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.    

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