Pro Tips to Hauling Out

Posted by Darrell Nicholson with Ralph Naranjo at 11:33PM - Comments: (6)

Courtesy of Boat US
Courtesy of Boat US

A well-chocked boat that is tied down and with its mast unstepped will stand a good chance of surviving storm winds. In an extreme storm with flooding, however, the ground can soften and the boat can become unstable. Asphalt is preferable to bare earth.

Every skipper should go through a "what-if" scenario when considering a specific place to haul. These "what-ifs" include the potential impact of gale or storm-force winds, a significant tidal rise, and torrential rain.

Low-lying facilities exposed to the most volatile wind direction can spell trouble, as can a yard thatís notorious for catching rain water runoff that turns a hard pan surface into soupy muckódestabilizing the jack-stands that support the blocked up boats.

During hurricane season, tidal surge presents the biggest concern there, but it is usually the vessels in the marina rather than those blocked up on land that suffer most. In winter, volatile storms can pack the punch of a tropical storm, so whether afloat or on dry land, a vessel needs to be able to endure the onslaught.

Equipment & Operator Skill

Frayed lifting slings, deteriorated pilings, and rusty machinery may still work, but more often than not, they are signs of the overall quality of workmanship that a boatyard has to offer. Those seeking lowest-cost options need to be especially aware of how their boat will be hauled and handled. When all is said and done, itís hard to beat a new or well-maintained Travelift or hydraulic trailer. Equally important is the dock or ramp it operates on. But no matter how good the gear, the skill of the operator is the most important variable of all.

With sailboats, sling placement is crucial, and the geometry of the hull shape in conjunction with the cable lead adjustability on the lift will determine how equal the sling loading will be. Also critical is the cable angle, a factor that can lead to sling slippage, and in extreme cases, a vessel being dropped. A skilled operator will know how to handle various hull shapes and what rigging must be undone to fit a vessel into the confines of a Traveliftís web.

One bit of boatyard wisdom worth remembering: "Being told that yours is the biggest vessel ever hauled by the facility should not be confused with words of encouragement."

Cranes up the ante for concern, and their operation requires extreme care, especially if they are used to transport a vessel once it is hoisted from the water. Bulkhead collapse, tire failure, and shifting ground can set the stage for disaster. Hauling via a Travelift, hydraulic trailer, and even the venerable marine railway are usually better options. Above all, if your boat is being hauled by a crane, be sure the operator uses "spreader bars," a cage that keeps the sling load from compressing the hull.

Our tool of choise is a conventional Travelift that runs out onto a well-supported lift pier. Their setup is well protected from wind and sea. Ideally, the lift operator has decades of experience, and knows both the capacity of his lift and the challenges of any given vessel.

When it came time to haul PS test boat, an Ericson 41, the operator had us turn the boat around, release the back stay, and with runners set, he hauled the boat stern first. This was easier than removing a headstay and inner forestay, and allowed for better sling spacing. The efficient haul was followed by a thorough high-pressure wash down that removed all soft marine growth, leaving behind only a few tenacious barnacles at the bottom.

Blocking and Shoring

Standing up a vessel thatís designed to float can be a challenge. In many cases, the hull skin is too thin to take the heavy point loading associated with too few blocks under a keel or near overextended pads or jack stands.

Properly executed, the blocking and shoring process is a means of spreading contact loads and rigidly supporting a vessel in a vertical position. Sailboats with external ballast easily endure the pressure imposed by keel blocks but may be troubled by the hull weight pressing down and flexing the keel/hull joint. Many lightly built race boats are fitted to special cradles that spread loads to numerous large contact points and allow the keel to hang.

In gale-force conditions, some race boats stowed in such a fashion, especially those stored with their masts still stepped, have been known to develop a pendulum-like keel motion that can capsize the cradle-supported boat. Wedging the keel bulb to prevent such an oscillation makes sense.

In our case, the yard crew used plenty of timber blocks for keel support and cross chained screw-jack poppets to provide both athwartship and fore and aft stability.

There is a subtle but significant difference between these three-legged stands. The ones with a narrower base are less stable and harder to use effectively. When supporting a sailboat with tripod-like jackstands, the idea is to extend an imaginary right-angle line from the hull skin to the ground at every pad point, and make the jackstandís centerline axis coincide with this line.

The more it diverges, the more thereís a tendency to "kick out" a stand if the vessel starts oscillating in high winds. Chaining the stands together lessens this likelihood.

Once a boat has been shored and blocked, itís a good idea to layer tarps or plastic sheeting beneath it. That keeps cleaners, paint, paint removers, and other chemicals from contaminating the ground. Layering the tarps means you can remove a soiled one and have a clean surface to kneel or stand on.

For more details on hauling out, see our previous blog post "The Captain's Responsibility When Hauling Out." If you are looking for a yard that allows do-it-yourself work, check out the list of "Reader Recommended Do-it-Yourself Boatyards"†that accompanies our report "Do-it-Yourself Boatyards."†

Comments (6)

I have a 34' full-keel fiberglass boat. The forward section of the keel is ballast but aft section is hollow or integral water tank. Although the article suggests full blocking under the keel, I have asked the haulers to only block under forward ballasted section, and aft at the rudder post, places where there is strong support to the rest of the hull. I try to put the jack stands where there are interior bulkheads- again to avoid unsupported hull sections.

Posted by: RisingSun | December 2, 2019 10:17 AM    Report this comment

Dispersing and maintaining desiccants to absorb humidity is also a must do!

Posted by: Brad Peek | November 28, 2019 10:52 AM    Report this comment

I've always liked to empty ALL of the lockers once each year. This provides an opportunity to inspect, air-out, and clean. Just as importantly, we get to throw away spare parts for equipment we no longer have, find things that have been lost for 8 months, and reconsider items we haven't used in a year. The result is a boat that is better organized, roomier, and lighter.

Posted by: Drew Frye | November 6, 2018 3:22 PM    Report this comment

Although the article discusses cross-chaining the stands, the image does NOT show chains, a major deficiency. Brownell, a major producer of boat stands, has excellent videos detailing proper use.

Posted by: Drew Frye | November 6, 2018 3:07 PM    Report this comment

Good article, but shouldn't it have appeared in late August or early September?
Geoff Coleman
Golden, CO

Posted by: ForGrinsToo | November 4, 2018 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Readers who really care about their boats and want the insides smelling nice best advised to remove everything stored inside during the winter season. And scrub the bilges. Yes it takes lots of work to clean it all out. It's called "taking the boat apart". Years and years ago when sailing ships reached foreign ports and were expected to remeain a while the crew was organized to "take the boat apart" and clean out the insides. All of it. Be amazed at what you'll find.

And once that's done open up all the floorboards, drawers, closets, etc. And bring on the spray bleach. Sometimes a nice yard will let a couple of circulating fans run in addition to the battery charger. Come spring you'll be singing sweet songs of delight. If you really have energy spray wax all the inside furniture. You'll be simply what comes off.

Peter I Berman
Norwalk, CT

Posted by: Piberman | November 1, 2018 2:55 PM    Report this comment

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In