Sunday, January 10, 2010

On The Hard

"On the hard" - I think that's a phrase you'll only hear if you're in the boating community.

Every few years, depending on where your boat is moored, it will become necessary to remove it from the water to do maintenance on the normally submerged parts.  It is an experience as traumatic for the boat owner as it is for the boat.  In the yard we use, the relationship you have with the yard manager and the Travel Lift operator is much like that you would have with your family doctor.  They really do understand that your boat is a member of your family, and that you are entrusting your family member's care to them.

Boats are normally supported by gentle, conforming, liquid pressure distributed on every square inch of their submerged surface.  Everything about the haulout is the opposite.  The entire weight of the boat is borne over a very small area, on metal or wood.

But I am ahead of myself.  For us, the first trauma is backing into the Travel Lift dock.  Eolian's rig makes it necessary to do the lift this way.  I've talked before about the difficulty of backing up.  But in a nutshell, because both the thrust from the engine and the rudder are at the stern, any wind or current makes the rest of the boat almost uncontrollable.  Think of a flag, flying from a flagpole.  The bow flies from the stern like a flag.  So we always hope for benign conditions on haulout day.  Sometimes we get it.  But for the last one (in March 2008), we had a 20 kt crosswind, driving rain and temps in the low 40's.  Yuk.  It took a lot of help from the guys in the boatyard (special kudos to Harris!), but we finally got Eolian into position, with no damage.

But my heart is always in my throat when the lift begins.  That's our home!  And it is going straight up in the air!  Are the straps in the right place?  Will they stay in place and not slip?  Will the Travel Lift operator be really, really careful?  And the poor boat - now supported by only two straps.  Please don't let them break! (That's an actual multi-million dollar "oops" - not photoshopped.  Note the poor guy crouched on the stern riding it down.)

Next stop:  the pressure washing station, where the accumulated sea life is unceremoniously blown off the hull.  Sometimes there is enough to make a nice seafood dinner!  All that water is captured and re-used, meaning that it is saturated with expired sea life, so the smell is, um... unique.

Then she gets blocked up, supported on wooden cribbing and braced with special stands so she doesn't fall over.  This is not how she likes to be supported!

And then the real fun begins.  First of all, living aboard while you are on the hard is difficult.  You can't use the heads because they use sea water for the flush.  Next, you can't use any of the sinks on board, because they will just drain on the ground.  The refrigerator is out of commission, because it is water cooled.  The heat pump won't work either, for the same reason.  So, you've gone from a self-sufficient comfortable life, to one which is camping out.  Well, kind of.  You eat out a lot because cooking is hard and washing the dishes is even harder.  You use the marina's toilets and showers.  And when you go to bed at nite, it is difficult to fall asleep.  Something is niggling at your subconscious...  Something is not quite right.  The boat is absolutely stationary.  It feels...  dead.

So you work hard to minimize the time in the yard.  But everything you might want or need is at the other end of a 12-foot step ladder.  It feels like you make a thousand trips a day up and down that ladder.  And everything in the yard is covered with dust and dirt, so no matter how hard you try, the boat gets dirty.  It truly is a race against time.  Because you don't want to be here.  Because the living is *not* easy.  And because the yard charges by the day.

All of us in the yard are in the same situation.  There is a certain camaraderie that develops.  Tools are borrowed, advice is given and expertise is exchanged.  In the evening, when the quiet hours are enforced, people gather and talk.  About why they are in the yard, about boats and about life.  New friends are made, and then forevermore, when you are out on the water, there are more boat names you are looking for thru the binoculars.

When all the work is done, and the bottom has a fresh coat of that $250/gallon paint, it is time for the Travel Lift to come back and pick you up again for the return trip to the water.  Oh joyous hour!

Then life can return to normal.

Until the next haulout.

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