Posted by John
Several days ago Edd from the boat Windrose said, “Interesting concept of summer here.” Edd is from California. But even by Seattle standards, the last three weeks have been frustratingly wet and stormy. In one storm we had steady winds of over 40 knots, with higher gusts. That’s a major winter storm in Seattle, bringing down trees and power lines. It was scary just to walk down the dock. The gusts were almost strong enough to knock me off into the water. Unlike at home, where storms tend to last several hours, here they seem to last for days. The first storm ended and the sun came out and it was hot for a few days, but then another storm came. The second storm had slightly less wind (30 knots), but much higher quantities of rain. I’m absolutely sure that we got more rain in three days here than Seattle gets in a whole summer. It was the second storm that was the most worrisome for us. We had a scheduled haulout, and the predictions, even five days in advance, were for the wind and rain to continue until the exact hour of our haulout.
New Zealand has apparently privatized its weather service. I don’t know how the business model works, but MetService.com forecasts are free for non-commercial use. They also seem to be accurate. They have enough weather radars to cover the entire country, satellite images, and wind and rain forecasts going out five days. We couldn’t find anything like that in French Polynesia, which probably was the place with the least available weather forecasts, although they did broadcast periodic weather reports in French.
We could probably deal with the rain, but a 30 knot gusting wind, coming from the north, would make it difficult to get out of the slip, turned in the right direction, and then get backed into the travel lift. A little too much close-quarter maneuvering. The tidal current already surprised us the day we went into the slip, so that would be an added factor. Although, as luck would have it, when we checked the tide predictions it turned out that we just happened to have been scheduled for slack tide.
Just the haulout itself, even under perfect conditions, would have its concerns. They gave us little “S” stickers to put on the hull to show the lift operator where to put the straps. In past haulouts (we’ve done all previous haulouts with this boat in Port Townsend) the boatyard has determined where to place the straps prior to actually picking it up. I wasn’t real comfortable with them placing the responsibility onto us. I mean, what do we know about operating a travel lift? But if something went wrong they could say they were just following our instructions.
The boat Sky Blue Eyes was hauled several days before us. I asked them what they thought about the stickers, and they said that their boat, a Hunter, came from the factory with strap placement arrows already painted on the hull. Okay then. We brought along a photo showing Mysticeti in the lift at Port Townsend. The problem is, the lift there had three straps, all tied together with a horizontal strap low down on each side. They also hauled us once with just two straps, but our picture of that was not from a good angle to show strap placement. Also, at that time we had no masts, rigging or bowsprit, and we were turned around in the opposite direction in the lift. Not really a good comparison.
The forward strap has to go where the hull slopes upward to the bow, and that is the problem. The strap can slip up that slope, letting the boat drop down. The lift here only has two straps. More weight would be on that angled strap. It was suggested by the yard manager that we put the forward strap back far enough that it would still be on the flat part at the bottom of the keel. But that would put both straps in the rear half of the boat. We thought the forward strap would have to be on the slope, and tied strongly to the other strap.
The day of the haulout was still gusting with heavy rain. It looked like the wind direction had changed slightly to the worst possible angle to make it as difficult as possible to get the bow to swing around, against the wind, in order to go forward out of the marina. As a worst case backup plan, the marina has a large inflatable that can be used as a tugboat to help nudge the bow in the right direction. But the woman who operates it would have to come out from the marina office into the rain and wind. We didn’t really want to ask her to do that.
An hour before our scheduled time, the rain had stopped. The wind died down to fifteen knots. It was slack tide. After all that worry and stress, we backed out of the slip and turned the bow to point in the right direction without a hint of difficulty. We went out and looped about a bit, killing time. We moved fenders and dock lines to the other side of the boat in anticipation of tying to a waiting pier near the haulout slip, but then didn’t need to do that anyway.
As we arrived at the haulout, the lift operators were ready and were lowering the straps into the water. I could see there was no horizontal strap. We swung the boat around and managed to get the stern just inside the pilings, which are completely protected by tall, floating tubular roller fenders that provide pivot points to rub against. Now we wanted the wind to catch the bow and bring it around a little, but, just as predicted by MetService, the wind completely died at that moment. But it didn’t matter, we were in far enough that the lift guys could grab the boat with their boat hooks and pull us into place.
We told the lift operator that the straps needed to be tied together. “No worries, Mate.” Except that we had to tie them ourselves, using our own dock lines, much higher up than we wanted which gave the forward strap a lot more freedom to slip. Not exactly like they do things in Port Townsend, but in the end it all worked out okay. They pressure washed the hull and blocked up the boat while we went for lunch—with beer.
Now if the rain, which has started up again, would just quit so we could paint, we could get this whole thing over with and take off in the car to see New Zealand.