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Boatyards - The Zen of Haul-out

Before enlightenment man chops wood and carries water.
After enlightenment man chops wood and carries water.
Zen Proverb

So it is in the boatyard. Annual maintenance must be done and we have the choice if we will enjoy it and make the most of it... or not. Here in the St Maarten Shipyard we are enjoying being hauled out.
Of course we could also just pay someone to do the work and come back when they are finished, which we have done from time to time... but I like getting up close and personal with the hull, at least every year or so to see what it going on down there. Any fittings that need replacing? Anything we might have scraped coming through the French canals and forgotten about? Any problems with rudders or prop? Any zincs corroding faster than they should? I like the sense of accomplishment of a job well done.

Here are some thoughts on maximizing the productivity and enjoyment of the "Zen of Haul-out"...

Finding a good yard

We always look for a yard wher
Bottom Corals
e you can do work yourself, and also have reasonably priced options if you want help with jobs. I like to see a tidy yard with a well maintained travel hoist. Ideally there are some local facilities close at hand, such as a place to buy supplies and provisions, while hauled out. St Maarten Shipyard excels on all fronts. They have a crane and sealift both in good condition, a very knowledgeable and helpful staff, and a tidy yard. They also have a very nice restaurant on the premises (Boca Marina with great chef!) and of course they are in Dutch Sint Maarten so they have access to the best chandleries in the Caribbean.


The bottom of our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, was very grown up with coral and worms so we definitely had to update the antifouling despite it just being 8 months old. The Cruiser Uno (one coat one season) which served us well in European waters doesn’t seem to be able to handle the high fouling here in the warm waters of the Caribbean. We are going to give one of the local favourites a try. I am planning 2 coats of "SeaHawk Islands 44 Plus" and another around the waterline. It’s an ablative paint so it will come off when scrubbed, and it can handle being left hauled out for hurricane season. I will report back next year after it has done a cycle here in the tropics.

In case you are wondering, all this growth came off with the pressure washing - a benefit of the ablative paints, I think. Then we asked the yard to do a quick sanding to get rid of the last of the barnacle bases - it took just 2 hours to get back to a smooth hull.

Gelcoat touchup

We had a couple of small chips in the gelcoat from a run-in with the dock in Morocco when the catwalk we were attached to on starboard side broke lose in a gale, and another at the bow from the anchor swinging around as we brought it onboard too quickly one time. Working on this kind of thing is possible while in the water but is much easier when hauled out. I always carry a pot of gelcoat that matches our hull so we can do quick repairs. Otherwise the hull is still in factory perfect condition - she is just 3 years old after all and the gelcoat is perfectly glossy/shiny. In the 3 years we’ve owned her we have gone through nearly 300 locks travelling through Holland, Sweden, Scotland and France but didn’t put a scratch on her in that time! Well maybe a couple of "scuffs". Easily repaired and buffed out.


The modern cruising boat has a number of zincs. We have a big hull zinc, a specialized zinc on the "Autoprop", another I have added on the shaft, a zinc on the bow thruster, and small zincs protecting the fridge and freezer heat exchanger plates. Your boat may have others. Some places are more corrosive than others - we always found zincs disappeared quickly in the southern USA Intracoastal Waterway. In northern climes they seem to last longer.

Bottom Checkup

Taking a closer look at the "wet side" of your boat is worth a bit more time during the annual haul-out to maintain a fully seaworthy bottom. Is anything out of the ordinary? How much play is there in the shaft and stern bearing? Will the bearing need replacement soon? Any barnacles stuck up the thruhulls? I also take a few pictures of any details to help me remember how it looks down there when we’re back in the water and to plan for future jobs. I also take pictures during the lift so I can show the next boatyard how to lift her safely.

Other projects

If you have other bigger projects the haul-out can be a good time. Many installations are safer in the boatyard since you don’t lose a part dropped overboard. I can get out the sander or power tools and not worry about annoying the other people in the marina or anchorage. A boat yard is the proper place to get your boat in shape for the sailing season ahead.


It’s fun, this cruising life... and the enlightened cruiser enjoys it all - even time in the boatyard!
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