Surviving The Boatyard—Part 2

Lifting out is always stressful.

After nearly 40 years of owning cruising yachts and skippering boats that I have worked on, you can imagine I have seen them lifted out by a variety of different methods. Cranes, travelhoists, hydraulic boat lifts, they all require a high degree of care and competence on behalf of the boatyard staff in charge.

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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RDE

Hi Colin,
One thing I would add is that it is almost as important to inspect the chocks and tie downs of all adjoining boats within range as it is to secure your own. If either of the neighbor boats fall over they could easily take down your rig or worse.

Drilling down to the photo of Pelerin in long term storage in a hurricane zone the first thing i notice is that she appears to be on a grass surface. That means that it is only as stable as the soil underneath, unlike a surface with a ballast of heavy stones and gravel. The blue stands under Pelerin’s stern and those supporting the neighbor boats have limited surface areas on their bases and no blocking to increase the area. They don’t appear to be chain strapped fore and aft, so the failure of any individual support stand can bring down the entire boat. Will they provide security from your neighbors after 20″ of rain falls even if the hurricane misses the storage yard?

So many ways for Murphy to exercise his law!

Colin Speedie

Hi Richard
yes, that’s a very valid point.
In fairness, that isn’t a grass surface she’s sitting on, only surface scrub grass. The ground beneath was stony and solid, and the prop stands were secured with chain between them. Also we checked the other boats and ensured that the yard checked them all regularly, not just when wind was forecast. Tucked away at the head of a sheltered valley we were comfortable with the set-up. And I was in the middle of stripping the boat down, so the main and dodger etc were still to come off.
Best wishes
Colin

RDE

Hi Colin
Wouldn’t have expected anything else from you! I debated whether to use your photo as a basis to make my points and chose to use it because it was a good visual.

Perfect example of how much more inherently stable the French style of centerboarder is when hauled out compared to almost any fin keeler.

Colin Speedie

Hi Richard
yes, these boats are totally stable, if they are propped up right, which in the case of the Ovni’s means wood beams that stretch the full width of the flat bottom plates, at either end of the keel box. Other’s that have a keel box (e.g. Boreal’s) will be different and require their own special planning.
Which brings us right back to the main point – you should be there at the haul out and placing ashore equipped with the knowledge and necessary images to enable to the boat yard staff to do the job right – just like any other boat.
I have seen yard staff look totally mystified when we’ve lifted our boat, as these boats are not universally known. If left without guidance the essential wooden blocks can all too easily be too small or wrongly placed.
As you know yourself, when you’re far from home in an unknown yard it pays to be prepared and proactive!
Best wishes
Colin

Dick Stevenson

Hi Colin,
Thanks for another nice addition.
In 10 plus years of cruising out of our home country, we returned to the US at least once a year for a few weeks. Upon return we always had our bags filled (or overfilled) with boat parts and would walk through the “nothing to declare” line or the equivalent. We carried the documentation that you suggested (never used) and chose our strategy with the idea that the goods were for a “Yacht in Transit” and therefore not subject to duty. (And I have no desire to stir up the lawyers, or their equivalent, among us as to whether a strict interpretation, or any interpretation, of the actual regulations support this. I thought better not to know.) During these years, a Max prop, windlass motor and full replacement instrumentation traveled in our luggage along with the more usual stores and supplies.
We were amazed that, not once, were we stopped or questioned in the many countries where we arrived traveling so encumbered.
We also give diagrams of the boat showing the underbody and sling placement, but found that the papers were often left in the office or scrunched damp on the travel-lift. I believe permanent markers on the rail make most likely slings end up in the correct place. And, if I could not be at the haul-out, I would take some “green” tape and put it on the hull with big bold print on it saying “SLING”.
Over my years in Europe, especially the UK, I noticed many, maybe most, dropped their anchor and chain off the bow and, although I asked a number of people why, no one gave me much of an answer. Now you have done so: weight out of the ends. Although I do believe a properly built boat, properly supported, does not need to worry about weight in the ends over-wintering on the hard.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick
I have only once paid duties for some spares (on arrival in Grenada) and the Customs people were very fair and appreciative of my offer to pay.
We give the lifting plan to the driver of the hoist, or whoever is in charge. Our hull is also marked with red diamonds pointed on to the hull just above the rubbing strake, so it’s hard to avoid putting the slings in the right place – but – it still can happen if you’re not there.
An old surveyor friend was adamant that there were two things he always did with GRP boats, especially those in the modern idiom (short keel attachment on the hull) – get weight out of the ends and slacken the rig enough (and then not too much) to take shock loads off the structure. Longer keel boats with a proper spine fore and aft might be less of a concern for obvious reasons. But a good reminder to put props under both ends of the boat, sited on frames, yet again.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Colin,
Another couple of thoughts:
For those of us who find we are in a different yard every year or 2, it is hard to know what kind of inspection the boat might get over the winter (we usually arrange someone to watch, go aboard etc. independent of the yard as well). So, I play particular attention to the poppets (stands, props etc.). I find that most yards give an adequate amount, but I often push for an extra one or two each side over adequate. I usually offer to pay a bit extra or some sort of rental fee as recognition I am asking for extra service, but the yard has yet to take me up on that: usually there is just no problem and I get the extra poppets. This is best done if you are present at the hauling and when the distribution of the poppets is being decided upon.
An added bonus of the above request, is that, if respectfully done, the yard crew gets the message that your boat is attended to and well taken care of. My take is that yard crews like boats that are well cared for and will go a bit of extra distance to respond in kind. Finally, sometimes it is fun to order in pizza and soda (or the local equivalent) and join the crew for lunch as a thank you.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick
you’re quite right – it’s always best to be there. Like you, we always ask for extra stands, especially as we know exactly where they should go to lie against internal frames. Our boat, having no ‘fixed keel’ is best supported with something like railways ties at the fore and aft ends of the keelbox and a prop right forward under the bow and more wooden blocks under the keg. But in yards where they have never seen a boat like this, if we weren’t there, this would likely not get done. Like you, we’ve never been asked for any extra for the added stands. The odd configuration of our boat always attracts interest and comment from the staff – as a result of which we’ve had promises to keep an eye on the boat for us while we’re away.
It helps, I’m sure, that we are always helpful and respectful in our requests – as you are. Treating the team to beer at the end of the day (as we have done on occasion) never does any harm either!
Best wishes
Colin

Drew Frye

The last time I was out we had a funny miscommunication. I was scheduled to be re-launched the next day, but then realized I should add a through hull for an up-coming AC installation. I called the marina office, told them what had come up, and they said no problem, how about 3 days from now? I said fine, bonded a fiberglass pad, and went home. The next morning I drilled the hole, dry fitted the parts, and then removed them before heading to the store to get an additional fitting.

When I came back from the supply house with the fitting, I saw my boat being moved by travel lift to the water, with a hole in her belly! And to think I had almost stopped for lunch. Apparently the yard foreman never saw the up-dated schedule.

I’m not sure what the lesson is. It’s a first class yard.

Colin Speedie

Hi Drewe
I guess that these things can always happen – human nature is to be fallible. But that’s why we have to do our utmost to avoid such incidents to the best of our ability. You had done all you could, but…
I always like to be on board as the boat touches the water to check for any water ingress while she’s still in the slings – if possible, I also ensure that the forward looking sonar transducer is firmly home and screwed down, check the stern gland etc.
I once attended a launch where the owner said that all was ready. In she went and the next thing we knew the floorboards were floating! Turned out the log transducer had stripped threads and had simply popped out. Anything can happen…..
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Good thoughts. I generally try to follow what you say although I do a few small things differently.

One item is that I do not adjust the rigging tension if the mast is up. I do not see an issue with leaving the rig in tension and I don’t like the idea of the mast being able to move around a lot in a big wind event. Many people talk about rigging fatigue but the loads should be below the fatigue limit of the wire so no fatigue will take place (technically the aluminum mast has no fatigue limit so it is fatiguing but the number of cycles required at the low cycling loads would be enormous). For lightly built fiberglass hulls, I can see an argument for taking some tension out as fiberglass does creep slightly when kept under high load but for a heavily built boat like ours, I have trouble believing that it makes a difference. For a metal boat, if everything is properly designed there should be no issues with leaving tension in the rig. The coefficient of thermal expansion for 316 is ~1.4X what the aluminum mast is so actually there is some natural slacking in the winter anyways if you store in a cold place. To the point about removing weight from the ends, if our mast is in we have a few thousand pounds pulling up on each end of the boat.

We have tried many forms of covers over the years and we do use one but I am not totally convinced that they always make sense. Shrink wrap is great once it is on but it is labor intensive to install especially if the rig is up and there is a significant fire hazard during installation. I have trouble believing that a lot of the tarp setups in windy boatyards actually protect more than they damage. We have ended up with a frame of EMT tubing and a custom cover that I sewed which ends at the toe-rail but this would not be practical if we were far from home. The UV protection is certainly good although there isn’t much UV here in the winter and if I were in the tropics, covering there is problematic with moisture. The other thing is that it is good to keep ice from getting under fittings. This has actually never been an issue for me but it seems plausible unless all deck fittings are welded. It would be interesting on an aluminum boat whether it was more work to cover or to deal with the shorter non-skid paint lifespan associated with not covering. There are a few boats in our yard that do no cover and I am always surprised at just how little snow is on their decks, usually the only real accumulation is the cockpit thanks to the wind.

Around here, my biggest fear in many of the yards is high water events. We had a near record breaking event a few weeks ago and boats floated free in several places, we were high enough but when I went to check the road was covered by huge chunks of sea ice.

Eric

Colin Speedie

Hi Eric
there’s no doubt that metal boats are different, requiring less attention than for GRP (for example) and heavily built boats in GRP are probably the same. But if I had lightly built boat I wouldn’t want it left ‘tuned up’ ashore. As for weight out of the ends I think it makes sense, not least because it gets weight off the structure as a whole.
I agree about the difficulties of storing a boat under a trap or shrink-wrap with the mast up, and indeed we’ve never done that ourselves. I’d love to have the boast in the same place from year to year, when a proper frame such as you suggest would work well – the problem for us its that we tend to be in a new yard every year!
High water events are going to affect many yards in the years to come – we’d better prepare for it. Fortunately not the yard we’re currently in!
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Your points about the problems of not having a “home” yard are very true. Thankfully, we have been going to a “home” yard for almost 10 years now and it makes things so much easier. I have found that I work completely differently with my house including storage and shop under an hour drive from the boatyard. Sometimes I even contemplate bringing the boat home but it would take a major project like an engine swap to have that make sense. Someday I am sure we will be visiting yards far from home again and it is not something that I look forward to, some of the struggles are still too fresh in my mind.

Eric

Colin Speedie

Hi Eric
a home yard – I can’t remember when that last was. But wasn’t it nice…
On the whole we’ve been lucky with our ‘away’ yards, sometimes spectacularly so. But others – well, the less said the better. As I hope I’ve put across in these two posts, you really need to tip your game and get involved if it’s to work for you.
Best wishes
Colin

Dick Stevenson

Hi Colin and all,
We have been on the go for a while now and over-wintering in new yards with regularity.
It pays big time (I believe) to spend the first few days in a new yard reconnoitering and talking to everyone: both employees and customers, to find out how the place works. In my experience, there is always one or two people who run the show and make things happen. These do not necessarily have to be the bosses: sometimes it is a secretary on the inside (scheduling) or the travel lift driver (on the outside who picks the part of the yard your boat gets placed). But they are the ones to befriend and go to when one wants things to go your way. Spending considerable time the first few days schmoozing will reap big dividends over the course of the winter.
My best, Dick

Henning

In Tazacorte, Island of La Palma, Canaries, Spain, I noticed a 45 or 50ft average modern plastic boat for sale with a tarp covering about 1/4 of her topsides on one side. I heard that it had fallen over two winters previous and one of the props had broken a huge hole into her hull, also wrecking a good part of the joinery inside. I guess it was a near total loss.
The boat had been stored on concrete ground with the rig up. Severe winter storms had cycle-loaded the boat and caused it to wiggle loose some of the props. There was too little traction of the props on the hard surface. I don’t know if the props were tied together in pairs with chain but could imagine this accident happening even with such chain.
After the accident, the yard has adopted a policy to drill holes into the concrete and bolt down every prop individually.
Tazacorte is on the west coast of the island and even though not many winter depression fronts get this far south, the swell generated by them makes contact with the island here. When we were there in 2014 there was construction underway for the most monumental breakwater I have ever seen (see here:comment image). This was phase 2 of the construction. Phase 1 is the breakwater that can be seen in the background and had proven inadequate. According to a sign, the 2nd phase cost EUR 53,785,942.35. Since the 1st breakwater is much longer, it probably cost twice that, making for a total of about 150 million of EU grant money to protect about 6 medium sized local tourist boats and maybe 15 marginal 20ft open fishing boats.

Colin Speedie

Hi Henning
wow, what a salutary story. Leaving the rig up in exposed places is always risky for the reasons you mention, and causes boats to fall over, often taking others with them in a kind of ‘domino effect’. It happens far too often.
Sometimes I’ve seen wooden props joined together with nailed wooden battens, but it needs to be done really thoroughly if it is to be secure. Personally I’d always take the rig down in such a place.
Building walls in places like the Canaries or the Azores where the swell can be monumental is a monstrous challenge, and the elements aren’t making life any easier with more frequent severe storms. But, yes, what a lot of money – let’s hope it’s worth it.
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Henning and Colin,

Bracing as Colin mentions can be really effective on structures if done right. The key is to brace on the diagonals because a triangle with defined leg lengths is a fully defined shape unlike a square which is most people’s first reaction. As an alternative to strapping between stands, you can use several heavy duty stakes like they use on wedding tents to stake the stands in place using the ground as your connection for everything. The people who don’t use chains to hold jackstands together are nuts in my opinion. I am similarly horrified when you see the chain is loose, think how much gap there would be on the pad if the jackstand moved back a few inches.

Eric