The Route South

Monday, May 30, 2011

THE WELL TRAVELLED AUTOPILOT

Like many boats similar to ours, Morning Star has an autopilot.  I don't know the vintage of ours, but it was on the boat when we bought it nine years ago.  I do know that the manufacturer, Simrad-Robertson, no longer supports it and won't repair it.  Over the years, it became "sunburned" - the LCD screen in the control head was washed out and unreadable from the sun.  The autopilot worked great.  It played well with others.  It shared little secrets with the GPS and the Chart Plotter and the Radar.  They would talk quietly about things like where we were, what direction we needed to go and what was the position of the rudder.  Mr. Robertson would steer the boat for hours, better than I can, and would do so without a complaint.  But the darn thing was unreadable.  Well, if the sun shined from the correct angle and you shined a flashlight just right....well, you get the picture.

I began checking on the Internet for a replacement control head - EBay, Craig's List and several boating forums.  No Joy!  A Krogen friend told me about a guy in Seattle who did repairs on Robertson autopilots. In fact, his email address began RobertsonRepairs@xxx.xxx.  I contacted him and he checked his inventory.  He had ONE screen for an AP-11 (our model) and he could repair it for the paltry sun of $450 plus labor and shipping.  Since a new autopilot is upwards of $3000, it seemed like the only logical thing to do.  So Mr. Robertson got shipped to the autopilot spa in Seattle.  Two days later, I got a call from the repairman.  Mr. Robertson was repaired and bench checked and pronounced good as new.  So far, so good.  I gave him my credit card number and the shipping address to the boat at Brunswick Landing Marina in Georgia.

In the mean time, Cindy and I left to do the delivery of the new Krogen 48.  Before we left, we talked to the girls in the marina office and asked them to be on the lookout for our precious cargo.  Come Friday the UPS tracking number showed Mr. Robertson delivered to Brunswick Landing Marina at 1701 Newcastle St. in Savannah, GA.  WAIT A MINUTE....SAVANNAH, GA?  OH NO!! Its supposed to be BRUNSWICK, GA!  A quick call to the marina office confirmed our worst fears...no package was delivered.  The UPS delivery record showed that the package had been delivered at 7:30 PM and left on the front porch of a residence.  A quick Google Maps search of the address in Savannah made my heart sink.  It was, to be polite, an economically disadvantaged part of town and in my mind, it was gone.  After many calls to UPS, the shipper in Seattle as well as the repair guy, absolutely nothing happened.  Despite many promises, nobody did anything.

  •  How could they possibly deliver to a residential address when it was clearly marked to go to a marina?
  •  How could they deliver to a "business" address well after business hours?  
  •  Why did the repairman only insure it for $400 when his bill alone was over $600?  
I was burning up the phone lines talking to the shipper in Seattle as well as to UPS.  After multiple assurances that they would pick it up, nothing happened!  For the whole weekend!  They finally issued a pickup order on Monday and went back to the delivery point.  No Joy. They left a note.  The second day they attempted to pick up Mr. Robertson but again, No Joy!  Left another note but it wasn't looking good.  By this time I was pretty sure that Mr. Robertson was riding around in some crack-whore's pimp's Cadillac.  By now we were back in Brunswick from the delivery.  A quick trip to the office confirmed our what we feared.  No autopilot.  On Day Three of the pick-up fiasco there was no good news when I looked up the UPS tracking number.  Its gone for sure.  Shortly after lunch, one of our neighbors came walking down the dock with a UPS package for Morning Star.  Mr. Robertson!!  You're back!!  A quick check of the UPS tracking number still showed that the package had not even been picked up.  But here he was!  Go figure?  Oh well, at least Mr. Robertson is back where he belongs.  I couldn't believe it!  I immediately took him to the pilothouse, hooked him up and checked him out (he worked perfectly).  Cindy put him in his jammies, gave him a glass of milk and a cookie and tucked him into bed.  Well, maybe I exaggerated the last part, but the rest is true.  Honest.
Mr. Robertson back on the team, doing what he does best, steering Morning Star.