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What Your Boat Repair Shop Wishes You Knew

We ask some longtime shop managers their perspectives on how to make your experience better.

When you and your shop are on the same page, chances are you'll head off any problems before they become major headaches. (Photo: Rich Armstrong)

Today's boats are complicated, and engines are complex. Most of us aren't equipped to do repairs in our backyard, so we end up taking our boats and engines to someone way more qualified to get them working well. Sometimes, though, things don't go smoothly, and it feels like we're not always on the same page as the shop. When that happens in life, often it's because we don't have the other person's perspective. We're here to help solve that problem. We talked to some owners and managers at respected shops across the country and asked them what they wished you knew about the business of fixing boats.


Jack Madison has been the general manager at Catawba Island Marina in Port Clinton, Ohio, for 32 years. Madison says that his shop really wants to get to know its customers because that helps them set expectations both ways. Phone calls and emails don't convey who the person really is. "We love meeting our customers face to face and getting to know them," he says.

Consumer takeaway: Make it a point to meet the service manager and even some of the techs when you bring your boat in. Having a personal relationship makes it easier to solve problems and prevent misunderstandings.

Madison says that it helps when their customers are very specific about what's wrong. The more information the technicians have, the faster they can solve the problem, which will save you money. Instead of describing a rough-running engine as "it just isn't running right," he says their technicians can be far more efficient when they hear, "After I've run the engine for an hour or so and turn it off, it stumbles for a couple of minutes when I start it again, but the gauges are all OK."

Consumer takeaway: Especially for intermittent problems, keep a log for the shop that details when the problem happens ("Right after I start the engine"), what happens ("It's a grinding noise that lasts a few seconds"), and any other details ("This has only happened on hot days"). Make sure the service writer notes your comments on the work order so the tech will see them.