Boats are made to float on the water, not balance on their keels in mid-air. Happy Dance made sure we were aware of that by jumping off the boat hauler a little too early! But that’s the end of the story; here’s the beginning.
While here in San Carlos waiting for another round of land travels in a few weeks, we decided that rather than wait until March when we’re in La Paz to have the bottom painted, we’d take care of it here. The last bottom paint job was just over two years ago in Oxnard before we headed south into Mexico. Since then we’ve scraped, scrubbed, and brushed lots of barnacles and sea growth off our beautiful black hull. So, it was time.
Happy Dance has a draft of 6’8” and with the winter low tides closing in on us we had only a limited number of days in which to haul her, finish the work and get her launched again with enough water to float her off the trailer. The word around here is that if you don’t get your boat back in the water by December first then you’ll be stuck on the hard until April when the high tides are high enough to float a boat with our draft and when the high tides will again coincide with daylight.
The haul out method here in San Carlos is to use a tractor pulling a hydraulic lift truck that is backed into the water under the keel, and then the boat is lifted onto the truck with the various supports lifting up to balance her. Our keel is a modified fin with a 16” wide torpedo shaped bulb at the bottom that requires exact placement on the truck due to the fact that there are only a couple of inches to spare on each side; a little difficult when one can’t see through the murky water of the harbor!
It took nearly an hour and the two cups of coffee I’d had were gurgling away in my nervous stomach, but after three attempts Happy Dance was straightened out and lifted onto the hauler. After she was finally loaded, we hopped into the pilot car and led our happy little caravan down the road for ½ mile to get to Marina Seca where the work yard is located.
Work started right away, with washing, sanding, caulking, replacing zincs, and washing some more. The sanding was the worst, with toxic black dust in the air covering every surface. Happy Dance was NOT happy! However we soon washed the initial layers of dust and grime off her and then she were ready for paint.
It was good to see that the hull is still in excellent condition after the sanding revealed all the areas where we were concerned. The one area around the keel cooler for the freezer unit was something we were most concerned about since the growth there always seemed to be so much more than anywhere else on the hull. But thankfully it was a small area and it doesn’t look like there’s any galvanic corrosion as we’d thought. The extra growth may just be due to the warmth from the keel cooler. We did find a few blisters from de-lamination on the rudder that will need to be taken care of in the not too distant future, but for now all looks good.
The new paint is blue, and Happy Dance looks so much different without her black hull. The whales will hardly recognize us. We will be alternating paint colors each time we paint so that we can see where the wear is and where there needs to be more attention. Plus it’s fun!
And now we come to the terrifying leap. Happy Dance likes to dance, but usually she does it in water, not on land. This time she decided to jump from the trailer into the water, without realizing there wasn’t quite enough water! Yikes.
We’re not really sure what happened, but as the truck was backing Happy Dance down the ramp into the water, when she was still about a foot above the water line she suddenly slipped off the hauler backwards with a resounding crunch as the keel hit the pavement and the rigging twanged back and forth. A very, very BAD sound. Marty and I were speechless with mouths hanging open and hearts pounding.
Everyone just sort of stopped in their tracks as Happy Dance started floating back on her own and the line handlers pulled her to the dock. After a few minutes of “holy shit” and looking inside the bilge to see if there were any cracks or problems with the keel bolts on the inside, we agreed that we’d need to haul her back out again so that we could see if there was any external damage.
After another 3 or 4 attempts (and a few more tummy tumbles) we were back on the trailer and they hauled her up the ramp. Bear in mind that the tide is slowly going out during all this time and our critical high tide window is diminishing. After looking her over there didn’t appear to be any damage to the keel or hull other than two nasty scrapes down to the gel coat on each side of the hull and a scrape on the bottom of the keel. We left a nice stripe of blue paint on their hauler too. We had just enough paint to fix those spots and then it was time to re-launch. Again!
This time Happy Dance slid into the water nice and gracefully; phew! I’m not sure we could have taken another jump off the truck. We backed her into her slip, tied up and let out some heavy sighs, along with a promise of “never again”! It’s travel lift hoists only for Happy Dance from here on out.