Becoming People of the Sea
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Several options are available for getting your vessel to the location that you choose to live or sail. Of course, if the distance is within reach of the time you have, you can sail it yourself. If you are not 100% confident and would like to safely become more familiar with your new vessel, you can hire a crew to bring it to your port of choice. Or, if you want to save some cash for gear, and move aboard in your new place quickly, you can ship your ship via truck, which is the option we chose.

Once we concluded this was our best method of transport, my project management background took over. I developed a list of tasks and sub-tasks for taking the ship from sitting in a yard with a For Sale sign, to cruising to your port with a foresail on.

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Survey - Do NOT invest your money or your life in a vessel without first having it inspected by a reputable surveyor. Besides - you will need the final survey for boat insurance.

Find out what your surveyor will provide, check references, and follow him throughout the inspection to learn about the boat's systems. If your boat is in the water, be sure to have it hauled out for the survey, so every square inch is inspected. You'll most likely have to pay for the haul out and launch, but don't worry - you're going to be doing that quite a bit in the future.

The surveyor will find things wrong - that is his job. Assess what you can afford to take on and fix, or walk away. There is no such thing as 'just a little deck rot'. The survey's List of Findings will be your first list of boat projects.

  • Interview Surveyor
  • Call References
  • Schedule Survey
  • Attend Survey
  • Obtain Documentation
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Sea Trial - Hulls, keels and sail plans are designed in all different shapes and sizes for a reason - and every vessel sails a little differently. You should always take your potential boat out for a test drive to see if you are comfortable with how she handles. Ok - if your boat was in the water I just told you to take it out of the water for the survey and now I'm telling you to put it back in the water! But how embarrassing would it be to find a major leak before the ink on the check was dry?

Even if it is not required by the seller, it is a good idea to hire a certified captain for your sea trial. He carries insurance should anything occur that causes expensive damage to the boat before you own it. A captain who has handled many different models might also be able to provide you with some helpful information about how to handle your boat.

Dock space is at a premium and expensive in many places. If the boat was up on stands before the sea trial, you will most likely have to put it back there. Stick around for each launch and haul out to be sure no damage is done in the process.

  • Schedule Captain
  • Schedule Launch for Sea Trial
  • Sea Trial
  • Schedule Haul Out
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Trucking - There are lots of companies out there who deal with shipping a ship as a specialty - pick one of these. It takes a special bed to haul a sailboat, so not every trucking company is equipped for the job.

Get quotes, referrals, and find out all you can about the company.  Once you purchase your vessel - it becomes very special to you and you need to be sure it will be safe and well taken care of.

Before your ship is loaded onto the truck, make sure you have a valid copy of the trucker's MTC liability insurance in hand, and verify it will cover the value of your vessel. Make sure you understand all the fees on your contract as well. Some trucking companies will charge you an hourly rate if it takes more than a certain amount of time to load or unload your vessel - so scheduling and timing is critical.

  • Request Quotes
  • Research Trucking Company
  • Obtain copy of Trucker's Insurance & Quote
  • Hire & Schedule Truck

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Mast Removal - If your boat is big enough to need a truck, the mast is too big for you to take down yourself. You will need to hire a crane. The shipyard may have the capability to do this, or will do the hiring and scheduling for you if they don't. Then all you do is the paying. But make sure it is not overlooked, and schedule it so it occurs on the day of shipping. That way the ship yard won't charge you for storage, and if timed right, the crane can just load the mast onto the truck.

I have to smile to myself about this one. My father, a very intelligent engineer, volunteered to assist us in dismantling and prepping the boat for shipping. I kept him well informed of the project schedule, updating him frequently as the shipping day grew nearer. When I mentioned scheduling the crane, he responded "What do you need a crane for?"Once I explained, my mom confessed that dad had been losing sleep over calculating and designing ways for Don and him to bring down the mast safely. I had to laugh, but knowing my father, in time he probably would have come up with some viable scheme.

Now - before the mast is removed, there will probably be some wires and such that need to be disconnected. Again, your ship yard should be able to help you with taking care of this - if you are at all skittish about climbing a 50' stick. P.S. You will have to get over that skittishness eventually.

  • Schedule Crane
  • Remove Mast
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Dismantling - Your trucker will provide you with information about the height of the bed, and the maximum height of the load. I believe we had to get the boat's overall height to 13' 3" as the truck bed was 9" from the road. This will mean removing most everything on the deck for a blue water cruiser with a very deep keel. Most things on a well made ship are made to somehow stay on deck in stormy weather, and yet come-off for repair and maintenance. We were very impressed with the ease engineered into dismantling gear on the Hans Christian.

You should be able to store what was removed from the top of the boat - inside the boat. It is the safest place for it to travel. Now get out the duct tape. Cover holes left open by removed deck hardware. Tape up toggle bolts, T-bolts, anything that can work its way free. Wrap the mast with heavy plastic to protect it from road debris. Tape the wires down so they don't chafe. Finally, lock your boat up, and cover the hull with dish soap. This will make it easier to clean the road grime off when it arrives in its new port.

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  • Remove Stanchions, Boom Gallows, Bow and Stern rails, anything sticking up higher than 13' from the bottom of the keel.
  • Prep the boat for shipping.

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Shipping - Depending on your trucker's rig - you may need a fork lift to load the boat onto the truck bed. Again, the ship yard should be able to help with this. All you have to do is get out the checkbook - again.

Verify your truck arrival time, and be there for the loading to make sure no damage is done. It is really quite a site to see. Once everything is secured on the truck, there is nothing to do but wait until it arrives at the new destination. Be sure to have your trucking company provide you with updates along the way - so you will know if everything is on schedule for the receiving marina.

  • Schedule Fork Lift
  • Pick-up
  • Track Shipment
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Receiving Marina - Not all marinas have the capability to launch a vessel, so if yours doesn't, you will need to find one close by. Be sure to mention the amount of depth you need, the tonnage of the boat, and the amount of clearance your mast will take so you don't get trapped behind a bridge.

Provide the receiving marina with your expected delivery date, and make sure they will be ready to take the boat off the truck as soon as it arrives. If you needed a fork life to load the boat - you will need one to take it off as well.

  • Schedule Delivery w/ Marina
  • Schedule Fork Lift
  • Unload Boat
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Bottom Work - This is your chance to take care of things that you won't normally be able to do - because they are under water. Clean the road grime off the bottom, and paint the hull with good bottom paint. Check and repair any thru-hulls - the controlled holes that bring water in and take water out of the boat.

There may be other things found in the survey that need to be taken care of before the big splash. Make sure you have all your supplies ready - or if you are hiring someone to do the work, make sure they are scheduled. The receiving marina may provide you with assistance in this, or may require you to use them to do the work if you are not doing it yourself. You didn't put that checkbook away did you?

  • Clean off Road Grime
  • Paint Bottom
  • Thru-Hull Repair

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Mast Stepping - Deja Vu! Basically do the reverse of task 4, and hope that all your toggle bolts are still in one piece, and the wires you cut are long enough to reconnect. We believed ourselves fortunate that the previous owner had marked the radar dome's electrical block with the first letter of the color of each of the 20 some-odd wires.  Unfortunately, there was nothing to distinguish blue, from black, from brown.  And we weren't sure if 'G' was for green, gray, or ground.  We ended up chucking the whole thing into the trash - technology had advanced far beyond this unit's capabilities anyway.

You might decide to hire someone to 'Tune the Rig' once the mast is put back on. Basically, this is someone skilled in tightening all the cables that come from the top of the mast down to the ship. The tuning will make sure that the correct forces are placed on your rigging, and will rake, or bow your mast so that your ship sails properly. A tuner will also check your cables and the connections to make sure they are in good shape. Few things are scarier on a sailboat than seeing that big stick snap and fall.

  • Schedule Crane
  • Put the Mast Back on
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Launching - Now that you have gotten her bottom all beautiful, it's time to show it to the ocean floor! I know we haven't talked about putting her deck gear back on, but some of that can be easier done from the side of a dock then from a 7' ladder. You be the judge.
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  • Schedule Launch
  • Hope She Floats
  • Write a Big Fat Check

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Re-Assembly - Time to reattach everything that you took off. You'll be caulking and bolting and cleaning off duct tape glue for a bit. And you'll probably discover the magnetic attraction the ocean has for fasteners and tools - so have spares on hand. To this day when I purchase screws, I always get extras for paying alms to the sea. It won't take long to have your shipped ship ship-shape again. And before you know it, you are part of the tribe of Live-Aboards.
  • Attach the Stanchions, Boom Gallows, Bow and Stern rails, anything taken off to get the boat under bridges.
All of these steps may seem a bit overwhelming and I'll admit both Don and I lost a lot of sleep over the weeks we were preparing for our own experience. Don lost sleep mostly because I would wake with a start and shriek "WE FORGOT TO SCHEDULE A …".

But our experience with the ship yards, marinas and everyone else involved with the services we needed was wonderful. Family members helped with the disassembly and reassembly of the deck gear, and the whole process gave us a jump start on getting comfortable with our new home.

The bottom line was that financially we came out ahead with regard to shipping verses hiring a crew. Although it may have been less labor (no assembly required), a crew is paid wages and expenses for every hour from departure to delivery. We were in hurricane season, and I'm certain there would have been more than a few days that crew would have been waiting out bad weather in a port.

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Copyright © 2013 Diana E Reynolds - SV Re Metau.  All rights reserved.

"Men in a ship are always looking up, and men ashore are usually looking down." ~ John Masefield