So, David, tell us a little something about you and how you came to work for ABT-TRAC?
I was born and raised in the boating industry. After selling the family business I took a year off to play and try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. This was an exciting yet very challenging year. It seems though that once you are a “Boat Guy” you are ALWAYS a boat guy. So one day I came across an add from a company looking for a service tech. They were looking for someone with a very specific skill set so I sent off a resume. A couple of days later I had a brand new career. Little did I know just how life would change with a position with TRAC!
I understand that your family used to make boats here in the PNW. Can you tell me a little more about that?
The family business was started in 1955 with by father and grandfather. It was called Wright Manufacturing and they made a 12’ car topper boat out of a new material called FIBERGLASS. Things were much different in the 50’s with the process of glass than today! The boat line was called SPORTSMAN Boats and they built hundreds of these little boats which are still all over the northwest today.
Over the years more models were introduced and the business grew. In 1975 the business changed from Wright Manufacturing to Wright Brothers Inc. as my grandfather retired and my father’s youngest brother joined the business. The boat line continued to grow and in 1979 I joined the company full time.
In 1980 we designed a new boat line and called it Sea Sport Boats. This line was designed to be totally different from the runabouts we had grown up with. It was designed for the harsh PNW weather and water conditions with a hard top and an enclosed cabin. This line of boats turned out to be a huge hit with the Alaskans and the business grew and grew and so did the models we offered ranging from 19’ to a 32’ Power cat. We eventually sold the business in 2000.
Do you miss it?
I miss some aspects of it however the boat building business is not the easiest place to make a living. You know the saying, to make a small fortune in the marine industry you need to start with a big one! Government regulations on the chemicals involved in production have become the biggest challenge followed closely by the labor pool.
When you used to go boating what was your cruising highlight?
I love boating in the San Juan Islands! The best is a summer evening, warm temp, no wind, no waves, a bottle of wine and my wife sitting out on the aft deck without a care in the world! A simply perfect way to recharge the batteries!
Do you have pets at home?
Yes. We have a Golden Retriever named LEXI. She is a fun dog that loves to go anywhere and loves people… she is not to fond of other dogs though… She thinks she is not a dog!
So, tell us what it is like working with ABT-TRAC?
Working with TRAC has been a lot of fun! I have been with TRAC for 15 plus years and I can tell you I have travelled all over the world. The company is very keen on keeping a positive relationship with our customers. As Service Manager for the company I can say that our service team’s goal is to be number one for customer service starting with the builders through to the end users in the industry.
David, if there is one thing every owner should know about their stabilizer system what would that be?
The number ONE thing would be if you get an alarm of any kind from either from the stabilizer system or the thruster system is DO NOT TURN OFF THE BREAKER to silence the alarm.
By turning off the breaker you will in fact silence the alarm
That’s a good thing right, as they are very loud?
…but you have not fixed or found the cause of the alarm all you have done is hidden the fact that there is some issue with the system. So do not turn off the breaker.
In your opinion what has been the biggest improvement with the ABT-TRAC product line up in the last ten years?
TRAC is always looking for ways to improve the systems. In the last 10 years we have change the bearing design, the software, with STAR systems we have re designed the way the cylinder is held in position. But I would have to say the biggest improvement is the hydraulic automatic locking pin for when the vessel is placed in reverse or shut down. The pin is spring loaded and inserts into a notch in the yoke to hold the fin from moving.
What is the most common fault you find with your system, user error or not?
I would say that cooling water is one of the biggest challenges. We do not build cooling pumps and they are required on most of TRAC systems. Seems there are always issues with any of the available pumps on the market.
What are the three main areas owners should focus on when taking care of their ABT-TRAC system?
I would say the three main areas would have to be keeping an eye out for wear on the actuators. Listening for noise, looking for loose bearings , rubbing hoses, etc. Second, keeping a look out for oil level and if it is dropping slowly where is it going. And third would be keeping corrosion away from all of the components in the system. I have seen boats where there has been salt water dripping on coils and steel parts that make the parts fail very quickly.
What is the one lesson every ABT-TRAC customer should learn?
A vessel that is well stocked with replacement parts never breaks down.
What is your favourite anchorage and why?
Any anchorage in the San Juan Islands! We have had some of the best times anchored at Matia Island. It is not only a very small and protected anchorage but it is also a fun island to explore.
What is your favorite Marina and why?
I have to say this would have been Roche Harbor in the old days before the big docks went in. We loved to find a mooring on the north of the harbor and watch the nightly flag lowering and the kids jump off the end of the pier and the firing of the cannon, then wake up in the morning and have the kids row me over for fresh donuts.
What is your favourite quote and why?
Ha… One of the funnies I have heard is “I need my STAR system working at its best because I don’t like the water in my hot tub to spill over the edge…. I guess first world issues…
David that is not the sort of quote I was after. I was after more a life quote, like “treat others as you want to be treated yourself” Comprehendo mate?
Ah, right.. ok well try this one on for size. What I always tell my kids is… No matter where you are NEVER forget WHO you are OR what you STAND for….
Why, do they forget their names?
No, James you are missing the point. It means to always remember to stand up for your beliefs and not be easily persuaded by others.
By the way that wasn’t Ken W who talked about his hot tub spilling was it?
No, James it wasn’t Ken W.
What is the biggest mistake you have seen an owner make when looking after the ABT-TRAC system?
Allowing either a salt or fresh water leak to drip onto our equipment! This usually ends up corroding the parts so badly that you cannot get them apart to replace/repair.
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made working on the system?
I was working on a very nice yacht with white carpet in the master stateroom and I had to move a little love seat to access the actuator under the floor. Since this was a standard model the standard way to move the love seat was to tip it on end and turn it I did this only to hear the sound of breaking glass. Seems the owner stored his red wine in the base of the seat. I was lucky enough that the owner had the base of the love seat sealed and no wine leaked out but the bottle was over $200 and with the smell of good red wine I craved a steak the rest of the day!
What is your most hated boat job?
Doing a seal job on the stabilizers or thruster when they are sanding on the bottom of the boat… Something about grease, oil and bottom paint dust just gets to you!
What is the one thing you are most afraid of?
Dying under a burning gas truck… that would be the worst! (It is a line out of the movie Dumb and Dumber!)
What’s your favourite photo ever taken and why? Is it the one of you demonstrating the face-plant parachute jump landing?
Ah no… The face plant was one of those moments that are just fine to be remembered without the picture! I would have to say this one of my wife and myself and our smiling golden is one of my faves!
What one tool would you never leave behind when heading out to a job?
One tool? Are you kidding me? I am a guy and guys are not ever complete with just one tool…
David, tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?
I would say that I am an open book that’s an easy read but one thing for sure is that I cannot stand the taste of VEGEMITE……
David, that’s an outrageous thing to say!
Sorry James, but it’s true. It tastes like road fill
Let’s move on. So what can owners do, to better understand the ABT-TRAC system and where can they get help if required?
TRAC offers free classes twice a year at our factory in Northern California. We have a Two day class for owners and Three day class for techs and the owner who is more of a hands on do it yourself kind of guy. These classes are a big hit with the attendants and they report that very useful information is outlined. As always we are more than happy to assist in any questions that TRAC owners have. We are just a phone call away! Our phone numbers are posted on the TRAC website for the closest service tech in your area.
For more information on what are the best stabilizer and thruster system in the world head HERE.
Thank you very much for your time.