18 Month System Log

Continuing our report on products good and bad.

Isotherm Refrigerator

In northern Portugal the unit is still working excellently.

Fima Batteries

We bought a large 180 amp-hour Fima battery in 2000 which we were told had a 2 year warranty. After the first year it stopped keeping its charge. We were motoring heavily so there was no shortage of charging. When we were able to return to the vendor and report our problems we got the run around. In the end the Fima dealer wouldn’t do anything about the faulty unit. So we bought some replacement batteries for half the price as the Fima guaranty is not worth the paper it is written on. We have two Fima batteries for the refrigerator which are operating well. Presumably if they had a problem we would get a similar level of support.

Barton Mainsheet Blocks

We somehow broke the snap shackles on two Barton main sheet blocks. The first one was replaced with a heavier unit and ball bearings without any questions. When we broke the second unit, the manager for Barton came down to see our boat and fit a replacement unit – we decided that we should stay away from snap shackles due to the design of the mainsheet attachment point is on a Maxi 95. Excellent service, we wish more people stood behind their products this way.

Davis Anchor Light

A really nifty idea, you take a very low current bulb, fit a Fresnel lens around it (the same lens that is used to focus the light beam from a lighthouse) and connect a light sensor so that it will switch on and off automatically as the ambient light rises and falls. But then the other side is that the attention to robustness of design at Davis is the same as the LED Cluster light cords – crap. After 3 days out in the drizzle, there was so much water had leaked into the lens container that the transistor and/or light sensor had been affected and the unit no longer worked. We had to manually bypass the circuitry and now our is a low current bulb inside a Fresnel lens that we turn on and off. Once again Davis fell down in delivering the unit for the marine environment while it was only engineered for indoor use.

Porta-Bote Collapsible Boat

Prior to locating the Porta-Bote, we were quite dissatisfied with the collapsible we had: it took so much time to inflate and deflate, clean and dry it off for storage and then it took up so much room once it was stored. We initially were quite happy with our Porta-Bote but after about 12 months of ownership (which due to the long winter was only about 2 months of use) problems are starting to show up. The first problem was the braces on the two seats were fixed to the seats by glued fastenings. While the unit was stored (i.e. not in use) these glued fastenings came apart. We contacted the manufacturer and pointed out that this was not the best performance after less than 10 outings. Their response was for us to purchase a special glue sold at an American chain store and fix it ourselves. We had informed them that we were off the coast of Spain previously and so didn’t think this response was the best. Then the side trim on the port side came off when its two pop-rivets pulled out of the plastic – this happened one day while the dinghy was left next to a dock! We haven’t contacted the manufacturer about this as we guess we probably know their response. Then one day when we were cleaning the bottom, one of the cotter pins to hold the seats in place fell out – an M5 bolt replaces it quite well. Then we found out that the oars take on water and then slowly loose it while stored – this means that we end up having a slow draining of sea water when we stow the oars, it took us a while to figure out where the salt water had been coming from.

In use the 2 seat Porta-Bote is not that easy to row. The nose is quite low and if there is any swell then the boat takes on small amounts of water easily – not enough to sink you but certainly enough to get your feet wet – as well as any items you may be carrying on the floor of the boat. The owner’s manual does suggest that for a single person rowing the person should sit on the rear seat, facing forwards and “push” the oars forward as opposed to sitting on the forward seat with their back to the direction of travel and “pulling” the oars towards themselves which is the usual way to row a boat. Unfortunately this is a much more tiring position to row from. With a second person and a slight breeze it can be impossible to make any headway. We encountered this once when returning to our boat, this lead us to investigate an outboard motor which we ended up ordering. Our original intention was not to have an outboard engine due to cost, complexity, an extra fuel type to carry but getting stuck on the dock in a slight breeze cured us of that opinion. When we researched the Porta-Bote we uncovered nothing in any of the review articles that suggested this – they probably all conducted their test under motor alone.

So after a year of use we are still happy with our Porta-Bote but do see some problems and have found that the assembly is not all that great in parts and also the company is not planning to stand behind manufacturing weaknesses. It doesn’t seem to be quite as indestructible as the manufacturer claimed.

Palm Pilot

We have waxed quite positively on a different web page regarding how valuable we feel the Palm Pilot personal digital assistant (PDA) is. We still feel this but have been quite dismayed to find out that they probably now offer the worst service levels of any company we are aware of. We have usually had to send at least one of our Palms in for repair each year, we never viewed the units as delicate but rather that using them on a boat constantly was bound to lead to various bump, drops, swims and flights (through the air that is) that a normal home and office use unit wouldn’t encounter in a month of Sundays. Over the last 4 or 5 years we had returned quite a few units which had been repaired at a cost of between $75 and $100 , although not happy to pay this money we accepted it as the hardships of living on a boat where you drop everything eventually.

Well this spring we had a unit that was only 3 months old fail totally. We attempted to contact Palm as we had done in the past in order to supply them with a charge card number and the unit’s serial number and then receive a “return authorization number” so the unit could be sent in for repair. Much to our dismay the company had disconnected every phone number they had in the western world (we had dealt with Palm in 6 western countries and so had the repair center phone numbers for all 6 countries) and either left the phones disconnected (i.e. the line rings and then goes dead) or you got a recorded message to visit their web site. Well, on their website they now have removed all facilities for reporting faults in equipment they have manufactured. In its place is an “e-commerce” screen where you have to pay something on the order of $20 (by charge card only) to get an access code with which to contact them by phone. So the situation is now one where you pay to be able to pay them more money – on our case for a unit that failed within its first year of operation.

This definitely set the lowest level for customer service we have encountered! Next they’ll probably we wondering why they’re losing business…

Gusher Galley Pump

We suspect that one of our galley foot pumps had water in it and then froze last winter. Since the spring it had a leak that no amount of servicing could rectify. To the best of our knowledge the foot pumps were the original fittings from the factory which meant they had served for 25 years. We finally ordered a replacement for the damaged one. Lo and behold Bangor Pumps had changed the foot spacing. This caused us no end of grief and we finally had to rework all the stainless fabricating that held the pumps in place. We had also contacted Bangor Pumps in Northern Ireland about a service kit which they swore didn’t exist. Surprise, surprise when the local chandlery ordered the same service kit that “didn’t exist.” After 25 years it is hard to fault the product but the customer service could be a bit better.

Cockpit Cover Snap Fasteners

Our cockpit cover is fitted with the round snap fasteners. There are several makes of these and they are not really interchangeable. Some brands seem to have a service life measured in months. We haven’t found as way around this problem yet.

Johnson Folding Mid-ship Cleats

We came across this product through Practical Sailer magazine. They are quite a good fit for a Maxi 95 which has no mid-ship cleats. They are fabricated from stainless steel with a cleat bar that has a straight axis on the bottom so it flips from side to side, laying flat when it is fully over. The strength and quality is very good and the mounting was quite straight forward. We can recommend these to any other Maxi 95s looking to solve their mid-ship cleat deficiency.

Nasa Instruments

Our NASA instrument problems (with all of them) are continuing and we are now talking of just biting the bullet and replacing them with something better. Definitely wouldn’t recommend any of their instruments.

Canvas Sprayhood

We had a sprayhood made by the Rasmussons Company of Marstrand Sweden, they used 18 mm diameter aluminum tubes and then put these through tightly cut sleeves. Compared to our cockpit cover which is constructed with 25 mm aluminum tubing that then fits into zippered sleeves in the fabric the difference is great. The lightly built sprayhood is not really strong enough for the job, invariably you will fall against or onto the sprayhood as you go up onto deck when the boat is moving. The tubes are just too small to take this load and so they deform. When you try to take the tubes out to reshape them you find out that it is rather difficult to extract them from their tailored sleeves. When this one is worn out we will have it remade using 25mm tubing placed in zippered sleeves.

Light Holder for Cockpit Cover

One thing we overlooked was putting in a fixture of some sort for hanging a light in the center of our cockpit cover. We noticed that Nigel Calder admits forgetting the same thing in his cockpit cover so we can take some solace in that we are not the only ones to have done this. Hanging a open flame would not work as it would melt the canvas fabric but some kind of electric light would work well.

And that’s about it until our 24 month system log.

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