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Boca Chica - Great Service Recommendation

By Sue Richards last modified May 12, 2010 07:55 PM

Published: 2010-05-12 19:55:42
Countries: Dominican Republic

Paul Caouette, of SY Wild Iris (V40-133), sent this recommendation for Marina Zarpar and Atlantis Yacht Services.

My wife Honey and I have been having the time of our life cruising the Bahamas and Caribbean on Wild Iris, our old Valiant 40. It is a great old boat that sometimes needs a little attention, so we’ve had the opportunity to see and compare numerous marinas as we head south to Trinidad. After a particularly troublesome repair was needed during our recent Caribbean cruise, we thought it worth noting the great experience we had at Marina Zar Par, Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.

I’ve known for some time that some maintenance was needed on our rudder but always found an excuse not to undertake the work. But when the rudderpost started leaking at the hull after we had a rough crossing on the Windward Passage (with about 2000 pounds of food for the Haitian earthquake survivors) we really had to face the music. Yikes! We thought we were really in trouble. We were on the south coast of Haiti and word was that there were not many ports that would have the skill necessary to tackle this job. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best and finally reached Marina Zar Par on the south shore of the Dominican Republic.

This is a beautiful, new marina in one of the best stopover locations in the western Caribbean. The staff service is beyond expectation. Our radio call was immediately picked up by Raul, the dock manager, and he dispatched a boat to greet us...not because the entry is difficult...just as a gesture of welcome. (FYI, this marina has a brand new 70 ton lift which is fully 28ft wide between the straps and can accommodate catamarans up to 55 ft).

Raul is the genuine stuff we cruisers hope for. Anticipating our needs and actively engaging in insuring a pleasant experience. He heard about our leak and immediately suggested we meet with Mark of Atlantis Yacht Services.

Mark is the new American General Manager who runs the service department with his partner, Wilber, of Boca Inver. Mark was knowledgeable and walked us through the steps we needed for this structural repair. I was expecting the “expensive... hard to do here with local materials... sorry, can’t, etc etc...” but to my surprise Mark was eager to tackle the job. Now, mind you, since the tube was leaking at the base/hull joint I really needed this done. Some of my friends stateside suggested that I simply slap a little resin on the thing and call it a day, but Mark suggested we call the factory and together we determined that the best course thing to do would be to drop the gudgeon and rudder, cut the old rudderpost tube out of the boat, dissemble the hardware, refabricate the new tube into the hull, realign the rudderpost assembly and then refasten the gudgeon to the skeg and send us on our way.

After some negotiation (due to my doubts and past experiences), Mark agreed to do the whole job for a number under USD 1,500.00, a price I thought was pretty reasonable after taking into consideration the nature and scope of the work (such a repair in Miami would probably be 3,000 minimum). I asked for a guarantee in writing (which Mark actually supplied), and we started work. I might add that Mark earned our confidence after we learned that he is the only ABYC certified tech in the DR, has dealer relationships with most major manufacturers, had a thorough understanding of the engineering involved and has been doing this work for the better part of 25 years now.

We took the boat next door to Club Nautico (as Zar Par is still dredging for their new lift) and hauled the boat to begin work...

Needless to say, the job became more complicated than originally thought once the old gudgeon was removed and inspected. I began to worry that the estimate was out the window at this point, but it was too late to turn back. I had several conversations with Mark regarding his job strategy. There was some refabrication and welding needed on the gudgeon since it had been improperly repaired at some point in its 30 plus years under sail. Once I was confident he had the task well in hand, my family and I departed for the mountains to see the countryside and try to relax a little. (Mark gave us one of his personal cell phones for communication and he called us daily about the progress).

Our old boat was a bit of a devil. It presented many small, but time consuming engineering issues, but Mark handled them well and efficiently, and by the time we returned he had the new factory supplied tube installed, glassed in and properly aligned. Mark actually waited for me to agree to the manner in which he intended to re-engineer the gudgeon, which we changed once after an interesting morning together gathering parts in the capital. We redesigned the gudgeon and re-installation procedure together, and Mark expertly prepared the gudgeon per our plan...

The installation went seamlessly and the boat went back certainly in the water in better condition than when it came out and with a new tube, bearing, correct alignment, and a firm feel to the wheel!

As it is almost impossible to get such work done professionally and on time anywhere in the Caribbean, we were not surprised that this work took a week longer than estimated, though such delays were not the fault of the service department in any way. (we scheduled this work during Holy Week, the largest religious holiday of the year). Mark and Wiber’s excellent fiberglass repairman, Flecha, did a first-rate job and was a pleasure to work with, and he even came to help us with the final install.

To my surprise, Mark communicated all job related issues to me prior to changing anything, completed the job completely professionally, managed the invoicing and importation of our parts, aided us in our island-related travels, hotels, and provisioning, and...yes, I am not kidding, he constantly reassured us and really didn’t increase the bill when it was time to settle up! I can’t tell you how reassuring that was!

We wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this lovely, family-owned marina if you are anywhere near the Dominican Republic, most especially if you need first-rate service of your vessel. The marina staff is friendly and professional and Mark made us feel like we were his only customers even though his phone was constantly ringing and he continued to service his more than 300 client-base with Wilber. Once their Travelift is up and running this summer, there is little doubt that this will be the premiere service stop in the region.

We’re back out cruising with a secure boat thanks to these folks. They’re a cut above. A big cut.

Here are their sites.

Fair Winds

-- Paul Caouette
sv Wild Iris (V40-133)