Vendors we like

Things on the boat break so much, it sometimes feel like we go through boat parts like water (like these dumb black box controllers for our Isotherm fridge and freezer systems). Every now and then, we come across a product or vendor that we love. One thing they have in common is top-notch customer service, which seems to be a rare commodity these days. These are the vendors that have their eye on the long game. We haven't received any sponsor money or special price breaks from these vendors (other than the dinghy cover we got from Cholamark, see below). If there are any vendors that do want to give us money, please let us know.


Mantus Anchor

We are at anchor most of the time and if we didn't have a rock-solid anchor, we would not sleep very well. We have had our 105-lb Mantus for the last six years and it has only dragged a couple times during all that time (and that wasn't the fault of the anchor--once it was due to being forced to anchor on a coral bottom and the other time was due to the swivel getting a kink in it that caused the chain pull sideways). If high winds pop up, we are much more worried about the boats around us running into us.

We also try to do right by the anchor as well. The anchor is intentionally a bit oversized for our boat and is attached to 100 meters of 3/8" chain. We choose our anchorages carefully. We try to put out enough scope, always back down on it, and look at it with a mask to make sure it is set well.

ProFurl Roller Furling (Wichard)

The roller furling for our head sail is ProFurl, which is part of the Wichard Group. Both times we have dealt with them has been refreshingly smooth (even when our circumstances were far from smooth). They really seem to care. The first time, a Wichard representative made sure we quickly got new bearings for our roller furling drum so they could be installed at the boat yard. We wanted to get out of the boatyard as soon as we could because very minute you spend in a boatyard usually translates to big bucks and increases the chances that something else will go wrong (like being in a hospital and catching something from all the other sick people).

The next time was when we weren't sure if our old unit could be fixed and (when it couldn't) having a new one sent to us in the Solomon Islands. We sent our old furling drum to Australia, the contractor looked at it to see if it was repairable and we got a new one back (including a second shipment for some additional parts) at a very reasonable price. It all sounds very simple. But it wasn't because it was Solomons, which required some special shipping instructions and involved long delays. The Wichard representative was incredibly helpful and responsive and made the whole process tolerable.


Highfield Dinghy and Cholamark Boat

Image result for cholamark logoA truism in the cruising world is that your dinghy is your car. It's how you get around. For years, we had the equivalent of a jalopy with plastic duct taped over the window. The Carib dinghy that came with the boat was basically garbage-picked by the previous owner and pumped up. We kept it going for several years with chewing gum and rubber bands (a.k.a. special dinghy paint and something that is basically Fix-a-Flat for your tubes). 

When it was finally time to get a new one, we talked to other cruising friends and researched extensively. We settled on a Highfield aluminum model to replace the heavier fiberglass Carib. We and our friends on Amelie IV got a deal by ordering two at the same time.

Our original Highfield dinghy on the Kinabatangan River
Photo credit: Amanda Johnston, s/v Angel Wing

Here are some of the highlights of the Highfield tenders:
  • High-quality powder coating that will last many years.
  • Top-quality ORCA Hypalon tubes that perform well in the Tropics against strong UV and hot temperatures.
  • Accessories on the tube (such as handles) attached to the Hypalon tubes made from high-quality rubber that won't separate from the tubes.
  • Reinforced transom with well-designed and durable lifting and towing eyes.
  • The model CL 340 BLT includes a bow locker with room for a standard 25-liter fuel tank.
  • With the fuel tank stores in the bow, the tender is well-balanced and with the fuel line under the floor and the tank in the locker, the tender looks clean and tidy.
Roderick Bay, The Solomon Islands
Photo credit: Mark Silverstein, s/v Field Trip

It has served us well for the past couple of years, but started to develop a crack at the transom, where the tube meets the rigid bottom. It was letting in water, especially if the load increased. As our boys will not agree to stop eating, they will continue to grow and get heavier so the load can only go up. The location of the crack made it difficult for us to fix well.  Though we were well within the 5-year hull warranty period, we envisioned having to go back to New Zealand to have the issue addressed, which wasn't likely to happen.

We contacted Highfield headquarters, who told us they would replace the dinghy under the warranty and asked us where our cruising plans would take us. We knew that we would be in Thailand in a few months, so the representative put us in contact with Cholamark Boat, a Highfield Dealer in Phuket. From the start, Managing Director Hans Martin was extremely helpful and easy to deal with. He held an exact model of the boat we needed for 3 months while we slowly made our way to Phuket.  A week after we arrived in Phuket and met with Hans, our new dinghy was ready (including the new custom-made dinghy cover we ordered). After our guest left, we headed to Ao Chalong to swap out dinghies. The Cholamark team picked up our old dinghy and drove it to their factory. There, they changed our wheels and fuel tank (which is more involved than some dinghies because it runs inside the boat). They even helped us cut off our old corroded motor lock and removed and cleaned our old davit lifting points. It was about as painless as could be.

Here's a picture of our new dinghy. I can't believe there is a cover on it. It fits like a second skin. Read more about these awesome covers here.

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