The phrase ‘smooth new bottom’ takes on a whole new meaning in the world of live aboard cruising and sailing in general. It’s something we all long for when we don’t have one and we all cherish once we get one. Smooth new bottom refers to what our hull is like once it’s had a new fresh coat of antifouling.
It’s amazing what accumulates on a boats hull over relatively short periods of time. In a nutshell, growth accumulates on the surface of the hull and if it’s not cleaned off regularly it can cause all sorts of problems from blocking important through hull holes to slowing you down by a few knots. Might not sound that bad, but trust me, going ANY slower than a sailboat already does will cause me stress!
We last hauled the boat out over 2 years ago where Tim worked like a demon to complete the job before we left Italy to sail around the world. Our last antifoul didn’t work that well and Tim was needing to scrape the hull at least every month. He also spent 2 days scraping the hull to get most of the growth off just before we hauled out.
So the time has finally come to haul out again and get some new smooth antifouling on our hull, and at the same time attend to jobs that can only be done when the boat’s out of the water.
After spending some time in Grenada we’ve booked into Spice Island Shipyard to entrust them with getting our mothership onto ‘the hard’ where we can work on her. That means that they lift her out of the water on these huge straps that are wrapped around the strongest section of the hull and place her on the hard land surface where she is chokked up on wooden blocks and steel props.
But hauling out isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Being on the hard means that we have no access to water or more specifically, its drainage from the boat. Therefore we can’t use the toilets, sinks or washing machine and we can’t really do everyday things like wash our hands or cook meals unless there’s absolutely no water required. Not because we can’t use water but because it has nowhere to drain other than underneath the boat.
I’m not usually too fazed by things that are not normal, but even that’s just way too much inconvenience for me nowadays, especially with 2 kids in tow.
So we’ve decided to rent an apartment for the week while we are doing the work and given that our budget nowadays is minute, the apartment I found is also minute! Yes, even smaller than our floating home! One bedroom, one bathroom, tiny kitchen and tiny living room. BUT I looked for one that has a giant washing machine and dryer so that I could wash everything, and I mean EVERYTHING we have onboard during that week.
We have a washing machine onboard but she’s only 4 kilos so it takes longer to wash so many loads. But this way I can wash ALL of our belongings including sheets, towels, seat covers, awnings etc all in one week and sadly, I found that super exciting!
To haul the boat out we have to drive her into a small slot where they pass huge straps underneath her then raise her up out of the water and then onto a motorised trailer to manoeuvre her around the shipyard. The first thing they do is pressure wash the hull and I love watching this process. From thick icky growth to just bare bottom again…it’s so therapeutic that I’d love to be doing it myself but the shipyard guys are in charge of that.
The kids are scrambling about below the hull because there’s a tonne of crabs that were living on the hull growth that are now being pressure washed off and running away trying to save their lives. We collect as many as we can and let them go again back into the water.
Pierina is then driven to and almost wedged into a tiny spot where she sits within a few feet of other boats that are hauled out. So standing on deck is now really weird cos we can almost touch the other boats around us. She’s chokked up with wooden blocks and metal props that seem so precarious and that always scares me.
I always feel like if I accidentally leant on one of them it would push out from under her and come crashing down on me! but thankfully, that doesn’t happen.
I’ve done all the packing that we need to stay in the apartment for the week and needless to say we have what feels like a tonne of stuff…that’s because it’s almost ALL the stuff we have anyhow! Now to get it from here to the apartment.
Apart from sanding and layering coats of antifoul on the hull Tim had a list of other jobs that needed to be complete while Pierina was out of the water. The items are too long to mention but if you’re interested you can find the list here. Most of these jobs are pretty horrid to undertake. They’re mostly dirty, messy, strength depleting, back breaking type of things. The stuff that no one really wants to do but being a cruiser calls for. We’re lucky that Tim will sort out almost anything we need fixing even though he’ll often need a week of massages after it!
So Tim immediately starts working on the hull as we only have one week to complete it all and it’s up to just me and the kids to get us to the apartment. I don’t have incredible balance so trying to walk down a rickety old ladder that’s loosely tied to the hull, whilst carrying bags full of stuff is a scary thing for me! but with the kids help we get it all down and to the dock, all 15 bags of it! We get it all into our dinghy and zip across to the other side of the bay where we unload it all onto the dock there.
OK it’s about 30 degrees and the humidity is about 75% and we are supposed to WALK all this stuff up to the apartment that is about 600 metres away…all UPHILL. I know we don’t have the budget to use taxis but I’m tossing up whether to break my kids (and myself) in this heat or bite the bullet and spend the money?
Well I decided to spend the money …it was just too hard!!
From the second we walk into this tiny place we have huge smiles on our faces. Its cool, really cool, as the air con is so refreshing. We have a big shower, with unlimited water. Water is such a precious commodity in our cruising world so we were excited to be able to take longer showers than we were used to! Though it might be a small thing to most people, it’s huge to us!
And then there’s the TV. We haven’t watched TV since we left Italy. Not just a TV but TV with unlimited Netflix.
My kids had no idea what Netflix was till we turned it on and started watching it…the glee they experienced at that moment was monumental!!
Needless to say they binge watched tv in this week! Yes, EVERY day after school it was Netflix heaven for them!
The week for us went something like this. Wake up and do school till midday when we would go and deliver Tim some lunch and help him out for a while. Then head back to the apartment and the kids Netflixed while I washed clothes and sorted dinner. Then Tim would get home and after dinner we all Netflixed…all in wonderful air conditioned comfort!!
We were Netflix junkies for the week and it was great!
Although its stinking hot at around 30 degrees C with 75% humidity, we felt it was good to give the kids a taste of what it’s like to physically work really hard!
It’s crappy work sanding in this weather and then having to apply a few coats of bottom paint as well as all the other jobs that needed to be done. So we limited the kids workload to a little bit each day but Tim did the majority of the rest of the work.
So the week was up and time for Pierina to splash again.
Once you’ve been on the hard for even a few days there’s always an air of excitement and relief. A great deal of hard work’s been accomplished and now we can get back in the water and back to normal.
Along with excitement is also my fear. I fear that we will take on water somewhere and then have to come out again.
So with baited breathe we all watch as Pierina is lowered into the water safely. Then we wait again as Tim makes all the checks to ensure there’s no water intake anywhere…
…and then the obligatory cheer that all is as it should be!
We’re back in!