Monday, August 27, 2012

On The Hard

Boats are certainly not meant to be propped up by stands in a boatyard, but it amazes me how many boats we have seen here sitting on the hard with folks living on them year after year.  Every boatyard has them.  These are people who had big dreams and sold off their homes to buy that perfect boat.  Sure it had its problems but nothing a little elbow grease and sweat couldn't cure.  They bought their dream boat and hauled it out to refit it and only then did they realize that those "minor" problems were very serious expensive issues that had to be fixed before the boat could safely sail away.  The dreamers soon found some sort of work near the boatyard, bought a car and began a life of working part time on the boat they were living on, on the hard, while holding a full time job.  One of the first lessons they learned is one that still baffles me, a boat on the hard deteriorates at a far faster rate than a boat in the water.  Soon the boat is actually falling apart around them faster than they can even fix it and the original problems are not even on the list of repairs they have to do anymore.  This is a sad story and it is one that can be found in many boat yards around the world.

The boatyard is a dirty place, full of chemicals, paint in the air, mud when it rains (which is every afternoon in Trinidad), the dust in the air turns to mud on the decks and is tracked below, the bilges fill with dirty water, the water systems and heads don't work on the hard so you have to run to a bathroom in the middle of the night.  The boat is hot on the hard.  There is no spinning on the anchor head to wind, no cool breeze blowing off the water and down the hatches, no jumping off the boat for a quick swim to cool off.

The work is a hot and muggy toil. Every little job becomes a frustration and sweat pools at your feet as you work.  The bugs are fierce and they crawl up the ladders and stands and the fight begins.   Speaking of ladders; your legs ache every day from climbing up and down a ladder to get on and off the boat.  Imagine if you had to climb up and down a ladder to the second story of your house every time you wanted to go inside.

We hated being on the hard so much that we actually put it off for three years in a row.... That was a mistake.  As terrible as it is to haul a boat, it is defiantly something that needs to be done every year.  The hull needs new bottom paint and a good inspection, through hulls often need work.  If you faithfully haul every year and keep up with all the little jobs that keep appearing you can manage to keep your boat in seaworthy condition every year.  To ignore it is to find yourself hauling out and being faced with such a huge refit bill that you end up becoming the people in the first paragraph.

This would have happened to us if it had not been for my job on Sweetest Thing and her kind owners as well as a close friend in St Thomas. When we hauled last year, after three years in the water, and found all of the welding our Aluminum hull required they saved us and let me work off the monstrous bill required to make her hull seaworthy again.  This year we needed to haul her again to finish the rest of the work for a total refit, including an unexpected new engine.

I have recently reread a great book by Jack London called "The Cruise of the Snark" where he recounts is adventures in building and sailing his own sailboat across the Pacific.   In this book written in 1911 he says,

"The Snark is a small boat.  When I figured seven thousand dollars as her generous cost of construction, I was both generous and correct.  I have built barns and houses, and I know the peculiar trait such things have of running past their estimated cost.  This knowledge was mine, was already mine, when I estimated the probable cost of the building of the Snark at seven thousand dollars.  Well, she cost thirty thousand dollars.  Now don't ask me please.  It is the truth.  I signed the checks and worked for the money.  Of course there is no explaining it.  Inconceivable and monstrous is  what it is, as you will agree,I know, ere my tale is done."

He built the Snark in 1911.  I am not sure what the equivalent of thirty thousand 1911 dollars is to 2012 dollars but I think, as he said, you will agree, it is inconceivable and monstrous!   I was remarking on this at supper one night and said that having a boat on the hard going through a refit was like a hemorrhage of money, my daughter, EmilyAnne, said,  "No Dad, in our case it's more like the dry heaves!".  Clever girl!

Inconceivable and Monstrous,
Captain Tofer


  1. You guys should be on a reality show, it would be watched with great interest I'm sure! Much better and more exciting than "Jersey Shore"; you could call it "Burton Ashore". Always cool reading your stories Tofer, thanks for writing!

  2. I like Derrick's comment. It would be the ONE reality show I would watch.