Once we'd successfully delivered Samarang to her new home at Sovereign Harbour we set about trying to organise the refit. This was the slack season, we were proposing a major refit, so everyone would be falling over themselves to do work for us at bargain basement prices - there's that naivety again.
Sovereign Harbour is the largest marina in Europe, but has been built in an area with little or no historical maritime industry. What is there is therefore at a real premium and often hugely over stretched. I discussed our proposed refit/upgrade with 3 companies advertising in the marina year book and sent then an outline job list as a starter for 10. We were guesstimating at that time that we were looking at a spend of between £10-20,000 which we though would seem a pretty attractive chunk of work for the winter. Obviously we were wrong. Peter Leonard Marine initially expressed interest, but then just didn't return our repeated phone calls and never quoted for the work. Langney Marine Services spent nearly a day onboard Samarang preparing a quote, but then called to say that they had been awarded a major refit by the RNLI and wouldn't be able to consider our work until the spring - at least they called to tell us.
That left us with Sovereign Marine (no connection with the marina in spite of the name, other than being an aproved contractor) run by one Brendan Chappel. In fact, it transpired later, consisting solely of Brendan Chappel, who sub-contracted most work out to others and took a commision. We weren't entirely comfortable with Brendan, but were running out of choices. After a fair bit of detailed discussion we agreed an initial schedule of work (a few thousand pounds worth) with Brendan , with more on offer if all went well. We agreed that work would commence the following week. The day following that conversation we received a letter - not a call, not a fax or e-mail, a letter - from Brendan to say that "one of his team had been told by his Doctor never to work again and therefore he would not, after all be able to do any work on Samarang". Oh and he included a bill for £250 for "Yacht Valeting".
On the one hand we were, not surprisingly, furious. On the other we had now lost much of the winter and would shortly be approaching the busiest period of the year in the marine industry and not one item of the refit had been started. There wasn't even any visible sign on board of the alledged "Yacht Valeting".
I dashed of a pretty short e-mail/fax to Brendan (His mobile phone was spookily switched off!), mainly to let off some steam. There was no way we wanted someone you could let us down like this, doing any work on Samarang. In exasperation also wrote to Dan Hughes, the Harbour Master, to complain about the behaviour of one of his "approved contractors". Again this was more to make me feel better that any expectation of a positive outcome, but I coudn't have been more wrong.
Dan it turned out replied immediately and was hugely sympathetic. He asked me to drop into the harbour office to see what help he could offer, and by the time I visited him had made a few calls and put me touch with James Tate. James, after nearly twenty years in the marine industry had recently left his job as foreman at one of the large local boat yards to set up Tate Marine. He was only just building his client base and so had time available to take on our work. This wasn't the last time that Dan was to make an extra bit of effort to help us out, and this ethos extended throughout just about the entire team. A pretty significant achievement in a marina the scale of Sovereign Harbour. This was also the beginning of a relationship with James and his network of contacts which was to carry us through the next eighteen months and the complete refit. A detailed list of the refit is available here.
As I write this in April 2003, James has expanded his business and has gone into partnership with Nathan Crewe a well respected local marine engineer to form Tate & Crew Marine. I really can't recommend them highly enough and if you're Heading in the direction of Eastbourne then its well worth checking out their web site.