Everyone knows that BOAT stands for bust out another thousand. While this is true to some degree, not everything on a boat costs that much. There are, however, some critical maintenance items that must be done on a regular basis to keep vessels in top working condition.
Owning a boat is a labor of love. We pour blood sweat and tears into keeping our floating home safe and operational, sometimes leaving us literally ‘high and dry’. In return we get an incredible means to travel the world and live a life less ordinary.
Before leaving Grenada last November, it came time to ‘haul out,’ fix a few things and get some fresh bottom paint on Mary Christine. Boats that sit in the water full time begin to acquire marine growth on any surface that is submerged. To prevent barnacles and algae from growing, we use an anti-fouling bottom paint. The type we use is only good for about 2 years. On a monthly basis, we dive under the boat and brush or scrape off all growth before it gets out of control but as time goes by, the paint is slowly sloughed off to the point where the anti-fouling properties don’t work anymore. Then, we haul the boat and paint again.
Two years may sound like a very short period of time to have to go to such an extreme of putting the boat on a lift and balancing it on jack stands. The reality is that there is always something else that needs to be fixed at the same time and we take advantage of the few days that the boat is out of the water to repair or service critical underwater components.
We opted to have the yard crew do most of the work for our first haul out instead of trying to get it all done ourselves and taking up more yard time, which in turn increases our bill. We had a laundry list of items we wanted to take care of while on the hard that we couldn’t do while the boat was in the water:
- New bottom paint
- New bootstripe (dark green paint along the waterline)
- Repaint the stern (much easier to repaint this on land, though it could be done on the water)
- Recondition the prop
- Take apart two seized thru-hulls (cockpit drains that exit under the boat)
- Replace a below-the-waterline t-fitting that connects the aft sink and cockpit drain
- Repack the stuffing box
- Remove the wind generator to diagnose motor issues (taking this down we wanted the boat as still as possible)
The last time the bottom paint was done was before we bought the boat. The yard that painted it last did not do a very good job prepping the surface before painting because there was a lot of areas where the paint had started to separate and peel off around the water line. This wasn’t a terrible thing, but it did look bad and we were careful to make sure it was done better this time.
Our boat was carefully nestled into a field of masts leaving barely enough room for us to work.
A ladder was placed against the side of the boat for access while work is underway. It was such a strange feeling to climb up the ladder, then climb back down into the boat all while my home is way up in the air! I would look out the windows and expect to see the slow rocking motion from the waves but everything was dead-still. Eerie almost. It was still my home, all my things were there, but it just didn’t feel right. From that moment on, I couldn’t wait to get the boat out of that yard.
After climbing up that ladder for the first time I was really thankful we didn’t even consider staying on the boat in the yard. It would have been WAY too hard with the dogs, with no way to take them potty. They couldn’t go up and down the ladder, and they couldn’t go potty on deck because we’d have to hose it off, which would run down the side of the boat into the yard. Instead, the dogs were happy in the little cottage we had rented back at Secret Harbor Marina. They had air conditioning, a bed to lay on, and lots of places to go for walks. A doggy vacation, really.
Our boat looked like an Easter Egg while the paint near the waterline was properly sanded down and prepped for new paint to be applied.
We did some of the work ourselves, expediting the process as much as possible. We would stay at the boat yard all day making sure work was actually getting done. We wanted to be back in the water by a certain date because we couldn’t afford more yard time or cottage rental expenses.
Our propeller needed to be machined to correct the pitch, indicated by numbers and letters imprinted on the side of the prop. When we lost our steering in the Bahamas, the outside edges of our prop hit the inside of our rudder and evenly bent the tips of all three blades. It didn’t noticeably affect our performance or speed so we waited until our next haul out to address this issue. Luckily, Spice Island Marine has an on-site independent contractor that could fix our prop! This was a huge relief since we had heard the only way to get your prop fixed in Grenada is to send it to Trinidad, or buy a new one. Our prop was as good as new in just a few days.
The whole process took about 5 days, which was faster than expected.
On splash day, the boys in the yard prepared the lift and straps with fresh plastic wrapping to help protect the new paint.
AND SHE FLOATS! A very exciting moment after we had messed with several under-the-waterline components. If done incorrectly, the boat could begin taking on water at a rate faster than our bilge pumps could keep up with. Luckily we were in good hands and all critical repairs were made flawlessly.
Even though it took significant time and money to go through the haul-out process, it was a necessary part of owning a boat. Investments and improvements in any home, no matter what shape or size, will ultimately extend the overall life of the home. Our boat was built in 1980 and built to last a very long time as long as we take care of her.
What are the biggest maintenance procedures on your home and how often do you do them?