The Boatyard Blues
My wife, Kathy, and I dread the first night we spend in the boatyard when we return to Endeavor, our 34-foot Tartan. We threaten every year to take a motel room for a couple of days just to give us a chance to get the boat straightened out before we move aboard, but we never do.
We try to arrive at the yard soon after lunch so we have time to move as much gear as we can up on deck to make the boat somewhat habitable below. A ladder is laid against the rail and up we climb to discover exactly what surprises lie in store for us. Even if we've been lucky enough to escape a direct hit from a hurricane, the deck's always filthy, and the plumbing doesn't work because we're on jack stands. And after six months or so of basking in the hot Florida summer sun, mildew and mud wasps have taken over down below.
We clean belowdecks as best we can and make up the V-berth. The nearest heads and running water are at least 100 yards away across the dusty yard. There's no food on the boat when we arrive, of course, and any fresh water remaining in the tanks has been heated all summer and is suspect at best. Over the years, our prep work has assumed a comfortable pattern, and our week's effort in the yard goes something like this:
Day One: Find a power cord long enough to reach an outlet and plug into shore power. Easy, you say-just plug it in! Well, not quite. Our onboard 50-foot power cord is usually too short to reach an outlet that works, so we have to hook several cords together and test them until we finally get power to the boat. The cords' plugs are likely to be corroded, dozens of cords run everywhere, and many outlets don't even work. Next, we run a water hose to the nearest outlet; again, this likely requires us to borrow an added length of leaky hose. Somehow, too, rainwater has always found its way into the bilge. Once we have shore power, I proceed to pump the splashing bilge water all over our car parked near the stern; we've finally learned not to park too near the boat. This year, Kathy continued cleaning below while I made friends with an English couple on a well-found Hallberg-Rassy sloop next to us. Lucky for them, their boat was ready to go in the water.
When we've secured water and AC power, we begin to check our many critical electric systems: batteries and battery charger, solar panel, lights, refrigerator, pressure water, propane stove, bilge pump, running lights, various radios, and the radar. By the end of the first afternoon, we're exhausted, discouraged, and dirty. The floor of the yard's head is usually slippery with mud, but the showers are still welcoming, though we wear our Crocs just the same. After getting cleaned up, we head to the nearest market to buy drinking water and provisions for the first couple of days. That evening, we eat cold chicken and drink from a his-and-hers box of wine.
Day Two: I wash and scrub the deck, which takes all day on hands and knees. This year, toward the end of the day, friendly Canadians on a Morgan Out Island 41 ketch took the place of the Hallberg-Rassy that was next to us. They began to sand their boat's barnacle-encrusted bottom, adding barnacle-laden blue ablative dust to the topsides and deck I'd just cleaned. Kathy shut the hatches to keep out the dust, which made it nearly unbearably hot below. Our new neighbors did apologize for the mess.
Usually on Day Two, Kathy periodically comes on deck to inspect my work and to get a breath of fresh air. Occasionally, she'll announce that some electrical system isn't working or some freshwater plumbing is leaking in the boat. I stop scrubbing the deck and either fix the problem or add it to my list. All sailors keep lists.