Backyard Boatyard

Previously published in Pacific Yachting issue October 2019

If you have an old boat, chances are there will come a time in life when you will need to give her more TLC than just a week or two in the boat yard. Whether out of necessity for budget, prepping for a longer voyage, or you’re looking for a new way to winterize your boat, creating your very own boatyard in your backyard (or the yard of a willing family member or friend) is a great way to get to know your boat, inside and out. 

Aside from letting your neighbours know so they aren’t shocked by your new lawn ornament, here are some things to consider before pulling your boat high and dry:

Boat Haulers

Unlike a professional boat yard, a travel lift isn’t able to come meet you at your local marina. There are a handful of boat haulers who have a specialized trailer to suit boats up to 50’; and only a few that can accommodate a sailboat with a keel. I’ve learned through experience that boat haulers are in high demand and aren’t always able to fit your schedule. Call well in advance and be prepared to be flexible with the dates that work for you. 

Here is an incomplete list of boat movers along the coast than can accommodate boats up to 40-50’ with a keel:

Parksville: Central Island Boat Movers

Campbell River: Bowline Boat Moving

Victoria/Sooke: Don’s Boat Transport

Delta: Cardinal Boat Movers

Delta: JT Hotshotting

Vancouver: All-Tow Boat Moving

Seattle: Evergreen Boat Transportation

Standing Rigging

Removing your standing rigging is the first stage of prep before the boat mover comes for you. Book the crane at a commercial dock at a tide that works best for your boat’s draft, mast height and the leverage needed. You don’t need to be a professional rigger to do this, but lots of helping hands is necessary for the safety of your boat and self. Create a rope sling to tighten beneath the spreader tangs, take the weight with the crane while one person loosens each fastening at the chainplates. Carefully gather and watch each shroud, stay, and furler so they do not catch on anything, which can cause serious damage. You can either remove your mast fully and store it separately, or, create a cradle system to store it on your boat. 

When splashed back in, the same process is done, but in reverse. A rigging tension tool can be used to ensure you have equal pressure through all your shrouds and stays.

Boat Cribbage

Unlike a professional boatyard, you are responsible for ensuring your boat is safe and stable while high and dry. You may choose to rent or purchase staging blocks, but for those of us DIYers who are budget conscious, spare blocks of wood lying around your shop will suffice when put together well. Create a framing system in advance to ensure that the process of supporting the boat up goes smoothly. Consider renting adjustable boat stands for a few days while you build the permanent cribbage.

Note: If the boat mover arrives and you don’t have sufficient material, he or she has the right to decline parking your boat. 

Engine & Running Gear

Being hauled out is the perfect time to replace intake hoses and thruhulls; inspect your prop shaft, rudder, rudder fastenings and if needed, adjust your engine alignment. Before taking your boat out of the water ideally you want to change your oil so it’s not sitting with any condensation that may have developed over the season of use. If you do not get the chance to do so, you can bribe someone with beer to hold a hose up to your saltwater intake so you can warm your engine up and flush your coolant system with fresh water while you are while you’re high and dry. 

Regardless if you think you have engine alignment issues or not, now is your chance to remove your prop shaft and have a closer look at the wear on your shaft and cutless bearing. By doing a thorough inspection every few years, you can prevent larger problems from occurring. Look for unusual wear patterns and cracking. Repacking your stuffing box is another great job that may not seem like a priority now but may result in avoiding an unexpected haul out in the future!

Fuel and Winterization

If you live in a cold climate, freezing is an issue that you need to prep for. The ocean only changes a few degrees in temperature over the winter months, where as on land, you don’t have the ocean to keep your hull a consistent temperature. Ensure your engine and plumbing systems and are prepared for a cold snap, or at least check them often. A few things to watch for freezing/cracking are: bilge pump, wet exhaust container, and water pump. Running a small heater in the winter months is a good way to avoid some of these critical issues. Laying away with a nearly full fuel tank is a good way to avoid excess condensation. Add a fuel treatment to protect your fuel and ensuring you don’t contaminate your tank with bugs that grow from water. In colder climates, you can run antifreeze through the salt water system, but in the balmy pacific northwest, it may be overkill. 


Rebedding thruhulls may seem like more work than is needed, but often maintenance of high consequence items means spending a lot less money while you’ve already got your boat out of the water. Take the time to inspect each thruhull for cracking sealant, seized seacocks, and rusty hose clamps. Even when not in use, ensure to move the seacock levers every month or so to avoid complete seizing from lack of use.

Bottom Paint

A fresh coat of bottom paint is often what instigates a haul out, but when hauling out long term, bottom paint may be the least of your worries. Regardless, a touch up may be necessary. Your backyard isn’t set up to contain antifouling paint and as we’ve already established, your neighbours probably don’t want to see blue paint running down your driveway into the street. Set up a tarp system below your boat to catch the majority of any paint chipping and sanding for easy clean up.

Other jobs

Other benefits of storing your boat long term at your homemade boatyard, other than a ladder climbing weight loss plan, is the ease of access to your shop. Tackling larger projects such as building a hard dodger, ripping apart your galley, or building a new shelving system often involves a table saw and other tools that are more accessible when you are parked right next to it. Having the right tools and being cut off from distractions like sailing, means doing a more thorough job on these larger projects. 

Lessons Learned

I wouldn’t choose to do a haul-out like this every winter, but while working on some larger projects and prepping for an offshore voyage, my backyard boatyard was an overall success. Here are a few of my main takeaways, I have learned in hindsight:

  1. Be persistent. Boat movers often prioritize commercial boats. Send an email with a photo of your boat, specifications, and then follow up with phone calls to ensure your boat gets added to the list. Our haul-out date ended up being moved by a few days, due to a backlog of vessels he was moving that week.
  2. I kept the standing rigging fittings in a sealed, labeled container. When I splashed back in in the water months later, we were prepared and ready!
  3. I chose to store my mast on deck. I wish I had just gone to the effort to store the mast separately from the beginning, as I ended up having to keep adding more cribbage to get the mast high enough up to build a hard dodger underneath. The mast ended up being a bit of a hindrance. 
  4. One of the largest issues we had, once back in the water was corrosion from lack of use. I should have taken the time to run the engine every month, turn the seacock handles, and occasionally spray an anti-corrosive lubricant. Just because she was out of the water, doesn’t mean the effects of the sea environment are any less.

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