Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Adventures in Watermaking

See that missing arm in the upper right hand corner?  That is no bueno.  This is a bad impeller.
What is that they say?  "If it's too good to be true, it is?"  Sigh.  When will I learn?

We have been using our amazing Cruise RO watermaker for about four months now and many of you have been requesting a follow up post re: do we like it?

The short answer is, we don't like it.  We LOVE it.  So lets just get that out there to clear up any confusion.  Installing our high output watermaker is one of the best decisions we made with this boat, no question about that.  Ample fresh water on a boat floating in a sea of salt is a good thing.

I had a post ready to go about the unadulterated love we have for our 30 gallon per hour watermaker (daily showers! plenty of water for dishes! washing the boat at will! rinsing gear liberally!), when - in an ironic twist of fate - we went to run it and it went on the fritz.  Something didn't sound right.  At all.  (Note: ignoring strange sounds on a boat, particularly strange noises with pumps and engines, is not wise).  Scott immediately shut the system down and got to trouble-shooting.  Within ten minutes he had removed and dissected our Jabsco "boost" pump and found the culprit: a damaged shaft seal and a corroded motor, as well as a broken impeller.  This was Jabsco issue and, luckily, it was under warranty.

We called Rich from Cruise RO.  It's not always you get to talk directly to the CEO of a company - on a Sunday of a holiday weekend no less - and, as usual, he answered his phone immediately.  Our part was under warranty and he assured us he'd be shipping us a new one first thing on Tuesday morning (Monday being a holiday). While we're not exactly going anywhere fast at the moment, I braced myself for what was sure to be a long wait, full of customs hiccups, shipping gliches and red tape.  After all, isn't the bane of every cruiser's existence waiting for parts to arrive in exotic locations?

Through the magic of online tracking, we saw that the pump was indeed shipped Tuesday, arrived in Puerto Rico Wednesday, Tortola on Thursday, and the marina where we waited on Friday.  Incredible!  And we didn't pay a cent for this!  I was so happy I did a little jig, I even took to our Facebook Page to gloat.  I mean, shipping boat parts to foreign places never goes that smoothly! Never, ever!!

Sigh.  No it doesn't.

Scott got to work on the installation and, after about an hour of contortionist work in our watermaker locker to re-install the pump, he came up on deck with a very sweaty, very forlorn face. "Um...I was just about to finalize the installation and I happened to read the fine print on the pump.  It's a 24 volt pump".

(Insert loud sound of record scratching).

Our boat is a 12 volt boat.

This was a big problem and if it were me who had been working on the pump for an hour in a steaming sauna and discovered this little fact, I would have dropped a big old "F" bomb that rang through the mountaintops with fervor.

We were shipped the wrong pump.

We called Rich, and again he answered immediately.  Despite holding out hope that maybe just maybe we were supposed to get a 24 volt pump, he admitted the mistake and apologized.  As often as I'd like to think he is an incredible customer service robot who permanently has a phone attached to his ear, he is actually human.  We could have a new pump in four to five days, he promised, they would un-do this mistake.

But we didn't have four or five days.  We need to move on and our weather window is looking like it will be here on Thursday.  Waiting would be too risky.  So Scott took matters into his own hands and started calling around the island to see if we could source the pump ourselves (a frustrating process in itself, mind you).  While there was not a single Jabsco Water Puppy to be found in all of the British Virgin Islands, there was one in St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Scott grabbed his passport, hopped a ferry to the good ole U.S of A and five hours later brought back our puppy.  Running out to get a part when you have to go to another country can take a while.

Later that evening, after a celebratory meal and some wine, the pump was installed and our watermaker was back in action.  And what's best?  Rich and the folks at Cruise RO have decided to reimburse us completely for the pump, saying:

"In a situation like this we would typically say something like, 'we can get it to you for a cost of $150 but if you want to source it yourself to save time then we will cover what our cost would have been for us and you can cover the extra.'  That seems fair to us and most cruisers we have done that with have been happy with that compromise......BUT this whole situation was caused by us sending you the wrong pump, so this make it not a typical situation. We will send a refund check in the amount of $361.55 to the address you listed."

They say customer service is a thing of the past.  With Cruise RO Water and Power this could not be further from the truth.  This company has the best customer service I have ever experienced.  It is almost comical how good it is and I still secretly believe that Rich is actually a customer service robot with a phone permanently attached to his ear.  They go above and beyond for their customers and I can honestly say I have never been more impressed working with a company.  Can you imagine if all marine companies held the same standard (I'm talking to you electronics companies!)?  We boaters would free ourselves from a huge amount of stress and frustration and be floating around in a perpetual happy-land where questions are answered, warranties are honored and parts arrive without a hitch.

But that would be too good to be true.

Interested in our watermaker? Here are some more posts:
* Full disclosure: We are sponsored by Cruise RO Water and Power.  BUT we do not get 'special treatment' - talk to anyone who has worked with this company and you will hear similar stories of them going above and beyond the call of duty.  They are really this awesome.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did they offer any speculation as to why this happened. In reading between the lines sounds like the sales pitch of 30gph might be stressing the capabilities of the equipment?

Anonymous said...

That impeller is obviously a wearable item, so why is not field replaceable? Much easier to plan on annual preventative maintenance impeller replacements as opposed to entire pump replacements. Cruise RO needs to work with their part manufactures to "build a better mouse trap". That's what will set them apart.

Scott said...

Spares? If this wore out in four months the next one will be replaced in Grenada? If not there then (insert some random remote Country/Island).

Anonymous said...

I have one myself and know 6 other cruisers with the Cruise RO water maker and none of us have had problems. The impeller is a $20 item and our original impeller is on year 3 of 3-4 time/week use. Of course you should and I do carry a spare but you can also get the off the shelf impeller about anywhere! It sounds like your shaft seal went out and sea water then dripped into the motor, which would explain why you needed a new motor and not just a easy new impeller. This isn't the fault of Cruise RO or the need for a better "mouse trap", that's just a laughable dig to be honest. Spectra units go through their boost pumps like a bowl of Halloween Candy, I know, I've burned up 3 of them before bailing on the low output unit in favor of my 40 gallon/hr Cruise RO. I've exchanged emails with a lot of cruising gear companies in my 22 yrs of live aboard cruising and I would have been thrilled to see an email come back like the one you posted. Typically, you get NO help and are even sometimes treated like you are the problem for being out of the Country! I'm glad to hear they went above and beyond normal customer service with you.

Anonymous said...

That's the advantage of a water maker that uses off the shelf non-proprietary parts. That last time a part on my HRO water maker failed it took me 4 weeks to get a replacement and I had to cover the cost of shipping. Not to mention that ehe stupid proprietaty RO Membrane cost me 3 times the price I see that Cruise RO charges for their 40" membrane.

It's refrishing to hear that Customer Service isn't Dead and when this HRO high pressure pump needs rebuilding for t he 4th time, I think I now know what water maker I will be replacing it with!

HintonEast said...

Thanks for all that good 'stuff' you guys! All lessons are great!

Catherine said...

My comment on the "how we installed it entry" was that my husband thought the salt water lift pump and motor should have been mounted up the other way with the motor above the pump, so that when the seal leaks, it doesn't drip into the motor. (He just loves being right). I know you were in a rush to get the watermaker going again, but perhaps this change could be put on the "to do" list?

Kelley - Sailing Chance said...

We've found that Interlux is also an incredible company in terms of customer service. We were having trouble locating a specific color of paint locally so that we could paint in between florida rain storms and the local rep drove all the way out to us to hand deliver the paint he just happened to have in stock in his car. He then inspected our paint job and gave us tips, etc. A week later he came by to see how everything went. Incredible.

Windtraveler said...

Thanks for the comments all - the shaft seal failed most likely because Scott mounted it upside down (yes Catherine!! You are correct!) we fixed that and now it's right side up. From what we can tell, this issue was a fluke and we now have spare a spare impeller. Thank you to ANONYMOUS #3 for backing up all we say about Cruise RO - we couldn't agree more and we'd never hesitate in suggesting this unit.

Arizona_Bob said...

I just have to add, a whole bunch of the reason Rich is so attentive - besides being such a good "people person" already- is he and his family have been cruising the Sea of Cortez for several years. I've followed their blog. Darned watermaker company is taking him OFF OF the water too much...but, he designed it and I'm glad he's taking care of his customers the right way.

Bob C.

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