Subtle Signs Page 2
Spectator — March 2002
By Tom Fexas
|Selecting a custom boat/yacht builder, part II.|
14. The yard employs more lawyers than laminators. When too many lawyers get involved, it is a sure recipe for disaster.
15. The client is billed for doughnuts consumed during a meeting he attended.
16. When you ask, "What's the price?" the builder responds, "What do you want to pay?" It happened to me. Believe it or not, a surprising number of major motoryachts are built for a price that has not been analytically nor scientifically arrived at.
17. When you ask the builder about his overhead, he points up to his crane. Is he joking or just plain stupid?
18. A government is subsidizing the yard. All it takes is an election (or a coup d'etat), and the yard could be a goner.
19. The builder has more boats on the bottom than on the surface, and it's not in the submarine business.
20. The builder is supplementing his income with a boutique selling high-end, monogrammed sweatshirts and skivvies with the builder's name emblazoned everywhere.
21. The builder is supplementing his income by taking on odd jobs like making fluted-fiberglass columns for restaurants or fabricating huge fiberglass Minnie Mouse shoes for a Disney display. (If the truth be known, some yards are more suited for making fiberglass shoes than motoryachts.)
22. Unsold 100-foot-plus spec boats are lined up behind the builder's shop like eclairs on a pastry rack.
23. The yard manager is as interested in fixing up his office manager with the yacht designer as he is in building the boat. Hey! That's how I met my wife, but in this case, the boat was finished and she was outstanding. (So was the boat.)
24. Periodically during the day, the builder drops trou in public and gives himself an injection. He says it's for his headaches, but who really knows?
25. The builder's favorite expression is "No problem." This often translates to "big problem."
26. The yard manager has a little book in his top desk drawer that he consults frequently as you are negotiating. Later you find that in it are definitions of words such as port, starboard, bow, and stern. This one is hard to believe, but I speak from first-hand experience. It happened in a Brazilian yard in Rio. The yard manager had previously run a washing machine factory and didn't know the back end of a boat from Isaac Stern.
As I said in Part I, if any of the above apply to your builder, it doesn't necessarily mean the firm is headed for trouble, but it does warrant careful investigation. If I make it sound pretty bleak, it really isn't. The fact is, with careful checking, good boatbuilders with track records in the business can be found worldwide. Over the years we have successfully built boats in countries like Brazil, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy, Canada, and of course, the USA. Although I am not an advocate of "liars for hire" (lawyers), I must reiterate that it is very important to have a shark who knows and understands the marine business arrange the construction contract. These guys are invariably expensive but well worth the money. They can save the owner much grief and big bucks if something unforeseen occurs down the line.
In all the years I have been in the business of designing boats and having hundreds built (since 1966), only one client failed to take delivery of his boat due to builder problems. That would be yours truly (I knew it was a shaky deal going in, but I was working with my own bucks, so I took a shot).
Finally, eyeball the head muckety-muck carefully. Take him out to lunch "one on one," without his staff around to make him look good. What do you see? Can this guy be trusted? Does he have a nervous tick? Does he have darty Nixon eyes? Of course, if you can see scales through his shirt, or he leaves a slime stain on the carpet where he is standing, you should think about moving on.
Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is www.tomfexas.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.