For many, an annual haulout is the end of the boating season. Plan it all out first so it doesn't make you crazy.
Many boats will have to be hauled by a boatyard or marina at some point. You might think that all you have to do is show up with your boat to be plucked from the water and deposited safely in the yard, but not so fast. Forward planning ensures things go smoothly for you, your boat, and the yard.
If your marina has a travel hoist, hauling at your home port is often the most straightforward option: Your boat will already be at the haulout location, and the yard staff may be familiar with it. If it's not possible to haul at your marina, there are specific logistical considerations, not least that you will have to move your boat and deliver it to the yard at the appointed time.
Once you've decided where your boat will be hauled, you need to decide when. Give the yard as much notice as possible: Don't wait until the day before and expect them to be able to accommodate you. Keep in mind that the yard's busy season is during late fall when boats are pulled for winter storage and then again in the spring when boats are relaunched. Schedule accordingly. Jay Leszynski, owner of Merri-Mar Yacht Basin in Newburyport, Massachusetts agrees, "Spring and fall are our busiest times by far. Not only do we have a lot of boats to move, but we have to plan where to put them once they come ashore. Letting us know your plans early helps us a lot".
Cost And Scope
Check with the yard on how much you will be charged for haulout service. Most yards charge by the foot and will often have a minimum fee. In many cases, the cost also includes a relaunch, but you need to be sure. Some yards have haulout contracts. If yours does, read it carefully to know what is — or is not — included. If your yard doesn't have a contract, ask questions and take notes so you are clear about the arrangements.
If you expect your boat to be out for a fairly short time for some maintenance, such as a bottom job, anode change, thru-hull or transducer installation, tell the yard this. If your boat is buried at the back of the lot with other boats parked in front, you may not be able to launch when you want. If you are storing ashore for the winter months, let the yard know when you would like to be launched in the spring, as this will have some bearing on where they place your boat.
If you want the yard to do some work on your boat while it's out of the water, talk to them about it up front. If you forget to tell them, it may delay things if they don't have you on the schedule or they don't have the necessary parts in stock.
If you plan to do some or all of the work yourself, talk to the yard about this, too. They may have policies about what you can and can't do yourself. Many marinas prohibit owners from working on their boats, citing insurance or environmental reasons, which is sometimes merely a way of getting more work for their crew. Flexible marinas may allow you to do your own work provided you comply with all rules, such as no hull sanding without a vacuum and laying ground cover under the boat to catch hazards like spilled bottom paint.
Lifting Your Baby
On the actual day of the haul, plan to be there if you can. You'll be able to take a look at just how fouled the bottom is before it's pressure washed and you'll get an idea of how your antifouling paint is working. Most yards do this immediately after the boat is hauled so the fouling doesn't set like concrete. "We always pressure wash a boat as soon as it comes out of the water," Leszynski says. "We have a waste-recovery system, and this ensures any bottom paint, dirt, or other contaminants are contained. Pressure washing is included in the fee for hauling, and we won't move a boat into the yard until it has been washed."
It's normal for the owner to drive the boat into the travel hoist pit unless you have made alternative arrangements. Have plenty of fenders on both sides of the boat to protect the topsides should you be blown sideways. Listen carefully to instructions given to you by the yard staff operating the hoist who will have done this maneuver many times before. You probably won't need docklines because the boat will be going right into the slings, but check with the lift operator. Larger sailboats may have to back in to the pit and even have the backstay removed so the rigging will clear the hoist. The staff won't lift a boat with you or the crew aboard so they'll tell you when to get off and anything else they need you to do before vacating the boat. Don't forget to shut off the engines, air conditioners and other equipment before the boat is hoisted.
All tanks should be as empty as possible, and while it may not be practical to drain fuel tanks, it is relatively easy to drain water and waste tanks. Full tanks add significant weight to the boat, and empty tanks will put less strain on the boat's structure when it is sitting in an unnatural element on land.
Before the boat is hauled out of the water, tell the travel hoist operator about any underwater appendages, such as fin stabilizers or pod drives, transducers, speed wheels and other things not easily seen when the boat is in the water that could be damaged by the travel hoist slings. "We are familiar with most boat designs", says Leszynski, "but it is helpful if owners mention things that may be special about their particular boat".
Larger yachts often have what's known as a "graving plan," which is a layout of where blocking and other supports go when the ship is drydocked. Although you probably don't need to go to these lengths, a photo or two of the boat in the slings that you can share with the hoist operator is often appreciated, especially if the boat is rare or an unfamiliar type. A profile shot is the most useful. This is especially true with sailboats, as it will show the keel configuration, the position of any skegs and rudders, and where the shafts exit the boat.
Slings can scratch gelcoat, paint, and varnish. To avoid damage, ensure the yard has and uses soft muffs or plastic sleeves over the webbing on the straps. Once the slings have been correctly positioned, adding those little "sling here" marker labels, available from chandlers, is a great idea and will save time at subsequent haulouts.
On The Hard
If your boat is being lifted for anything more than an hour or so, often called a "short haul," it is likely that it will be placed on blocks in the yard and supported with jackstands. If this is the case, tell the yard about any relevant structural features of your boat. Some downeast powerboats, for example, have hollow keels aft, which could potentially suffer damage if the boat is improperly blocked and supported. In cases like this, blocks should probably run lengthwise rather than athwartships to provide adequate support.
As a general rule, the workers in the yard have much experience moving and blocking boats, so it's best to leave it up to them as to how they do it. By all means watch, but don't interfere unless you see something that is wrong or unsafe; if you see a problem, bring it up with the yard manager.
Once the boat is settled into her spot, inspect the jackstands. Ensure they have chains between them to prevent them from spreading, which could cause the boat to fall over. Be sure that the attachment points of the chain to the jackstands are secure. Sometimes the slits in the metal of the frame into which the chain links sit are torn or bent from use, which could result in slipping or failure. If a stand is severely rusted, ask to have it replaced.
Also check the ground beneath the jackstands. If the stands are resting on, for example, sandy or loose soil, and especially if there's a slope, this may present a problem in heavy rains. The majority of jackstands will have three or four legs and unless they are on a solid surface, they should have sturdy plywood pads or other good support placed underneath to distribute the weight over a larger surface area, preventing them from sinking into the ground. If you see any problems, discuss them with management as soon as possible
Sometimes when you are working on your boat, such as when applying antifouling, you may need a jackstand moved. An alternative to moving stands, which will often incur an additional fee, is to have some antifouling paint and brush in hand when the boat is lifted for relaunching and apply some paint to those areas covered by the pads prior to the boat being launched. If you can't be there to touch up the bare spots, often the yard workers will do it for you if you leave the paint and a brush. For your safety, and for that of your boat, do not attempt to adjust or move stands yourself; ask the yard to do it.
While You're At It
Irrespective of what other work you may have to do when the boat's out of the water, now's the time to check the anodes and replace them if they are more than 50 percent wasted. Also use this opportunity to inspect propellers, rudders, transducers, and seacocks. If anything seems amiss and it was not on your original to-do list, attend to it now.
Once the boat is put back in the water, check the bilges carefully for leaks. Hoses that have been disconnected from thru-hulls have sunk more than one boat. If your boat has a drain plug that was removed when the boat was hauled, make sure that the yard staff know where this is or there may be a delay in getting your boat back into the water. Sometimes, because of shifting hull stresses while the boat isn't supported by the water, shaft alignment may be affected by a haulout, at least temporarily. Be sensitive to this possibility when you run the boat after coming from the hoist.
Pay your bill before launch time, or you may find that your boat can't go back in when you think. Most yards have a saying: "No cash, no splash."
8 Essential Questions To Ask Your Yard
What's the cost of hauling and relaunching? Some yards quote just the haulout price and some include the relaunch in their price. Usually haulouts are charged based on length of boat, but not always, so ask.
Can I work on my boat myself? Not all yards allow you to work on your own boat, often citing insurance concerns. Check on what's allowed if you plan on doing any work yourself.
Are there any "lay days" included? If your boat will only be out for a few days, there may not be any storage charges, but some marinas charge by the day, week, or month as soon as the boat is blocked in the yard.
Is there a fee to bring my boat to the haulout well, and how much is it? If you need the yard to move your boat because you're not able to, there'll most likely be an additional charge. If you're a long-time customer, though, you may be able to get it waived. Bimini or backstay removal may come with an extra fee.
Does the cost include a high-pressure washdown? Most marinas provide this service as part of a haulout, but ask, don't assume.
Where will you put my boat? After hauling, your boat will be blocked ashore. In a large marina, that could mean a long hike from the office or chandlery, and worse, possibly too far from electrical power or water, which you might need.
Can I bring in outside contractors? Marinas want you to use their services and may charge you a fee or even a percentage of your outside contractor bill. Most will require the contractor prove he's properly insured. Some prohibit outside contractors altogether, citing liability, though there is little risk to the marina if you and your contractor have the proper insurance.
When will my boat be relaunched? If you hope to use your boat the next weekend, you could be disappointed if the yard tells you it could be several extra days. Let your yard know in good time when you'd like to go back in the water, but be aware that sometimes tides and weather may preclude you from getting your ideal time and date.
— Charles Fort