Monday, March 18, 2013

Broken lines, lost customers

This is about my 7th trip to Bonaire, but it's the first time I feel the need to write something other than "I love this place". The reason is a silly little $2 item - an inhaul line (for my non-windsurfing readers: that's the piece of rope that attaches the boom to the mast). During 10 days of windsurfing on Bonaire, an inhaul line broke twice, forcing a long walk back to Jibe City. Today's break was especially frustrating, since it (a) happened just as the wind was finally picking up, and (b) it was the second time this happened.

I fail to understand why this happened. I have rental at various centers more than a dozen times, usually for two weeks; the only time ever that a line broke before this vacation was last year, also at Jibe City. At home, I sail between 100 and 150 sessions per year, and don't recall ever having a line break. I exchange lines when they start looking old, maybe about once a year. The sails I have been using here at Jibe City are mostly brand new - sometimes a few weeks old, sometimes a few months old, rarely older. However, the same is not true for the (aluminum) booms - some are new, others are beat up and badly in need of re-gripping; one boom I used had the end pieces taped, probably because it started opening up while sailing. The first time the lines broke, they looked ancient; the remaining pieces were very hard to get out, apparently after having had a long time to get pulled deeper and deeper in. Obviously, the lines were not changed when the new sails were rigged on old booms.

I lost a good chunk of two nice sailing sessions because of that. That's not too terrible - but would you keep trusting the equipment afterwards? I usually sail in the deep water between the mangroves and the harbor, because it's much less crowded there, and the water is a lot nicer and less choppy. A line break somewhere in the middle of the bay would require a really long swim and/or walk.

I can perhaps understand why a rental center may keep using booms that are still sound, even if they'd need a re-gripping; but why anyone would rig a new $500 - $800 sail without replacing the lines completely escapes me. For this trip alone, the three of us are spending more than $1,500 just for gear rental; over the years, our rental fees at Jibe City have totalled more than $5,000. So far, we have always preferred renting gear instead of bringing our own, even if it costs a bit more. We probably would have kept doing this in future trips, even though getting the gear I would have liked sometimes was difficult. But now, it is much more likely that I will bring my own gear to my next trip to Bonaire, especially if we stay at the Sorobon or go from more than one week. That should drive costs down by quite a bit for longer trips - not just from saved rental fees, but also from significantly lower bills at the Hang Out bar.

But perhaps it is time to visit other places for our winter vacation again. This year, it has been very crowded in the water here in Bonaire. But Margarita always was lovely and is windy at this time of the year.; just a little later in the year, the wind in Corpus Christi tends to be fantastic; and new places like Brazil, Costa Rica, and Egypt deserve exploring (although perhaps during a different time of the year).

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your bad luck! Indeed some years at various locations equipment can be hit and miss. I remember years ago when Jibe was under other management I asked for a screw to be tightened on a boom and was told that they don't do that, they just wait for the boom to break. This year was about average for boards and sails.

    For me one of the highlights of last week was meeting you, a fellow blogger whose posts I've enjoyed reading for years. I hope to write my own post soon and trust you'll have some happier ones again too.

    PS, check out my blog posts on Club Vass in Greece in 2011 - likely #1 on my list of destinations, #2 is Bonaire, Dahab is unique too!