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Yard Talk

Slings and Arrows: Avoiding a Nuclear Haul-Out  –  Of all the inevitabilities of life, Death and Taxes get the most attention. A close third must be Haul-outs. Essential to the life of just about every boat, the haul-out is the time for repairs and refurbishment to the underwater bits; painting and checking through-hulls and gear. Most boatyards are well equipped to handle most boats, and it is often tempting to leave all the planning and execution to the yard staff. Some temptations are best resisted—this is one of them.

The prudent sailor will prepare his boat and make a plan for blocking it when on the hard. Failure to get involved in the details of the haul-out can have serious consequences—I once had my 30-foot C + C hauled out in New Jersey. I was present for the lifting out—the yacht was placed in slings and raised up in the Travelift, pressure-washed and then to be placed on jackstands and blocks. The lifting took longer than expected, and I had to leave the yard guys to block the boat and adjust jackstands.  


I later learned from another boat owner that the Travelift operator had made a small error, and my boat had slipped a few feet and landed hard onto one of the stands. I saw that something was up when I next came to my boat as there seemed to be some deformation to the hull around one of the through-hulls. The full extent of the damage wasn't clear until a few weeks later when we splashed the boat—the seal around the through-hull had been broken, and water poured in, requiring me to have the boat pulled out of the water again and re-blocked so I could repair the problem. Needless to say, there was a lot of blowback and loud discussion over who was responsible, but ultimately I was unable to prove negligence since I hadn't been present when the damage was done. That was an expensive lesson.

The problem areas when hauling out are, first, when the slings are placed around the hull and the boat lifted. If the slings are not placed correctly, or if there is some peculiarity about the way your boat is constructed, there may be issues such as crushed rubrails, stanchions or similar overhanging fixtures. Make sure the lift operator knows about any possible problems of that nature. If your boat doesn't have marks indicating where slings should be applied—these are usually in way of the interior bulkheads—then you must provide some guidance.

A second problem area is when the vessel is placed on blocks and stands. If it's a short haul-out, then the boat may be supported just by jackstands. This is not ideal as the stands create pressure points on the hull or can force a breach in the seals around hull fixtures, as happened with my boat. Or, as is increasingly common, glassed windows in the hull may have seals compromised by the stresses caused by jackstands. Remember, the hull is designed to be evenly supporter by water not by a half-dozen jacks.

Remember, too, that these same issues repeat when the boat is again picked up off the stands and transported back to the water. If you can arrange it, try to be present when the boat is being lifted—this way, if you can't prevent unfortunate things from happening, you can at least be on the spot when they do happen and not rely upon the reports of a friendly witness.  

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