Dropping Hook at the Shipyard

You know that sound, that unmistakeable rattle nearby that tells you someone is about to drop the hook near you and become your new boat neighbor for however long.  It’s kind of an impluse, but something inside makes you want to at least pop your head out of the companionway and see who’s come to join you at the anchorage.  Is it another sailboat, one with classic lines and lots of jugs and gear strapped to the deck that tells you they must be a cruiser, perhaps a live aboard?  Or is it a pimped-out eighty-foot yacht with a blonde hood ornament sunning on the lido deck?  Or, maybe it’s a loud, blubbering fishing boat with big wakeboard speakers blaring some country lyric you know will require mention of beer, fish or her?  Either way, you’re curious.  A rattling chain nearby is one step away from ringing your doorbell (which we all know equates to a knock on the hull).  A rattling chain piques your curiosity.

It was funny to see the same reaction happen, though, when we dropped hook at the shipyard.  As you likely know from the videos, our gallant s/v Plaintiff’s Rest is currently hauled out, up on the hard at the Pensacola Shipyard having a schlew of work done to ready her to cruise south this coming season.  To Cuba and beyond!  

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And, as you naturally do when you’re hauled out, you start checking the boat for all of those “hauled-out” type things you can only do when she’s out of the water, i.e., replace goobered thru-hulls, add thru-hulls if necessary, replace underwater hoses, check the prop, shaft, stuffing box, etc.  Throw on some bottom paint.  But, doing those things often gets you looking in lockers and cubbies you haven’t in a while and you start to find all sorts of don’t-have-to-be-hauled out things you want to do just because, well, because you’re in project mode and you obviously can’t go sailing.  So, might as well spend your time improving the one thing that will get you back sailing─your beautiful boat!  Right?

That’s where we were.  Phillip and I were running through every system, locker and inch of our boat to see what all needed to be done (and then what did we merely want done) to improve our boat’s structural integrity, longevity and performance for our coming cruising years.  One of those things ended up being replacement of the anchor chain.  But it didn’t start out that way.  Our initial goal in dumping the chain out of the locker was not to inspect or replace it but, rather, to give us access to the backing plate of the bobstay (which is usually buried in wet, salty chain (a situation we plan to remedy as part of this minor re-fit).  But, we needed access to the backing plate of the bobstay to allow us to inspect it for potential replacement as part of our re-rig of the boat.  So, out the chain went.

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It rattled and rocked and created quite a ruckus in the yard.  I did not think it would draw the same reaction from our boat neighbors as it did on the water but … sure enough.  After a minute or so of rattling, our buddy Mike on the Tartan “next door” popped his head out to see who was dropping hook next to him at the yard.  Like I said, I can’t explain why it makes you want to crane your head around and look but you just sense the urge.  And, it wasn’t thirty minutes later, after our chain was all dumped and Phillip and I found ourselves focused in on our bobstay project that we, too, heard that familiar rattle.  Buried down in the anchor chain locker, my wrench holding the nuts on the backs of the bolts Phillip was removing outside at the waterline on the bow, I could hear it through the thick hull of our boat,

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and I hollered through it to Phillip:  “Who’s that?”

Funny I should say that at the yard, I know.  It’s not like boats are meandering and moving around like they do in an anchorage, but it was my natural response.  I wanted to know who was dropping anchor next to us.  “It’s Mike!” Phillip hollered through to me in the anchor locker.  Turns out our inclination to drop our chain out inspired him to do the same to give her a look-see.  Like I said, might as well if you can’t go sailing.  When Phillip pulled the last bolt on our bobstay and I could finally come topside to see the goings-on at the “anchorage,” we all had a good laugh about it because it was kind of funny to see two boats, our Niagara 35 and Mike’s Tartan 37, both up on the hard, with both of our hooks dropped as if we would be mooring there for a while.  

I shouted over to Mike: “Nice anchorage, huh?  Not too rolly!”  

He laughed and said, “Yeah, well protected.  You guys ought to come over and join us for cocktails later.  We can watch the sunset from our cockpit.”  

And it was true.  We could.  Since we hauled the boat out in December, Phillip and I have taken in many-a-sunset from our cockpit, which faces south, southwest right now and offers us a nice view of the sunset over Bayou Chico just over our port stern.  It’s been a funny feeling thinking all of us here at the yard aren’t really on anchor here, enjoying a peaceful pristine mooring─far from it actually with all of the dust, daily grinding and the not-so-romantic atmosphere at the shipyard─but we are still “boat neighbors” for the time being.  We met Mike here at the yard when our poor little wounded boat was hauled out and set up on jacks near him at the yard.  I didn’t meet him until a couple of weeks later but when I looked back at our haul-out footage in preparation for making the haul-out video for you all, I saw him standing in his cockpit, a drink in hand, his wife Sherry by his side, and they pointed at our boat as we were brought in.  Just like he probably would if we were on the hook.  Hey, Sherry, check out our new neighbor.

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And, Phillip and I have been overwhelmingly surprised to find the same kind of camaraderie at the shipyard as we have always found on anchor.  All of the boat owners nearby will share their projects with you, their tools, stories of their setbacks and their latest hardware headache.  Mike quickly became a good friend and by taking up the guys at shipyard’s offer to poke a little fun at us while our mast was residing at the yard alone, he also became known as the “Resident Bee Expert.”  It takes a little explaining when we introduce him for the first time to other boat owners who come and go at the yard, but we like the title for him, so the name stays.  

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We also were pleased when we heard Bob aboard s/v Partager would soon be joining us at the yard.  We had met him before and been aboard his boat during our trip to the Keys in 2014, but Bob impressed us even further as a “shipyard neighbor” by bringing us every few days fresh copies of SouthWinds magazine, Cruising Outpost or whatever other sailing rag he had picked up at the marina office.  He was actually the first one to see the write-up Steve Moore did of my Salt of a Sailor book in the last SouthWinds issue and he made a special trip to the yard to bring me a copy and congratulate me.  Bob has also been very helpful in offering us tools to use, spare products as well as his advice and opinions on certain projects we have been undertaking.  And, as you know, he was generous enough to allow me to film a tour of his boat while on the hard.  

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Our friend, Russ, is here, too, next to us at the yard, aboard his 1963 Pearson Rhodes 41.  He’s been the Perdido Sailor employee who has teased us the most as lawyers soon-to-be live-aboards but also pushed us the most to conquer projects we thought might be a little out of our capabilities and he helped us build our rotten stringers back good as new.  

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Although Phillip and I are beyond eager to splash and begin meeting folks as we had before, back on anchor─our boat gently rocking on the water, that light lapping sound of little waves kissing her hull and our icy glasses clinking in front of a brilliant magenta sunset over the stern─we have been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and camaraderie at our current “anchorage.”  It is mighty strange to think we will miss these hard times on the hard.  But, I can already tell, there are certain aspects of it─the people, the projects, the friendships daily formed and fortified─that we will look back on fondly as we reminisce about our winter at the yard.

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Only $48?  That’s great!  Just a teeny bit more to go.  Get inspired.  Get on board!

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