...I am contemplating a move that would necessitate...transporting my 39 ft sloop...
...I would appreciate any insights that you John or another AAC member might have on how to investigate this endeavour...
I have only had a boat transported once: our new-to-us J/109 to Nova Scotia from Connecticut.
Here's what I learned:
John- I have trucked my own KP44 from the west coast to east coast. You are spot-on with your comments and suggestions. My experience was very positive, but I was able to be present and involved in every aspect of research, prep/packing, loading, etc. Many years of driving my own boats across the country, as well as other client boats shipping was helpful with what to expect when a boat is driven 3000+ miles. I chose the highest bidder for the KP44 transport, and it included every aspect from permits, guide vehicles, and daily conversations with the driver while en route. I prepped the entire load myself, and the mast by far is most susceptible to damage. It loads closer to the ground, flexes, rubs and rattles. IMO, asking a boatyard to do anything to satisfy my own level of satisfaction is a losing proposition, but is necessary in many cases.
Sorry to miss you in Halifax, it just did not work out that week.
And thanks for the confirmation on the above.
For others: Ned is a very experienced boat building industry insider and is well worth listening to, particularly on stuff like this.
I agree with all this advice. I might just add a few more tips:
If a transfer of ownership and a shipment are happening at the same time, make sure that everyone agrees on the INCOTERMS and that all documents state the same INCOTERMS. If the buyer thinks that it’s shipping free carrier (FCA) but the seller thinks it’s ex-works (EXW) then you’re going to have some real fun when it gets to an international border and the export paperwork can’t be cleared. If you agreed on a point of delivery, and the buyer thinks it’s incoterms CIP to that point but the seller used incoterms CPT, and something gets damaged en route, you’re going to be tied up in insurance lawyer finger-pointing for months. And be careful if someone puts “FOB” on the paperwork, because “FOB” is only legally meaningful for goods being loaded aboard a ship in a named port and is rather ambiguous in any other context.
If it needs to cross a border, then appoint a good customs broker in the destination country to handle the paperwork. You don’t want a FedEx rep; you want the likes of Thompson Ahern International or TradeLink Systems — i.e. people who can catch paperwork errors *before* they turn expensive, and can make the right filings at the right times to get it across the border without pissing off any federal officials or incurring unnecessary fees.
Never trust a trucker to secure anything. Sometimes you get one who’s obsessive about straps, padding, and using 14 loadbinders in 7 different directions. Sometimes you get one who pushes everything to the front of the trailer and says “eh, I won’t bother tying it down, I’m only going 50 km.” Once I had a driver who did not even know what a ratchet strap was, I had to teach him how to use them as my guys were loading the crates into his trailer.
Anything that can shake loose, will shake loose. Anything that can chafe, will chafe.
Good point. Any your comment confirms that I will always hire a good broker for this kind of thing since I didn’t understand about half of what you wrote!
In my case I was fortunate in that my yacht broker has imported many boats to Canada and so took care of all that very efficiently.
Perhaps a good trucking company can mitigate some of the complications and expense of hiring an agent such as you suggest. Alchemy’s trip from CA to the US was not without complications. (But it did not include a transfer of ownership.) The boat had been in CA for a while and we had made reimbursable deposits. There was a moderate amount of paperwork, little of which I understood very well, and the boat needed documentation that it had left CA. Andrews Trucking said they understood the process and knew exactly what needed to be done. This proved to be the case. The driver had all the paperwork in order when we met the boat in Michigan and CA sent our re-imbursement. I had offered to meet the boat at the border, but was told that would not be necessary and that proved to be the case.
My best, Dick
To some degree it depends on the type of boat – I have had a fin keeled cruiser-racer damaged after 400 miles road transport. I wouldn’t do it again!
But we happily shipper our Ovni 435 by road up to the storage yard in Baddeck, and the new owners shipped her by road from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. The biggest worry was the air draft, so radar, aerials etc had to be taken down from the arch. With the keel up and the flat plate bottom, little could harm such a boat, designed to take it.
I’d like to back Matt’s comments about paperwork – it can be a nightmare….
I agree. One of the many things I have always liked about the French centreboard boats is the ease of storage and transportation on land.
Hi John, After enjoying about a year and a half of ‘commuter-cruising’ in the Sea of Cortez, due to a busy work schedule, we elected to have our 36 ft sloop trucked from San Carlos, Sonora, MX to Santa Barbara, CA in July 2008. Our experience involved the good, bad and ugly. After a pleasant week island-hopping from La Paz to Isla Carmen, we did an overnight 100 nm passage to San Carlos for haul out and preparation for the transport. We anchored in the lovely bay there and spent a day stowing gear and packing, removing the radar from the back stay mount, loosening the turn buckles, etc, so that the mast was ready to be removed. The next morning we motored to the pier for our pre-arranged haul out. I can’t say enough good things about the yard in San Carlos – they were competent, supportive, and charged fairly. The haul out was via a trailer backed in a boat launch ramp and our boat, with 6.5 ft draft, was walked in, whereupon the trailer’s hydraulic arms were carefully positioned (by remote control) until the yard worker was satisfied we were secure. A farm tractor was used to pull the trailered boat up (with us aboard) and out of the water and then several hundred yards along a road to the boat yard. Once in the yard, a crane was used to pull our 56 ft long keel-stepped mast, and then gently lay it on work stands for dismantling. Then the boat was hoisted off the hydraulic trailer and lowered onto support jacks. The yard let me take the lead on the prep work, but was there to assist when I asked. It took me several days to take things apart, label and pack. I had the yard shrink wrap the stripped mast. I made a neoprene-lined plywood cover for the mast hole in the deck and secured it using the mast collar bolt holes. I also wrapped the prop and shaft. The heat and humidity made even simple tasks difficult, but an ample supply of ice cold Tecate mitigated that! Also, as a note, we were the smallest boat in the yard at the time. There were a couple of (Canadian) sailboats being maintained by the owners, but they were much bigger, well over 40 ft. The yard office made the trucking arrangements for us, and in hind sight, similar to your experience, I wish I’d taken a more active role. The transition from jack stands to the truck trailer was smooth and uneventful, and we watched as the boat was secured. Due to transportation licensing requirements, the Mexican trucker who came for our boat could only take it across the border to Tucson, AZ. After that, an American trucker hauled the boat to Santa Barbara, but the transition did not go smoothly. Before he’d haul the boat, the American trucker demanded more money – a lot more – than what we’d agreed to. Fortunately we had our agreement, brokered by the San Carlos yard, in writing, and eventually, after a week… Read more »
In the Toronto area we are far more trusting of the trucking process and I have yet to hear of anyone’s damage enroute or paperwork difficulties. We all use the same customs broker who knows his trans border business. I have transported 2 purchases a Hunter 340 from Salem Mass and a Beneteau 423 from Cleveland Ohio. The Beneteau was shipped on its original Beneteau shipping bunk cradle, a benefit. In both cases I did not attend the packing up nor have other new owners in this area. As a new boat owner I didn’t have the expertise to pack properly but in hind site should have attended. In the purchase of the Beneteau I was onsite actually living on the boat for 3 days at the broker/shipyard and I came to trust the broker completely. While I don’t I had no damage I didn’t know the boat well enough to know if any hairline cracks were new. Balsdon and Anderson Trucking are the 2 firms who handle all of the area business and are well regarded.
I now have a thorough process should I ship again!
Great to hear that this stuff generally goes well in Ontario, and thanks for the company names, very useful.
We used Andrew’s Trucking to ship our Ovni 435 from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. They did a great job and everything was according to the original contract.The driver was very conscientious. One reason may be that he would have been personally responsible for the first 10k$ of damage.
It maybe worthwhile to check how damages are handled on the trucking side.
Hi Michael and all,
I also used Andrews (see above posting) and was very satisfied.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Seems like Andrew’s are getting a of positive votes. Perhaps the driver liability rule is part of their success. And I’m guessing they pay their drivers well too, otherwise no one would want to take that liability on. Sounds like a very good combination to encourage diligence and care.
Alchemy trucking experience During covid, Alchemy was left in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Canada, on the hard, mast up. We lost one whole season of being aboard what had been our home for most of the last 20 years. After attempting all reasonable efforts to get to the boat and get her out of Canada ourselves, we were faced with the prospect of losing another season. In a Stevenson tradition, after all else fails, possibly throwing money at the problem will succeed. We were headed to the Great Lakes anyway, so we decided that the trucking would go all the way to Michigan. First research indicated that it was feasible. I found researching trucking companies by phone was difficult as was doing any sort of due diligence. Many (US trucking firms) felt (my experience) like they did not want my business so they priced the trip high: others were slow to respond with questions to be answered. It was not heartening. Finally, one felt very responsive, Andrews Trucking Limited. They answered all questions without hesitation, even the dumb ones. And the deal clincher was that they had been the trucking firm of choice for my type of boat (a Valiant 42) from where they were built in mid-state Texas to where they started their water-born life. Another deal clincher was that they had a truck going to St. Johns in Newfoundland in the future: good news monetarily and logistically, but made for a time crunch. I could not get to Newfoundland to do (or supervise) the prep of Alchemy. There was lots of complicated detail oriented work. The mast had to be pulled which entailed hiring an outside crane, the pulpit and hard-top dodger needed to be dismantled to meet height restrictions. The boat interior had to be transformed from sitting on the hard to be ready for bouncing down highways at 70 mph. I made pages and pages of detailed instructions. It may have been fortunate: I was in a marina with a travel lift, and not a boatyard, so there was no possibility of having the boat yard do the boat prep (I am generally distressed about the quality of boat yard workers nowadays, and, again generally, in many boat yards’ commitment to doing quality work.) Over my few years in Newfoundland, I had run across and become friendly with a marine surveyor. I asked/hired him to get it done. He asked/hired friends of his who, surprisingly, we had also been acquainted with. Under some time pressure, they got the job done. Surprises: expect some. On Sat. we learned that our over-wide load was only accommodated one night a week on the ferry (Newfoundland to Nova Scotia), and that was Monday night when the plan was for a Wedn night crossing. The truck made its delivery to St. Johns and immediately turned back to Lewisporte. The marina crew came in on the weekend to swarm over all the loading and packaging details that were necessary to get the truck on… Read more »
Lots of great information, thanks. Hiring the surveyor was a good idea I think. That said, I found surveyors in the US far from helpful in what they were willing to do, so your success with that may have been because of a particularly helpful individual.
Good idea on pumping the diesel tanks, I think.
It may have made more of a difference that he was a bit of a friend: in addition to being a surveyor. And that he was a Canadian (as were all who helped) and my experience is that Canadians often have a “can-do, will-do” attitude that is all too uncommon nowadays. In addition, we were friendly with the crew that was brought together to prep Alchemy as well as marina crew who came in on their days off on the weekend when the timing was accelerated. We were very fortunate.
I am not sure about nationality with respect to surveyors (and I have had insurance surveys done in a handful of countries at this point), but I am clear that being a surveyor is not in any way a guarantee of competency and/or knowledge.
My suggestion of a local surveyor had to do more with having an independent set of eyes on the whole process if the owner is unable to be there. Not a guarantee, but it is likely that some problems might be caught and that everyone will be a bit more attentive.
My best, Dick
One of the above on the crew who helped prepare Alchemy also makes amazing videos of his wandering by boat of Newfoundland and Labrador. His narrative that accompanies the videos border on poetry.
URLs: (there are other videos in addition to the below listed on the sites)
1. Fabulous videos of cruising Newfoundland (and Labrador). Ed O’Reilly Videos
a. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj16fTeKeqU 2017 Newfoundland, Northeast Coast
b. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcqZ88OxnKw Discovering Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador, part 1
c. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRAOt86AR84 Discovering Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador, part 2
d. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeoMl-LureY Discovering the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador, part Indian Cove and Battle Harbor:
Rather than do the Baja Bash when returning our full-keel, crab-crusher from San Carlos, Mexico to Ventura, California, we had her trucked. We prepped the boat best as we could but were unable to be there for either the mast removal or loading process. Fun fact: the boat and mast had to be switched to an American truck in Phoenix, so the number of opportunities for disaster was doubled.
Happy to say the outcome was positive. I attribute the success to two circumstances:
Thanks for the report. I think you make a good point that things are more likely to go well when the boat is being transported over a well traveled route and with boat yards that do a lot of prep work.
Back in the days of the piracy problem in the Red Sea, I trucked my yacht from Aqaba in Jordan across Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates.
I wrote about the project on Noonsite:
A common theme in earlier comments is paperwork.
I would stress that where international border crossings are involved, hire an experienced agent and make sure all the clearances are sorted before departure.
Wow, that sounds like a tricky one to pull off well, with, I imagine, some very tricky paper work!
I trucked my J-108 (a J-109 with a centerboard instead of a full keel) from Ft. Meyers Beach, FL to Connecticut with Cooky’s Marine Transport. Owner Richard Cookinham was a real pro, a man with a lot of pride in his work. He ticked off virtually every item on your list and made sure everything was set before he showed up. Had the route planned, knew every bridge height and detour from FL to CT. Price he quoted was the price he charged me. His reputation is so good he doesn’t need a website but his contact information is: Cooky’s Marine Transport, Tiverton, RI 401-864-3705 moc.liamg@ykooCWR
That sounds good. Anyone who can do good business based purely on word of mouth with no web site, these days, has got to be good. Thanks for the tip.
I have used Cooky-
Highly recommended, first-rate.
Very entertaining as well!
I am also not an expert on trucking boats, the sum total of my experience for stuff that is cruising boat size was hauling our CS36T from Michigan to Massachusetts on a gooseneck trailer the previous owner had purchased. Overall the trip went fine although we did have to take a weather day due to high winds we didn’t feel comfortable traveling in.
I think your point about placement of straps is spot on, I usually see straps all the way at the bow and stern which seems like a really bad idea. The job of the straps is really to hold the boat down to the supports. If the supports are in the right place, they constrain the boat in all ways but up. Yes, you have more leverage at the ends but that isn’t actually the goal and because of flex, you are likely to actually get more movement. We did find when we hauled our boat that a little of the butyl in the deck to hull joint squeezed out where the straps were, we have never had a leak due to it but this shows the force involved.
In our case, I had originally planned to pull all the stanchions and pulpits to get the height down but it quickly became apparent that wasn’t happening without huge amounts of work due to aluminum stanchion bases and stainless stanchions that hadn’t been apart in decades. Prior to buying we had measured the height and determined that it was possible to travel with them in place so the routing and permits company just routed with a very conservative height and we paid attention carefully. At some point a boat will get big enough that the keel needs to come off which is another level of complication and then you will also quickly run into width restrictions.
Going back to some of the original question that wasn’t quoted, if you already own a well maintained boat and have it outfitted the way you want, I think that trucking, shipping, etc. is totally worth it even if it’s expensive. The chances of finding a boat that is in equally good shape that is outfitted to your preferences and not losing a season and a lot of money fixing stuff are very low. On the other hand, if your current boat won’t suit where you are going or you are itching to do a different type of sailing, then this would be an excellent time to change boats.
Thanks for the confirmation on strap position. I was pretty sure that strapping her at the bow and stern was a bad idea, but good to have that confirmed by an engineer.
I moved to BC (from Nova Scotia) in 2018; I didn’t have the time to sail her around through the Panama Canal, so I looked at shipping. I was quoted 27000.00 + taxes to ship it (this was from a professional, reputable trucking company that had experience shipping most of Whitby Boat Works vessels around North America), so I decided to sell her on the East Coast and buy a replacement on the West Coast….that was a HUGE mistake. Not only did I take a 45000.00 loss on the Whitby, but the new (to me) boat has so far cost me over 70000.00. Oh, how I wished for hindsight!!
I totally sympathize, and empathize as I work and spend to bring our J/109 up to scratch having sold a pretty near perfectly sorted boat. In our case the old boat no longer matched our needs, so I would do it again, but still!
Anyway, thank you for sharing that. Comments that share decisions that did not end well are generally the most useful, but not easy to write. Much like the article above.
This article is very timely for me. I have to get my boat transported across Africa to a large freshwater lake in the middle of the continent. Still not sure of routing due to low bridges – we have 2 choices – lowest bridge is 4.8m and the other route has a 5.1m bridge to get under. Fortunately my boat is a Garcia with retractable keel – so that helps immensely as far as air draft goes. If I can get under the 4.8m bridge then I have to sail her to a port in East Africa. From there the roads are reasonable (still African roads – but not as bad as the alternative) and the distance is only 1200 kilometres by road from the sea port to my home port on the lake. If I cant get it under the 4.8m bridge then I have to get her to a port on the South West coast of Africa and truck her 4500 kilometres ! On this route the lowest bridge is 5.1m and the roads on the second half of the trip get progressively worse the further inland I go – i have driven a recon on the South West Africa route and the roads etc are all perfect till i get to my host country – then the roads get steadily worse till they are atrocious – but I have no choice if I cant get under that 4.8m bridge. As preparation I have had a 3D scan done of the boat (accurate to 1.5mm over 10 metres) so we can precisely measure heights and what has to be taken off the deck and what can stay on – it cost me $600 USD in total for the scan, travel for the scanning guy and computer work to stitch the scans and make a “point cloud” of the boat. I was actually sitting here at the marina unzipping (all 45 Gigs of data – and that’s zipped data and the compression level was 83% – so massive files when unzipped) the 3D scans when your email notification came in. Not sure what 3D scanning costs in the US/Canada but I highly recommend this approach to anyone moving a boat by road as it takes away any nasty surprises to do with air draft once the boat is on the back of the truck trailer. A very useful feature of having the scan is we now have the EXACT curvature of the hull and can design a cradle for the boat in CAD. My circumstances are extreme so this last bit may not be useful for others (our roads are far from any good compared to the Western world). Someone here at the marina/club where i have the boat on the hard doing a refit to her suggested getting a 40ft container and cutting the roof/walls/doors off so that we just have the base left. Then we can weld up a cradle on the container base/floor that EXACTLY fits… Read more »
Yikes, that is quite the project!
I like the idea of a 3D scan a lot. Sounds like it could be useful for all kinds of things, and certainly an approach I had never thought of.
And building a cradle from a container makes a lot of sense too. Might work well for some by sea shipping scenarios I’m thinking.
The other thing is your comment triggers and overwhelming curiosity in me about what the cruising on this lake will be like! Obviously you figure it will be great to justify all that work and expense.
Its going to Lake Tanganyika. The lake is 715 Klms long and about 60-70 Klms wide and is fresh water of course. I have a property along the lake shore with 120m of lake frontage. So the boat will be moored at the bottom of the garden – cant beat that!
Long story short, I never finished building my house there so decided to buy a boat and live on the boat rather then finish the house. I do a lot of diving on the lake, so the boat represents a tiny home to me that I can take with me on my travels up and down the lake. When I go to a location on the lake to dive I am there for 2 weeks or so at a time. So the boat is my floating home and will be a lot more comfortable then camping along the lake shore – I am getting older and the comfort of the boat is appealing.
The boat is a Garcia 42 in Aluminium. Retractable keel and tiller steer. Needs lots of work but is the ideal boat for this task. I am learning the hard way its not easy to get work done on boats anymore – the skills are just not around anymore.
Its my first boat. I have never owned a sail boat before. I dont know how to sail either, but it cant be that hard. I do feel like I am in way way over my head but one can do anything if one sets thier mind to it. By hook or by crook I will get the boat to the lake.
This is partly why I signed up for your site – lots of good practical info from a seasoned sailor. Keep the content coming – its an appreciated read here. I need all the help I can get.
We had our J/120 trucked from San Carlos to Ensenada by the same folks mentioned by two others, and I agree that they were excellent. Despite my nervousness, everything went smoothly, and the the boat was delivered perfectly. My advice: 1) Check to see if there is a Shipping Guide from the builder. J Boats had one for the J/120 that showed every critical dimension. It will tell you exactly what you have to remove, and what you don’t; 2) Protect your rudder with cardboard or heavy shrink wrap. It will be very exposed and susceptible to damage from chips and rocks; 3) Make sure you know payment terms. Although the price didn’t change, I had to make full payment upon delivery, which I wasn’t told in advance. Fortunately they took a credit card with no additional fees, but there were some harsh words exchanged at the end; 4) Be present and involved at every step. This is a non-negotiable. The only thing I wasn’t able to do was follow behind the truck since I had no car in Mexico; 5) Lastly, we went to Ensenada rather than San Diego to avoid a mid-journey transfer, which seemed perilous. From Ensenada it’s an easy day’s sail to San Diego. Overall, the experience was a lot of work and a lot of stress, and I hope to never have to do it again. But everything turned out fine and we had the opportunity to get some good work done at the boatyard in Ensenada.
Good warnings, thanks. I particularly like the idea of covering the rudder.
Question,, how does one protect paint or gelcoat from bring pitted, scratched, or otherwise damaged by road grit? Seems as if a long trip might lead to a whole new paint job. I am not planning on shipping, but a friend may.
I’m not sure one can protect the boat. The problem is that any sort of wrapping might do even more damage from flapping. I think most damage to gel coat can be buffed out, as was the case on our boat, but paint could be a real problem, although on the bright side, (ouch) two part polyurethanes are incredibly hard.
Anyone have any first hand experience with trucking a painted boat?
Hi Terence and John,
In the nineties I was full time racing mostly in Europe. The main thing was the 28 foot “Formula 28” class cats and tris. They were around 600 Kg ready to sail and were completely disassembled after each race, to go by road to the next. Since we were almost constantly on the circuit about 8 months a year for several years, we got good at making the transitions as efficient as possible.
One great help was that we made covers for the hulls and mast while all other elements were put inside the hulls or in a transport container. This meant that we saved hours of polishing at arrival. We still polished every time, but with no road grime it takes a fraction of the time. We had one-off boats, so they were all spray painted in various car paint types, with some additives. Hard surface, but the thin layer means it’s very vulnerable to scratching. That didn’t matter much on racing boats, as sponsors change.
Making transport covers isn’t easy and it needs to fit really tight. Ours were modified lots of times until they fit. And we used sewn on straps to pull them really tight, first back and then up, until no flapping was possible. The cloth wasn’t made by Sunbrella, but a German equivalent, don’t remember the name. The cloth was slightly stretchy and not completely water tight.
For our needs it was awesome. The time spent making it was repaid many times through endless repetition. For a one time transport I would only make the effort if it’s far easier to make now. Recently, 3D scanning the boat was mentioned here somewhere. Perhaps that could be a good tool to make a tight fitting cover, just right the first try? Perhaps shrink wrap is a useful tool? I’ve never tried any of those.
We also had a routine of stopping to inspect the straps etc after 5 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 2 hours, then every tanking stop, driver change etc for the rest of the trip. This frequent inspection will catch things going wrong before they have consequences. It also shows if the strapping method was good, or not. (Going from Norway to the south of France took about 2 days nonstop driving, which we did maaaaany times… Puh!) I assume this checking will be hard to achieve with a trucking company.
Hi Terence and John,
Alchemy was trucked from Newfoundland to Michigan and it is painted with Imron (which I believe is softer than Awlgrip). Much to our surprise, there was no damage to the paint from stones etc: Nor was it excessively grimy with highway grime. The former I attribute to the boat being in the air “draft” of the truck and the truck having good big mug flaps. This may have helped with the latter as well. Hull work after the trip was no more than we would have expected after 2 years on the hard in Newfoundland.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Ps. Some people “wax/polish” their hull prior to trucking, and then do not buff. I do not know what product they use. I do know some wax/polishes get very hard if left un-buffed-out and subject to the elements for very long.