On The Hard - Spring Maintenance

Maintenance is one of the most challenging parts of owning a cruising sailboat. It's only through experience that you learn what is required for your boat and it's important to remember that the requirements for each boat are different.

Maintenance requirements vary because of things like where and how the boat is stored and used. The best way to make sure that you minimize the time and expense of maintenance is to inspect the boat thoroughly and regularly. If you find a problem make sure that you deal with it at the appropriate time to avoid adding repair costs to maintenance costs.

We've always stored Encore in the water. Some folks view in-water storage as a radical idea. Even our insurance company recommends against in-water storage, but we've found that Encore suffers less damage and we have fewer lost items when we store in-water rather than haul each year. There's no hard and fast rule, but you have to do more planning if you store in-water because it's very easy to forget to do the necessary maintenance work when your boat is always ready to go.

Since I spent most of the winter aboard in a place where it was almost always above freezing I found it easy to keep up with the inspections and maintenance that I could do with Encore in the water.

But, with the arrival of spring, it was time for a haul out, inspection and fresh bottom paint.

The first decision was where to do the haul out. Since I was not familiar with the yards around Beaufort this decision required some research. I asked all my marina neighbors who had good looking boats who they recommended and why. These conversations helped me produce a short list of yards. The next step was to call the leading candidates and arrange to visit and discuss the work.

The yard visits involved brief discussions and walking around the yards looking at work being done on other people's boats. I didn't try to get concrete bids for the work but instead got information on how each yard charged for its services and what services each yard was equipped to perform.

It's reasonable to assume that there will be a surprise or two once the boat is hauled, cleaned and inspected, so it's probably not realistic to try to get a concrete idea about price until after the haul out and inspection. Although this is a little scarry it's more sensible than trying to do strict budgeting before you are sure how much work is involved. The discussions with marina neighbors should already have provided a good idea about how the yard's rates compare to other yards in the area and how happy other boat owners have been with their work in the past. Your discussion with the contractor should provide a ball park price for the work you know you'll want done. You can't plan a budget for unexpected damage. Just keep your fingers crossed...

Walking around the yard is actually more important at this stage of the game. The walk around will provide some important information about the quality of work being produced and the staff's attitude toward the work. Important things to look for and questions to ask might include:

  1. Do they keep the yard clean and safe?
  2. Are the boats blocked securely? Are jackstands chained together?
  3. Are boats spaced far enough apart for fire safety?
  4. Are there boats similar to yours there having similar work done?
Once you've decided on a yard the next step is to ask the contractor (who is usually an office person who schedules the work and manages the bill as the work is done) for their suggestions and recommendations concerning the work. In my experience the best contractors are usually actively involved in at least some of the work. They're not just in the office. Their advice can save you money, time and trouble and should be taken seriously.

This spring in Beaufort, NC, we arranged to have Encore hauled at Bock's Marine Services. I'm pleased to note that the Beaufort - Morehead City area offered other good choices. This is a serious boating area. But for us Bock was the yard of choice.

Click Here to see Encore's log entries for the Spring, 2002, haul out...


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