Thursday, April 6, 2017

Boater's New Best Friend

Sometimes one thing leads to another.

We have some modest stock investments, and one of the companies we have recently purchased stock in is West Marine. (WMAR -- Good evaluations. Probably not long term, but there is some money to be made.)

I exchanged some comments with another potential investor about WM in the comments section of an article about the investment opportunity. He asked if there were store locations near every marina. I told him that they did not. As a matter of fact, their intention is to consolidate stores into fewer, bigger stores that cater to not only boaters for parts, etc. but also the marine lifestyle market. (ex. I am currently wearing shoes I bought at WM.)

During this exchange, something occurred to me. It's this: Is it possible that the biggest advance in convenience for cruising boaters in years is Uber and Lyft?

As far as getting around to places like West Marine, or grocery stores, or to hardware stores, or doctors, or whatever, hasn't ride sharing really freed us from many of the constraints we've had?

There is growing criticism about Uber and Lyft about the financial aspects of being a driver for them, and all that is a conversation for another time and place. But, boy, doesn't it make our lives easier when we are a thousand miles from home and got to get somewhere.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Scam Afloat?

Perhaps you know this story already.

Like every good boat owner, we always keep our United States Coast Guard documentation up to date, and we always take care of it while we are back in Denver for our tax season shore leave. This year was no different. Or so we thought.

After searching Google for 'coast', 'guard', and 'documentation', we were directed to a new website: uscgdocumentation.us. Here's a screen shot.

Looks official, doesn't it?

It's not. Not in the slightest.

We thought this was the USCG website with a new interface, or at least someone they hired to process requests. It is neither of those things. This website is a processor that can, somehow, process requests for a boat owner, and their fee is $75.00 per request instead of the $26.00 we were used to paying. We figured they had to up the cost to cover increased costs and decreased budgets. Turns out that not only is this not in any way endorsed by the Coast Guard, it is, according to a representative from the real Coast Guard Documentation Center, not something they can do anything about.

To make it worse, they're sloppy at their job. How do we know this? They sent us the wrong documentation in the first place. We ended up with the docs for a 70 ton commercial boat in North Carolina.

Here's the kicker -- They are very unscrupulous in their behavior. When I communicated with them via their chat function, he/she got very pissy with me for bringing this up to them. They did end up fixing things (they sent me my correct doc via email) but it was a wholly unpleasant experience ... not to mention substantially more expensive.

Here's the gist of the matter.

uscgdocumentation.us is not affiliated with the USCG in any way. If you have a problem the USCG cannot help you. You have to deal with uscgdocumentation.us directly.
Our experience was that they were sloppy and rude.
They are 300% more expensive than going through the real USCG documentation online service:  https://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/. Note: When you do renew through uscg.mil, you are redirected to pay.gov to actually pay for your request. This is legitimate.

So, a word to the wise is enough.