Supply chains

Pool after pool.

28th October 2023

RAM Boatyard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Global supply chains are complicated amazing things. The logistics to pull them together are mind boggling and it doesn’t take much for them to go wrong. We have experienced the supply chain in nature working perfectly, the supply chain through the cruisers network working perfectly, the supply chain through Julian the rigger working perfectly and, as would seem normal, the supply chain inside RAM boatyard failing.

We wanted to witness a natural supply chain in the waterfalls that were a small bus ride away from Ruffian. Hopping onto a local bus we shared the space with chickens in cages, huge sacks of fertilizer and in the true form that are local buses there was always space for one more person.

As we pulled away from town the bus was going worryingly slowly. It wasn’t straining against the load or failing mechanically, it was simply waiting for that one more person. With the doors open a farmer complete with muddy wellington boots, and tools ready to farm the fields, leapt on, slumped down and gave everyone beaming ‘Muchos Gracias’.

The waterfall sat in virginal forest and we could hear and feel its presence before we could see it. The air was cool and its cascading water drowned out the cacophony in the forest canopy long before we reached it. This however was no normal waterfall and this wasn’t going to be a normal Ruffian waterfall experience.

The natural supply chain was delivering, in perfect ratios, freezing cold water from the mountains and hot water from deep within the earth. The feeling of having hot water fall over your body while you lower half relaxed in cold mountain water was truly bizarre, almost like the opposite of wetting yourself while standing in the rain. As we became too hot we would simply dip into the cold water and to warm up stand up.

Back on Ruffian the cruisers supply chain was in full effect. Free Spirit* had arrived in the Rio from England and they completed what was the most complicated supply chain ever. Critical components for Ruffian** had been delivered to Hayling Island, consolidated by Iain’s amazing parents, sent to Scotland where they were re-bagged , then flown to Guatemala city via points all over the USA and finished their journey on a bus.

This exceptional supply chain resulted in a Christmas feeling on Ruffian. New eye glasses were unwrapped, the cooker could now be refurbished, Starlink could be pimped up, our loo seats would be stable and our wallets resupplied with new credit cards. All of this was just so exciting, that was until it met with the truth of an 11 year old. As we unwrapped all this with with Ilka , her daughter simply stated ‘Grown up presents are so boring. Do you ever do anything for fun?’ SO much wisdom from such a young mouth,

Julian had also been working his magic with his international supply chain as components for our very sad looking mast were arriving from far and wide. New foils looked resplendent sat next to their bent and broken cohorts, the newly installed turnbuckles shone in the sunshine and new components were bolted to every part of the mast. We were nearly ready to put the stick up and then we got involved with RAM’s supply chain.

Things couldn’t have been clearer to the administrative staff in RAM what they had to order. We’d supplied them links to the right parts and the correct brackets and were assured that everything was being executed to perfection. After waiting weeks for things to ship across the world and make their way through the blockades the wrong components turned up, or the components that had been ordered turned up, RAM had simply ordered the wrong things. The supply chain worked perfectly, but was executed from the wrong starting point. Our confidence in RAM, sunk to new lows and RAMs incompetence to new highs***. We were once again left chasing accountability and driving decision making that would finally see Ruffian’s mast upright again.

With the global supply chains still in action yet more parts are needed before we can finally launch Ruffian. Our quick 5 days ashore is stretching out to over 5 weeks and even the exhaulting professionalism of global supply chain managers cant overcome the local incompetence of RAM.

* A huge debt of thanks is due to Adam and Debs on Free Spirit for valiantly carrying all our bits across continents and oceans.

** One of the critical components is a new oven seal which means that we can finally have cake on board.

*** Not once did they apologise for the their incompetence or the additional delays.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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