Warning

Andy Smith Boat Works & Junction Boat Works

(Also trading as Andy Smith Boatworks, Andy Smith Boatworks-Philippines, and Junction Boatworks)

As previous customers of Andy Smith we strongly urge potential customers to beware of doing business with either Andy Smith or Junction Boat Works. We deeply regret doing business with them.

Tracey Greenwood and Mark Myatt.

Salesmanship

We are both disabled sailors (having each had a leg amputated) but have sailed happily together for many years without problems. However, when we decided to take several years off and live aboard a boat while sailing further afield, we knew that we would need a boat which would be both safe and practical for us in the harshest of sea conditions. We spent a year looking at second-hand boats for sale, but realised it would be easier to build a boat from scratch than make the modifications necessary to an existing vessel. This way we thought we could be sure of getting the boat we really wanted.

The Jay Benford junk rig dory suited our requirements perfectly so we bought the plans and then the search started for a yard to build it for us. We contacted many different yards around the world who specialised in boat construction using the WEST system, from Canada to Asia. Based upon their responses we made a short-list of six yards. We sent the plans and a detailed specification outlining our specific needs to each yard on this short list. Based upon the responses of these six yards we asked Andy Smith to build our boat, Molly.

We had expected Andy's quote to be the cheapest as he was based in the Philippines where labour costs are obviously much less than in countries such as Canada or the United States, but we needed a good reason to have the boat built there since it was nearly half way around the world. It is also a more difficult starting point for sea trialling a new vessel, with a short sailing season and a high frequency of tropical revolving storms. The reason we chose Andy Smith was because he appeared to be genuinely interested in building the boat. Other yards came back with responses along the lines of “ Yes. We have done this before. We can do it again. It will cost you this much and take us this long. Any questions? ” but Andy responded with detailed and thoughtful comments and questions. He seemed to be the most in tune with the sort of minimalist boat we wanted and of our special needs. In truth, his attention won us over and we therefore awarded him the contract. What we did not know at the time was that this attention would disappear once we had signed contracts and transferred money. It all just seemed to be to win our business. Once he had the money, Andy seemed to have little more to do with our boat. Other customers of Andy Smith that we have spoken with report similar experiences.

Communication

Andy spent very little time in the boatyard, choosing instead to work from home, so was not on hand to oversee the build. Instead it was left to the guys in the yard to build the boat, none of whom had ever sailed a boat to sea and who had no formal training in boat building. While they were fine craftsmen and would do beautiful work under supervision, they had no idea about how a boat works as a system or why certain features are important. There was no understanding of concepts such as the difference between centre of buoyancy, centre of gravity and centre of force, and were at a complete loss when we tried explaining about the extreme forces that could act upon the boat in a heavy sea.

Sadly what was missing was any proper lines of communication. Obviously we were not there for all of the build but we did have regular e-mail contact with Andy all the time. Through e-mail we sent not only suggestions and instructions, but also detailed drawings of how things such as chain lines for keeping the bilges running freely should be installed. These were either not passed on to the foreman at the yard or were lost or ignored. When we got there and asked about them we were just looked at blankly. Worse than that though, is that when we printed them out again and handed them over in person, they were still ignored and people just carried on doing whatever they wanted.

Project Management

Once we based ourselves permanently in the Philippines to oversee the final part of the build, it became clear that what all this meant was that no-one was actually in charge of building our boat - i.e. There was no project manager. The result of this oversight is that there was no “ joined up thinking ” in how the build progressed. Without anyone being in charge it often meant that necessary parts had not been ordered in advance and therefore, with the time taken for money transfers to be made and shipping of parts, it could hold things up for several months. Workers would start on a job and then be called off it to work on another boat half way through or called away to work on a personal matter for Andy such as a repair at his cottage or the building of a boat for his own use. It made for extremely poor time management and any organisation in the yard impossible. There were no project plans for how to build the boat, no time lines, no idea of which job came after another or which workers would do each job, how long it would take them and what tools and materials they would need in order to complete it.

Things were not thought about in advance, so all electrical wires and plumbing pipes were just tacked onto the outside of the walls after they had spent a long time producing a high gloss finish inside because no conduits had been made for them as part of the build. It was as though they had come as a surprise at the end of the build. We had specified the Taylor's cooker we wanted at the beginning of the project, so all the dimensions for it were available from long before the insides of the boat were built. However, the cooker was one of the last things to actually be ordered so the galley had been finished with a space left to mount the cooker when it arrived. When they put it in though, they had allowed no room for it to gimble and it sat half way in front of the galley drawer, thereby making that unusable as you couldn't open it. They did cut some space out of the water tank behind to allow it to gimble one way, but you still couldn't use it when heeling on a starboard tack.

Poor cost-control

Andy seems to capture clients by submitting reasonably priced quotes and good salesmanship. Once building starts, however, costs rise rapidly. Our original quote was for just over one-hundred and twelve thousand US dollars (US$ 112,000) for pretty much a finished boat. Other things, like safety and communications, equipment we brought with us. Five months prior to launch this cost had risen to over one-hundred and sixty thousand US dollars (US$ 160,000) and within three days of arriving there we were presented with an additional bill for sixty-three thousand US dollars (US$ 63,000) for what was termed “ extras ”, with the proviso that there were yet more costs to come which had not yet been estimated. A US$ 112,000 quote became a US$ 223,000 bill, an almost 100% cost over-run with more to come. Naturally we were horrified at this, particularly as we had been in e-mail contact only a week before we left the UK about any further expenses as we would not be able to easily get access to additional funds once we had left for the Philippines and were assured that there would not be any. By waiting until we had packed up our life in the UK and were out in the Philippines to ask for such a large additional sum of money, it seemed as though the whole thing had been contrived to put us in such a position that we would have to pay up because there was now no going back on the project.

Not surprisingly, we did not have that sort of money to hand over and so went through the extras list with a fine-tooth comb. These “ extras ” included many items that we had included in our original specification and even included some very basic things which were on the boat's plans such as the keel, stainless steel handrails and Dorade vents. Extra charges were made for items that were basic to the build such as fixings, glue, and mastic. We have contacted some of Andy Smith's other clients and they report that their boats typically cost up to twice the value of the original quote. We were told by Andy that we would save money by buying equipment through the boatyard because of professional discounts, savings on shipping costs made by combining orders with those of other customers, and the use of a bonded warehouse but this unfortunately was not the case.

We were persuaded to have several items purpose-built in the yard because they would be cheaper and of better quality. One of these things was the anchors, but when it came to it Andy wanted to charge us several times more for the anchors than if we had purchased them from any number of standard suppliers, even allowing for delivery costs. Not only did they want to charge us far more for purpose-built water tanks than we could have bought them from any number of suppliers, but when filled for the first sea trial these tanks leaked horrendously into the chart table all over the saloon and still leaked after two attempts by the yard to fix them.

Poor build-quality

When the sails were first put up in the yard this was naturally done on a day when there was very little wind (no more than a force 1-2). Unfortunately no-one had checked the sails when they came in from the sail-makers and therefore had not noticed that the eyes on the head and foot of the sail for lacing to the yard and boom were missing. In barely any time the top yard split in two and came crashing down, luckily not hurting anyone. It turned out that the spars had been made of kiln-dried red lahua, a wood which should never be used for spars, particularly when kiln-dried, and the fixings for the yard sling plate had screws placed directly opposite each other on either side of the yard, effectively creating holes straight through which weakened it enormously. When we looked at the shattered spar the wood was like honeycomb - completely brittle with no strength or flexibility at all. When we asked why this timber had been used instead of a traditional spar material such as Sitka spruce, we were told it was because it was all they could get locally. Given that almost everything else for the boat had been shipped in from overseas, this reasoning did not make a lot of sense. Just as there is no project management, so there was no system for quality control within the yard. Examples of this were water tanks which leaked badly and had never been pressure tested, poorly mounted winches, non-functioning self-steering system (parts not installed), loose tiller, chafing due to improper placement of lines, no strength in mast steps, use of poor quality stainless steel parts (which rusted within days), possible use of counterfeit components (e.g. we specified, and paid for, portlights from a well-known reputable manufacturer but they were ill-fiting and not working properly. On speaking with the company recently they admitted to counterfeit problems in south-east Asia), components mounted badly (e.g. winch-bases with bolts missing) or not at all, ... this list could go on and on.

Not listening to clients

We made our personal mobility needs very clear in the original document accompanying the plans when sent out for tendering of the job. These included some quite basic things such as the need for the cabin sole to be completely flat with no trip hazards and that the companionway steps be more like stairs than a ladder as we would be unable to get up vertical steps. Both of these requests were completely ignored. Tracey had been out to visit the yard before the start of the build as we felt it important for the yard to see her physical capabilities and to gain an understanding of how she moves around a boat since she doesn't wear her artificial leg when sailing. At no time during the build did anyone in the yard bother hopping around any part of the boat to see if there may be any problems for her - her needs were completely ignored.

One very important point for our mobility needs was having solid stainless steel handrails all around the deck of the boat instead of the normal stanchions and wire guardrail. We specified from the outset that these must be at least one metre high, though one metre and ten centimetres would be better. These were obviously expensive, but had been clearly specified from the very start and had been stressed on Tracey's first visit to the yard before building started. Once they were built and fitted, the rails came to only 63cm and were angled out from the boat. This meant they came to just above our knees and therefore provided no safety protection at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite - they were positively dangerous as by catching you in that position you were likely to be tripped straight over the side.

We also made it very clear when sending out details for tendering that this was to be a blue water boat, designed to cross oceans and therefore everything on it must be completely watertight and as strong as possible. When it came to the build though, portlights would not close or leaked (frame distorted during fitting or perhaps just faulty or counterfeit products) and hatches would not seal properly - there was no way of battening down the hatches securely. There was no way of securing locker doors initially, and when we insisted upon locks being fitted they still just swung open when the boat heeled.

Some of the (many) faults that we detected on our boat during sea-trials

The boat seemed exceptionally tender during sea-trials requiring three reefs in both sails in reasonably light (i.e. force 3 to 4) winds. Even when well-reefed the boat was frighteningly tender. Further investigation revealed that the keel had been built 1000 kg (2200 lbs) below the design weight (the yard had built the keel to the weight specified for a much shorter boat of a similar design). The bow down trim of the boat suggested that the masts may have been heavier than the design weight. The keel would then have been considerably more than 1000 kg underweight. The masts and keel had not been weighed prior to launch even though we had repeatedly requested it. After seeing this, another customer in the yard insisted on weighing his masts as he had a weight-sensitive design, and discovered that they were more than three times heavier than the maximum weight allowed for them.

Initially they had not put in any way of securing the mast. When we asked what held the masts into the boat we were told, gravity. After explaining to them about slamming in a sea, being knocked down in a storm, and the possibility of being rolled 360 degrees, some fixings were eventually put in place. The foot of each mast was secured using a stainless steel plate with through-bolts in two places only. These bolts were too short and nuts were only held by two or three turns of the thread. It was pointed out that the number and length of through-bolts were insufficient. The yard's response to this was to retain the existing bolts and further hold the plates with wood-screws. The boat experienced only mild slamming during sea-trials but this was sufficient to pull the wood-screws and lift the foremast securing plate by about 0.5 cm (¼"). The foremast foot was now pretty messy as the yard had originally neglected to account for the forward rake of the junk's foremast and the foot had already been partially rebuilt. Fixing would have required removal of the mast and reconstruction of the mast foot.

To mention a few other problems: the engine water intake was positioned on the waterline allowing us to motor-sail only on the starboard tack, despite the fact we had a sail-drive with a water intake valve on the propeller leg. Draining of unsealed anchor locker though holes in the side of the hull meant that water entered the locker when healed and this drained into forward cabin instead of the bilges. The winch in the cockpit which should have been angled for use with the foresail halyard was mounted flat so that it was useless. The wrong grade of cable was sealed inside the mast for the HF antenna, despite specific instructions being given, which meant a hole had to be cut out of the mast to replace the cable. Again, this list could go on and on.

Use of timber

The plywood available in the Philippines can be prone to a particular termite (buc-buc) and this has led to one boat built by Andy Smith having to be abandoned shortly after launch (see http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/tiki/tiki.html). Anyone considering having a boat built in the area should seriously consider either specifying an alternative source of plywood or having the local plywood treated prior to encapsulation. Of far greater concern is the use of inappropriate timber for structural components and masts and spars. Andy Smith uses locally produced kiln-dried tropical red lahua. This wood is both heavy and brittle. On our boat, the mainsail yard broke during testing in a gentle breeze. The masts were very heavy with the weight of the foremast seriously effecting the fore-and-aft trim of the boat.

What happened

The list of problems with the boat could go on and on and on but, to be honest, life is too short. We could have tolerated many of these problems but the problems with the masts and keel meant that the boat was unsafe in all but the easiest conditions and we therefore could not get out of the Philippines to another yard who could carry out the remedial work necessary. We went some way down the road of discussing remedial works with Andy, but it quickly became clear that it was going to cost us a lot more money and an indefinite amount of time (the boat was already very late). As we had lost all faith in Andy's ability and could not afford to plough yet more time and money into the boat, we were forced to sell her at a fraction of her cost (US$ 36,000). This will seem bizarre to most people as we lost most of our savings, but we had to walk away before losing our sanity as well.

Lessons learned

Clearly we have learnt much from this horrendous ordeal and find ourselves far from blameless. Having the boat built in the Philippines went against everything our instincts told us but, in the end, Andy won us over. We are now paying the price for that. We would not have a boat built at such a distance again as you need to be able to visit the yard as regularly as possible. The contract should be drawn up under the law of your own country (in our case British law) and should be very specific, stating exactly what is to be done, what materials will be used, and what equipment will be bought. It should also include a specific build time and something like a Gantt (project time-line) chart produced by the builder which shows how long each part of the project will take, when equipment will be ordered, etc. There should be a penalty clause for going over time. Any extras should be clearly agreed in advance and put in as amendments to the contract. There should be one project manager who co-ordinates all parts of the project and to whom you are in constant contact with. There should also be open and transparent accounts with clients able to look at the books to be sure that the money they supply is actually being used to build their boat. Copies of all correspondence should be kept in a file in the office which is open to both the builder and the client.

James Wharram states on his website that Andy Smith is a professional boat builder and we therefore assumed that he had a thorough knowledge of boat construction. As we had chosen to use a professional to build the boat rather than doing it ourselves, it never occurred to us that we would need to check every little detail ourselves but, as it turned out, that was exactly what we should have done. We did take up several references from other customers of the yard, but most of them had boats which were still under construction. Three of them have now regretted the reference they gave because of major problems with their own boats. Of course we are sad about our loss - mostly the loss of our dream and our trust in people - but we do not intend to dwell on it. With the little money we retrieved from selling Molly we have bought a traditional 26-foot deep-keeled sloop, a “ proper little ship ” which will do us very well for the time being. Having a refit in a UK-based yard has proved remarkably painless and cheap compared to our experiences with Andy Smith. We still plan to build the “perfect” boat, but next time we will be doing it all ourselves!

This site is not meant as a venting of our anger - only as a warning to anyone thinking of having a boat commissioned in future. We hope that others will learn something from our mistakes. We regret doing business with Andy Smith.

We are not alone!

Here are some pictures from another of Andy Smith's recent customers. These are pictures of a James Wharram designed Tiki 38 catamaran finished in 2006 and requiring extensive (and expensive) rebuilding just a few months later. Another customer had a James Wharram designed Tama Moana catamaran built which suffered from problems related to the use of unseasoned / untreated timber, poor finishing, incomplete epoxy encapsulation, and the use of poor quality fittings. You can read more about this boat here.





Andy Smith licensed builder to James Wharram Design catamarans with sole-right for Tama Moana and Islander designs. Specializing in glass-epoxy-ply, strip-plank, diagonal ply construction methods. Andy?s Yard here in the Philippines also builds recognized designs as Jay Benford, Gilles Montaubin, Ken Hankinson, Glen-L and others.

Contact Andy s Yard for the fulfilment of your boating dreams.

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