Saturday, July 21, 2018

AFTER LAKE POWELL A FAMILY ADVENTURE



Needless to say, I was pretty pissed at the condition of the houseboats we rented.  Rather than re-write what I've all ready written in a letter to the boat rental, you can find it below.  It's long I know, but it was actually fun writing it.  Before sending it off, I spoke with the General Manager on the phone to find the correct address to address my letter.  I also asked him for the address for the corporate office and his boss in Philadelphia.  He responded by stating, "e-mail me the letter and perhaps we can work something out."  So I did. 


July 18, 2018


Robert Knowlton, General Manager
Boat Rentals
Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas
100 Lake Shore Drive
Page, AZ 86040

Dear Mr. Knowlton,

After over a year of planning, on July 8, 2018, my wife and I rented two 59' Discovery XL houseboats for a week long family gathering.  Eighteen members of our family had been looking forward for this vacation with great anticipation.

After checking into the office at the marina, our instructor Bob gave us a walkthrough of both boats explaining how different systems worked.  We first looked at houseboat #54.  When it came time to see if the engines turned with the wheel, we encountered our first of many problems.  When Bob turned the wheel the motors turned in one direction but not the other.  Bob called someone over from maintenance to fix the problem while we checked out houseboat #59.  We did not see what the maintenance man did on the boat, but he was there for about 10 minutes.

When we left the marina, it was almost impossible to steer the boat properly.  My adult son was at the helm and could not keep the boat on a straight course.  I was watching this from our private speed boat.  He told me via the radio that the helm wouldn't respond properly.  Going through the cut he hit the side of the channel with the front of the boat and became sideways in the channel, monetarily blocking other traffic.  After exiting the cut, I boarded the houseboat and took over the helm.  I have piloted many boats, sail, power and houseboats and have never experienced a helm that was so unresponsive.  It took at least ten turns of the helm to make the boat respond, then it would turn in the desired direction and keep turning until I turned the helm ten or fifteen turns the other way.  Only then it would respond.  The only way I was able to control the boat in a proper manner was to turn the wheel back and forth very rapidly or use the throttles.  Only this way could I  keep it on some semblance of the desired course.

Needless to say, we didn't want to return through the cut, so we went and found a suitable beach for a campsite.  I attempted to call the marina on numerous occasions over the next several days, with no response on the radio.  Dead area or bad radio, I don't know.  We also didn't have and cell coverage.

We had planned on going further up the lake on our trip, but decided not to because I felt that due to the condition of the boat it would be unsafe.  I also felt that even if the steering was fixed, I couldn't trust the mechanical condition of other systems on the boat as it was apparent to me that they are not maintained properly.  We decided for safety sake to say put in one place, not something we had originally planned to do.

We made a trip into the marina to pick up someone and I went into the office to speak with maintenance.  A clerk took down a couple of my many issues and called maintenance on the phone so I could speak to them.  Now,  I'm the first to admit that I was upset with the situation and was a little hot under the collar, but I was never abusive to your staff.  When I said something about the missing screen door and suggested that it should have been replaced before renting the boat, I was told, "we don't do that during the season".  I said then that perhaps they should have gone to Home Depot and get one, the maintenance guy said it's too far.  I said something like, "Well, that's not my problem."  At this point he said I needed to speak to a manager and he hung up on me.

I then spoke with a woman manager in the office who, after learning of my most important issues, the steering and air conditioning, said she would send someone out.  She took down my cell phone number, which was useless as I had no service in camp.  No mention was made of when this would occur, but since it was early in the morning, I assumed that someone would be out soon.  Well that didn't happen.

About three in the afternoon, with no one arriving, I climbed to the highest point near camp and got service for a phone call.  After being transferred several times, I finally was connected to the houseboat office and was greeted with a recording to leave a message.  I did, but wasn't going to stand on some hilltop waiting for a return call that probably wouldn't happen.  Never did receive a message or call.

Finally about 6 pm or so, Jeremy from maintenance arrived.  Besides instructor Bob, he was a ray of sunshine and for the first time dealing with this problem we were speaking to someone in your employ who actually seemed to care about our plight.  He knew relatively quickly what the problem was and fixed it.  He told me that the normal, stop to stop turn on the helm should be 6 to 7 turns, not the 10 to 15 that I was experiencing.  He also checked the air conditioning in the other boat (#59) and confirmed that it was not working properly and he would find the person who could fix it and send them out.  The air was fixed the next day.

The bottom line is that after over a year in planning, spending approximately $13,000 for two deluxe houseboats, which by no way meet that standard, our family gathering was soured by your ineffective ability to maintain you fleet in a proper and safe manner.  For you, as one of your employees told us, it's turn those boats around and ignore the problems.  According to your employee, they are not given sufficient time to do the required maintenance before turning the boat over to the next renter.

Since the steering was fixed 4 days into our vacation and the air conditioning on the 5th day, I propose to you that we are refunded 50% of the cost of the houseboats.  This makes perfect sense because if both problems had only been on one houseboat, we would have had at least one good boat.

This situation was very dangerous and could have very easily injured someone or in the worst case scenario, killed someone.  It was obvious to me that you just want to turn the boats around and overlook both minor and major maintenance issues.  In your case, the dollar comes before the safety of your customers.

I wish I had read some of the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp before giving you my business.  If I had I would have rented from another company.  Perhaps you should read what people are saying about your service.  It might be an incentive to improve.

Finally I would like to suggest that a log of some sort is kept on each houseboat and customers should be encouraged to log defects they have found, thus enabling you to make timely repairs.  The log should stay on the boat so customers can see for themselves if you are keeping up with your agreement to provide a "deluxe" houseboat, which in this  case you did not.

It is my intent at this time to use every social media source that I can to voice my displeasure with your company and it's service.  You're gonna get someone killed.


HOUSEBOAT #54


Overall in bad shape, dirty, worn out
Steering inoperative after being told it was ok
No screen door on front slider
Broken Blinds
Missing blind in head
No mouse traps (we had mice)
Numerous loose or missing bolts, nuts and screws
When air is on, little or no air coming from rear vents (air worked a little)
Tape residue on walls
Broken light over island
Oven door broken
To shelf on refrigerator door is missing
No lift ring on rear deck
Coffee maker doesn't work, two hours make a pot
No stove top coffee maker

HOUSEBOAT #59

Overall in bad shape, dirty, run down
Air conditioning didn't work, blew air that wasn't cooled
Torn screens
On single wide mattress on top deck.  Asked for more and was told none available as they are custom made.
No mouse traps
Beach ramp is missing the stop that keeps it from sliding all the way our on one side.
Torn and deteriorating canvas on rails
Numerous loose or missing bolts, nuts and screws
Ceiling fan in salon does not turn at full speed
Tape residue on walls
Broken window shade in rear head
Exhaust fan in rear head doesn't work
Door on BBQ broken
Drinking water spigot in rear head does not reach into the sink and flows onto the Pullman top
Wash down on front deck doesn't work
No stove top coffee maker

"So, what happened?" you ask.

Well, the next day at the appointed time I got a call from Mr. Knowlton, who gave me the opportunity to vent a little more.  He didn't make a lot of excuses, but that no longer matter to me as he accepted  my proposal to refund 50% of the houseboat rental fees.  To top it off he also refunded the fuel for the affected houseboat to the tune of $500.  Not too bad and I was satisfied with the outcome.

I still posted a bad review on TripAdvisor and Yelp, and corporate will get the same letter I sent him.  My advice still stands, never rent from this company.

Oh, and I sold the speed boat today and made a profit of $250, not too shabby.


EVERYTHING COMING UP STRAWBERRIES


LAKE POWELL A FAMILY ADVENTURE

Way back in the early 80's we made our first trip to Lake Powell with Cathie's parents.  It was mostly their treat with us chipping in for gas money.  It was a great trip, and ever since then Cathie has wanted to take our family and treat them to a week in a houseboat on Lake Powell.  So 30 some odd years later the time had come to bite the bullet, sell some stock, and hit the road, or lake as the case my be.

When we went with Cathie's parents, there were just 6 of us on the trip.   Now the family has grown and now there are 17 who are going and chipping in for gas.  Houseboats on Lake Powell come in various sizes, but Coast Guard regulations say only 12 can be on board while underway.  Also, they are designed to sleep 12, although if you're friendly you could squeeze more in.  Anyway it was decided to rent two 59' Discovery XL houseboats from Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas.  By booking and paying a year in advance we were given a 30% discount, but it was non refundable.  The kids guaranteed us that they would go, so we pulled the trigger.

Now any trip to Lake Powell must include a speed boat, and of course they would rent us one, for a princely sum of $5000.  I wasn't going for that after renting two houseboats, so son Eric and I bought one for the trip.


We found this nice 19' ski boat priced right, so we scooped it up.  We had to spend some to get it perfect, but we hoped to break even upon selling it on our return.  Even if we lost $1000, we were ahead of the game.

On the appointed day we hit the road at 4 am and caravaned to Kanab, Utah for an overnight before arriving at the lake the next morning.  Upon arrival, Grandpa went to the rental office to fill out the necessary paperwork, while everyone else unloaded all our supplies and carried it to the waiting boats.  By the time the paperwork was done, everything had been transferred to the boats.  (Grandpa knows how to plan ahead)  Next we meet our instructor, Bob, who gives a walk-through of the boats and explains how things work.  On one boat, the steering wasn't working properly, so a mechanic was summoned who supposedly checked things out, and gave us a thumbs up.  With Randy and Gary piloting the houseboats, Grandpa in the speed boat, (Grandpa's got this down) we headed out of the Marina and sailed off into the vast and treacherous waters of Lake Powell.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lake Powell, it's big.  It is the second largest man made lake in the US after Lake Mead and a has 1900 miles of shore line.  It is approximately 185 miles long and is in two states.  Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, formed the lake and was completed in 1966.  Anyway, it's big, really big.


Everything was going fine in my little speedboat, but Randy was having trouble in his houseboat.  Seems the steering didn't get fixed after all.  At first I thought it just might be Randy, but not so.  When you leave the marina, first you cross a large bay, easy enough.  But then there is the Castle Rock Cut, a narrow man made channel that by saves a whole bunch of time to get up lake.  It was here that I knew we really had a problem.  Randy, doing his best, still managed to hit the side of the channel, no damage done, but he monetarily became sideways in the channel, blocking all traffic.  He managed to get straightened out and into open water, where I joined him.


There really was something wrong with the steering, but by constantly turning the wheel one way and then the other, we managed a very nice zig-zag course up lake, thus avoiding any torpedoes shot by lurking subs.  We weren't going to chance going back through the cut, so we headed up lake and found a suitable beach for a camp.  It was decided to stay put and not drive the thing until it was fixed.  Since it was a really nice sandy beach, suitable for the grandkids so we opted to stay put.  Eventually the steering was fixed, as was the air conditioning in the other boat, but we were soured by the condition of both boats.  Dirty, run down, with lots of stuff broken.

Did we have fun?  Why yes we did.  The kids all tried out sking, tubing, cliff jumping, and digging large  holes in the beach.  The temps were in the high 90's, which for Lake Powell in the summertime was fantastic.  We've been there when it was 117, way to hot.  We had thunderstorms each night with some strong winds, but we had the boats anchored securely to the beach and we didn't budge.   We divided into two groups for the boat ride and hike to Rainbow Bridge.  About 30 miles up lake from camp and a short, less than a mile walk to the Bridge.  It is the largest natural bridge in the world, standing 290 feet tall and 270 feet wide.  It is said you can put a 25 story building under it.












I'm going to make a second post about the problems with the boat and the outcome of my dealing with the rental company.  But in the mean time, enjoy the latest YouTube video.








Friday, March 09, 2018

BORREGO CAMPING

We went on two camping trips to Borrego in February, one with family and the other with friends.  Not much exciting stuff happened, but I did manage to make this video.  Enjoy!

 


Sunday, January 28, 2018

AN ANNIVERSARY ROAD TRIP

Well it's been awhile since you heard anything from Gassaway's Adventures, so with that in mind and that fact that we celebrated our 47th anniversary, we figured what better time for a road trip.  We also wanted to experience some other States where the gas prices were still reasonable, unlike California.  No RV this time, just the car and a couple of suitcases.  The plan was to do a circle in the southwest, Flagstaff, Santa Fe, Monument Valley, Zion and lastly Las Vegas.  An ulterior for me was to get some practice in with the drone and produce a little video of our trip.  Oh, and to celebrate 47 years of martial bliss.

We spent the first night in Flagstaff and after pointing out to the hotel desk at Embassy Suites that I was being charged more than was stated when making the reservation, the manager gave us a very good rate.  It was cold in Flagstaff, with some snow on the ground.  The cold temperatures would remain with us on the entire trip.  Not Winnipeg, Canada cold, but with temperatures as low as 16 degrees, it was cold enough for us.  The next day we headed of to Santa Fe.


After a lunch stop in Albuquerque for really good hamburger, we turned north to Santa Fe arriving at our B&B in mid-afternoon.  Actually north of the city about 15 miles, Rancho Nambe turned out to be a really good choice.  We were greeted by Dick and Sarah who would be our hosts for the next 4 nights.  If you like old, then Rancho Nambe is just the ticket.  This is a hacienda in the true Spanish style.  Built over 250 years ago, the original part of the building is still in use as the kitchen and dinning room.  Over the years the home has been added on to by lengthening it, with each of the room's doors opening to the courtyard.  In the 40's, the then owner was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and a great room was added to entertain guests.  Besides the B&B, Rancho Nambe is a working horse ranch where Arabians are raised.  Each morning Sarah prepared us a wonderful breakfast which include her home made granola which she graciously gave me the recipe.



Next we were off to Monument Valley for an overnight.  Choices for lodging in Monument Valley are limited with just two selections.  The same goes for eating establishments.  We stayed at Gouldings Lodge where our room had a pretty good view of the valley.  Nice room, not so nice restaurant with  overpriced mediocre food.

We had to keep moving so the next day we headed to Zion.  We stayed at another really nice B&B, Zion Canyon B&B located just outside of the park.  Being the off season, you can drive the length of Zion Canyon, something not allowed in busier times.  Because of Cathie's bum leg, there would be no hiking on this trip, so we were pretty much relegated to the car.  Still a very beautiful place and even more so with snow in the higher elevations.



After 2 nights in Zion, what better place to end our road time, but Vegas.  We had our anniversary dinner at Cathie's favorite restaurant, Hugo's Cellar.  Cathie wasn't feeling too well, so she skipped the main course, but did manage to get down the Banana's Foster at the end of the meal.  All in all a pretty good trip.  I even managed to recoup Cathie's losses, plus some at the the poker table.



Oh, yes, here's the video:








Thursday, December 14, 2017

WINDMILL SERVICE

Well, it's past time to service the windmill.  Since I won't go up there, I've been using the kids to risk their lives to climb to the top, but when it's time for service, they don't come around much.  But not to worry as I found a service in nearby Ramona, who for a price, will do the necessary oil change and greasing of parts.  Enjoy the short video.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Drone

Ok, this drone thing is getting addicting, so here's the latest.





Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WE HAD TO GET OUTTA HERE

If you recall the previous post, we reported that Cathie broke her leg.  It really doesn't matter how it happened, either her dad fell on her or she was sky diving, it did in fact happen.  After 4 weeks in a cast and that much additional time in a leg brace, we were going stir crazy.  Cathie, because she was sitting most of the time and me because I had to wait on her.  All this time she had been complaining to the medical folks that her ankle hurt, but they assured us all was well and any foot and ankle pain was normal.

When they let her bend her knee, still in the brace and putting limited weight on her foot, both her knee and foot swelled up.  Normal they said.  Finally we went to urgent care and it was discovered that she had a blood clot behind the knee.  So I had to give her injections of a blood thinner.  I hate needles, but it was ok since it wasn't me getting poked.  But she was still having pain in her foot, so she finally got someone to x-ray her foot.  Lo and behold she has a broken ankle.  Who would have guessed.

So now she's in a rigid boot for who know how long.  Her leg has healed nicely and she has some mobility with the use of a cane so we figured it was time to get out of town.  Because of her injury, we had to cancel a planned 2 month RV trip and now we had the chance to hook up and go.  Only a week mind you, but it was better than nothing.

With the temperatures at home forecast in the low 100's what better time to head to the Eastern Sierras.  Because Cathie was going to be pretty much confined to the RV, with the exception of drives in the countryside, we opted for the Golden Pine RV Park in June Lake.  Anyway almost all the forest service campgrounds had closed for the season.  So with full hookups, cable TV and Internet, it was just like home, except it wasn't.  Only a couple of other RV's in the park due to the lateness of the season.  We manage to arrange for perfect weather for the entire week, with cold crisp nights and warm days with cloudless skies. 

We managed to get in several drives to places we had never been, which is pretty amazing as we have been in the vicinity many times.  It's is possible that we had been there before but due to our advanced age we may have forgotten previous visits.






We took a drive out to Benton Hot Springs, which is out in the middle of nowhere, but still in California.  There are hot springs there, but it appeared that they were closed for the season with no one around.  On the way there we came across several groups of wild horsed which populate this part of California.


The fall season in the Eastern Sierra can be very beautiful and although most of the color was gone when we were there, but we did manage to find some.






Cathie was not able to do any hiking or much walking for that matter, but both my legs were working so I managed to get in a couple of short hikes.  First I took a short hike up to Parker Lake, where I have been before.  An easy 3 mile hike to a beautiful lake.





My second hike took my up a steep trail to Gem Lake.  At 7 miles and an elevation gain just shy of 2000 feet, I got a pretty good workout.  Before reaching Gem Lake, you past Agnew Lake.  Both lakes are man made with dams constructed in 1916 and 1917 with the water from both eventually ending up in Los Angeles.  Most of  us Californians know that water from the Eastern Sierras flows through a series of streams, river, lakes, canals and aqueducts to supply Los Angeles with it's water.  Many of the locals don't like this, but there's not much they can do about as Los Angeles bought up all the water rights in the early 1900's.  A group did manage to sue the City of Los Angeles, forcing them to gradually return water to Mono Lake.

GEM LAKE

Looking back at Agnew Lake

This rail system was used to haul material up to the dam sites on both lakes during their construction.  As luck would have it they are no longer in operation, so I had to walk.



Because the train was no longer in operation, I had to take the trail along this cliff.  Not fun, but by looking at the trail and not over the edge, I managed not to wet myself.


THE OWENS RIVER ON THE WAY TO LA

We were only able to spend one week in the Sierras, but we relaxed, which was greatly needed.  It was great therapy for both of us, something that was long over due.  But Cathie has physical therapy once a week and she couldn't afford to miss too many sessions, so we were forced to head to the barn.  Of course as it is with Gassaway's Adventures, we will be back.