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How to Haulout a Boat

The Night Before

Jittery about that haulout? Take the edge off with this simple technique.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to get antsy—you might even say nervous—the night before I have a boat hauled at a boatyard. Exactly why—I can’t say. Maybe it has to do with my penchant for catastrophizing, for obsessively trying to deal with doleful, futuristic imaginings. You know—stuff like: What if I lose reverse gear in the Travelift and smithereen the bow against the concrete bulkhead? Or what if a sling breaks and my baby gets dropped like a bomb … kaaaapoweee! Or what if…

Anyway, I’ve got a remedy. Whenever and wherever possible, I deliver my boat to a convenient spot near the haulout slip the night before the big event. And then, once dockside, I immediately hook up shorepower (if there’s an outlet nearby, and there usually is) and start dealing with a long-established checklist of niceties I need to address before the haulout crew arrives on the morrow. Then, when all’s said and done, I enjoy a quiet, easy-going snooze aboard.

There are two virtues to this approach. First, it defuses the intensity of what often can seem like a rushed, high-pressure happening. Come haulout time, the guys at the yard are not looking at their watches, waiting for you and your boat to arrive. Instead, thanks to an alarm clock that buzzes at a timely hour, you are waiting for them. There’s a  big difference—believe me. And second, well before the Travelift cranks, you know you’ve thoughtfully handled all the aforementioned niceties, of which there are many.

Seacocks, for instance. They need to be exercised and closed before your boat’s lifted free of her element in order to make systems re-priming easier (or even unnecessary) come relaunch. Then there are lift points. You need to know where they are, whether via a manufacturer’s specifications, hull marks, or a little scouting of structural bulkheads, so you can ride herd on Travelift sling placement. And then there are hull appendages, like shafts, struts, strakes, trim tabs, and sea strainers, as well as handrails, rubrails, and quarterguards. You also need to know where all these babies are (and whether they need to be protected with fenders or carpeted blocks) so sling placement doesn’t damage them either. And lastly, there’s blocking. You need to have a plan in mind, whereby you ensure the yard blocks your boat at no less than 10-foot intervals to support her weight safely.

If just reading about this stuff makes you jumpy, let me lend some perspective by describing one of the most enjoyable, most unhurried, most unworried pre-haulout nights I’ve ever spent. It began at sundown, a year or so ago, with a long, slow-mo run over to my yard, which was deserted when I arrived. I gotta say—you can’t beat cruising at dusk, with voices and other muffled sounds coming across the water, the faint aroma of dinner in the air, and mists wafting all peaceful and still.

After I got my boat secured alongside (tying up a boat by your lonesome isn’t for everyone, but it’s often possible, especially with practice), I dealt with shore power, tidied up my lines, flipped a couple of switches, and then headed up the street for a hamburger and fries while I mentally ran through the checklist already outlined.

The walk back was memorable. Some yards are especially picturesque after dark. And this one was both lovely and spooky, in part due to its desertion but also due to its rambling, ramshackle nature, the preponderance of dim security lights and the shadows they created, the cadre of cats zooming about, and the moon, which hung over everything full and white.

Once back on board, I completed my haulout meditations and chores and racked out early, in keeping with an early-morning wakeup. I can’t remember what I read myself to sleep with—probably one of Louis L’Amour’s westerns. But hey, a sound, stressless snooze was had by all. With wavelets softly lapping the hull.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.