The boat I chartered had a malfunctioning anchor windlass, which the marina owner, Jon Buck, claimed I had broken. He deducted the $700 repair from my security deposit, and refused to return it even after the head of the boatyard that fixed it emailed me, "The windlass itself was VERY dry and dirty. Obviously it had not been opened up and inspected or cleaned in a long, long time. In my opinion, there is nothing you could have done to this windlass or even a brand new windlass, that would cause a broken tooth. They are designed to withstand bringing the anchor up to a full lock, even if you hold the up button too long. It was broken because of age and lack of maintenance." In addition, the boat was neither registered by the state nor documented by the Coast Guard, causing the Maine Marine Patrol to do a thorough investigation of Buck's fleet. Other charterers have had multiple mechanical problems with his boats, which a highly-respected yard nearby says are poorly maintained.
Sadly, I experienced a Charter From Hell through Buck’s Harbor Marina, and nearly two months later, they’ve failed to fulfill their promise to refund my money, almost $10,000! Here’s what happened: After the 36’ Grand Banks trawler I’d paid in advance to charter for two weeks was sold and became unavailable in June 2018, Jon Buck, the marina’s owner, offered a 42’ for the first week and a 32’ for the second. But when we boarded the 42’, we discovered that the refrigeration wasn’t working; Buck hadn’t checked it out early enough. Then, into port came the 32’, returned early by its previous renters. So we switched to the 32, moved our gear (with the kind help of Buck’s very young son), and got underway. The next morning, we discovered that the old anchor windlass, which I’d told Buck I needed after two back surgeries last year, was in bad shape. It sounded like a coffee grinder, and although I nursed it along, motoring up over the anchor and putting hardly any strain on it, the windlass kept binding up and stopping. I finally had to pull up the anchor by hand—not advisable, but my back held up. Buck sent a mechanic to fix it, which he did by just turning the barrel by hand to free it up—not a true repair. The next time we anchored, the same thing happened, even while treating the windlass with great care. After it stopped operating, I pulled the rope rode in by hand as far as possible, but as I hauled manually, the anchor snagged an old rope on the bottom, and I couldn’t get it up by hand. The mechanic came again, couldn’t get the windlass working but managed to pull up the anchor enough to reach the old rope and cut it. Buck’s mechanic judged the windlass in need of replacement, since it was probably as old as the 1977 boat and had been exposed to decades of salt water. Buck did not offer to replace it, however. In addition, as I discovered in the papers aboard, the boat had neither Coast Guard documentation nor state registration, in violation of the law. I was concerned that I could be held liable as the operator. I advised Buck, but he didn’t answer and didn’t provide documentation—because there wasn’t any, as I found later in checking the Coast Guard’s database. The documentation had expired, under a different owner and name, 14 months before. Nor did the boat have its name on the hull, as the law requires. So, regretfully, I emailed Buck that we’d have to return the boat, which we did. By phone he apologized and agreed to my proposal that he refund my money minus one day’s charter and the cost of fuel. He said he’d send the check in two days. When I didn’t get it, he stopped answering my emails, texts, and phone messages until, 10 days later on June 30, he emailed, “Sorry for the delay,” and said the check would be in that day’s mail. It’s now August 10th, and no check, no answer to my queries. Both BoatUS and the Better Business Bureau have relayed my complaint to him (BoatUS said I have a case), but still no response to date. Losing the charter was hard enough, but to lose the money, too? It’s a shame, because before Buck bought the marina in 2016, it had a good reputation. If this story has a happy ending eventually, I’ll file an update.