A Marine Installer’s Rant golden oldie: “High Maintenance”

4 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    In a comment to the original High Maintenance, Bill wrote, “there is more truth than fiction in the little piece.”

  2. Richard Cassano says:


    Bill Bishops write up is so… true. Last year I asked a certified marine electrical guy for an estimate to replace the 31 year old main electrical panel with a Stanard metal Blue Seas Systems panel. The ridiculous estimate came to “about $5000” with a side note that it may be more. I decided to do it myself.

    Well, I worked on this project all winter spending an enormous amount of time labeling each circuit, building a mounting frame, rearranged wire runs that no longer comply with current ABYC standards and finally installing the new panel. It looks great. This took me all winter. If I had to pay myself just for the time it easily would have exceeded $5000. But, I work cheap.

    There is, however, a flip side to this discussion. I have observed marine service company workers spending hours shooting the breeze on their cell or chit chatting with someone while on the clock for a job. I often wonder how much of that particular boat owners bill is based on all these non productive hours.

    Very few vendors in my area will give an estimate they can stick to. Most want to give a “blank check” estimate – “Time and Materials”, something I refuse to agree to. Over the years I have learned to do almost everything myself and enjoy most of these boat repair challenges. Most!

  3. Bill says:

    This can be the case Richard, but most techs I know work hard and often under odious circumstances like dehydrating under black canvas in Florida’s summer at 100% humidity and leaving your DNA on every sharp object in the boat. I do my best to give a good estimate, but always with the caveat “It’s a !#**^ boat.” 98% of boats have no real documentation, plans or wiring diagrams. I often feel like an archeologist as I unearth layers of old unlabeled wiring and museum grade equipment trying to integrate something new. To owners, it too often looks like it’s an easy job. All you have to do is…. Now add in the work has to be completed quickly and much doesn’t flow in a clean linear fashion. I have to wait for parts and fabrications to be completed and so on. Lastly, you have to be careful that the work is done correctly and safely. Replacing a primary power distribution panel is not a simple task and mistakes can be dangerous. You don’t want to be the guy who burned the boat down. I can assure everyone this occupation is not a get rich scheme and to do well requires a lot of experience across a large number of technical disciplines.

  4. Max Parker says:

    I miss Bill’s Rant and still check occasionally to see if there is anything new. There is a lot of wisdom in his humor. At our yards, we try to flat rate or quote as much as possible. It forces us to have confidence in our plan for repair and the owner can choose to do the job or not before we start. It also gives us the option of working together on less expensive options before hand if necessary. Of course, sometimes you have to take something apart to see the extent of the job and older boats can be complete train wrecks where everything that is touched or can be seen needs replacement even though it worked for 40 years and was working when it got to us. Bill is great at summing this all up. I hope to see more of his stuff soon.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *