Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Tale of Woe

Motivator’s Dinghy Davit

Motivator is equipped with a UMT International Econ 1000 dinghy davit.  It is a metal crane with an arm that extends, raises, and rotates manually to position. The lifting cable is attached to an electric winch hidden within the housing.  Not finding any documentation associated with the davit in the mountain of manuals that came with the boat, I contacted UMT to find out if it was rated for the dinghy we were considering.

UMT’s facility is located in the Fort Lauderdale area, so they dispatched a company representative to meet with me.  He assured me that the crane was rated for 1000 pounds and somewhat over engineered.  The 850 pound dinghy we were considering would not be a problem.  But, if I wanted to upgrade, he was my man!

Emergency Crank Handle
(Moves the cable ½ inch for every 20 revolutions)

After examining the crane, the representative proclaimed it to be in excellent condition, and gave me an emergency crank handle for free.  When I asked about documentation such as an owner’s manual detailing maintenance he said that all they had was on their web site.  All I needed to do, according to him, was occasionally lightly oil the cable.  Note: their web site is very lacking on specifics.

Down island we noticed that rotating the dinghy once it was lifted was problematic. Again I contacted UMT asking for an exploded diagram of the davit so that I could understand its configuration better.  Again I was put off.  After fellow cruisers pointed out that our method dragging the dinghy into position above the cradle with Pollie hanging off the side of the raised deck was dangerous, we devised a system using a block and tackle to easily rotate the dinghy into place.

Pollie cleaning the dinghy’s bottom

Like other boaters, we were in the habit of leaving the dinghy davit in the up position after deploying the dinghy, and only lowering to the stored position when we were preparing to get underway.  A practice we no longer employee due to water intrusion.

Hand Held Control: $195 + Shipping from UMT
$86 + Shipping from Dutton-Lainson

After a particularly rainy period, I retrieved the hand held control from its storage place in the davit and noticed that it was suffering from severe water intrusion.  Several contacts had corroded badly.  I was able to give it a temporary MacGyver while a new control was ordered from UMT.  At that time, I told the UMT representative that the winch seemed to be making more noise and that the dinghy seemed to be descending more rapidly than before.  The UMT representative assured me, “They all do that.”

Blown contacts

We waited in St. Kitts while UMT accessed a hand held control unit from their supplier (evidently they do not stock the item) and shipped it to us.  The first time we tried it under load, two of the contacts in one of the new switches in the hand held unit blew apart (in my hand!).  Again, I contacted UMT and was told that is not supposed to happen, but they had little more to offer.  After doing yet another MacGyver on the switches, we got the dinghy lowered one more time before the motor in the winch gave up the ghost completely.

Towing the dinghy, we headed for Puerto del Rey Marina in Puerto Rico where Martinez Marine Services is located.  Jose Luis Martinez installs and services a variety of dinghy davits including UMT units.  By this time I was somewhat disillusioned by UMT’s support, so it was time for an end-run around UMT.  I started researching the unit further.

Dutton-Lainson tag on burnt out motor

I was soon able to deduce that UMT builds the metal structure of the crane and then stuffs in a Dutton-Lainson StrongArm electric winch sans cover.  Added is a stainless steel cable and weighted carabineer.  The fine people at Dutton-Lainson were very knowledgeable about the winch and were able to inform me that the winch requires periodic maintenance (more than simply oiling the cable).  They also informed that the use of the winch with worn braking would burn out the motor.  Snap!

New brake springs

A completely new replacement winch was ordered from Dutton-Lainson (and unfortunately shipped by slow boat to Puerto Rico).

"CAUTION: Continuously running in excess of 3 minutes will damage winch motor."
(Good to know!)

The cover and cable supplied were removed.  Martinez Marine did the reassembly and new stainless steel cable installation.  In the process they discovered that the reason the arm was so hard to rotate was that the original installers (presumably UMT International) had managed to get the supply wire crushed into where the crane arm and post meet.

Martinez Marine supplied spare brake disk and springs

Once a year or more depending on use, the winch should be removed from the crane, gears greased, bearings oiled, and brakes inspected.  So, bottom line, with proper aftermarket support, less than $50 for parts, and a couple of hours labor we would have saved several months of angsts and over $1000 in expenses.

I now have an owner’s manual for the winch, but not for the crane.

In my humble opinion, marine suppliers must provide aftermarket support or they do not belong in the business.  I understand they must markup replacement parts, but over 100% on an item you are not even stocking - seriously.  Other marine suppliers are not like UMT International.  For example Raritan Engineering’s technical support is stellar and when given the option I replace components with their products.  Teleflex once sent me two new seals for a steering pump free of charge.  So some companies understand the value of brand loyalty while other do not.    

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Previously, I wrote a posting describing the check in checkout procedures for the different island nations in the Caribbean (see archived posting, “Your Papers, Please’ dated July 9, 2012).  In that article I noted that US cruisers have little to complain about when one considers the onerous procedures for non-US citizens in US waters.  Even if you are a US citizen, there are plenty of hoops to jump through.

Your first stop is the web page to apply for a decal with the Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System (DTOPS).  It will cost you $23 per year plus shipping if you need it FedEx’ed to your location.  

Motivator now has a current decal in place, but not before arriving Puerto de Rey Marina where we were having our mail forwarded to.  For our check in in USVI and Culebra all I had was the number.  I am not sure about the relevance of a physical decal as I have not had an official look at it in the last four years.

Your next stop is the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) or Local Boater Option (LBO) as it was previously referred to.  Note that I highlighted that the program was in flux in 2010 – 2011 as we were entering the cruising lifestyle.

Interview Appointment

After completing a lengthy application, you are then required to make an interview appointment at a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) station.  Don’t forget, like I did, to make an appointment for your spouse or she will be turned away.  The interview consists of showing your passport and driver’s license and explaining how at the time we had Washington, DC licenses and a Florida mailing address.  I guess gray haired drug runners try to pull that scam a lot.

 Original “Lifetime” LBO Cards

Armed with our “lifetime” LBO cards and our DTOPS sticker we were set, and it worked well southbound through Puerto Rico and St. Croix in early 2011.  We simply called the numbers provided, gave the LBO and DTOPS numbers, and were given authorization.  Northbound in 2012 it did not work so well.  Both in St John, USVI and Culebra, Puerto Rico we were ordered to report to the nearest CBP office.  There was a new program in the islands, and we failed to get the memo.

New “lifetime” LBO Cards

As the nice CBP agent in Culebra issued us new LBO numbers, he explained we might have been lost in the system as it was changed to now include the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS).

SVRS erroneously begins with the assumption that all cruisers have access to Internet and filling a float plan will be as easy as if you were at home in your living room. 

There is some initial setup and then the system easily found Motivator via the DTOPS number.

With Pollie’s LBO number the system easily found her information.  There is even a page to add passengers without LBO cards.

The real fun starts with trying to do the itinerary.  Whoever designed this web site was not a boater and has little knowledge of the cruising lifestyle.  A latitude/longitude might be more reflective of one’s departure point.

We were departing the BVIs from the West End.  Not finding a “Location Type” for “quiet anchorage,” I checked “Marina” and for a street address put “Mooring Ball #7.”

For our arrival point in the USVIs I checked “Public Boat Launch” and used the street address for Skinny Legs Bar and Grill.

Thinking that I was on a roll, I then moved on to Puerto Rico.  I found Puerto Rico in the drop box and made some creative entries for “Street Address/Location.”  All was good, until I tried to close out and was informed that my last destination had to be in the US.  I guess a US Territory is not good enough.  Not to be thwarted, I entered an address for a US marina in the June time-frame.

My SVR worked great in USVI.  I called the number and talked to a recorder.  In Culebra it was a different story.  The CBP agent kept me on the phone for 20 minutes and 8 seconds (noted on Skype) as he straightened out my float plan.  The creative addresses were not a problem, it was that I should have left “United States” checked for a country and then checked “Puerto Rico” as one of the 50 states.  Sometimes it does not pay to know geography.

For more information on statehood for Puerto Rico click here

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spanish Virgin Islands

After spending some time in Charlotte Amalie, we motored west to Culebra which along with the island of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Mona make up the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  Culebra is one of the must stop islands in the Caribbean.  Motivator has now made three stops in Culebra always anchoring in Ensenada Honda (see archived posting, Culebra, dated April 20, 2013).

In the Virgin Passage we met a couple of cruise ships headed for Charlotte Amalie.  Our AIS was indicating that the first one was turning which was not apparent visually.  A call to the ship verified that both would be turning and that if we held our course and speed we would be clear.

Both passed with plenty of water to spare.

After a couple of peaceful days in Culebra, it was time to move on to Puerto Rico and Puerto del Rey Marina near Fajardo.  Puerto del Rey is one of the largest marinas we have visited.  They offer 24 hour golf cart service to and from your boat, but we prefer to get a little exercise and have been using our bicycles.

Strongarm Electric Winch

As you might have notice in one of the previous photos we were towing our dinghy rather than lifting it to its cradle on the sundeck.  That is because the electric winch in the lifting crane gave up lifting our dinghy (now called El Gordito), but more on that in a subsequent posting.

Old San Juan
Due to a shipping snafu, the new electric winch is coming by slow boat from Nebraska.  So we will do some sightseeing and other boat projects while we wait.