We came here to Wilson, New York, primarily to do some major boat upgrades. We did a lot of research over the past six months, weighed our options and drove up here in January to talk to Kevin Jerge of Wilson Boat Yard. Even when we factored in the exchange rate, and our relatively low dollar, Kevin’s pricing was better than any others – he had a compelling quote. More importantly, we liked him. He struck us then as friendly, competent and honest. And now that we are on the tail end of a ton of work, our first impression holds true.

Kevin

Kevin

In the past two weeks we have:

Put in a NMEA 2K/Seatalk backbone and upgraded all our electronics, including:

  • 2 multi-function-display chart-plotters with new charts for all of US and Canada
  • New digital, solid state “Quantum” radar
  • New autopilot “brains”
  • 5 new tank monitors for our 2 water tanks, 2 fuel tanks and holding tank
  • New instrument displays
  • Replaced 4 leaking hatches

    Steve looks as dishevelled as our home in the midst of the boat upgrades

    Steve looks as dishevelled as our home in the midst of the boat upgrades

  • Reseated 3 leaking port-lights
  • Repaired a couple of gel-coat blemishes
  • Replaced mast-head anchor light and tri-light with new LED bulbs.

To do this work we had to unpack half the boat into a store-room in the marina – our water-line rose several inches in the process and we are amazed by how much stuff we manage to squirrel away in this “home”.  For an instance it was tidy – since then it has been a construction zone.

Meanwhile, Steve cleaned the hull (I helped), and inside nooks and crannies in lazarette and bilge lockers that have not seen the light of day for several years. He cleaned out the fridge sea-water strainer and checked the fuel. Most importantly he sorted out his fibbermagee tool locker of filters, spares, implements, ropes, tapes and screws – and listed spare parts in his database!

Steve did most of the work on installing the new tank gauges, and I helped calibrate them. I sewed a leather cover on the pedestal guard rail to cover the nasty scars of a previous electronics pod. I read manuals, programmed displays, made templates, played “dental assistant” to the real technicians and operated the vacuum-cleaner at regular intervals, trying unsuccessfully to manage our confined home surroundings.

Sewing a leather cover on the guard rail.

Sewing a leather cover on the guard rail.

Off to a slow start due to unexpected priorities at the marina, we have made great progress over the past couple of days. Kevin has been great, and more than accommodating. While here we have had free docking, and use of the excellent, sparkling clean facilities, which include the nicest showers of just about any marina we have visited, and a pool and hot-tub, which became operational for the season this weekend. He lent us his own vehicle to go shopping. He gave us a couple of nights accommodation in the boutique lighthouse hotel here, which was a pleasant break from the confines of the boat-construction zone. We have wifi and laundry facilities. His Dad, Bob, is a really great guy – always busy around the property and very helpful.

Kevin is always busy too – his main problem is that he can’t say no. He runs a busy marina and is a family man with a Brady-bunch of kids. He answers his persistent phone every few minutes with “Hi buddy, what can I do for you?” So he comes and goes, but after the first few erratic days when we got less done than anticipated, he has done a good job of managing our expectations. He is quick, competent and knowledgeable about all boat electronics. He is scrupulously honest, and not afraid to “call a friend” when he needs to know more or comes across an installation issue.

Jeff is the guy who has done our hatches, ports, gel-coat repairs, and installation trips up the mast with our help (as he says he trusts sailors more than power-boaters to winch him up). He is also good-humoured and competent – he knows his stuff, having worked in this business for 10 years though he seems little more than a kid! He has spent a lot of time up the mast!

Steve watches while Jeff works

Steve watches while Jeff works

The best part of it is that Kevin and Jeff are both happy to have us watch, learn, help and do-it-ourselves under their guidance when possible. That has been great for Steve as he really likes to be involved and has learned a lot. It is also good for me….the new electronics seem very intuitive and I have had some time to play around, put in new routes etc. But mostly I have just done a good job of tolerating the foul language and exertion sound-effects which really seems to help all of them get the work done!

My view of butts for weeks!

View of butt-ends and mess for 2 weeks!

We all had an anxious few days when we had brand spanking new chart-plotters, radar and autopilot but no depth sounder (our trusty transducer was not relaying to the new equipment for some reason), and while installing the radar, the loud hailer (fog horn) wire accidentally disappeared down the mast. That took hours of fruitless fishing and various strategies as to how to retrieve the wire. Steve ended up spending most of his “significant” birthday up the mast, and the rest of it pumping out and calibrating our head tank – a smelly job. Almost as fun as the surprise party he threw for me last year! Kevin helped us through the bad patch by buying us pizza and wings, taking me shopping, and doing his best to resolve the bad situation.

Smiles when we fixed the loud hailer at last!

Smiles when we fixed the loud hailer at last!

Oh, and our new batteries turned out to be on back-order (since January) and won’t arrive for another week. So Kevin is going to bring them to us later and install them – hopefully in Erie, Pennsylvania, which somewhat changes our plan for a quick transit of Lake Erie.

Meanwhile we are putting our home back together – every locker and cupboard had been emptied to get at wiring etc.

It feels great to have this two-week boat-work hiatus under our belts. We have come to the conclusion that all boat projects are stressful. This one has been about as pleasant as it could be, given our pretty, peaceful surrounds and access to great facilities.

All being well, we push off to Port Dalhousie tomorrow…..the Welland canal awaits!