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The slings are covered with plastic to protect the bottom but make sure there is nothing trapped between slings and hull before you lift and that the slings are clear of impellers. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia
The slings are covered with plastic to protect the bottom but make sure there is nothing trapped between slings and hull before you lift and that the slings are clear of impellers. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia

Top Tips for Selecting a Boatyard

Hauling your boat onto terra firma can push stress levels off the scale. Here are a few tips to help you cope the next time your boat ‘takes to the air’.

As with many things nautical, preparation is the key.

Before making a commitment…

Take a good look at the haulout facility, its environment and equipment.

Is it secure? Is there a night watchman? Observe as the yard hauls a boat.

  • Does it run smoothly?
  • Are the yardmen and the lift/crane operator calm? In other words, is it a professional operation?
  • Are you happy with the hard-standing? Is it clean or covered in oil and dog excrement?
  • Is the ground firm or will it turn to mud when it rains?
  • What on-site facilities are available? Is there a marine store or mechanics shop near by?
  • How about transport, are there buses to town?
Heavy timbers support this yacht which is high enough off the ground to allow access to the bottom of the keel. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia
Heavy timbers support this yacht which is high enough off the ground to allow access to the bottom of the keel. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia

Ask other boat owners if they are happy with the facilities and the way things are run. Look at how the boats are chocked. Fiberglass boats are tough but they still need care when chocking. Ideally, stands should be placed in line with bulkheads. I have seen stands placed in such a way that they force the hull inwards. Make sure the keel is well supported, especially if the ground is soft. Timbers should be high enough to allow you to sand and paint the underside of the keel. If you need to remove the rudder, will the yard let you dig a hole or will they charge for an extra lift?

Steel boats by their nature are easier to deal with but that doesn’t mean they should be treated with less care. Many, if not most, yacht yards will not let you sandblast or grind steel. Don’t leave it until you start cutting to find out.

The slings on this wooden boat have been placed beneath the ballast keel, avoiding the deadwood and stem, this is correct. Spreader bars prevent the hull from being nipped.
The slings on this wooden boat have been placed beneath the ballast keel, avoiding the deadwood and stem, this is correct. Spreader bars prevent the hull from being nipped.

Owners of wooden boats, especially old wooden boats, have the most nerve-racking time at haulout. Our wooden boat was damaged by a bolshie hoist driver who would not listen to my requests. The damage had a huge impact on our cruising plans and we almost lost the boat at sea. Wooden boats require extra care and expertise to lift. Make sure your boatyard of choice has experience with wooden boats.

A yard with a combined Travelift and crane is a good choice if you want to unstep the mast. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia
A yard with a combined Travelift and crane is a good choice if you want to unstep the mast. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia

Travel hoist, crane or slipway?

I have used them all and each has advantages and disadvantages. Travel hoists are by far the most common and enjoy a good safety record. However, the yard must know where to position the slings on the hull.

When discussing the haulout with the yard manager carry a photo of the boat’s underwater profile and, if possible, a picture of the boat hanging in slings. If no such picture exists then take care, you don’t want to damage a prop shaft, P bracket, saildrive or skeg. Be sure to mention the position of impellors and transducers. Also, make sure the slings are clean before they slide them under the boat. Gravel between the slings and hull will make you very unhappy.

Wooden boats do well on slipways, but they are few and far between. I hauled on a very good slipway in England and was delighted with how gentle it treated my wooden boat. That was until halfway up the slip when the boat began to shake. The problem? A few small stones lodged in the tramlines. That’s all it took to make the boat and cradle shudder like an earthquake.

Cranes have been used to haul boats in the islands for years. Crane drivers need to be skilled when it comes to hauling boats. Spreader-bars are critical if the boat is not to be pinched. But remember, what works for one boat might not work for another. The trick is to discuss each lift with the yard manager and if you think he offers bad advice, question it.

Read through the yard contract before you haul.

My experiences and the experiences of others confirm that holding a boatyard responsible for damage to a vessel during haulout and storage can be daunting and often fruitless.

There are some superb boatyards in the Caribbean where they make hauling a pleasure. Choose wisely. If a yard makes you feel uncomfortable, you might want to haul elsewhere.

In storage for the hurricane season – shored up and cross-braced. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia
In storage for the
hurricane season – shored up and cross-braced. Photo: GEB/OceanMedia

 

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2 comments

  1. Finding a good boatyard is an important thing to do if you have a boat. I liked your tip about looking around the yard and seeing if it will work for your boat. I also liked what you said about checking if they have crane services as well. That way transportation of your boat will be easier.

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