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Caribbean Boatyard Haul-out Tips

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Planning is the perfect way to have a problem-free haul out. This starts with preparing the vessel for the haul, working with the yard manager on the list of work to be done while on the hard, and choosing a splash date. 

Subbase Drydock in St. Thomas, USVI
Subbase Drydock in St. Thomas, USVI

How to Prepare for a Boatyard Haul Out?

Make an appointment for a haul out with adequate time to spare and request a quotation of the rates, recommends Donna Samuda Wilson, manager at the Errol Flynn Marina & Boat Yard, in Port Antonio, Jamaica. “Haul-outs generally have several fees attached. As such, it’s important to get a sense of the general cost before making the request.”

Once fees are squared away and a haul date booked, coordinate with the marina to fully describe your vessel, says Christian Herold, yard and marina manager at the St. Croix Marine Center, on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. “The individuals taking the boat into the travel lift need to be familiar with the wetted portion of the hull and be prepared to discuss strap placement with the lift operator, know where any underwater hull obstructions are located, i.e., transducers, fin stabilizers, trim tabs, shaft and keel shape, and location, etc. and articulate those to the operator.”

Boats need to be prepared immediately before the haul.

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“Boats being stored on land must have all sails and dodgers/sprayhood removed before the haul. Dinghies must be secured to the foredeck or taken down and stored in the boatyard facility and then will also be tied down. All boats stored for the duration of the season will have the stands welded (standard/lateral) and tied down to ground anchors,” explains Lindsay Ralph, boatyard supervisor at the Jolly Harbour Boatyard & Marina, in Jolly Harbour, Antigua. 

Four Tips for a Hassle-Free Haul-Out

Be certain that you leave no food on board, including non-perishables, if you want to keep your boat as vermin-free as possible, recommends Hannah Love Thayer, public relations manager for the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour (VGYH) Marina and Boatyard, located in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. “Leave refrigeration units and cabinets open. If your vessel tends to take on freshwater when it rains, be sure to have a plan to pump out water, whether that be a small pump powered by a battery and solar panel, or an open thru hull.”

Once hauled out of the water and securely chocked, the captain should inspect and operate all overboard valves to ensure that they are functioning correctly and freely, advises Jeff Howell, general manager of Mega Yard, in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. “This is the time to address issues such as a stuck valve. Once this has been done, the problem valves can be added to the work list.”

Shelter Bay Marina
Shelter Bay Marina

What Key Areas to Address while Boat is out of Water? YARD WORK

In general, key areas to address when a yacht is out of the water are the steering system, fuel system (fuel tanks), plumbing (waste tanks), electrical grounding and bonding, transmission and controls systems, engine mounts and shaft condition, testing of all valves and thru hulls along the hull, suggests Giovanni Gaudiano, operator of the Shelter Bay Marina’s boatyard, in Colon, Panama. “Also, check the hull for any signs of osmosis or premature paint failure.”

While on the hard, there should be monthly checks on batteries, an airing out, and a washdown of the vessel, says Sean Devaux, general manager at IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina & Boatyard in St. Lucia. “The buildup of Sahara dust over months of storage could cause discoloration in the paint if left for any extended time. In addition, the moisture inside in today’s heat could cause mildew, which is why I recommend a monthly opening of windows and doors. Ideally running the AC (if possible) would be best.”

IBC Shipyard
IBC Shipyard

When is the best time to Launch a Boat in the Caribbean?

The official dates of storm season in the Caribbean are June 1 to November 30.

“The best time to launch vessels is usually after hurricane season,” says Susan Reece, customer service manager at Peake Yacht Services, in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. “A good polishing and anti-fouling are usually done just before launch, and engines and equipment checked before launch too.”

The most common issue with vessels launching after storage is dead batteries, preventing the boat from leaving the haul-out pit on time, and delaying the yard schedule for the day, according to VGYH’s Thayer. “Be certain all systems are running before launch day. If you are not on island to prepare the vessel yourself, it’s a great idea to hire a yacht management service to ensure your vessel is ready to splash.”

At launch time, the boat will be picked up by the yard, and the ‘chock spots’, the areas where the boat was supported, will be lightly sanded and a coat of paint applied in this area. Once it is touch dry the boat will be launched, explains Mega Yard’s Howell. “At this time, the captain and crew need to board and do a full inspection of all areas that were worked on. A complete check for water leaks needs to be done quickly before the belts are released from the boat as it is much easier to lift out again if there is a problem. Once checked and found to be fine, the captain can go to his or her next destination.”

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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