Boat Haulout: The Cruiser’s Guide to the Hard (and why it’s not as scary as it sounds) – 28 Tips

It’s one of the least favorite things that sailors like to do! Let’s talk about an inevitable boatowner task: the boat haulout. Don’t worry; it’s not as daunting as it might seem. Think of it as a spa day for your boat, a chance for some TLC and a good scrub after all those adventures at sea.

Why Haul Your Boat Out?

Let’s start with the “why.” Why would you voluntarily take your beloved vessel out of its natural habitat? Well, there are a few good reasons:

  • Hurricane Season: Many sailing cruisers in the Caribbean put their boats on the hard during hurricane season. Some must do so for insurance purposes, and others don’t like hunkering down in one place (waiting out the stormy season) for six months.
  • Winter is Coming: If sailing in colder climates, hauling out before winter is essential. No one wants a boat popsicle.
  • Fixer Upper Time: Boat haulouts are perfect for tackling those repairs you’ve been putting off. Whether it’s a hull scratch or a finicky engine, dry land is the place to get it sorted.
  • Maintenance Mania: Regular maintenance is vital to keeping your boat ship-shaped, even if nothing’s broken. Haulouts are the ideal time for a thorough cleaning, rigging inspection, and oil change.
  • Storage Solution: Not using your boat for a while? Hauling out and storing it on the hard is a safe bet.
Boat Haulout: The Cruiser's Guide to the Hard (and why it's not as scary as it sounds) - 28 Tips 2

Prepping Your Boat: A Checklist for Smooth Sailing

Before you head to the boatyard for your boat haulout, let’s make sure your boat is ready for its big day:

  • Book Your Spot: Call the boatyard well in advance and make a reservation. Don’t forget to ask about their rates and any specific requirements they have. Many boatyards book up six months in advance, so don’t leave this until the last moment. Make a list of any questions to ask the yard.
  • Deep Clean: Give your boat a good scrub inside and out. It’s easier to clean when you have running water and don’t have to use a ladder to transport trash and cleaning supplies.
  • Declutter: Remove everything that isn’t bolted down. Sails, lines, fenders, and even that lucky fishing hat need to go.
  • Drain It All: Empty all the water tanks, bilges, and the engine. You don’t want any unwelcome surprises when your boat is lifted out of the water.
  • Battery Boost: Make sure your batteries are fully charged. This will prevent them from freezing and dying during the winter. If you don’t have a solar panel, consider getting one. A panel will prevent your batteries from going dead.
  • Fuel Up: Fill your fuel tank to prevent condensation build-up. A full tank is a happy tank.
  • Winterize the Engine: This is crucial if you’re hauling out for winter. Don’t skip this step unless you want a hefty repair bill come spring. In the tropics, we put fresh water in our engines. We also always use Barnacle Buster in the engine.
  • Remove your luggage: Once your boat is on the hard, it isn’t easy to get large items down using a ladder. If you’re taking big items off your boat for the season, do it when the boat is alongside a dock.
  • Yard’s Orders: Check the boatyard’s sailboat haul out methods. They might have specific instructions for your boat type or size.
Boat Haulout Day: Haul Out How To Survive

The big day has arrived! Here’s a play-by-play of what usually happens:

  • Lift Off: Your boat will be gently lifted out of the water, usually with a travel lift or crane. It’s a bit like a rollercoaster, but without the screaming (hopefully). In most cases, you get off the boat before it’s lifted.
  • Power Wash: Most boatyards power wash the barnacles off the hull. Make sure your windows are closed before you get off the boat!
  • On the Hard: Your boat will be placed on a flat, graveled, or paved area called “the hard.” It’s not glamorous, but it’s safe and dry.
  • Inspection Time: If requested, the yard staff will give your boat a thorough once-over. They’ll check for any damage, leaks, or wear and tear.
  • Repairs & Maintenance: If any issues are found, the yard will make the necessary repairs. This is also the time for that bottom paint job or any other maintenance tasks.
  • Storage: Your boat will be stored on the hard until you’re ready to launch again. Some yards offer shrink-wrapping services to protect your boat from the elements.
  • Thru-hull Openings: Consider stuffing any thru-hull openings with paper towel so that birds don’t create nests in them.
  • Bug Deterents: Spray and lay traps for ants and other bugs.
  • Mold Prevention: Get a dehumidifier or a chemical dehydration system. Make sure to read the following article as it has a section on how to prevent mold: The Top 14 Boat Mold Removal Techniques
  • UV Damage: Close all window blinds to reduce the chance of UV damage to soft furnishings.
  • Thru-Hull Fittings: Do NOT close the deck or cockpit thru-hulls. If it rains and the water backs up, it can flood the bilge/engine/etc.

Making the Most of Your Time on the Hard – After the Boat Haulout

Now that your boat is high and dry, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle some DIY projects:

  • Clean and Polish: Get into those nooks and crannies you couldn’t reach before. A shiny boat is a happy boat. Make sure to do this closer to your splash date so you get your monies worth!
  • Antifouling: If you’re not having the yard do it, now’s the time to apply that fresh coat of antifouling paint.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: A good waxing will protect your gel coat and make your boat gleam like new.
  • Upgrade Time: Always wanted a new windlass or solar panels? Go for it! The hard is your playground.

Leaving Your Boat on the Hard: A Few Tips

If your boat will be spending some time on the hard, here’s how to keep it safe and sound:

  • Cover Up: Invest in a good quality cover to protect your boat from the sun, rain, and snow.
  • Support System: Use jack stands or blocks to support the hull and prevent it from sagging.
  • Power Down: Disconnect the batteries to avoid draining them.
  • Guardian: Find someone local who can air out the boat and check for smells and issues on a monthly basis. As for referrals, you want the person you hire to do a professional job.

For a comprehensive boat haulout checklist, don’t forget to check out my Wintering a Boat/Putting on the Hard checklist in my Checklist for Sailors guide. It’s packed with everything you need to know to keep your boat happy and healthy on the hard.

Remember, a boat haulout is just another part of the sailing adventure. Embrace it, learn from it, and soon you’ll be a seasoned pro!

Here’s a video of us having our boat hauled out in Trinidad. It will give you an idea of what it’s like.

Kim Brown:
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