Boats have to go on the hard for a variety of reasons – for a refit, repairs or routine work. But what do liveaboard’s do when the boat is hauled out? What’s living in a boatyard like? Here’s a run down on what to expect so your life on the hard doesn’t turn into a hard life.
At the very least, every two years or so a boat needs to come out of the water.
For recreational boat owners it’s not a big deal – they have a home on land to go to. For liveaboard’s, however, it’s a temporary change of lifestyle. Liveaboard’s either have to find alternative accommodation or embrace living in a boatyard.
Living on the hard is hard work!
But let’s back up. Why do boats have to come out of the water? The most popular reason for a lift-out is the need for antifoul paint on the hull. Most boaters use an ablative paint (slowly comes off over time) that gets painted on the hull.
Once the antifoul paint wears off barnacles and other sea growth quickly accumulate along the hull. The sea life slows the boat down considerably and can wreak havoc with your water intakes and/or fittings that go through the hull (the holes in the bottom of the boat that let water/waste in or out).
Having barnacles in your water intake will reduce the water flow to the engine causing it to overheat. Sea growth around your hull fittings can cause the fittings to seize preventing your ability to close the hole in an emergency.
There are now paints that last longer than two years, such as CopperCoat, but they come at a high price (and don’t always work as in our situation). And even if antifoul paint lasted 10 years there are plenty of other reasons why a boat needs to come out of the water.
To name some, it’s important to routinely check and service the propeller(s), bow thruster(s), check the rudder, inspect the keel seal and keel and change the anodes. Some tasks, like changing the anodes, can be performed by a diver but others, like servicing the prop, are better done when the boat is on land.
The process of coming out of the water is relatively easy.
Although I have to say that it’s slightly nerve wracking. Seeing your boat, your baby, come out creates a strange sensation. You grow to love your boat while surrounded in water so being on land simply feels foreign. When I see Britican come out, I always murmur under my breath that ‘it’s only temporary.’
After selecting a lift out time, you prepare the boat to be hauled out and you usually tie off to a dock or jetty near the crane. (If you don’t already have my best selling guide, ‘Checklist For Sailors’ get your copy to have access to a checklist of things to do to prepare for a haul out).
At your allotted time, the crane comes out, picks up the boat, gives it a power wash and then sets it down on land. Scaffolding type arms, or a cradle, are put in place to hold the boat upright and the keel is placed on blocks or dropped into a hole in the ground. Not long after a ladder is placed alongside the boat for owner access.
For catamaran owners the ladder climb isn’t too bad.
For monohulls it seems as if you’re in the clouds by the time you reach the deck. Anyone afraid of heights will have to conquer a bit of fear climbing the ladder.
Many liveaboard cruisers plan vacations or family visits when the boat comes out. It’s much more comfortable to live in a house than a boat on the hard – even if aunt Mildred drives you crazy.
For me, the biggest issue is not being able to use the toilets. If you’re coming out for a couple days and then back in I imagine that you can use your holding tanks but anything longer won’t work. When on the hard you’re not allowed to release any black or gray water from the boat.
Black water is toilet waste and it’s obvious why you can’t let that plop onto the ground below. Gray water is shower water or sink water. I suppose that the boatyard will become smelly and attract more mosquitos than necessary if there’s standing water around.
So – having to climb down the ladder and walk quite a distance to the bathroom isn’t too bad during the day but when you wake up at 2am, it’s pitch black and you hear dogs barking the climb and walk are not appealing.
Most liveaboards eventually accept the need for a pee bucket.
I don’t have to expand on that topic. You get the drift. The other issues with being on the hard have to do with your ability to run appliances. Our fridge and freezer are water-cooled so we can’t use them when on land. That means that we have to eat out of a can (PB&J, Beans, etc.) or eat out at the marina café (if there’s one around).
You might think, but at least you can use your stove/oven!
Well, in some cases you can. If you have gas you’re okay. We have electric but it’s a 220 so when we’re in Europe, we’re okay. As I write this I’m on the hard in a country that has 110 electrics. We can run our lights and fans so that’s good but aside from that everything else is won’t work.
For us, we have no way of keeping things cold or heating them up.
Aside from those issues, there are a few other things that are strange. The movement of the boat freaks you out a bit. When you’re accustomed to the water cuddling and caressing the boat, the alternative land based motion boat is way different. You’re either not moving at all or the wind makes the boat wiggle or sway. It’s just not right!
Additionally, the noises are different. Instead of hearing other boats, the lapping of the waves on the hull and sea birds you’ll hear cars, land birds, emergency vehicles, groups of people and other odd land-based sounds.
Then there’s the proximity of the boats next to you. In some yards there’s quite a bit of space. In others your boat might be inches away. We have a friend on one of our buddy boats that woke up in a panic several times when on the hard. He’d look out, see a boat way too close, forget he was on the hard and think that he was about to crash! It took him several days to realize that he wasn’t in the water.
What else? Well, the mosquitos are usually worse on land. The breeze you get on the water isn’t there so they’re not blown away. And it’s usually hotter on land for the same reason.
Have I sold living on the hard to you? Hehehehe.
It’s not fun. Instead of concentrating on my living arrangements, I focus on the jobs that we’re getting done. I look forward to seeing the hull antifouled, all the anodes nice and shiny and the propeller gleaming. I think about how fast we’ll sail and know that our pipes are clear of sea life.
I’ll also take advantage of being on land. Without having to dinghy in I can climb down and take a walk. Enjoy a latte at a café and soak in some greenery that I usually admire from afar.
Side note: As you may know, I homeschool our daughter. She’s eight now and in 3rd grade. In addition to studying the usual – Math, English, Science and History, I’ve also included one day week to learn about how to learn. In the first chapter of the book I’m using, it says that when we’re learning something, especially from a book, it’s good to flip ahead and see what’s coming. Apparently, it helps your brain to do this.
Perhaps it helps to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by too much new material?
Anyhoo, I like to write about topics like living in a boatyard so to possibly prepare you for what’s in store. Hopefully I’m helping you to flip ahead to see what’s coming. It’s a fact of life for liveaboard cruisers. Living on the hard is one of the crappy things that we have to accept but it’s usually a short period of time.
When we lived on the hard in Greece for a few weeks I thought it was horrible. I didn’t realize what it was going to be like. Now that we’ve done it several times my expectations are more accurate and it’s actually not too bad.
With most things liveaboard related life is a dream. But there are some times when it’s not-so-great. The key to remember is that being on the hard is temporary and it enables us to float on the sea!
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