Tuesday, 17 October 2017

An unplanned lift out

We understand that there are many who have lost their lives, boats, homes and businesses in the storms so far this year and compared to them this is only a minor, if stressful, problem.

Swinging in the hoist

Yesterday the edge of storm Ophelia came to visit. It was quite noisy, the waves were spectacular crashing over the wave break and we were rolling a bit. We had prepared as usual, ropes checked, loose items secured and we were ready to sit her out. Part way through the evening one of the deckhands asked ‘Is this supposed to bulge?

As you can imagine this was not good news. The hull (wall) was flexing far more than it should be. Boats, particularly catamarans are built with some flex in them to allow for movement through the water and stop them just shattering or cracking. This was far more than that though. Having been battered in the terrific storms in Brest back in 2014 which caused us some damage, Mark had been working on strengthening this side of the boat. This was a related but slightly new problem.

The hoist area

As part of the refit, we had been planning to lift out (or haul out if you prefer) sometime in the near future and were slowly creating a list of jobs which would be best tackled off the water. This movement though and the knowledge that there were more winds due in a few days time meant that we had to come up with a plan very quickly. Initially we felt that just changing the side lying to the pontoon would be a good start until we could get her lifted out. The dory came round to help but looking at the space available in our cul-de-sac it was obvious that turning or moving into the clear space across the way were not viable options. Several quick phone calls and a lift for later in the day was organised, they would let us know what time.

We waved them off and put the kettle on, feeling the need for strong coffee, whilst frantically Googling pre-lift checklists and trying to work out what was most urgent. Bucket for the drain, move the glasses and ornaments, fenders all round - we could do all that. We’d been stuck for a couple of weeks on a beach in Brittany whilst Mark was doing repairs and we managed then, we’d be fine. We hoped.

Walking the boat round

Mark went off to give the dog a quick walk before we started but had barely left the boat before we had another message that they were on their way to us ready to lift. We were not ready. The skipper wasn’t even on the boat and I had frantically phoned him to come back. The berthing masters attached the dory (marina work boat) to the side of Tarquilla and discussed tactics. I waited for Mark to run back along the pontoon to us (picture Sonic the hedgehog tapping his foot) having left the dog in the car safely out of the way.

The marina staff asked if the deckhands were around to help with fenders unfortunately they were at school, never mind, we’d manage. There is plenty of room down each fairway (think road for boats through the marina) but it doesn’t look like it when you’re moving and every correction in one direction moves you closer to the boats on the other side. There are also some really expensive boats around. The dory was our engine power (the starboard prop is on the list of things needing repair) whilst we remained in tick over just in case. The dory fended on one side, roaming fenders on ropes held by an increasingly nervous crew (yup, me) and the Skipper on the other. At times we were within a couple of meters of other boats and holding our breath. Mark was actually working between fendering the back, shouting out distances and manning the wheel – go multi-tasking! Safely into the main basin, the plan was originally to go straight into the hoist but we could see it up on the dockside with a boat swinging so it was alongside the fuel pontoon for a brief stop.

Squeezing into the hoist area

Waving off the berthing masters we were now in the care of the yard staff. They were brilliant. There was a long discussion about where the keel, props, and other important points were then the boat was marked up to ensure that the hoist straps would be in the right place. If you are planning a lift out yourself make sure you know your strong points, bits to be avoided, weight, length and breadth, they really need as much information as possible. Fortunately because we had been talking about lifting out at some point, Mark had already got that information ready.

She was walked into the hoist (pulled through the water using ropes) and the lift commenced. Horrible noises and a slow tilt made everyone stop quickly and she was lowered back onto the water. At this point I was stood at the top (only one crew member stays on board when they are lifting) and could taste the salt from the ropes as I bit my nails. This is not just a boat, this is our home. The hoist was removed and the slings changed before a further attempt at lifting was made. This time it went much better and slowly she was raised up into the air.

Finally we could relax a bit, the keels had taken the weight, she hadn’t snapped in the middle and she was sitting nicely in the slings. That was when we saw just how bad the sea life under the keel was. When we moved a couple of months ago for the Fastnet race a lot of scraping had removed large amounts of the creatures that were using us as a hotel. It was obvious though that below the full reach of a-hoe-on-an-arm there was far more growing. The yard crew set to with shovels releasing a flapping prawn, a crab that tried to run away in the wrong direction and even a small fish amongst many barnacles and mussels. Not something we’re particularly proud of and the reason we wanted to scrape off as soon as the structural work had been finished but well, the weather had other ideas and they are gone now.

After a power spray, she was moved across to the boat yard like a giant Newtons cradle and lowered gently onto blocks. Poles were wedged into the sides for extra support and finally the hoist slings were removed. Just in time for us to try out the take away bacon sandwiches from the new café at the marina before the school pick up.

So now we are sat on the hard (boat yard). The galley (kitchen) sink is draining into a bucket outside, our cabin (bedroom) floor feels like it is sloping even though it isn’t and we are using the boarding ladder off the back to get on and off. I suspect I’ll be writing more about this soon.   


In the hoist

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