When we head out cruising far from home, sooner or later our boat will need to come out of the water for maintenance or off-season storage, and we will be faced with the decision of how and where to get that done.
A decision we will most likely have to make in a strange place with nothing to go on other than our own observations and anecdotal information from people we don't know well.
Phyllis and I always found these decisions, and the subsequent haul of our beloved boat and home, one of the most stressful parts of voyaging.
That said, we were fortunate in that over some three decades of getting hauled in new-to-us places, ranging from Arctic Norway to Portugal and a bunch of places on the East Coast of North America, we never had a big problem, but I would be the first to say that was a lot about good luck.
When It All Goes Wrong
But it's not always that way.
Here's a story of when a boat lift here in Nova Scotia collapsed while attempting to launch AAC members Frank and Anne Mulholland's Ovni 435 Scot Free III, as well as some thoughts on possible ways to avoid their miserable experience.
Let's start with what happened in Frank's words:
On launch day, 4th June, Scot Free III was ready for splashdown with only the antifouling of the lifting keel and patches from the boat supports to be painted.
The plan was to move the boat, with the travel-hoist, to an area near the hoist-dock where we could finish the painting. Several other boats had been stored close to Scot Free which made access for the hoist more difficult than before.
The amount of back and forwards “jiggling” meant that a couple of lines had to be adjusted to correctly position the hoist. Anne was aboard doing this, while I went below [on the ground] to make sure that the lifting strops were in the correct place.
The boat had been stored ashore, adjacent to the travel-lift dock so the total distance moved would be less than 50 metres.
The boat was lifted clear of the blocks and stands and moved back, a couple of boat lengths. Inexplicably, Anne remained on-board.
The hoist then made a very sharp 90º turn and it was during the turn that the weld at the trunion bearing failed. The hoist, now in two separate pieces, collapsed onto the boat.
Anne, who was under the dodger, miraculously wasn’t crushed by the hoist and only later found a bruise on her arm from the dodger frame, which bent & folded around her. The hoist driver leapt off the control platform, during the collapse and was also uninjured.
Subsequently, another boat owner told us that one of the wheels was skidding and we could see rubber and scuff marks on the pavement.
The newly exposed weld appeared to be corroded and was only 50% effective (to my untrained eye). It would certainly appear that the stresses induced in the 90º turn and the drag from the skidding wheel were the cause of failure of the weak weld.
Whether this was due to wheel mis-alignment or a failure of the hydraulic drive to one of the wheels will only be known to the Club’s engineers and insurers.
Wow, if Frank's account does not make your blood run cold, you have clearly never had your much-loved boat hauled.
Here are some lessons I have learned from this horrible incident.