Thursday, July 24, 2008

United Parcel Screw-up

Excuses for not sailing, and reasons for lack of participation in regattas are topics discussed elsewhere in the nautical blogosphere. We can add our excuse, courtesy in part of one of the world's largest shipping services.

I've not sailed much this summer. That's in spite of spending almost every weekend at the marina and being involved in all sorts of sailing-related projects, and having a small flotilla or herd of boats. Yet, except for a bit of time on Sunfish dinghies and on kayaks, I've not been on the water in several weeks. What gives?

Partly, we've been busy with other projects, such as working on the marina. And, our MacGregor trailer-cruiser has been down in the mast up lot at Elephant Butte and still needs a bit more work and clean-up preparatory to sale.

But, the big hold-up has been with Carol Anne's Etchells, "Black Magic". It's been unsailable since a major component broke. A fiberglass control pedestal, which rises from the floor of the boat just forward of the helm position, became uprooted and separated from the floor. This pedestal holds the mainsheet (line to the boom and which is the main sail control for the big mainsail) and several other control lines. It is subject to significant lateral and vertical pressures from the heavily-loaded mainsheet and is also used as a brace by crew members during windy conditions, so it must hold up against hundreds of pounds of force. It cracked along each side where layers of fiberglass came down the side of the pedestal and turned out over the boat floor.

The joint had failed a couple of years ago. Because the boat was at Elephant Butte and we were relatively new to fiberglass work, we took the recommendation of a fellow Etchells owner and took it to a fiberglass shop in El Paso that was said to do beautiful glass work. The fellow owner and we explained carefully what was required, and what loads would be put on the pedestal and from which direction. And, the shop did beautiful work. Twas much more beautiful work than we could have done.

Unfortunately, beautiful didn't mean strong. Within several weeks, the join failed and the boat was again unsailable.

So, Carol Anne, Gerald, and I re-did the job on our own. This time the repair lasted for nearly two years. But, during blustery conditions just before the Summer Breeze I regatta at Heron, a joint cracked open again. Carol Anne and Gerald completed the race, but then the boat has been sitting idle, awaiting repairs.

Part of the delay was in deciding how to make the repair; we decided on ways to make the joint stronger for this repair by using more fiberglass and by placing small triangular wooden blocks glassed inside the fiberglass to provide more of a bearing surface and a more gradual curve in the surface of the fiberglass joint, thus spreading the loading and somewhat bracing the pedestal laterally.

But, another delay has come in the quest for getting better materials. In New Mexico, we have no bricks-and-mortar sailing shops, so many parts and supplies have to be ordered by telephone or internet. That means delays in receiving parts, especially if a sailor can't afford to routinely pay high fees for overnight or expedited shipment. And, some supplies are considered hazardous and can't be expressed.

In this case, the delay has been multiplied by a stupid mistake by an employee of the parcel delivery service.

Nearly two weeks after my order for Kevlar (Aramid) cloth, fiberglass roving cloth, fiberglass matting, and a bundle of assorted fiberglass cloth had been accepted and approved, the package hadn't arrived. But, the parcel service tracking website had a rude surprise for me; when I checked it this Tuesday it claimed the two parcels had been delivered to me the Monday eight days previous. Had the packages been stolen from my doorstep? Would I have to re-order and face another week or weeks of delays? Frustrated, I called the vendor (Defender) and they put out a trace on the delivery, though that might not accomplish much since UPS claimed to have made the delivery.

But then, on Wednesday, the answer to all these questions came knocking on my front door. It was a neighbor, and he was carrying one of the packages under one arm and I went with him to fetch the other. It seems that UPS had delivered my packages to a neighbor. That's even through the neighbor wasn't home -- he was off vacationing in Florida -- and even though one or the other members of my family were home most of the day of the delivery. And, the address was correct on both package labels, and our street number is clearly marked both on the curb next to our drive and next to our front door a mailbox. It seems that the delivery driver must have been incredibly sloppy or careless.

As a result, we've lost yet more time in getting Carol Anne's boat, which is in a marina 160 miles from our home, repaired. And now, we have a travel commitment that will chew through the next couple of weekends, so it will be late in the season before all is well with Carol Anne's graceful boat. So, we've lived with week after week of delays. Rats!

Still, it could be worse; many fellow boat owners faced much worse damage when a sudden storm this summer damaged and sunk boats in southern New Mexico. A sailing friend, whose boat was in a slip shorter than the boat's length, had his bow amputated and a gouge taken out of his boat's lead keel as vicious waves slammed the boat into the marina structure while he and the marina owner looked on helplessly. As I tell my friends, "It could be worse. I could be singing." Oh well.


At 10:05 PM, July 24, 2008, Anonymous Bill L said...

Fed Ex

I've had way too many bad bad rude and crude experiences w/the big brown truck.


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