Trip Savers

Lead Line — July 2001
By Richard Thiel

Trip Savers
It cranks, but you know it's not going to Start.
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• Lead Line Index

 Elsewhere on the Web
• Allied Marine Group
• Caterpillar
• Luhrs

It's every boater's nightmare. You've planned the perfect vacation cruise, made the slip reservations, and stocked the boat with everything from charts to coffee. Everyone is aboard and itching to get underway. You start the port engine as your crew prepares to cast off. You push the starter for the starboard engine and it cranks but doesn't fire, and you know, it is not going to start. As everyone stares at you in anticipation, a stabbing in your gut tells you the trip is off.  

That's what happened to me in April. My crew was two 16-year-olds, my daughter Rikki and her girlfriend Kate, both of whom had been anticipating a week in the sunny Florida Keys for two months. Worse, this happened on the Saturday before Easter, and as any boater knows, finding a mechanic on any weekend is tough. On a holiday weekend? Forget about it.

So there I sat aboard our Luhrs 36 at the Allied Marine Group dock at Coconut Grove, Florida, with two antsy teens, trying to convince them this was just a minor glitch. The task was all the more difficult thanks to the fact that Rikki had been with me on a cruise the previous Fourth of July when we'd lost an engine on another boat and it sat at a dock for a week before someone fixed it. Not knowing what to do, I called Ned Bruck, my contact at Allied, Luhrs' Miami dealer, and left a message describing my troubles. Saturday dribbled away, the only positive development being that the girls discovered the stores of Coconut Grove only four blocks away.

Sunday morning found me wondering how I could keep my two charges entertained, when my cellphone rang. It was Bruck with condolences and the emergency number for Pantropic Power, the local Caterpillar dealer. Knowing no one would come out on Easter but hoping someone might get to me early Monday, I called and left a message. Unbelievably, someone called back within an hour, took my information, and said he'd get back to me. By noon a Pantropic mechanic was working on my sick 3126. (I never mentioned I am the editor of PMY.) Meanwhile, Bobby Bruguera, another Allied salesman, showed up to see if he could help.

Alas, the mechanic couldn't diagnose the problem before the batteries gave out, so he left, promising he'd be back first thing Monday, after the batteries had charged. Meanwhile Bruguera was offering advice on everything from fuel to food.

When the mechanic returned the next day, he found the boat's battery charger hadn't recharged the batteries, so he installed a battery from another boat and was able to determine that the fuel shut-off valve wasn't opening. But after replacing it, the engine still wouldn't run and the batteries remained dead. He regrettably informed me that I needed an electrician.

Then the phone rang. It was Allied. They'd heard I was having a problem and were sending someone down. An hour later the mechanic, Terry Stednick, sauntered down the dock carrying a small toolbox. He set to work like a paramedic at a car crash and quickly traced the problem. The Pantropic guy had been on the right track--the fuel shut-off wasn't working--but the problem was a loose wire leading to it. Apparently, in trying to start the engine, we'd run the battery so low the battery charger had also failed. With Bruguera assisting, Stednick fixed the wire, replaced the charger, and within two hours had us running. The trip was saved.

Boating is a grand sport, but can also be incredibly aggravating when something goes wrong at the wrong time. And sooner or later, it will. And that's when companies like Allied and Pantropic and people like Stednick and Bruguera make the difference between a cruise to remember and a week to forget.


This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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