According to their website, Boats Express (www.boatsexpress.com), based in Clearwater, FL, is a company of "Boat hauling and yacht transportation specialists providing the most reliable boat transport & boat moving services available to the United States, Canada, Mexico and 12 European Countries". My experience is a little different and I think that their ad is, to say the least, misleading.
I own a Catalina 22, an average 2000-lb trailerable sailboat. I used to live in St Louis and had my boat in a marina in Lake Carlyle, 60 miles east of town in Illinois. When I was offered a new job in North Carolina I contacted boat transport companies to get quotes. My conditions were: the boat should be shipped in the spring of 2002; she has a trailer that is not roadworthy so a flatbed truck would be needed for the road trip. Boats Express sent me quote that seemed reasonable at the time. They also assured me they have ramp trucks that could handle a rolling trailer for easy loading and unloading without using marina cranes. They kept in touch throughout the winter to get an idea of when I would be able to commit myself to the transport.
I did so on March 6 and they sent me back a contract to sign, instructions on how to prepare my boat, and the requirement of 40% of the total charge as a deposit. That was perhaps my first mistake. I did not know at the time that asking for more than a 20% deposit is not a good sign of a reliable company. I requested "April 15, 2002" as the pickup date and enclosed a cashier's check. At the beginning of April, after finding a marina in NC to dock the boat, I confirmed with the company the agreed dates, phone numbers and addresses of pickup and delivery. They gave me a window of 15 days (!!) for the pickup and that I would hear from the driver one or two days in advance to make the final arrangements.
But when the 15-day window came and went, I started calling Boats Express every morning trying to reach the person I had dealt with throughout the winter, leaving messages on his extension and waiting for his return calls. Finally, after a number of unsuccessful phone calls I was informed that the person in question had left the company and they had to look for my contract. Nobody was in charge: one hand didn't seem to know what the other hand was doing.
Then they confirmed that the order had been put with their subcontractor in the Great Lakes region (?) but the owner was going through "a messy divorce" and things were in bad shape up there. That was my first notion that Boats Express was not a transport company, just an intermediary. Anyway, Boats Express had not followed on the status of the order and didn't know the boat had not been shipped. "Please call this person", they told me, "and ask him what the problem is". I shouldn't have done that, but I called Ohio two days in a row. Yes, the guy was in the middle of something a lot more important than my boat, the operator told me, he is always on the phone with his lawyer. No return calls to my inquiries. After all this long-distance ping-pong, I went back to call Boats Express.
At that point I thought that Boats Express had breached our contract and they should do something about it. They told me they now were going to transfer the order from their subcontractor in the Great Lakes to their subcontractor in the Midwest and the boat would be definitively picked up before the end of the week (this was on a Monday). Again, I should know from the driver next. Of course it was not to be: the week passed and no calls from anybody.
More long-distance calls the following Monday and this time also a fax to their CEO to put my complaints in writing. After that, the boat was loaded within 48 hours. The trip went smoothly, the boat did not suffer any damage and the driver was always on time. Surprisingly, though, the driver was not used to moving sailboats. Actually, his company moves mostly cars and small motorboats.
But there was something else, a final aggravation: the release papers required me to pay a little more money (about 3%) than originally stipulated in the contract. I wanted my boat released right there, right then, and I was not going to argue with a blameless truck driver, so I paid. I also sent a letter to Boats Express asking for a refund of the extra money and still no response.
I am not confident I will see that money any time soon. It may be an honest mistake on their part (in their favor by the way), but after so many problems. I do not recommend this company to anybody.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina