By Ben Ellison
|How to find a good electronics installer.|
Lower Falls Landing, a nautical business complex along the Royal River in Yarmouth, Maine, is pretty swank by Down East standards. The main building houses not only the headquarters of East Coast Yacht Sales—including a showroom large enough to display several of the Grand Banks-built boats it specializes in—but also a fine river-view restaurant with tablecloths and everything! I josh because it wasn’t that many decades ago that this building was a not-so-swank looking, or smelling, sardine-packing factory.
In fact, Ralph Stephens, proprietor of Yankee Marina and Boatyard and a resident of the complex, remembers managing the cannery with help from the handy grandfather of his senior electronics technician Rod Pervier, the subject of this month’s column. That’s Pervier pictured on page 58 managing the wiring of numerous state-of-the-art systems aboard a new Eastbay 58. He has a reputation for troubleshooting prowess and installation expertise that piqued my curiosity. A complaint I hear too often from boaters, particularly the ones who want the “latest and greatest,” is how hard it is to find truly competent technicians. What, then, are the characteristics that one should be looking for?
You probably think I’ve set you up for a tale of wily Mainers adapting instinctive skills to modern yacht technology, but that’s just part of the story. I first met Pervier last year, accompanied by an enthusiastic member of his crew, at the annual National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) conference in Florida. I was impressed that a relatively small (24 employees) yard willingly ate almost a week of billable hours—times two, plus expenses—to get its guys better trained and more familiar with new products and industry contacts. Today I know that Yankee sends Pervier and/or others on lots of training missions, including seminars hosted by Raymarine, Furuno, Simrad, KVH, etc.
Stephens, who says he’s old enough to remember a herring fisherman dancing a jig when the first radars came out, explains his management philosophy this way (please conjure the Maine intonations): “Good people is the best investment you got, and you gotta keep up. God, it may cost a lot, but, boy, they’re the ones who make it work.” By working he means attracting and keeping customers like the owner of the Eastbay—yes, he bought the boat next door, but he could have had the installs done anywhere—and the new owners of a Krogen 58 who were waiting in a slip for Pervier’s team to replace most of the boat’s nearly new electronics. “God, we love ’em,” chuckles Stephens.
While I credit Stephens with cultivating professionalism among his employees, there is that truism about leading horses to water. Interviewing Pervier, I learned that though he’s tickled to be working in his granddad’s footsteps, his interest in electronics is perhaps even more deeply rooted. Before Yankee, he graduated from Southern Maine Technical College and had a career calibrating and maintaining medical equipment. Now he’s earned a rack of marine certifications and says the effort was worthwhile.
Pervier’s FCC ticket means he can go deep into radars and radios if needed. His regularly renewed ABYC training keeps him up on the latest in power systems and optimal wiring practices, and CMET (NMEA’s own electronics technician certification) helps him with the technology of more specific navigation gear, particularly interfacing. Above all, he says, “Training is a way to remind myself of the theories, which helps when I need to think out a problem.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.