Hauling your boat out of the water can be a nerve wracking experience. Finding the right yard for the job is imperative. Some yards have wonderful facilities but not the technical support you require, some have the skilled labor but their amenities leave a lot to be desired. Some are overpriced or have too many restrictions and fees while others are simply not in a convenient location, expecting you to bring all your supplies and materials with you. Having a clear idea of what you are looking for and the work you need to achieve will make finding the right yard easier.
Almost all yards offer a variety of services to a lesser or greater degree, from DIY to full service boatyards. Perhaps you are only looking for storage or maybe it’s time for a major refit. Is this something you want to do yourself or perhaps you want to appoint the yard to oversee the work on your behalf? For most it will be something in between.
Is the yard affiliated with any professional organizations like the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and does it carry out work to their specifications? Do the employees and technicians have the skills, experience and expertise in the area you require? Do they have the specialized equipment to carry out the task; metals fabricators, engine workshops, cranes etc., and what condition are they in? Any sign of neglect should be a warning to you. Have a look around and get a general feel for the place. Boatyards are by nature dirty work areas but there is no reason why they should not be kept neat and orderly.
What is their policy regarding bringing in outside contractors and equipment? Find out what the rules and regulations are before you haul, and read their contract before you sign. Do they allow DIY and live-aboards? Must you purchase items from their ships store? Are their prices reasonable? What and how do they charge for water, electricity, to DIY, to live aboard, for garbage, outside contractors etc – all these fees can add up! Are there restrictions on the kind of work you are allowed to do? Is spray painting, sanding or rigging work etc. allowed?
Is the yard in a location convenient to local hardware stores, marine shops and specialty items you might need, including supermarkets if you are staying on board? If you cannot live aboard or do not live nearby, is there accommodation in the area? How your boat is lifted and chocked is of prime importance too – do the slings have protective coverings? How well is the boat supported? We have seen a catamaran keels collapse due to not having been correctly blocked. Are there enough electricity and water terminals throughout the yard?
Is the yard in an area prone to stormy weather, sea surges or hurricanes and if so, what protection does it offer from wind and how well does the ground drain? We have seen yards that get flooded when rains are torrential – in one case a boat fell over as its stands slid away. And another that leaves you with a swamp under your boat….not much fun when you are working under the keel. What is the climate like in the area you want to haul? Is the work you need to do, like painting, varnishing or fiber-glassing going to be affected by heat, humidity or rain in the summer months or, what about ice in the harsh winter months? No matter whether you are leaving your boat in storage or are living aboard to carry out repairs, do you feel happy with the yard’s security and safe in the area you have chosen?
So your boat is being looked after but what about you? What are the washrooms and showers like? We had found a boatyard that ticked all our boxes in the Caribbean. The yard was lovely and just what we were looking for and then we checked out the showers and washroom. The toilets were indescribably mucky and sadly a complete deal breaker. This may seem like a trivial matter but after a hard day working on your boat, clean up is important. Does the yard offer a lounge, laundry, WiFi, a courtesy car or bikes? If you are staying in a yard with a marina are you allowed to use the same facilities? A comfortable yard will make sure you are not hurrying to escape its clutches.
Above all, listen to what others have to say; personal recommendations and word of mouth are by far the best endorsements. Putting some thought in before you haul out will pay dividends in the end and help ensure your next sailing season is a smooth one.