Life on “The Hard” is a hard life!

Blocked and on the hard before new paint job.

Ocean Song was hauled out at Clarke’s Court Boatyard (CC) on August 5th. As mentioned previously hauling out is stressful, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Our haul out was uneventful, just the way we like it. Once hauled it was into the yard, tucked in with many other boats. During the haul out we were planning to barrier coat and paint Ocean Song’s bottom (the portion of the hulls that are below the water line) and have all our engines and sail drives serviced. We also took our sails down to have them taken to a sail loft to be restitched and cleaned. The engine servicing is a big deal. Even though we are a sailboat, Ocean Song has three diesel engines: 2 – 57HP Yanmars for propulsion and a 13.5 Kw generator. We also have two sail drives which are the transmissions for the Yanmars. The sail drives transfer the horizonal rotation of our engines’ drive shafts and transmits it down at a 90-degree angle, then turns it another 90 degrees toward the stern of the boat. All the while, the sail drives also allow the props to shift from forward to reverse and vice-versa.

After new bottom paint.

A local Grenadian, Elroy Edmonds, had come highly recommended as a good person to paint the bottom of the boat. Initially, Linda and I had planned to do the work, but at the price Elroy quoted us that thought was soon forgotten. Elroy did a very, very good job. In fact, we were so happy with his work that we took Elroy and his girlfriend out for dinner as a “thank you”. Bottom painting is quite a science. The type of paint used depends on where the boat is located, how “mobile” the boat is, and what the previous bottom paint was. For example, if you don’t plan to travel very far ablative paint (which is formulated to slowly slough off) is often recommended. On the other hand, if the boat is on the move, hard paint is often recommended. Ablative paint can’t be painted directly over hard paint and hard paint can’t be painted directly over ablative paint – if one wants it to last. The best practice is to clean and sand the bottom, then put down a barrier coat. With a proper barrier coat in place virtually any paint can be painted over the previous paint job. Elroy put down a good barrier coat and we went with hard bottom paint, which is the type of bottom paint Ocean Song already had. Bottom paint is expensive, almost $500 US per gallon, so you want it done right!

Prop before treatment.

After prop treatment

Then there’s the “prop treatment”, a fancy term for prepping and painting the props and a small portion of the sail drives. Again, there’s a lot of science and chemistry involved, … and the paint for the props is more expensive than bottom paint, like 5 or 6 times more expensive. There’s a barrier coat, primer, and topcoat. Luckily, it takes less than a quart for both props!

Palm Tree Marine Services did the work on our engines, generator, and sail drives. Palm Tree did a comprehensive “1000-hour service” on both Yanmars and the sail drives. It included having the valves adjusted, now the engines hum! We had an annoying oil leak on the bell housing of our port sail drive that we could never chase down. Palm Tree was able to find the pesky leak and fix it, we hope! The generator was serviced as well so we ticked 5 major “to do’s” off our list. Cruisers not only flock to Grenada because it is below the traditional hurricane belt, but also because virtually every marine service a sailor needs is offered here. Moreover, the marine service industry in Grenada is highly respected and the prices are significantly lower than in the U.S. and most other parts of the Caribbean.
Living “on the hard” is no fun, trust us on that. We spent eight days without the option of running our air conditioners and there is little air movement in the boatyard. It was hot, I mean hot. Jim grew up without air conditioning in North Carolina. It doesn’t compare to living on a boat 8 feet off the ground on jack stands in the Caribbean. It’s a different “hot”, believe us! Going to the bathroom meant climbing down a ladder and walking a few hundred yards to the bathhouse. The same for taking showers. We had one very bad incident happen while in the yard. The boat behind us, a 62-foot Lagoon catamaran owned by a German family, was having its bottom sanded and repainted. The workers failed to put up a proper barrier and we ended up with bottom-paint dust all over Ocean Song. It stained our boat terribly. The contractor was then required to wash and clean our boat which resulted in an extra day in the yard. We were not charged for the extra day because it was the fault of the contractor. Although they did a good job cleaning the boat top to waterline. We had to insist on putting up a proper barrier along the water line to protect our new bottom paint from the harsh soap they were about to use. They initially just put tape around the edge with a lip on it to divert the wash over. I (Linda) insisted on adding plastic sheeting all around to protect the bottom. Then they waxed a portion of the topsides, also at our insistence. The On/OFF detergent that is used to remove the bottom paint dust stains is very harsh on finishes. After all this, we now show dirt and grime on our nonskid much more than before. We will have to divide the deck into sections (about a dozen) and then wash, clean, compound, and polish all the nonskid over the next few weeks to repel the dirt and grime better.
One other minor inconvenience was that once we were relaunched, we had an engine alarm on our starboard engine. It was a “check engine” alarm. The yard workers put us on the service dock and told us we could stay there until we resolved the problem. It was on Saturday and Palm Tree was closed. When Linda called Sim, the owner of Palm Tree, he told us to stay on the service dock and he would have someone check it out on Tuesday (Monday was Emancipation Day – a holiday in Grenada). Jim looked around the engine room and checked the engine but couldn’t locate the problem. There are more than 35 possible causes for a “check engine” alarm on the Yanmar engines. We hoped it was something simple, like the failure to reset a sensor. On Tuesday a technician came out, opened the engine hatch, and immediately said “I see the problem”. A sensor had not been reconnected. We would have never found it.

Once the check engine alarm was sorted out, it was back to our mooring behind the reef outside Benji Bay. It felt like going home, being at anchor or on a mooring is much, much more comfortable than being on the hard. We highly recommend CC to anyone hauling out in Grenada. They have a massive boatlift, The Hulk. Yes, it’s big and green! CC uses divers at haul out to make sure the slings are properly placed (improperly placed slings are the major reason for haul out disasters). The yard workers were very helpful, especially Jose’, who really took care of us. Also, when we had the problem with the other boat’s paint staining Ocean Song, the yard manager went directly to the contractor and told him he HAD to clean our boat. The contractor was a reasonable South African fellow. At one point he did get a little frustrated and came to talk with us in the restaurant at CC. When we disagreed with his cleaning plan, he tried to walk away without acknowledging our opinion as to what needed to be done. One could tell he could be a bit of a bully, but we didn’t let him walk out on us. Jim literally stepped in front of him as he tried to walk away. We made him hear us out. We don’t get bullied easily! In the end, it worked out.

River tubing

Since being out of the boatyard we’ve gone river tubing, gone hashing (running and/or hiking in the mountains with beer and food at the finish), attended part of Grenada’s Carnival (very similar to Mardi Gras), and done small boat projects. Linda will do a separate post about some of these activities.

Carnival costumes modeled!


Our sails are still at the sail loft, so now we’re a motorboat. We also had a strong squall come through Woburn Bay with 49 knot winds (56MPH) and 2-foot waves. Several boats dragged anchor, including one of our neighbors, but there was no damage. When boats drag anchor it’s kind of like a Chinese fire drill with boats. The boats that dragged pull up anchor, circle around the bay for a while, and often end up anchoring back in their original spots. We had no problems on our mooring, it held strong. There’s a tropical wave coming through later today (Saturday, August 19th). We’ll stay onboard to make sure everything on Ocean Song stays secure. Sometimes life on the water can be hard, but it’s nothing like life on the hard – now that’s a hard life!

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