Our first [last?] charter with Southwest Florida Yachts
(a.k.a. SWFY  and  www.swfyachts.com )
03/04/2012
 

 

"The biggest concern for others is how the equipment and safety issues with this yacht are overlooked.  Ask yourself, is this the type of company you want to professionally manage your yacht?"

We first contacted Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ) in November 2011 to book a charter for the second week in December 2011. We own and prefer sailing a catamaran. Southwest Florida Yachts has one sailing catamaran in their charter fleet. A 2003 Gemini  105Mc named Purrfect Lady seemed to be good fit for our crew and the numerous shallow water sailing grounds of Southwest Florida.

At first contact, Purr-fect Lady was not available for the week of December 5, 2011. The transom had suffered damage and was being repaired. This was unfortunate because the 2011 promotion expired soon.  This gave us time to consider a few things. We frequent North Fort Myers each year to maintain our real estate, we like to sail, we are considering purchasing a larger catamaran. We sail a 1990 Intercat 1500 on the Chesapeake Bay and it would be convenient to place a cat in charter in Southwest Florida. 

 January  12, 2012:
A call was placed to Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com )  to book Purrfect Lady for a 7-day charter. The charter was booked for arrival on 2/18/2012 for eight days. Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) was having a 30th year celebration promotion where each 7-day charter received a free day. Things were looking up. The full payment was rendered over the phone (required within 30 days of charter), contract terms were explained and the crew’s dreams began to form as with all of their previous charters. It was mentioned that we were considering putting a yacht in charter and that we would like to review the actual 2010-2011 cash flow performance for Purrfect Lady. We were informed that PURR-FECT Lady was for sale and could remain in the charter fleet. What a great concept:  an easily accessible boat, professional management, a location we enjoy, and income.  

The charter contract paperwork arrived in the mail. The forms were completed and returned to Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ). The Cruising Guide was purchased and the crew itinerary was drafted.  

The charter information package included recommendations to make marina reservations during peak season.  This crew prefers not to work off schedules while on a sailing charter. However, the crew wanted to visit the private resort of Useppa Island.  Another call to Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ) on February 10, 2012 confirmed that advanced reservations would not be required and that this could be handled by calling the office staff the day before our planned arrival at Useppa Island.  All set [Purrfect].

Tuesday February 14, 2012:
The owner of Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ), Barb Hansen,  called to confirm that we were interested in placing a yacht in charter and the information we had requested on Purrfect Lady’s revenue performance. 

Thursday  February 16, 2012:
The crew departs from central Virginia in route to an overnight stop in Jacksonville, Florida.

Friday February 17, 2012 @ 3:00 PM:
The crew arrives at Burnt Store Marina Inn with non-perishable provisioning completed. The crew expected to move onto the yacht the next day at noon.

Friday February 17, 2012 @ 4:30 PM:
We received a call from the dockmaster at Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ). He informed us that the boat is out of commission with a damaged port rudder in need of replacement. They would allow us to move onto the yacht, but the yacht could not leave the slip. The story continued that UPS had lost the rudder in transit and the next possible delivery date would be Monday, February 20, 2012.  The crew was caught off guard and requested a few minutes to consider the options. 

Friday February 17, 2012 @ 4:45 PM:
Available lodging options were explored, new weekend plans drafted, and the crew decided not to accept the yacht in its present condition.  Southwest Florida Yachts ( www.swfyachts.com ) was told to notify us when the yacht was repaired and available for charter.  We expected the next possible UPS delivery to be Monday afternoon. The rudder required painting prior to installation and that most likely would carry over into Tuesday February 21, 2012.

The dockmaster offered us the option to visit the yacht and get a jump on the pre-departure checkout and inventory to ensure an early departure on the following Monday or Tuesday. The crew visited the yacht and began pre-departure checkout and inventory.  To put it bluntly, the boat is not well maintained. We have never chartered a 1st or 2nd tier yacht. We always charter the 3rd tier [economy] yachts.  This yacht was not ready for charter and a disappointment even by our [low] standards.  We contacted the office and informed them of the dirty, stinky boat in need of attention.  The holding tank was full and fuel tanks were not. The office staff was very responsive and informed us that the yacht had not been cleaned yet and was scheduled to be cleaned the next morning.

Saturday February 18, 2012 @ 3:45 PM:
The crew visited the yacht to confirm the results of the cleaning. It was very impressive that one person could turn the boat around in such little time.  There was a slight hint of holding tank odor and a couple of roaches [soon squished], but visually this was in acceptable condition to the admiral.

We spoke with the dockmaster who confirmed that the previous charter had damaged the rudders and been towed into the slip. This explained no pump out and no fuel. The crew was informed that the manufacturer had delayed the shipping of the rudder which was supposed to be 2-3 weeks. It was now over six weeks and the rudder was lost in transit.

Monday February 20, 2012 @ 3:00 PM:
The crew received a call from Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) that the rudder had just arrived and would be installed the next day.  Barb Hansen informed me that a new contract would be sent to the marina with the new dates and the adjusted rate. 

Tuesday February 21, 2012 @ 12:00 PM:
The crew arrived at the yacht. The new port rudder was installed. The dockmaster informed us the starboard rudder was not able to be raised or lowered using the installed control lines. Apparently the previous charter damage to the port rudder had shadowed the damage to the starboard rudder. The starboard rudder could be forcibly stood on to lower, but could not be raised. He cautioned us to leave it unsecured and it should kick up if needed.  The pre-departure checkout was completed with a list of issues found the crew read to the dockmaster.  To his defense, the dockmaster was physically ill and headed to the hospital after our checkout. He stated that he didn’t want our trip delayed any further. Now that is the pinnacle of commitment. Thank you Marc!

The crew had loaded the boat and was ready to depart.  The remainder of the day was spent tacking to weather with all  eyes on Pelican Bay, Cayo Costa as the first stop.  Motoring into the anchorage at 5:15 pm we were ready for our first night on the hook.  The spot was selected, the crew sent to the bow. The pile of chain checked, the bitter-end of the rode verified tied to the u-bolt and the hook was slowly dropped in seven feet of murky water.  When the last link of the 35 ft chain cleared the windlass, the line parted and the tail of the chain with its flapping nylon streamer swam to the bottom.  The crew stood petrified and speechless. The helmsman was still backing down as previously instructed and not aware until the explicative commentary caught his attention [and that of other boaters in the anchorage].  The boat was maneuvered back to the suspected spot and a second anchor was inspected [hand-over-hand] and deployed. 

It was a somber night of bruised egos and blame roulette (finger pointing).  This crew has sailed together over the past seventeen years without ever coming close to losing an anchor. Now we are one of those crews. You know the fools who throw the anchor over the side without having it attached to the boat. What idiots, what morons.  It was a very quiet night aboard.

Wednesday February 22, 2012 @ 11:00 AM
The morning started with an apprehensive crew preparing to dive Pelican Bay in pursuit of the 25 lbs Danforth anchor and 35 ft of chain [with nylon streamer].  One to two foot visibility, seven to eight foot depth, 66°F water temperatures, and a six foot boat hook.  Well the odds were stacked, just not in the crew’s favor.  After two hours of snorkeling a grid pattern dragging the boat hook with full out-stretched arms (7-8 ft depth), the anchor chain was discovered and the anchor retrieved.

Following inspection of both rode parts, it was obvious that Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) does not take safety seriously. This was clearly an avoidable situation. This had not been inspected during the six weeks prior to our departure. In isolation, it can be reasoned away, but is unacceptable when combined with the other  issues found (in the aggregate):

·         cracked stanchion base,

·         lifeline meat hooks,

·         Reef lines not installed

·         non-chargeable spotlight (didn't work)

·         starboard rudder cannot be raised using control lines (damaged with the port rudder, but missed). 

·         Little (no) neutral between forward & reverse. 

·         Battery charging issue without operating/diagnostic instructions for the LINK interface. 

·         The full list of issues the crew found can be found in a table below.

A list of issues was provided verbally, hand-written, and emailed as a spreadsheet to the office following the charter.

Pay attention to the email response from the owner, Barb Hansen (copied below). Note how she considers critical information of the yacht being out of commission as "beyond their control" and that it was the fault of UPS. Please note the timeline above. I'm a working stiff who must schedule vacation time. Obviously, once the vacation is started, it cannot be recovered. Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) withheld critical information from the client. The client was not allowed the opportunity to make a knowledgeable decision prior to traveling to Burnt Store Marina.  The email clearly states that Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) knew the rudder was lost in transit on 2/15/2012 and the yacht may not be available for charter on 2/18/2012. They elected to withhold that information from the client. In fact, this yacht was out of commission before the charter was booked. Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) withheld this during all communications prior to our arrival at the yacht.

My biggest concern for others is how the equipment and safety issues with this yacht are being overlooked.  Ask yourself, is this the type of company you want to professionally manage your yacht?

Please note that despite the issues above, that this crew enjoyed the sailing destination and plan on returning to continue the adventure. We will certainly explore the other companies who compete with Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com). One is located next door in Burnt Store Marina.

Friday March 16, 2012 @ 3:00 PM:
We have not received the security deposit refund or the refund for the 3-day overpayment (paid for 8, got 5). The yacht went out on another charter immediately following ours. We have not been contacted (since the 2/27 email). We were not informed of any issues concerning our security deposit. We had to initiate the call and inquire about the status. Barb (via Jan) told us the $800+ charter fee overpayment would be returned on 3/26/2012. Barb Hansen, the owner, is taking liberties with the contract terms that specify 10 to 30 days to refund the SECURITY deposit. She has wrongfully applied those terms to the 3-day overpayment.

I have repeatedly given them the opportunity to do the right thing. Consistently, they choose poorly. We were assured during the call that the refund of the 3-day overpayment would be processed the following Monday, 3/19/2012.

Wednesday March 21, 2012:
We still have not received the return of any funds. Consistently, they choose poorly.

A call was placed to Southwest Florida Yachts, Inc. Bonnie replied that she had a note on her desk, but didn't realize it was an emergency and therefore didn't process the credit on Monday.

Friday March 23, 2012:
Both the overpayment and deposit funds posted to our account.

This is the ONLY charter company we've experienced that took more than a week to process this type of transaction.


To summarize, they require full payment 30 days in advance, 30 days more before returning security deposits, take no responsibility for the yacht condition, unnecessarily hold ALL overpayments, and fail to honor their word.

Do you think the yacht owners are being treated in the same manner?
This company is celebrating their 30th year in business. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how.

Even though, Southwest Florida Yachts (a.k.a. swfyachts.com) is NOT a menber of the Better Business Bureau , be assured that a chronical of our experience will be filed in hope that others are not subjected to our experieince

 
     

 

Email to Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com) 02/26/2012

SWFY,
Attached is a spreadsheet (Excel 97-2003) containing the list of items in
need of attention for Purrfect Lady. These items were identified during
checkout with Mark and during the 2/21 - 2/26 charter. During check in, a
hand written copy (draft) was provided and I promise to send this via
email once the computer could be recharged and WiFi was available.

Please provide a copy of this to the appropriate staff personnel and wish
Mark a speedy recovery.

I'll be in the area through Tuesday should you need to discuss details of
any of the items on the list.

Kind Regards,
Bruce Phaup

 

List of Issues emailed to SWFY

PURRFect Lady
"PURR-FECT LADY"
"Purr-Fect Lady"
purrfect lady
purr-fect lady

Feb 21 - 26, 2012

equipment / component

Description Defect

Alternator

Does not full load and restore depleted battery from 12.3 vdc after 1-1/2 to 2 hours of run time. * Jack service call
Cycled off - Engine voltmeter 13.5vdc, Xantrex 12.5vdc, Tachometer 0 rpm
Cycled on - engine 13.5vdc, Xantrex 13.5 vdc, tachometer = 1000 rpm
Xantrex remained with one red-LED after 1-1/2 to 2 hours of operations.

Anchor ball

none found - update inventory

Anchor light

Burned out - would not light Fri 2/24. It worked 2/21 & 2/22. not used 2/23

anchor, Danforth

What a set up! Anchor rode had been chafed through @ chain. Lost anchor + chain overboard first time used.
 Anchor recovered after 2 hours of diving a grid (this sucked). Swapped to spare rode + chain.
A dinghy anchor or grapple line would have been a huge help to compensate for the poor condition of the rode.

Avoidable charter delay

Inoperable boat scheduled for charter without notifying client of condition until AFTER client arrived. Three day avoidable loss of client's charter and vacation. Client unable to alter vacation plans after arrival in Florida. SWFY increased charter rate for remaining 5 days.  Client could have been spared had SWFY notified them 48 hours prior to departure.  SWFY knew of issue before charter was booked (over 6 weeks). The clients consider this to be unacceptable.

Battery - house

Cannot sustain fridge + anchor light  overnight starting with 12.9vdc Xantrex, awake to 12.3 vdc with 1 Red-LED.
** Following further testing, It is suspected that the large difference between the house and starter battery are confusing the regulator. We found it more effective to charge the batteries separately instead of simultaneously. Additional load testing with the proper equipment required to confirm the source of the issue.
Warnings of previous clients misusing the inverter and running down the batteries should to be revisited.

Bucket

Yes we found the bucket. No it does not hold water

cake pan

none found - update inventory

Cup holder - cockpit port

Base hinge broken. Removed at check-out

Digital multimeter

As long as the condition of the boats are allowed to decay, the addition of a DMM would be a great addition to the tool box. These are $5 at Harbor Freight

Engine controls

gear shift hard & little or no detent for neutral

Fans - interior

none are fully operational  - control knobs, blade hitting shroud,

Flashlights

2 of 3 missing (AS FOUND)

Foot pump - galley

not functional - This contributed to wasting water.
We usually cruise with a family of four on 40 gals for 5 days. This boat wasted 30 gals in 2.5 days. Same people, same habits.

gel-coat chips

Several DEEP gelcoat gouges and chips all over the deck.

General condition

We have never chartered 1st or 2nd tier yachts. Until now we have been happy chartering 3rd tier yachts. The condition of this yacht was a disappointment and considered a marked step down from previous experiences.

hammock

fabric pulled in two areas of the seat - stable.
Damage did NOT progress during this trip

helm seat

fwd. stbd corner needs base & fabric repair. The staples rusted and has caused the plywood to rot. The fwd. hinge requires repair. Would benefit from rubber feet.

life line

meat hooks on port side of cockpit

lights - salon - reading

both in need of repair

Link 1000

no manual for operation and diagnostics

Manual bilge pump

none found - update inventory

Roaches

Pesticide the boat. Killed three prior to checkout and more along the away. These big guys eat through everything. Living between the hull & inner liner, behind fridge, and in cabinets.

Rudder - Stbd

Cannot raise using cords. Mark identified this when replacing the bent port rudder. This damage was known to SWFY for over six weeks but withheld from client.

Sail drive leg

unable to raise. Disabled by SWFY. Transom mount has 1/4 inch gap. Top port mounting bolt cocked. This may cause additional core damage

Shower door latch

Does not hold door open when underway. Minor inconvenience

Shower head

stuck in pulsate

sink strainer

galley sink only one strainer and it does not seal consistently - this contributed to wasting a lot of water.

Stanchion - stbd rear - fwd. foot

cracked, old as indicated by the rusted surfaces of the crack. This matches the one repaired for the stbd hammock stanchion.

Stress cracks

Dozens of deep gel coat cracks and gouges. Many deep to the core. May affect core.
Many hairline on top and around windshield. These should not have been ignored.

Swim ladder

missing rubber feet - this will gouge the stern fiberglass

Tachometer

cycles to zero RPM frequently (when the alternator unloads)

Toilet bowl brush

not found - update inventory

Water heater

Electric heater elements not working. Overnight produced only luke warm water. Engine heat exchanger worked perfectly.

 

Email reply from Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com)  on 2/27/2012

Bruce,

Thanks for the list.  We always appreciate customer feedback.  In fact, we
depend on our charter telling us what items on the boats need our attention.
We will certainly address the items that need to be addressed.

One correction, however.  The boat was supposed to be ready for you.
We DID NOT KNOW that UPS was going to lose the rudder.
We certainly did not know for 6 weeks that the boat was not going to be
ready.
The rudder was due to be delivered on Wed. 2/15.  As you know, we were still
working with UPS on Friday when you got into town.
There was absolutely no way we could have let you know in advance that the
rudder would be lost!! Everything was on track, as scheduled until UPS lost
the rudder in Orlando on 2/15!  I just want to be sure that you have the
real story about that.  The delay was NOT AVOIDABLE.  And the delay was not
the fault of SFY at all.  We were calling Gemini every day for weeks to make
sure that we were on schedule - and we would have been!

Thanks again for the information.

Sincerely,
Barb Hansen


Southwest Florida Yachts, Inc.
Florida Sailing & Cruising School
3444 Marinatown Lane N.W. Suite 10
North Fort Myers  FL   33903
239.656.1339 * 800.262.7939
Fax 239.656.2628
www.swfyachts.com
www.flsailandcruiseschool.com
www.swfyachtsales.com

 

Email reply to Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com)  02/27/2012

Hi Barb,
You're entitled to your opinion. The six weeks was referencing how long SWFY knew the boat was out of commission. The boat was out of commission for over two weeks at the time my charter was booked! If you had notified us rudder delivery was scheduled on 2/15, I could have delayed my travels. So I have to disagree and stand by my statement. You chose not to inform us on 2/15.

I was not allowed the opportunity to recover my vacation time. I was notified AFTER I arrived in Florida. This was avoidable had we been notified prior to departing Virgina (2/15). You gambled and WE lost!!!! To be blunt, UPS is NOT to blame for SWFY's failure to notify us in a timely manner.

Calling Gemini was great, but I'm challenging why SWFY failed to call ME, the client!

Please thank Jan and Mark for all their efforts and patients to help us recover from this unfortunate event.

Bruce Phaup

No further email or phone responses have been received from Barb Hansen or SWFY.
The contract provides for a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 30 days to return the $1300 security deposit.
(3/21/2012) To date, there has been no refund of the $870+ overpayment for the three lost days.
(3/23/2012) After two additional calls, the funds were returned.

 

First and last charter with Southwest Florida Yachts

SailNet forum

Intercat 1500 forum