Pro Tips to Hauling Out


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 that’s notorious for catching rain water runoff that turns a hard pan surface into soupy muck – destabilizing 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, it’s 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 Travelift’s 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 choice 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 that’s 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 jackstands centerline axis coincide with this line.

The more it diverges, the more there’s 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, its 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.

Ralph Naranjo is a Practical Sailor contributing editor whose specialty is safety and seamanship. During his 10-year stint as the Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, he augmented safety and seamanship training and played a key role in the development of the Navy’s 40-foot new sail training sloops. His sailing background includes a five-year family voyage around the world and the management of a full service boatyard. He and his wife Lenore have made two other lengthy cruises aboard Wind Shadow, a 41-foot sloop the Naranjos have owned for over three decades. During the past 15 years, he has moderated US Sailing Safety at Sea seminars across the country, and now is an adjunct lecturer at the Annapolis School of Seamanship. His newly developed courses on weather routing, seamanship, and celestial navigation are among the most popular in the school’s lineup. He is the author of Wind Shadow West, an inspiring account of the family’s five-year voyage, and The Art of Seamanship: Evolving Skills, Exploring Oceans, and Handling Wind, Waves, and Weather, a comprehensive textbook aimed at the advanced cruising sailor. For information about his virtual or in person seminars on a range of topics contact the editor at


  1. Very good advise for the sailor. For Power boaters here are a few tips. Slings want to move to the centre of the boat. Run ties from the slings to the bow and stern to stop this. Blocking and jack stands are not complicated and follow sound logic. The boat is strongest at the stern, the chines and the keel. Jack stands or blocks should be located at those locations. If keeled like a trawler, blocks under the engine location at the keel, plus blocking where the bow curve stops and the straight keel starts, is good enough. adding more at bulkhead and heavy weight areas is good too. My 34 ft. Mainship uses 3 jackstands per side. To to hold the load and 1 to replace the others for bottom painting. Above all take the time to level the boat, with the bow elevated to allow for rain/snow runoff. A perfectly level boat transfers the weight to the keel and keeps it off the hull sides.

  2. Hello sir Darrell. Sounds like you would be a great person to help me out with a few things if you was at the right place at the right time and I have never owned a sailboat but I am sure I can learn the equipment and safety Side of the responsibility of the boat but I need a little help with that from someone that is not full of crap….. Because we can always find people who claimed that they can when they are not the guy for the job


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