Into every wonderful cruising life a little rain must fall. For live-aboard yachties this can often mean the annual haul out, when your boat will be taken from its natural environment and propped up on dry land.
It will become a still, lifeless entity that will be unable to perform many of its usual functions, like having a flushing loo and swinging into the wind to cool you. Your environment will suddenly become noisy, dusty and toxic. Hauling out in an overseas boat yard provides even more challenges.
The haulout will also cause your precious cruising funds to drop like a barometer in a cyclone. Assuming you are the standard financially-constricted yachtie who will not be moving into a nearby Hilton or Radisson during your boat’s haulout period, here are some tips to help you through that stressful time.
1Think positive. Everything is doable for a finite period. This period of living in the grotty boat yard is only a small percentage of your time as a free individual living the dream. Keep saying to yourself “you can do anything for ‘x’ number of weeks!” Print this out and post it all over the boat. Chant it every morning. Think: “this time will pass, then we’ll go cruising again.”
2Keep your cool. Cover the coachhouse of the boat with some sort of tarp to induce a tropical roof effect, which will also protect you from the rain that will inevitably fall. Put working fans in every area you can. Plug in an air conditioning unit if possible. Close off vents, windows and hatches that will let in dust and heat. Erect some cover over outside working areas. Try to stay cool.
3Lists! Draw up a list of essential jobs to be completed during this haulout. Then write out another list of jobs that could be done if finances and time allowed. Work through list A resolutely but be aware that some items on list B may be doable because an item on list A will involve the same area/excavation/external contractor. Try to avoid adding to these lists! Cross off completed tasks, it is such a satisfying feeling!
4Be kind to yourself. Have a little lie down in the afternoon under a fan if it is too hot. Take several showers a day if there is fiberglass dust (not necessarily yours) flying around. Buy take-out food for dinner after a big day of grinding/painting/antifouling. Take the laundry to a laundering service; it is too dusty to dry it in the boat yard anyway! Take a day off once a week if you are up for an extended period. This stressful period is also not the time to be trying to quit smoking, go on a diet or wean off chocolate. Small indulgences will go a long way at this time.
5Make friends with the yard dog. Give him/her leftovers and set up a fresh water bowl under your boat. He/she will get to know you, so will not bark every time you need to visit the toilet block in the middle of the night. He/she will also develop security guard instincts around your boat if strangers come around, or chase away those ‘long-tailed hamsters’ that can frequent boat yards.
6If using contractors, treat them well. Provide decent safety equipment, offer them fresh jugs of cool drinking water daily, lots of water to wash down with, a comfortable place to rest at their break time. Discuss the expected outcomes and monitor their work, praise it when deserving! Have drinks and snacks an hour before knock-off time on payday each week, when you can just chat and enjoy a drink together. Promoting good relations with the workers will encourage good work!
7Work out a budget. Estimate what needs to be done, ask for quotes from the yard and before engaging contractors. Pay any contractors and yard bills each week, to avoid an accumulation of debt that will surprise and annoy you. Try to anticipate costs so you are prepared for them and are able to pay on time. Do not contract work that you can not afford at the time.
8Get to know your neighbours. You are all in this together, though some seem to hate it less than others. There are those who actually like living in a boat yard! Encourage some camaraderie amongst others in the yard and get together occasionally for drinks or food. It may be that your neighbour can share some equipment or tools, exchange some tips or recommend a good contractor. It is good to be on friendly terms with the owners of the boats nearby when you are about to grind/sand/spray paint your boat.
9Keep records! Of course all sensible yachties keep an ongoing list of repairs made, equipment fitted and refittings completed. It makes good sense to keep a record of when these things are done and it provides a great condition update for the boat. This can be a useful tool when applying for, or extending, marine insurance, applying for a marina berth or if you need to make an insurance claim later on. It is also helpful to have a thorough description of the boat’s maintenance schedule if you want to sell it later on. We all keep these records, right?
10Celebrate when it is all over! If you have had a successful slipping period and no-one was seriously injured or divorced during your time on land, you should celebrate with drinks and food. Invite all the other poor souls in the boatyard that you have met, as well as the yard dog. Include the yard staff if they have been helpful, though maybe not the guy in charge of the travel lift putting you into the water the next day!
Hopefully these suggestions will make your time on land more bearable and enable you to complete your haul out without too much stress and angst. Keep focused on the cruising times ahead.