Month: September 2021

Besenzoni P246 Smile seat and their quality control

Our boat has helm seats made by Besenzoni in Italy and the model is the P246 Smile (pleasant name). The seats are very nice and very comfortable, I can’t help but say. However, when our boat arrived, I couldn’t get the captain’s seat to work properly. It’s supposed to go up and down on a pneumatic cylinder like an office chair: pull up on the lever and it goes up, sit on it while engaging the lever and it goes down, release the lever and it stays at that position whether you’re sitting on it or not. But the lever couldn’t be moved at all and the seat always went to the highest position and when I sat on it, it went to the lowest position. It was as if the valve on the cylinder was always engaged. It turns out that it was.

I contacted Cranchi and Besenzoni about it and after 3 or 4 weeks, I received no good answers and no guidance to make it work. The other seat was also missing a bolt and a spacer that the bolt goes through that held the frame to the seat cushion.

One bolt is missing
One spacer, the other is missing

Besenzoni referred me to Marine Solutions, a Besenzoni partner in Florida, for the parts. It seems odd that knowing the model of seat and my description they couldn’t tell me the part that I need. The seat doesn’t have many parts to it. Marine Solutions asked for the serial number on the seat so they could tell Besenzoni and then could determine what size bolt I needed. Have they really made that many different versions of this seat with different size bolts in the last several months? Besenzoni said the serial number is “stitched” into the pedestal — I think they meant “etched” (probably an Italian to English translation mistake). Trying to figure out what the serial number was impossible since it wasn’t visible anywhere on the seat or pedestal that I could find, not even on the base of the pedestal under the boat deck. I sent photos to Marine Solutions asking where I would find the serial number, they forwarded the photos to Besenzoni but they never answered. I decided to take the captain’s seat off the pedestal thinking the serial number night be on top of the pedestal because it wasn’t visible anywhere else. It isn’t there either. But I discovered why the seat’s pneumatic operation didn’t work!

The problem was that the two steel plates shown in this photo were not fastened to each other.

They were clearly supposed to be, there are 4 bolts that were just dangling from the top plate and the bottom plate was separated from the top plate, the plates could easily move up and down separately so the whole pneumatic cylinder and lever mechanism was inoperable — the pneumatic cylinder was all the way up, the lever could not be moved because it was pinned to the underside of the seat by the cylinder. Sitting on the seat caused the lever to engage the valve pin at the top of the cylinder and the seat would go down but it wouldn’t stay at any position because the valve was always open. and the spring in the cylinder could always push the seat up when no weight was on it.

The bolts were not attached because the bolt holes were too big for the bolts — they could easily slide in and out of the holes. It’s hard to tell if they were even threaded, but maybe they were and whoever put them in did such a sloppy job that they stripped the threads. How did that person not realize the bolts were not secured?! And note the sloppy welding job around the circular hole. The steel was cut very jagged too, my fingers have lots of little cuts from reaching inside it to secure the new bolts. Granted, this part is not normally visible so they probably don’t care but a well-built product by a company that takes pride in their work should not look like that, in my opinion. It’s surprising given that Besenzoni seats are well-regarded and expensive.

I fixed it by buying longer bolts and secured them with washers and nuts. This was much easier said than done because the tube is so narrow that my arm could not reach into it to secure the nut on the underside of the plate. Thanks to my son for helping me! Now the chair works perfectly and has quite nice action. Unfortunately, Cranchi and Besenzoni were of no help at all.

I also replaced the missing seat bolt myself thanks to one of my favorite stores: McMaster-Carr. It’s stainless steel and not painted (yet) so it doesn’t match the color, but McMaster-Carr’s drawings are so precise and complete I could measure an existing bolt and figure out the correct diameter and thread sizing and my first attempt at sizing was exactly right. That’s rare for me! I now have 4 extras in case I need to replace any of the other bolts. FYI it’s this part at McMaster-Carr: 93395A544.

Besenzoni seems to be entirely at fault for the manufacturing and assembly issues and their customer service was not helpful. However, Cranchi’s quality assurance people should have tested the seat to verify it works as it should! They should have also noticed a missing bolt and spacer in the other seat. Furthermore, I initially contacted Cranchi for help with all of this but they were not helpful at all either.