Since most of my boating is done in the semi-temperate regions of North America known as The Great Lakes, the arrival of winter is an annual call for hauling the boat out of the water. Oh, a few hardy souls leave their larger boats in the water all winter, relying on mild temperatures, bubbling, and covered boat wells to keep ice off their waterlines, but for most people, late October means time to haul out. You get pretty good at hauling after a few years of boating.
For me, my first occasion to haul came a little earlier in the season. We were in the middle of our first cruise through the wonderful North Channel of Lake Huron, when a minor error in navigation and chart reading, compounded by a all-time record high water level--five feet above datum--allowed us an attempt at sailing over the top a small island, unnamed on the chart, but affectionately referred to by the locals as Phantom Rock. This is quite an apt description, as it spends most of its summers submerged under the seasonal high water of Lake Huron.
After leaving some bottom paint and a little gelcoat on the rock, and taking some solace in seeing all the other streaks of bottom paint on it, we headed for the nearest boatyard to make some repairs. By the way, when we told the guy at the boatyard that we'd made contact with Phantom Rock, he seemed very familiar with it. I'm sure it had referred him many customers.
When you are up in the North Channel, everything is a little rustic, and that includes the boatyard. Their haul out was a smaller version of a Travel-Lift, and the width of the haul out slip was just barely wide enough to accommodate our 10' 3" beam. It looked like we would have about six inches or less on each side. To make things interesting, the boat had to be backed in to the slip. This was required because we would have to remove the backstay in order to clear the frame of the lift when the boat was raised out of the water.
We were already a little frazzled from the whole experience of grounding, and, you might say, our confidence at boat handling was at a new all-time low water mark. (Pun intended!) Unless you happen to have a very unusual boat, you know that most single-screw inboard boats back up in a random manner, pretty much independent of rudder action, especially at slow speeds in shallow water. The crew and I were standing around, hesitantly, thinking about how we were going to back our 30-foot sailboat into a slip barely wide enough to accommodate it. Getting into the slip bow-first would be hard; getting in stern-first seemed impossible.
Just about then, a salty old local wandered over to offer some advise. "Warp her in," he said. "Use ropes." Boy, the light went on! That was a great idea. We didn't need to manoeuver her in under power, we could just tie a few lines to bow and stern, and pull her into the slip backwards, under full control. Even the wind was cooperative, now, as it blew the bow off the dock, lining it up just right for a pull into the slip.
Suddenly, the difficult task of manoeuvering the boat was made simple by the use of a few lines. This is a lesson I have never forgotten. I still keep it ready to use at a moment's notice. It comes in most handily around docks, when you have to do some tight manuevers.
Once the boat was in the slip, we let the boatyard take over. They seemed to know what they were doing, so we got out of the way. We came back two days later and the boat was like new, and the yard bill very reasonable. Sometimes "rustic" pays off.
This spring we had the occasion to haul the boat to work on her depth sounder transducer. This time we had the luxury of a very wide Travel-lift. I also had ten more years of boat handling experience with the boat, so I figured I could drive her into the slip. Taking into account the tendency of the boat to back to port (due to the effect of the right-hand prop), I lined her up at right-angles to the slip, put her in reverse, and let that prop-walk pull her right around the corner of the slip. The wind was on our port bow, too, so that helped. I think the boatyard guy was impressed. Well, I was impressed.
Once in the slip, the lift operator was a little hesitant to go along with the "SLING" marks that had been appended to the hull topsides by a previous hauler.
He didn't think the rear mark was correct, as it was very far aft, just ahead of the rudder and put the sling quite a distance from the boat's center of gravity near the keel. When moving the sling forward, however, he had to be careful not to land on the prop shaft, which would surely be deflected if forced to carry half the weight of the boat. The best spot was just aft of the keel, just forward of the prop shaft's exit from the hull.
Positioning the forward sling took some care as well.
The transducers for the depth sounder and knot log are located just ahead of the keel, and the slings had to be positioned to avoid them. The first iteration landed right on top of the knot log wheel, but it emerged undamaged from the ordeal.When you find the exact spot on your boat for the slings, you should mark it, as it might come in handy in a strange boatyard. Once you've navigated your boat to the haul out slip and properly positioned the slings, your boat is in the hands of the boatyard's lift operator. Boatyards that stay in business don't drop too many boats, so you probably don't have to worry too much about it from here. Of course, that might be another story...
Copyright © 1997 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved!
Last modified: October 1, 1998
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