking lot, but I was able to keep a dry eye during our goodbyes, not something I'm always able to do, but I make an attempt to remain stoic at goodbyes. One never knows when it's the last time you will see anyone else, but I try to look at all departures as it's only temporary. Life is just too hard if you look upon goodbyes any differently, but we are not always so successful. Once the dam breaks and the tears come, the game is over. We had a very nice visit with Marie and Andrea. Who knows where we'll see them again.

  We got back safely to the boat and was able to watch yet another beautiful sunset over Boot Key Harbor. It's a long ride in the dinghy from Lazy Days, as it's "No Wake" the whole way. It's even a longer ride after a few cold beers, and made even longer when your hat blows off and you have to spin the dinghy around to go fetch it.
  We watched one of our DVDs, "We Bought A Zoo", and actually were able to watch the whole movie without falling asleep. Scarlett Johansson may have had something to do with it, in my case anyway.
  On Saturday morning we listened to the harbor cruiser's net, and then unhooked from our mooring ball and went over to the dock at the City Marina and took on 82 gallons of water. Then we idled out to the Marathon Marina and took on 200 gallons of diesel, to a tune of nearly one thousand bucks. ($965 to be exact.) Fuel in The Bahamas is ranging around the $6 per gallon price, so we'll make sure we're chock full when we leave the U.S.
  The sun was out on Saturday, but the wind was blowing and the temperatures were on the brisk side, but since we were off the ball, we took a ride and anchored out for a while to enjoy being out of the harbor.
  We didn't stay out to see the sunset, but instead went in early enough to get back on the ball with enough light to see what we were doing and got hooked back up with a good deal of success.
  Rosie roasted some chicken in the convection oven. We added some macaroni and cheese that was doctored up with a half can of spinach left over from our lasagna, and we had a feast. One short game of gin rummy later and we were both lights out.
  We had some shopping we wanted to do on St. Patrick's Day. We stopped by a neighboring sailboat and dropped off the DVD of "We Bought A Zoo" for them. A young couple is living on their boat with three of their children and were happy to get the movie. They offered a movie in their collection in return, but when I suspected that most of their collection was geared towards younger viewers, we declined their offer, saving room in our cabinet for DVD's more of the "blood and gore" variety. Oh, and maybe something with Scarlett Johansson in a more "adult" role.
  We walked to The Wooden Spoon for breakfast and were not disappointed. Their prices are fair and the service was prompt. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would heartily recommend this small mom and pop restaurant to anyone.
  Next, it was on to Kmart on the return walk. They didn't have hardly anything on our list that we wanted, but we still managed to fill up our West Marine cart that we wheeled back on the sidewalk to the City Marina.
  We took our showers at the marina before taking our purchases back to the boat, and a much needed mid-day rest.

  I recuperated by early afternoon and went topside to do a bit of waxing and found this iguana contemplating boarding our vessel with no invitation. I tried splashing at it to fend it off, but it only started making way towards my foot. I retreated and armed myself with the boat hook and eventually was able to get it to move on to our more enthralled boat neighbors. You can't tell from the picture, but this thing was about as big as Holly, and not nearly as cuddly.
  The day was shaping up to be quite pleasant. I had intended to take a break from the barley burgers, even though it was St. Patrick's Day, but when Rosie announced that we still had some Bud Lights floating around in ice in the cooler from the day before, I could not counter her sensible argument in favor of us partaking of them.
  In fact, we loaded up those extra cold ones, with some not as cold ones, into the dinghy, grabbed Holly and set ourselves off to Sombrero Beach and some human interaction. The beach was full of sunbathers, and some other dinghy owners pulled up while we were there, and we had a few words with them, all pleasant.
  Four folks in one small dinghy piled out, loaded with coolers, chairs, and one umbrella. They politely posted the umbrella in the sand next to one of them who just happened to have just part of his right arm. The wind was brisk, so his proximity of the shady umbrella required him to keep hold of it with his one hand, which prevented his enjoyment of the beer sitting in his cooly cup attached to his chair. I wondered how long it would take his compatriots to notice his dilemma as he sat patiently for the wind to die down long enough for him to take a sip or two. A small rope would have come in handy, but I admire the guys patience. Had it been me, Mr. Umbrella would have sailed across the beach before I was made to choose between the shade and a quaff of beer.
  By late afternoon we were ready to head back to the boat. We had planned a decent Irish meal of Roast Pork Tenderloin and Saurkraut, but I had a taste for fish.
  I mentioned visiting a nearby place called Keys Fisheries, so we cleaned up and walked across the highway to the bayside and this casual restaurant. The ritual for customers is to stand in line and order your food at a window. Then, go over to another area to get condiments and beverages, pick your outside table, either a picnic table or round plastic one, and then wait for your name to be called. Signs requesting that trash be placed in appropriate containers insure a small employee count at this restaurant.
  We didn't wait long before we had our meals in front of us. Rosie chose a soft shelled crab sandwich and I had the Hogfish sandwich. We weren't long into our food when I realized my tactical error of choosing a table just under the stairs to an upstairs bar area. Although my choice had to do with being in the shade, the fact that people walking above us on the open stairway, increased the possibility of dust and gravel falling off their shoes onto our food and us, almost had us getting up to grab another table out of harm's way. Almost.
  It was right about then that a youngish Latino girl in a very short dress mounted the steps and began a slow walk to the upstairs bar. I suppose some of my mouthful of sandwich may have dropped from my lips as I stared at "the view". I'm certain I saw "Hollywood", as my old friend John O'Keefe used to say, and this woman was very familiar with Mr. Bic, but not as endeared to Fruit Of The Loom.
  Rosie was not as enthusiastic in my decision to stay put in our nice, shady seats, but we stayed and finished our food anyway. How I was able to finish my sandwich while gazing upward for a return engagement of the young Latino girl, I can't explain, but I did.
  I'm not sure if we'll go back to Keys Fisheries for the fish. Thirty bucks for two fish sandwiches is a bit steep, even though the fries and the slaw were excellent. But I might be inclined to nurse a beer or two for a number of hours at that "under the stairs" seat. I wonder if I can reserve it everyday from 3 til 6?

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