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Date: 28 September 2013. Boatyard Blues.


Life on the hard is what we call living aboard your boat when she is in the boat yard. It can be a ticket to trouble if you are not aware of some of the pitfalls associated with boatyard life. Oh yes, it is fine for a short duration however most boaters make classic mistakes and end up spending far too long on the hard. Relationships disintegrate while costs skyrocket. Today we will talk about boat yards and hopefully by learning of mistakes made repeatedly by others you can avoid same and be smarter -- smarter than I was for certain.

Have a plan and stick to it -- don't domino!


It is all too easy to take one job and morph it into a major Project with a capital P. Prior to entering the boatyard have a specific goal in place and work to complete that. It is far to easy to add "one more thing" and "we really ought to" or "since we are here we might as well" and "it would be better if" etc. It starts innocently enough and soon you look up and have spent months doing what does not have to be done.

Take my thru-hull experience: The addition of two Rule 2000 Marine Bilge Pumps and their float switches [Rule 37A Marine Super Switch (Mercury Free)] meant I needed two more 1.25" thru hulls to drain said bilge water. Okay, well, I have one from the head so I "might was well" use the old head drain for the bilge pump. But now I need a new head drain and that hose is old so "it would be better" to replace it. And since I am messing with hoses, the rest are of undetermined lineage, so "since I am already here" ... though each step seemed logical at the time I created a Project that need not have been so onerous and time consuming. ARGH!!!


In all the time I spent in a boat yard, the thing that strikes me most in retrospect is the casual and laid back attitude towards time that becomes prevalent. There is always a new boat coming in with its own sets of problems (ones you can trouble-shoot) and another with a nifty solution to an issue your boat has or might develop some day. Folks who stay long term (and that occurs far too often) form a social group. Though being friendly is good, it is not if those friendship bonds are to the detriment of escaping said boatyard!


One of the few boats I've seen that successfully negotiated the boat yard debacles was a nauticat called Benne Vita. Their method was to treat the boat yard as a necessary evil. It was a place to come and do work, but their over-riding goal was to re-launch as quickly as possible. In that regard they showed a disciple I lacked.

Success at the boatyard -- Benne Vita's five steps that work:

  1. Treat the boatyard time as a job

  2. Get up, have a cup of coffee (breakfast) and start work by 0800

  3. Lunch at a specified time and for 1/2 hour

  4. Quitting time just before supper

  5. Evenings revolved around accessing progress and mapping out the strategy for the next day

By treating the boatyard as a job, Benne Vita was the only couple I knew that came in, did the work, and got out quickly. Yes, that sort of thing happens (sometimes) when hiring workmen, but not as a rule for do-it-yourself boat owners. If you tried to talk to the couple while they were working, they'd remind you that they would be quitting at 1800 hours and would chat then. It was very business-like, and frankly, inspiring!

Their reward was self-evident: a boat ready to launch quickly means they paid less for time on the hard (all boat yards have lay up day fees) however the main reward of course was in being gone!

There's not much better than relaxing at anchor...

However others (self included) wandered the boatyard, chatting with friends made, talking with people about work that needed to be done, and generally wasting time. I did too much of that. Even if the time is "free" (yours/mine) it still has costs and every day spent on the hard is one less you can spend on the waters. That is where boaters ought to be.

Of course there are benefits from being less business like in that you shall make friends with folks who spend a lot of time in boatyards.... I certainly did!

Still, it was EXCELLENT to leave:


Another fall-out I've seen is as the work is nearing completion and the journey is about to begin relationships go helter-skelter. People that were so in love and focused on working toward their goal in life (becoming cruisers) become snippy, grumpy, and generally unpleasant. Affairs have happened -- there is meanness all around and some couples do not survive the onslaught.

The cause I believe to be FEAR. Yes, suddenly the nautical life awaits and it is a world not entirely or even remotely familiar. That is scary, and rather than work together so many times people turn on their partners. Just be aware if the situation comes up, and be careful!

Still, there is the rather unrealistic expectation that this life out here is pulling into an anchorage, smartly setting the hook on the first attempt. Silence reigns as the engine is shut down. Next is retrieving a cold one from the refrigerator. Gosh, doesn't that sound lovely?!? I am thinking that one day it will be just like that for me too. But golly gee, I have only been on Seaweed for a bit over five years so there is still hope, right?

The most important thing is I am out here. Life is great on the waterfront. One day I hope to see you too.

When hauling out, how long did you anticipate being on the hard?
And how much time did it really take?

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2013, 2023

Categories: Boats, In the Bilges, Money, Organizing, Recommendations, Relationships

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