I feel compelled to warn boaters, captains and crews never to use the services of EC Ruff Marine of Pompano Beach Florida.
This incident began when I noticed a small hydraulic oil leak coming from the rear gasket of my Sea Star steering cylinder on my 2002, 49’ Grand Banks Eastbay. I researched “authorized” Sea Star service centers in the Pompano Beach Florida area and contacted a listed company, EC Ruff Marine for an estimate.
After significant back and forth to get them to provide an estimate for their service, I agreed to a “rebuild” which they said would take approximately one week. After 2 weeks of periodic checking in with EC Ruff, they informed me that since the steering cylinder is not made anymore, they were unable to find a part and they were searching for a reasonable facsimile. A week later, they said they had the part, and the cylinder was finished.
I was also told that since my Captain/Licensed Mechanic was doing the removal/install, he would be required to flush and bleed the steering cylinder, pressure test the cooler and send oil out for analysis for water in the steering fluid in order for them to provide a meager 30-day warranty. While my Captain felt that this extra work was unnecessary, we complied.
After the installation, I immediately sea trialed the boat and came back with a different area of the hydraulic oil leaking from the steering cylinder. I called EC Ruff Marine and was told their technician was away and I would have to wait a week for his return. After the week of not being able to use the boat again, the technician came and said it was the part that is not made any more and he would have to refabricate or find a new part. He came back a week later with the part and it was installed. After approximately 3 engine hours, I completely lost my steering as I navigated through a narrow canal, with only my engines and bow and stern thrusters available to gain control of the vessel. Once secure, I discovered that the entire hydraulic oil reservoir was in the bilge. This could have been a disastrous situation, we had just returned from being out in heavy sea and had I lost the steering 30 minutes sooner, I would have been at the mercy of the ocean.
When my Captain/Licensed Mechanic came to inspect the problem, he saw that the entire tube between the block and the end gland had “blown” off and took all of the hydraulic oil with it. EC Ruff made no attempt to deal with this issue.
At this point, it was recommended by Grand Banks that I contact Boat Steering Solutions in Venice Florida. I now decided to get a brand-new Sea Star Steering Cylinder to be safe. Boat Steering Solutions was able to make a brand-new Steering Cylinder in less than a week and provide me with a 2 two-year warranty for parts and service. Their new steering cylinder ended up being similarly priced as the rebuilt steering cylinder that I received from EC Ruff Marine.
However, when my Captain/Licensed Mechanic installed the new Cylinder from Boat Steering Solutions and removed the old cylinder, rebuilt by EC Ruff, we compared the 2 units and noticed a fundamental problem. One of the tubes on the rebuild from EC Ruff was apparently inserted backwards as the snap ring was on the wrong end.
I sent those photos, along with the rebuilt steering cylinder to Boat Steering Solutions and the following was their reply:
"Gary, here is a list of problems that the cylinder we received from you had. At a glance.
- Tube between block and end gland installed backwards
- shaft was not secured to the arm
- Servo cylinder not installed at proper orientation
- Both hoses were kinked at fittings due to improper servo cylinder orientation"
Apparently, this was the problem all along and which ultimately blew the tube and all the hydraulic oil with it. EC Ruff Marine has made no meaningful response to satisfy the issue, other than to say my warranty is no longer valid.
This prolonged experience has resulted in being on the receiving end of life-threatening faulty repairs, overcharging, misrepresentation of service capabilities and of terrible customer service.
Motto of this story is, only use “Authorized Service Centers” who have been trained by Sea Star, which EC Ruff is not, and obviously never use EC Ruff Marine for any of your service or parts needs.