Daily Archives: February 6, 2014

Catch 22 or who do they think they are?

On this evening of rare gentle breezes with easily a half dozen bands playing and singing all around Ponce Harbor, I can’t put my anger behind me and just enjoy the cacophony of rhythms and sound. I wish I were clever enough to record this so that you could hear how wonderful all this is.

Another Manta owner posted a query asking fellow owners if Raymarine’s new Evolution autopilot works as well as they say it does. Marce wrote back that while we’ve owned ours for three months, we still don’t know how well it works.

I’m sure you Escapees remember that we jumped off the fiscal cliff in Trinidad after hand steering Escape Velocity all the way there from Grenada. The old B & G autopilot and I would never be on the same boat again, and this is after spending something well north of a full boat unit on fixing the damn thing. We did due diligence and researched as best we could and decided on a brand new Raymarine Evolution autopilot. The thing features a pocket sized frizbee looking dohicky instead of a compass, I guess it’s a kind if potentiometer so it can accurately measure the sea state. I have an app on my phone that does that!

We were careful to hire a Raytech guy (let’s agree to call him Jim) to do the install because it’s tricky to get our old B & G network to work with the new stuff and there’s always warranty fine print. Jim stayed with it and ultimately did a nice job and we figured we’d fine tune the settings as we learned the new system. After we splashed EV the autopilot seemed to have a few quirks but we really were facing a bit of a learning curve. It went down hill from there, progressively getting more bipolar every time we went to sea. Its favorite trick is what I dub “the fade” which is just an imperceptible drift off course until you suddenly realize that it’s heading home…and that’s the UK! This thing has quite a sense if humor too. It sets off an off course alarm which sends crew running only to find that the joke’s on you, for the rare moment it’s right on course. Its other favorite trick is to completely ignore attempts to adjust course by pushing the + or – buttons. Maybe it’ll do it, maybe it’ll go the other way; you never know how it will respond. It has quite a bag of tricks, but I digress.

First up, Fraito ace rigger at Ponce Sailing Center showed up and did even more than we asked on EV’s rig while showing us the fine points and tuning everything.

After Fraito finished doing a masterful job re-rigging EV I figured we’re on a roll so I had confidence another company with a good reputation — let’s call them Schafer & Brown — would fix our autopilot. What could go wrong? Well, I guess it starts with the usual litany of complaints, promises of calls, emails, missed appointments, and Nurse Ratched at the front desk. Finally they show up boatside with matching S & B polo shirts and luggage on wheels. They won’t listen to our carefully explained problems with “Uncle Ray”. Marce handed them a list of our installed components with software versions and told them the “brain” of the system was due for an update. Ben Brown ignored it, stuck the paper in his binder, zeroed in on a faulty installation then spent several hours trying in vain to find a mistake in Jim’s work. Frustrated, they looked up and with a surprised expression said it must be something else.

It was about at this point I said to Marce that I’m sure glad we’re not paying for this…hey what do these guys make per hour for rediscovering the wheel? They wouldn’t say anything and the promised email with their rate card never was sent.

After lunch Ben Brown announced triumphantly that he had checked with Raymarine on the phone and the brain is due for a software update. Didn’t we say that three hours ago?

It was time for the ever-popular sea trial. I was really afraid “Uncle Ray” would realize that it was time to behave but it did its heading-for-the-barn routine and after another hour or so, a complete reset and multiple attempts to “adjust” the pilot — come to think of it, about quitting time — both guys looked at me with that earnest look in their eyes and said it must be defective. I said oh, with what I thought was an equally earnest look. They said it needed the software update and that they would get the pilot working but it would take a lot of time and money. What? With a 3-year warranty?

It’ll have to go back. BACK? Yeah, back to New Hampshire for the software update and how would you like to pay for today’s on boat service and shipping? You must be joking, it’s three months old, installed by a Raytech guy, and has never worked properly!

I may have lost my temper with Nurse Ratched.

Frantic calls and emails to Raymarine headquarters ensued. Tech support told us a software update would not account for the behavior we described and it sounded defective to them. They assured us we are not on the hook for the on-boat service if Mr. Jim is really a Raytech guy but they convinced me that I wasn’t going to win the shipping cost argument. I’m a reasonable man and I like to think I can pick my battles and as much as it rankles, I will rise above this one.

As expected S & B has resigned as our factory representatives here in Ponce, with a terse kiss off email, not smelling much profit in it, which leaves us with a semi factory install — yes, Mr Jim lied about that Raytech thing — half an auto pilot winging its way to N. H. and half still in EV and many thousands of dollars poorer, and no one to reinstall what ever Raymarine sends back to us.

In the words of Procol Harem…I’ll blacken their Christmas, I’ll piss on their doors and they’ll cry out for mercy but still there’ll be more.

It’s going to take a little while.

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The view from the back porch


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