Avoiding the Boatyard Blues: Costs and Fees
Managing refits and repairs requires a hands-on approach for boat owners, and accurate price quoting is an essential element of this process.
When I hear that a boatyard won’t quote a clearly quotable job, I have two thoughts. The first is that there’s always a fear of the unknown, and most boatyards, when they do undertake quoting, are much better at it than they believe. It takes some practice, the implementation of a quoting program, and employee education; however, it’s clearly doable. As I mentioned earlier, other industries use this format with great success, and the marine industry shouldn’t be the exception. My second thought is that these folks do this work day in and day out, and they’ve done it for years. The collective wisdom of some yards is often vast and spans many decades. If they can’t tell you how long it’ll take and how much it’ll cost to carry out routine projects, I’d question their ability to undertake the work altogether. Finally, based on my experience, when the folks carrying out the projects know it’s quoted, they tend to work with a greater sense of urgency, particularly if management invests them in the quoting process, as it should.
Now that I’ve made the case for quoted rather than T&M projects, I must admit that not every job can be quoted. Mechanical and electrical troubleshooting, for instance, isn’t the type of task that any experienced professional would or should quote; however, it does pay dividends for you to ensure that the folks carrying out the troubleshooting are experienced, well trained, and, where applicable, certified by the American Boat & Yacht Council, for electrical work in particular. In this case, efficiency rather than a fixed price is the goal. Small projects are also typically not quote-worthy. Remember, the yard has to spend time researching and preparing a quote; it makes little sense for this to be done on a job that may take fewer than eight to 10 hours or to cost less than $1,000.
Projects that do lend themselves to quoting are, among others, hull and deck painting, varnish, hardware and equipment installations, and complete vessel refits. Expect a reasonable number of caveats with any quote; however, when I wrote quotes, I was careful not to make too many exclusions, which negates the value of a quote. If a boatyard drills into your deck to install a radar mast or winch, and the bit pulls up sodden, rotten balsa core, expect the quote to be amended.
Good Communication Is Key
There’s an easy way to avoid misunderstandings and disputes, and it involves the simple act of placing all of your communication with a yard in writing. Avoid stopping yard employees midstride and verbally dictating work requests or modifications to current projects. You should only be making these requests to those who are authorized to take them—managers and service writers, for instance. Be sure to follow up the conversation with an email reiterating your thoughts.
If your vessel is in the midst of a refit or a major undertaking such as an engine replacement, rewiring, or paint job, it’s reasonable to expect weekly updates. Smaller projects may require you to request an update. All reports and updates should be received in writing. You should also be made to feel welcome to visit the yard during any repair, refit, or service work.
However, be sure to remember that whether the project is quoted or T&M, time is always money, and if you stop in and chat with the folks who are doing the work, you’re costing either them or yourself money. Thus, it’s best to minimize the time you spend shooting the breeze with hourly folks. Managers, on the other hand, should give you as much face time as you need.