Coming into my outboard training, I figured the tech language would be my most troublesome barrier. Turns out, language problems do create a chasm between the problem and a fix — but not how I thought it would.
At South Wharf Yacht Yard, veteran yard supervisor and fellow Outboard Systems classmate Marc Andre is typically the first person a boater sees when tying up at the dock. He usually bears the brunt of customers’ engine woes — that is, if they can bring themselves to admit the truth.
“Sometimes, we’ve got to pry it out of them,” says Andre. “It’s almost like talking to a teenager.”
The embarrassment keeps boaters fudging — and the tech guys guessing.
“At the beginning of the season, I had a customer call and say he had oil in the bilge and a low-oil alarm was sounding,” recalls Melody. “I asked him if anything happened, and he said no. Turns out somebody crashed into the back [of his boat] with a pontoon. The pontoon went right through the motor and cracked a valve cover.”
In this case, Melody says, “What they didn’t tell us could have blown up the motor.”
His advice: be honest. Spilling the beans on a junior-level mistake might take a few notches out of your captain’s belt, but it could ultimately save thousands in billable hours, and keep you and your passengers safe at sea.
Skirting the facts is bad, but playing backyard mechanic is even worse. “A lot of people try to fix things themselves,” says Andre. “Even if they think they put everything back right, they should still tell the techs what they touched.”
Remember, Melody says: “Technicians are here to help. We want to keep [people] in boating so they pass it on to the next generation. If they trade in their boats for RVs, we’re all out of business.”