The Interesting Side of Marine Surveying

By

Gene Thornton, AMS-E

How often have you been told "I'll bet you could write A Book"? Yes I have heard that many times, yes we certainly do meet, and work for a lot of different people, every day is somewhat different. It would be boring if they were any other way.

As for writing a book, it's not likely. But many days produce material for short stories and interesting tales, such as these that follow. These are all based on actual events, some exaggerations may have been added. Some parts may be informative, some humor is included. This is a serious job, but it does not have to be boring. This is the best job I have ever had and most days are a pleasure, as are the SAMS & NAMS guys I work with.

LETS START WITH YACHT BUYERS

These are mostly very nice people, many times very knowledgeable regarding engines. However on occasion we might run into some very difficult ones. A few buyers will stay very close to where I am working, many times in the way. Asking constant questions sometimes at rapid-fire mode. These questions can become distracting after a while. Usually on the hottest day of the summer they will find a way to get between my fan and myself.

Patience will prevail, they soon become bored watching what we refer to as the cold inspection, this can be similar in excitement as to watching grass grow. Or perhaps they just run out of questions. Some will realize that they are distracting me and politely excuse themselves.

FRIGHTFUL

I recall a couple from the North East looking at an old boat, which was listed by a broker with a questionable reputation, his photo still hangs in the post office. This old girl was rough, all batteries were dead, this and many other small but not so good problems were prevalent. All this caused a delay in leaving the dock for scheduled haul out.

Once under way in the ICW at dead idle smoke began to pour from the engine room and engine room vents, we lost AC power. This indicated the generator was the problem, heavy thick smoke smelled of rubber. Buyers panicked and started screaming at our rent-a-captain to put them ashore. Bilge blowers begin to clear the smoke enough to allow a quick inspection, this revealed it was only the pump belt on the generator, there was no real danger. Except I was not sure if our clients had jumped overboard and swam for shore or passed out from fright.

By the time we returned to the vessel's dockage these folks just wanted off of this boat, right now. Needless to say this not being a pleasant experience they quickly rejected the boat, right here & right now. Once we arrived back at our starting point the buyers did not think they should pay the surveyors fees. Understand they were rejecting the boat.

More excitement followed, some harsh words were said. We finally were paid, but only because the wife was a reasonable person, still shook up but reasonable. I doubt if these people ever bought a boat, or for that matter ever stepped on another one.

FIRST TIMERS

I have done surveys for people that were first time buyers; the ones that come to mind were looking at a fifty foot motor yacht. These were very nice people but not well informed about boats, and not very young. They seemed willing to learn and listened closely, but I wonder did they understand. However they did buy this boat, I was later told they were enjoying it, but felt they should have bought a much larger one.

BRING THE GIRLS, DON'T BRING THE DOGS

Some buyers bring their wives on the survey; some bring their girl friends. I like the girls, they sometimes ask more intelligent questions than the husbands do and they are always better to look at. On some occasions the ladies seem to be the force behind the purchase.

Now that I have complemented the ladies and gained some points, we can get on with the story.

Some bring friends, some bring their dogs. I like dogs also but this is not the time or place for them. This one couple brought this large size pooch, as soon as he came aboard he felt that it was necessary to mark his territory, so he cocks his leg over my toolbox. Go ahead and laugh, but it was not funny. So let's get back to friends. Some of these friends are very knowledgeable about boats, often more so than the guy with the check book. Perhaps that's why they bring them, sort of like the kid in the comic strip Peanuts that has a security blanket.

Often the buyer's captain may also be present, these guys are usually easy to work with. However I do think there a few that should seek a different form of employment, perhaps pumping gas would be appropriate. I am amazed by some of their stupid questions, some are busy trying to upgrade all the boat's electronic gear, while others may be interested in increasing the horsepower. I sometimes feel the buyer is being taken for a ride by his captain, in more ways than one. Pass the checkbook please.

GOOD ADVICE

I did a survey for a very nice successful gentlemen from South Florida, the SAMS surveyor that recommended me told me to be sure and conduct any and all business with this client before 11AM. Otherwise he would likely be incoherent after the 11AM cocktail hour. And guess what, the other surveyor was absolutely right, about 10AM this guy had the bottles lined up on the bar like ducks. My exit was graceful, he probably thinks I am still in the engine room.

SPLINTERS AND DRY ROT

I recall an old Matthews, of the wooden variety with a pair of 6-71N's. Both engines were in good shape. This good looking old girl had had the same owner for eons, he insisted that we haul at the same place he had been using all these years. I knew in my own mind that this facility had only slings, this was an old wooden boat. But this is not my concern.

As you might have expected as she was lifted she split her seams, planks popped off and the owner screamed. (remember it was his choice) The hull surveyor that I was with that day, explained to the buyers that this boat did in fact have big problems. Problems such as rotten frames that were visible and likely many more that were not visible.

The husband allowed that he was from the City of Arrogance and had previously owned a motor home business. He also passed himself off as a self proclaimed genius, master of all trades looking for a project, as he was retired and needed something to do. I would think this was a career job not something that just anyone could tackle, but wait this guy says he is a jack of all trades. His ego literally spilled all over the boat yard.

Now we are in a modern boat yard, they work on plastic boats, the kind that use self tapping screws and stickum to hold them together. They don't have any wood screws suitable to reattach these planks. So 65 tubes of 5200 was pushed into the open seams and these longer than strings of spaghetti stainless self tapping screws were run in with an electric drill. You gotta have faith...

Well after the hull surveyor painted the worst picture possible, these people bought this boat. The husband had a heart attack and the wife sued the hull surveyor. I never heard of the outcome

WHAT A VARIETY OF PEOPLE

I have worked for all types of buyers, wise guys, bikers, drug dealers, gays and lesbians. Also the normal family man and businessman, these buyers are interested in value, reliability and safety. The wise guys usually keep a low profile, ask few questions and are reluctant to give a mailing address. Cash is carried by a lieutenant in a brief case, survey fees are paid in cash. They came and picked up the report, never would give me a mailing address or phone number, only a beeper number.

Drug dealers, these guys usually came in fours, tee shirts and shorts. Usually driving exotic cars. Two of them carried brief cases, one had cash in it. This is not only for the surveyor's fees, this is to pay for the boat, right here and right now. The second brief case carried by a different person contained the Uzi, just in case the offer was rejected, or other unforeseen problems occurred, This was back in the time when they were using motor yachts as freighters.

Stories were told locally, that on one occasion the durggies commandeered the boat during the sea trial, put the broker & surveyors off in an isolated location and disappeared with the boat. This was before cell phones, thank goodness I was not one of the surveyors. Don't you just hate it when something like this happens, it can really ruin your day.

The gays, yes the gays, these guys are easy to work for, easy to get along with. They are very understanding and thankful for the information you are providing them with. They also seem to come in groups of four but without brief cases, they carry checkbooks instead, their money is good. Treat them right you will get referrals.

Lesbians, let's not forget them. They buy boats also. These two girls that come to mind were from South America, neither one was my type. The day was going smoothly, the rent-a-captain arrived and we went to the boat yard for haul out. This yard provided a picnic like table for us to sit at while we waited. I was sitting at the table with the girls when the captain came over and sat down. Sitting there quietly for a few minutes, he asks the girls if they were sisters, the larger of the two answered. "No we are lovers".

This must have been the first day this guy was out of the house. Well now I am here to tell you that I have never seen anyone, anyone even with a fresh sunburn, that had such a red face. This guy just wanted to crawl under a rock but could not find one, it was obvious he did not have a clue as to the situation. He quickly got up from the table and left. The two girls started to laugh, I joined in as well.

THE WRONG TIME, THE WRONG PLACE

One of the most annoying things that happens during a survey are those interior decorators, they are measuring what ever they measure for and either are moving my gear or just plain in the way. Understand the boat is not yet theirs, I guess its called planning ahead. On maybe they just enjoy being a pain in the stern.

Another situation that happened recently was this couple showed up with a baby. Yes a baby, they also had one on those walker things with wheels. They promptly set this walker thing down in the main salon and placed the kid in it.

The kid thinks this is great he/she was all over the place, grinning like crazy. I don't believe it occurred to the mother that the kid, walker and all could end up falling through the open hatch. Or maybe her head was someplace else. Once I called this to her attention she rolled up some small carpets up so to keep the kid away from the open hatch. Leave the kid with the grandparents, this is what grandparents are for. They love it, trust me here.

This situation grew more unbelievable as the day went on, getting the kid & his stuff off the boat at haul out was another chore. After leaving the haul out we headed for the sea trial meaning the Atlantic Ocean, I wondered had they brought junior a life jacket??? Answer NO!

Now Moma thinks she is going to leave this kid in the walker in the salon while she and papa ride the bridge. Once I reminded her of the loud noise the engines create and it would be detrimental to the kid's ears, she picked him up and carried him away. But she left the walker thing to drift around.

Headed back after the sea trial I usually start the report on my laptop, provided we have a distance to travel back to the dock. The sun was bright so I closed the drapes in the main salon, after all I am the only one there. All the others were up on the bridge, that is until Moma brings the kid back to change his britches.

After this smelly operation is over she opens all the drapes and then leaves the salon. I will never be able to figure some people out, especially women. These people also had the idea that we should stop at a local area known as River Walk so they could go ashore for a sit down lunch. We, the surveyors and the rent a captain were expected to sit tight on the boat while these folks ate. Not a chance lady, take us back to the dock then you and your husband can play boats the rest of the day.

WHAT A SURPRISE

I recall another time I traveled to Long Boat Key, this is a nifty little place called Pirates Cove. Here we were to survey an Ocean Motor Yacht, said yacht had live aboards, which included two large dogs. Both of the smelly variety, this was very noticeable as there was no working air conditioning, only a huge fan the size of an airplane propeller on the aft deck blowing smelly hot air around.

Well as the morning progressed the owner mentioned we must leave soon or the tide would hold us captive for six hours. As we left the dock the owner explained the long narrow shallow channel, well said channel was exactly what he said it was. What he did not say was it was a zillion miles long. A zillion miles at dead idle with large smelly dogs.

The owner was huge, as were the dogs and his daughter, papa had a beard and the daughter has a mustache and a bad odor. I just knew this was the beginning of a fun trip, the owner explains that once we get hauled things should move quicker as he has a diver clean the bottom once a month.

Well guess what, it all went down hill from there, as we were hauled I noted the long green biological experiment that was attached to the bottom of this vessel, it gave a new meaning to shapeless, what a growth. I believe someone poured Vigoro Plant Food in the water around the boat.

Once the boat was up, the yard help had now accepted the fact that this growth had to be removed and it was their job to do so. We all found a shady spot to sit, we were just getting comfortable when four Sheriff's cars arrived. The Deputies jumped out of the cars and arrested the owner for fraud and placed him in handcuffs. As it turns out this was not his boat that he was trying to sell. I called a cab to take me back to Pirates Cove where I had a nice quiet lunch, was I ever thankful that I had been paid in advance.

A TWO DAY NIGHTMARE

Another trip to the Florida West Coast turned in to a worse nightmare, as this was in December shortly before Christmas. It started normally, the hull surveyor stopped at my home as we were going to leave from there early in the morning.

This being just before Christmas my wife suggested we take her car as she needed my van to pick up some Christmas gifts and other stuff wives pick up this time of year. So upon our arrival at the yacht club where the boat was docked the owner immediately noted the car and implied we must be ripping people off. Later we find he also has the same kind of car that we are driving. Perhaps he was the one who was doing the ripping.

What a nice way to start, being criticized upon arrival. However the weather was nice and pleasant and the boat was at the far end of the dock, as you would expect. All boats that are for sale are at the far end of the dock, never close to the parking lot. This was a snail boat, oops I mean sail boat. This boat and all others at the facility were covered with bird poop, surveyors note "all birds are dirty little bastards".

As the morning progressed discovery was made that this boat was not what it was represented to be. Leaving for the haul out the weather still typical South Florida December, we were dressed in short sleeves and very comfortable.

Arriving at the yard, which was the choice of the owner we were hauled on arrival, cables broke and the vessel was dropped while still over the travel well. Yes the cables broke and the boat dropped back into the water, hell of a splash, water water everywhere. The two large steel tubes that held the slings caused some damage. I noticed the cables were worn so bad there was flat areas running the length of the cables. Geez what a shame, they should have been good for a few more years.

It was about high noon when the owner of the boat got straightened out with the yard and all damages were noted. Leaving this rundown red neck facility rather quickly or as fast as this old dog would trot, we headed north in waters, which were not familiar to me. I was told the next yard was in Bradenton, we were in Sarasota.

We set out at a record-breaking speed of at least seven knots, minus the current so it seemed we were actually going backward. Shortly afterward the weather started turning bad, clouds and a cold wind from the north, typical of a winter cold front. This is shocking as our warm clothes were in my wife's car back in Sarasota.

As we proceeded it was obvious our leader, the owner did not know where we were going, we were able to find some rain coats which helped break the wind but the temperature must have dropped 20° during the trip. Once we were in Tampa bay the owner broke out a chart and I was given the wheel. I don't know if this was good move or not, I thought we had already been under way long enough to have reached Ohio. We did however find our way to the yard just at dusk, now this guy the owner, is afraid to dock this boat. The security guard finally directed us into the travel well.

The owner calls his wife to come pick us up, my fellow surveyor is now busy trying to get sick, as in the virus or flu. Arriving back at the hotel we took two rooms and I showered with all hot water just trying to warm up.

I was in a handicapped room, the bathroom was huge, about the size of a single car garage. The toilet seat is the strangest thing I have ever seen, this monster must have been 8 inches thick. Looking at this strange white donut, I come to the conclusion that this room must be for the Jolly Green Giant.

Later we enjoyed a late dinner and went to bed. Just as I dozed off the phone rang; my wife was calling to tell me the interior light in my van would not go off. This is midnight and we have to get up early to go complete the survey the next day.

Well I said it is on a delay timer, it will go off. No she said it's been too long. Well make sure all the doors are latched, She replied that they were all latched. I said go make sure and said goodnight. Dozing again when the phone again rings, I answer and a slightly rattled voice says, yes all the doors are latched if it stays on it will run the battery down. Well I said take the bulb out and go to bed, good night.

The next morning I left a thank you note for the Jolly Green Giant, the boat owner picks us up for the trip back to the boat yard, arriving at the boat they already had hauled it and we were able to proceed with out delay. Once the boat was back in the water my job was to take a compression test of the main engine and generator. The owner inquires, can any thing go wrong while doing this?

Well I answer yes, but we don't start these things with that thought in mind. Well says the owner I don't want you to do this, I respond, the buyer has requested it. Well he bounced back, it's still my boat and I don't want you to do it. End of survey for me.

The day did not stop here, we had to ride this snail boat back to Sarasota with this guy, and during this trip we were informed that it was our fault the boat was dropped. As he went over his reasoning of this, he let us know he chose that yard out of convenience for us, as it was close to where the boat was docked. Image that, our fault.

Well by now the weather has turned worse, or perhaps more worser. The difference is we now have warm clothes. Once back at the original dock we removed our gear quickly and started for home, We decided where we wanted to eat before reaching Alligator Alley for the one & half hour ride across the state for home. However it is raining, when we stop at one of the popular roadhouses, we are denied entrance by the police. Seems some nut shot the chef just a few minutes earlier. Could the food have been that bad?

The ride home in the rain was totally uneventful, except for the growling hunger pains. So we stopped at the Indian Reservation rest stop, restaurant, gift shop, gas station, a complete tourist trap etc. We had a quick snack and fresh dose of indigestion, please pass the Rolaids

WHERE THERE IS SMOKE

Some times there are other types of excitement, like fire. I recall one occasion where oil from an after market type oil filter sprayed onto a hot turbo. This produced lots of heavy smoke and immediate concern but no flames. Thank you very much.

Another fire was a result of a fuel leak, fuel was leaking from the return line at the fuel cooler and finding it's way onto the exhaust extension heat shield, which was porous and absorbent. This was a small leak and did not drip, after operating temperature was reached the exhaust temperature of course also increased and the insulating blanket burst into flames.

My back was turned to this fire, I was not aware there was a problem until the hull surveyor kicked me from above. Have you ever been kicked in the head? I thought I was working with "Walker Texas Ranger" After realizing we had a problem the fire was quickly extinguished. Needless to say all hearts were pounding.

WILL THEY BREAK

Do engines fail when conducting the sea trial? Yes they do, but thank goodness not too often. I recall several that were running just perfect and I turned my back to look at the other engine and the first one decided it was time to quit.

Usually when this happens there is a slow loss of power and then smoke erupts from every hole possible and the engine dies, usually with some final strange sounds. Perhaps similar to the call of a constipated orangutan, then silence, then more smoke. Sometimes there is no warning what so ever, just a loud unusual noise or a continued rattling sounds as the bones fall, followed by smoke and instant heavy metal sounds. Perhaps these sounds are contained within the engine sometimes it simply flies apart, parts fly out externally as does hot engine oil. The safest place is on top of this creature, not beside it.

ONCE WAS ENOUGH

Some jobs require travel to distant places, on this one occasion I was staying at a hotel that included a marina. Arriving mid day I started after check in and a change of clothing. Having started late I worked late, it as almost dark when I went back to my room. There were several separate buildings behind the main building, all three stories high all had elevators.

Upon opening the door to my room I heard the phone ringing, the desk clerk was calling to tell me the person that had this room the night before had forgotten something in the room. She advised me not to let him in and offered to send security. No I am OK, I will get a shower and come down to the restaurant. After the shower I noticed some strange looking leaves in the bathroom. Well what do you know, weed in the sink? About that time someone is pounding on the door.

Pulling the drapes open I see this person standing outside looking sort of frantic. He explains that he had this room last night and forgot something. He wanted to come in and get it. Not a chance, go away I said. I closed the drapes and called the front desk, I told the clerk what I had found in the bathroom and that this dude had been at the door. She sent security, security brought a real live cop with him.

Now here are these two guys crawling on the floor on their hands and knees, they tore that room apart, what did they find? They found his nickel bag taped up under one of the dresser drawers. The security guy says to me get your gear together, we will get you another room. Wow, such a room, it's a suite complete with all the comforts. The hotel even sprung for my dinner and drinks. Love that hotel.

This story did not end here, we arrived at the airport. We meaning the hull surveyor and my self for the trip back to Fort Lauderdale. I had this carry on bag, in the bag was a torque wrench. (it would not fit in my checked toolbox) The security guy went bananas, he is not going to let me on the aircraft with this thing he called a "weapon". Well I said call the captain and have him put it under his seat, he can give it to me when I get off.

So the guy did call the captain. The captain arrived at the security checkpoint, the situation was explained to him by the security dude. After listening to all of this he made a statement, "give him back his god damn torque wrench, let him on the plane and don't bother me with this bull shit again".

A FRIGHTFUL EXPERIENCE:

This survey started the same as others, broker, buyer and myself. Hull surveyor was not going to be engaged unless the engines were considered as having some useful life left.

I Begin the survey by lifting the hatches, broker announces he will be back for the trial run.

The buyer and myself get acquainted as I worked, pointing out several items that needed attention. This buyer seemed interested but as the morning continued he became slow to answer or respond to conversation, he also became unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred, as in too much to drink. However I had not seen him drinking anything, he had not left the boat to get a drink from his car. But he seemed to be getting worse, he was almost unable to speak.

Not able to communicate with this gentleman I called the broker and explained the situation. The broker was not aware that his buyer had any medical problem, nor did he know where to reach any of his family.

After we got him off the boat we called 911, within a few minutes the Dania Fire Rescue guys showed up. Within minutes they come to the conclusion the guy was a diabetic and was having a diabetic seizure. Within a minute of two they had him back up, he was quite embarrassed. The medics had found candy in his pocket, but said he waited too long. Not a fun day.

A WASTED TRIP

These surveys sometimes booked too far in advance are not always a good thing. The one that comes to mind was 96 miles away one way, the buyer was a brain surgeon. The boat was in the same area of his office. The date was set, agreement signed by the good doctor and faxed back as required. Arriving at the marina near 8AM as scheduled, I unloaded my gear and went to the dock master's office to inquire as to the location of the boat.

The dock master informed me that boat has not been there for a month. Excuse me I said, he repeated, the owner moved the boat. Returning to the car I called the good doctor, oh he explained we did that survey last week. Well thank you for calling me, you know we had a signed agreement. Well it went down hill from there, he never paid me for the late cancellation, or for that matter even my travel. This was when I began getting credit card numbers with each signed agreement. I recommended a brain transplant for the doctor.

THE CASE OF THE OPEN HATCH

I believe this was an Egg Harbor, I had opened the hatch in the solon for access to the engine compartment, the buyers arrived shortly afterward. Very nice couple, lots of questions as they were first time buyers. Continuing with this survey with the hatch up as usual, the wife was all over the boat mentally redecorating and dreaming the dream.

We arrived a little early for haul out and had to tie up while waiting, now remember the open hatch. Every one remembered except the buyer's wife, this lady fell into the open hatch. Yes after walking around this hole all morning she decides to fall in. Did she hurt herself? Yes a few skinned shins bumps and bruises, and total embarrassment.

Did they buy the boat? Yes they did, I saw them two weeks afterward on the boat just as happy as they could be. The guy's wife told me it was a lesson well learned, but she was still a little sore.

COUSIN VINNY

You may have seen the movie "My Cousin Vinny". You may also have heard the expression "Cousin Vinny must have fixed this". Well Cousin Vinny is alive and well and living in Brooklyn, New York. I know this as I have spoken with him.

While doing this survey for a retired architect and his wife, this call came in to the buyer. The buyer talked on the phone for a short time then handed me his cell phone, explaining that he wanted me to speak to his friend. Said friend was a boat owner and a diesel mechanic. When he handed me the phone I saw the name "Vinny" in the little window, well hello Cousin Vinny, I said how are you. Now you all know that I truly do have a Cousin Vinny. Cousin Vinny begins by telling me all the things I should be checking, just exactly what to take apart and what to look for.

Whoa there Vinny, this is a non take apart type survey...Silence...What do you mean? I mean we only evaluate the engine in its entirety as to external condition, condition of hoses fuel lines etc and of course, for performance. Oh! You mean you are not going to take the injectors out? That's right nothing will be opened or removed. By the way Vinny my phone is ringing, gotta go, hey it's been nice talking with you, bye now.

Just in case you doubt that there truly is a Cousin Vinny, feel free to call him, he is in Brooklyn.

WHAT RESPONSIBILITY

There are other unpleasant things as well, of course everyone knows once you list your boat with a broker all responsibility stops. This usually applies to the batteries, meaning no one checks the batteries for water and they boil dry. We usually find out there is not enough fuel during the sea trial, yes often this commodity is low or missing completely.

However some how we always seem to make it back to the dock, even if it's with only one engine. Shame on these guys that can't have the boat ready for survey.

STRANGE PEOPLE

Crazy things happen, I was retained to do this engine survey on this almost new Sea Ray, this boat was in the 1999 Fort Lauderdale boat show. We were to start the day the show was breaking up, what this means after finally finding a parking place on top of this Honda. I proceeded past the forklifts and packed crates, stepping over large yellow unbiblical cords, hoses and miscellaneous packing.

We were promised we could leave the dock by noon, I could not believe it, we actually did get away before noon. It was the hull surveyor that called me for this assignment, he arrived with the buyers. This couple each had a cell phone attached to their ears, I am not sure if they were talking to each other or what. But they never put the phones down, maybe they were listening to dirty jokes.

At this time the hull surveyor became the boat driver, seems it had been decided that we would do the sea trial before haul out as the bottom was clean. So back in my office I went, sound barriers, clip board and flash light. Well during the sea trial our hull surveyor/boat driver ran over a crawfish trap line and fouled one prop and a heavy vibration followed.

This must have woke him from his apparent daze and he pulled the throttles back, tried reversing to clear the prop but the good fairy was not with him today. So we proceeded slowly to the inlet, the E CM shut down the fouled engine to idle only, we slowly made our way back inside and proceeded to the boat yard.

Arriving at the yard for haul out we were quickly lifted, all stood around for a while then the hull surveyor and the buyers went to lunch. They were expected back after lunch and as per normal the bottom would be clean. I don't usually do lunch with buyers, I always bring a sandwich in my cooler. Knowing this they left me in the yard with the boat.

Well guess what, they never came back. Someone from the yard was sent to the restaurant where they went, but they were not there, they had eaten and left. Well here I am, no ride back to get my Suburban off the Honda in the city parking lot.

So I reached for my trusty cell phone and called a cab, retrieved my Suburban and went home. Not hearing any more I completed the survey report and mailed it to the address they had given me. The USPS returned it stamped no such address so I stashed it away.

Did I get paid??? Yes I did, I don't usually leave the office without a signed agreement and a credit card number. About four months later the hull surveyor called and asked why the buyers never got the report. This hull surveyor was at one time a SAMS guy, he is no longer a member, I wonder why?

HELL OF A SURPRISE

I was hired to do this engine survey on a vessel docked at a marina in Pompano Beach. This being a popular place early arrival assured me of a parking place. Dragging my gear down the dock to the boat, then placing it on the boat. I then climbed on the boat and went to retrieve the key, which was supposed to be in the wet bar, no key.

So I tried the door, it was unlocked, upon opening the door there stood a guy pointing a 9mm at me. Whoa, I backed up with hands up. As it turned out the guy was a cop, the boat owner had given the police permission to use his boat for the surveillance of another boat in the marina. What a surprise! The owner did not tell his broker of this decision. I don't know if I blew their cover or not. But it sure scared the hell out of me.

ANOTHER BLAST

An older 53' Hatteras Motor Yacht was the subject vessel, located in one of our local older rundown boat yards. This boat was scheduled as no one being aboard, arriving at 8 AM in the rain, I find a lady on the side deck by the door. I use the term lady just to be nice, she turned out to be Mrs. Nasty, better named just a plain Mrs. Bitch.

As per usual we don't know the buyers, so I asked her if she was one of the buyer's party. I don't recall any answer. So I proceeded to put my gear aboard, once up in the salon there was an older couple standing there, so I introduced myself and again asked is they were the buyers. Now Mrs. Nasty blurts in and announces that they are not the buyers, they are her parents.

So proceeding below, remember when this survey was scheduled I was told there would be no one aboard. Proceeding below to the galley I see this girl forward only partly dressed, we were both equally surprised. The big difference was she was topless, I was not. She asked what I was doing? Well I am just going to the engine room, excuse me I did not know anyone would be aboard. I was not surprised when she blurted out some #X&##x~xZXZ and slammed the door.

Now getting started the afore mentioned Mrs. Nasty decides to make 151 trips back & forth from the galley to the aft cabin. I convinced myself she was an escapee from the funny farm.

These people finally got off the boat and the actual owner appeared. I believe he belonged to Mrs. Nasty and Miss Topless. He seemed like just another know it all boat owner from the City of Arrogance. The buyer and his broker arrived and we cast off down the river for the sea trial. The buyer was from Canada, nice guy but he was sure the seller was not telling him the truth about anything.

After catching up in my department, I came up and noticed no one was at the helm. Where was our driver? He was on the bow deck steering with the remote control for the auto pilot. Now those familiar with the New River, know the boat traffic and congestion are can at times resemble I-95. Maybe he and Mrs. Nasty both had escaped from the funny farm.

Once leaving the river and entering the ICW he starts toward the wrong side of the channel markers. I politely announce to steer to port, if you continue in this direction there will be no sea trial today. So he attempts to back up, however he now has the synchronizer on and boat does not back up in the most desirable direction. Let's call this guy Captain Gadget.

Once back in the channel we proceed toward the bridge, several boats are waiting for the opening, we are last in line. Not for long were we last in line, Captain Gadget from the City of Arrogance works his way up front. We are now drifting toward the bridge bumpers, our Captain Gadget is strolling around the boat. Understand an out going tide here is in full race form, I start looking for a distant spot from the strike zone when someone shouts at Gadget.

Again Captain Gadget has the synchronizer on again and boat fails to respond properly, it then strikes the bridge bumper, stern first. What a genius. Returning from the sea trial in open water our Captain Gadget manages to let the boat broach in the inlet. With this the broker pushed him away from the wheel and saved the day, saved the boat and saved us as well, Captain Gadget disappeared below mumbling take me back to the farm.

LOUSY DAY PERFECT ENDING

It was one of those dreary rainy days we rarely have here in South Florida, the survey went well and we were finished in the middle of the afternoon. The boat was in good condition as were the engines, not a whole lot to report. Leaving the boat I decided I wanted a cup of coffee, there was a McDonalds in view. McDonalds gives us senior citizens coffee at a discount price of .58 cents, so why not.

Standing at the counter the girl asked me if I was a senior citizen, yes I answered. She looked at me and said you can't be. Well I said I have been a senior citizen for several years. She bounced back with, I can't give you discounted coffee with out an ID. I whipped out my drivers licensee and gave it to her. This was a perfect ending to a dreary day, I felt 27 years old again, well almost. Have you ever been carded at McDonalds?

JUST TEARS

This scheduled meeting was to take place first thing in the morning, at a local diesel engine dealer's office. There were two technicians that I needed to ask a few questions, as it turned out I knew the first one when he was at a different repair facility.

As the second one came into the room I introduced myself and we shook hands, he immediately burst into tears. This was a bit of a surprise, I did not know exactly what to say, or if I should say anything. Had he thought I came for his head? I wondered. So to break the ice, I said you must have had to use I-95 to get to work this morning.

With that he partly collapsed into the chair. He excused himself, wiped his face & eyes, asked for a minute to get composed and then he straightened up. I never did find out if it was my being there or if he was in the process of a nervous break down. Makes you wonder about some of these guys.

DESIGNATED DISTRACTION

Recently doing a survey on an Egg Harbor for these nice folks from center city New York, the broker brings this attractive young sweet thing. She was pleasant and dressed as young girls dress, in other words few clothes.

Seems she was attracted to the hull surveyor, she spent the day hovering over him as he did his inspection. She seemed attentive as if she wanted to one day become a surveyor. However I do believe the broker knew there was something wrong with the boat, so the girl was the "designated distraction". The hull surveyor insists he covered everything, "everything"? I asked.

CRASH

During the above Egg Harbor survey while on sea trial the life raft, complete in it's fiber glass pod, came crashing down from the hard top over the fly bridge. This just missed Miss Distraction as it crashed on the cockpit deck and broke open. There were no signs indicating this was a hard hat area.

SURVEYOR/PARAMEDIC

I can agree with some SAMS members, we do need more designators, we need one that covers medical treatment. While doing a survey on this older floating object we found the generator battery was dead. While attempting to attach jumper cables I fell in the hatch head first, landing on the lifting bracket on the generator.

Well you guessed it, I split my head open, as hard has some say it is, it did in fact split open and it did bleed. Now fellow SAMS member Dr. Howe, attended my medical needs by sewing my head up with some old fishing line we found in the boat. The scar is overwhelming.

I understand he recently performed similar treatment to another engine surveyor's hand. I haven't yet heard if the guy has regained full use of his hand.

Proposed new designator may look something like this: "PMS" (Para Medic Surveyor)

DO WE NEED HELPERS

Once believing help would be an asset in helping cover the entire engine survey more thoroughly, I once brought along a young diesel mechanic hoping to train this guy to the point where I could send him to do a complete engine survey. Knowing full well this person was capable of an engine overhaul without help, I had complete confidence in his ability.

Arriving at the vessel we started as usual, however when he asked me the name of the vessel, rather than telling him I suggested he look at the vessel's stern for the name. After looking at his notes I found he had the name listed as "Beware of Propeller". Any one need an assistant? Mine is looking for a new job.

RETURN INSPECTIONS

I really hate to follow someone that conducted an earlier survey, in this case all parties were unhappy with the surveyors report. Arriving at the vessel I was presented with the recommendation page from the previous engine survey. Comments by the attending mechanic were hand written beside each item. The following are the recommendations complete with the mechanics comments:

(R) is the recommendation
(C) is the mechanics solution

R Port alternator belt almost worn out.
C Port alternator belt almost replaced.

R Fuel condition considered as poor.
C Fuel condition was upgraded.

R Stbd. main engine leaking oil.
C Oil leaks normal, port engine lacks normal oil leaks.

R Something was noted as rolling around in bilge.
C Something tightened in bilge.

R Evidence of fuel leak at port fuel filter.
C Evidence removed.

R Dead bugs in bilge under engines.
C Live bugs on back order.

R Fuel priming pumps inoperative.
C Fuel priming pumps always inoperative in off mode.

R Friction lock causes throttles to stick
C That's what they are for.

R Port engine missing
C Port engine found in engine room after brief search.

R Generator sounds funny.
C Generator instructed to listen up and sound normal.

R Stbd. engine has hum.
C Reprogrammed Stbd. engine with the words.

THE END OF THE WORLD, OR ALMOST PARADISE?

I accepted an assignment to inspect a failed engine in a vessel located on a distant island, said boat was just purchased by the present owner in a third foreign country. This vessel was built in Italy, the engine was built in Germany, present owner is American, talk about international marriages.

This trip started as planned and soon became complicated, sorry sir your flight has been canceled. Great, I love waiting in airports, the food is usually bad unless you are waiting in the Philadelphia airport, which I was not.

At least I had a chance to watch the race, the human race that is. Geezzzz what a selection of people, those that always seem to be in a rush, polite for rude. Those that you are sure are lost, those that wish they were somewhere else. And of course the others that seem to fit the situation. I noted all sorts, readers, sleepers, even weight lifters exercising in the waiting areas. Kids screaming and lots of good looking girls.

Finally they found us an airplane that was not being used for some other purpose and we boarded. Arriving at our destination 4 hours late the guys at customs seemed to care less what we were bringing into the country.

The rental car people need lessons as to the meaning of reservations, I only wanted a mid size car, which they refer to as a full size. With that classification they can charge limo prices for pregnant roller skates. However the car I asked for I was told had not been returned, any where else this would have constituted an "upgrade". At the end of the world it means downgrade, downgrade means a tiny Japanese car, heavily hammered. Including but not limited to no A/C, broken mirrors, broken windshield wipers. I am sure you get the picture.

Understand this island is referred to as "paradise", paradise has dirt roads, which huge holes and rocks the size of basket balls in the road, heavy dust is a way of life. High price everything except in the native restaurants which are very good. The residents drive like they are in a race, knowing should they have to stop the dust will consume them. Road signs are few and in most cases unreadable due to age & weather.

This being paradise the people are nice, the food is good, but paradise it is not. Don't get lost, I believe there are exactly two pay phones on the island, one in the airport and the one I found that will not accept coins.

This island is a huge rock sticking out of the ocean, north side has beautiful beaches and resort hotels, close to paradise, so the rest of the island must be almost paradise. Returning to Florida redefined the true meaning of paradise.

I am thinking of taking a course in hypnotism so to perhaps have better control over these situations.

I leave you with these thoughts, some will find this educational, others humorous, and I am sure some will find them ridiculous and meaningless. To those I say "get a life".

© 2000

Gene Thornton, AMS-E