Boatyard Living Aboard a Boat

Life is Hard

Friday, June 30, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

Sailors have a unique language all their own: On a boat, the front isn’t called the front. It’s the “bow”. The back of the boat’s the “stern”. The “port” side is on the left and the “starboard” side is on the right, but only if you’re facing the bow – if you’re facing the stern, it’s the opposite. Below decks, the “head” is the toilet because it used to be located at the front of the boat, which was the head but is now the bow. The kitchen’s the “galley”, the living room’s a “salon” (or “saloon” if you’re British), we sleep in a “cabin” where we have a “berth”. And when a boat’s in a boatyard, it’s “on the hard”.

Why? Because the ground is hard and so is life when a boat’s sitting on it.  


Alot of our personal comfort depends on the boat being in the water. When we’re at anchor, the bow points up to the wind and a nice breeze flows through – it’s Mother Nature’s air conditioning. Right now the boat is parked with the wind off our stern quarter, so it’s having a difficult time finding its way inside.

Like a lot of places around the country, we’re in the midst of a heat wave. And while temperatures in the 80s and 90s don’t compare with the 119°F that Phoenix is dealing with, the fact that we’re currently sitting on top of tarmac makes things a lot hotter.

This chart was designed for pet owners, but you get the idea. By the time 5 o’clock rolls around, it’s close to 90 degrees on board and we’re melting from the heat (it hit 95 on Sunday). 

Then there’s the refrigerator, a keel-cooled system (the water temperature cools the compressor). Normally, we turn the fridge off when we’re on the hard to save the strain on the compressor, but this was an unplanned haul-out so it’s full of food and our portable freezer is in storage. With this heat, it looked like we were going to have to shut the system down until David came up with this clever idea (the bucket is full of water): 


Our water-worries don’t end there. Unlike RVs, most boats don’t have a grey water tank (for sinks and shower drains): We dump straight into the sea. So any time we turn on a tap while on the hard, the water lands in a puddle on the ground. That means doing the simplest of tasks (like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or taking a shower) are off the table. We have to do these chores on land . . . and getting to land requires climbing up and down a ladder.

We do, however, have a black water tank (a.k.a. the holding tank), so we can use the head when we’re on the hard. It’s plumbed with salt water, which means we need to use fresh water from the sink to flush the toilet. No big deal there. But we don’t want to end up with a full tank before we can get ourselves to the nearest pump-out station, so we only use it when we have to. The rest of the time, it’s up and down the ladder to use the bathroom in the boatyard (which is pretty grungy).  


When your on the hard, the boat is propped several feet in the air. It no longer moves. It no longer heads up wind. It’s static. The lack of motion feels completely wrong; and if the yard staff doesn’t set the boat level, it’s even worse. But more importantly, it means you have to climb up and down a ladder several times a day to get on and off the boat. It also means that if you fall, it’s going to hurt – a lot!

Dust and Dirt

There’s no escaping the reality that boatyards are dirty places. And in this heat, all of the hatches have to be open. That means there’s a nice coating of black dust everywhere we look – on the cabinetry, the floor, the decks, and us. We do what we can to minimize the effect (like taking our shoes off before stepping onto the decks), but after four weeks, it’s pretty much a lost cause. 


Swantown is operating from 8 am to 5 pm during the week, but the gates are opened at 6 in the morning. So, from about 7 am on, it’s power washers, power tools, hammering, and banging – the noise is deafening. I finally got smart and started spending my days in the library where it was nice and quiet . . . and there was air conditioning (after all the work was done, of course).

And that’s our list of things that make life so “hard” while living on the hard.

Do you stay aboard when your boat’s on the hard? What are some of the things that make you sing the boatyard blues?

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  1. I was about to say the dirt is the worst part, but then it's also the sink, and the dishes, and the bathroom, and having a heart attack every time the dog escapes the salon and threatens to jump off. And then there's the money you're spending to be so unhappy! We met people who have actually lived in the yard for years (not working on the boat, just hanging out). They are crazy.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Lucy. It's not just one thing that makes living on the hard difficult, it's a combination of things. When we had Sally, David used to carry her up and down the ladder every day. I was always so nervous, not that he would drop her but that she would jump (she didn't like to be held). One day, she did and she made the most horrible noise when she landed (kind of a yelp). Fortunately, she shook it off and was ready to go for a walk afterwards -- the little bugger didn't even have a limp. God, I miss her.

  2. We lucked out and got one of those staircase ramps. Tracking grunge in and out was so much easier that way :-)

    1. We were on the hard at Stones Boatyard for four weeks last October. We had a ladder for 25 of those days and then Nick switched us out for a set of stairs. Better late than never, I guess. Lol.

  3. Some people put a bucket underneath the outlet for the galley sink so that they can use it while on the hard. We're also lucky that they can pump you out on the hard at Indiantown Marina. We'll be hauling out for a while when we get back. Not looking forward to it.

    1. It's a necessary evil, isn't it. But, wow, talk about service! I've never heard about being able to pump out while on the hard.

  4. I feel your pain! The library sounds like a beautiful place to escape during these hot days. We always lived on our boat in the yards (except on our wedding night). It sucks, big time, for all the reasons you mention.

    Smart thinking about the keel cooler. We never thought of that! We wrapped and secured a big, wet towel around it and poured a bucket of water over it three times a day. Or, we shut the system down and put ice in the fridge, before we had the keel cooler. Our ladders were a bit shorter, but Mark did fall off it in Panama once and broke his thump. This too will pass... Courage!!

    1. Thanks, Liesbet. We normally haul-out in the spring, so we don't have to worry abou the keel cooler too much. This time it was way too hot. We had to add water to the bucket through out the day and we hosed down the hull to try to take some of the heat out. I'm just glad it's over and hope it's the last emergency haul-out we ever have to do!

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    3. Phew! I'm glad you are back in the water now!! Right in time for Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!!