It’s taken more than a week of ticking tasks off of “the list” to prepare Cetacean for this last trip this season.

it takes a lot to pull 24,000 lbs

Cetacean pulled from the water

Our insurance company insists: the boat must remain above 27 degrees north latitude during hurricane season.

In  San Carlos, Sonora, on mainland Mexico, there is a company that specializes in storing boats safely on the “hard,” i.e., dry ground for hurricane season. It happens to be located at 50 minutes of latitude above the magic 27 degrees, by  just a few miles. Funny coincidence.


hurricane tracks from 1980

hurricane tracks from 1980


We made arrangements to stay at the Marina San Carlos (27.9 degrees), a real, water-type marina to get ready. Our dock was about 300 feet from the place Cetacean was to be hauled.

Once you get there, the marina office personnel hand you a list of tasks to prepare the boat for the “hard,” essentially “dry dock,” or less ceremoniously, a place in the desert where your boat sits on large stands alongside 200 other boats in a huge multi-acre fenced yard.

The list of tasks looks simple enough but as we wander the docks, talking to others frantically working to prepare their own boats, it seems everyone has their own take on “the list.”  Some people in the marina have prepared their boats before. This is a disadvantage.

Their lists are really long. Over the years, they have added tasks, probably every year.  It’s hard to disprove the usefulness of  tasks. If, for example, a task was to put a bucket of water in the cabin to keep the wood from shrinking and the wood didn’t shrink, it must have worked, right? If a task was to hang garlic from the mast to keep vampires from coming on board, it must have worked if we return and don’t find any vampires. So peoples’ lists keep growing.

They all seem like good ideas so eventually our own list grows in size to fill a moderately-sized hard disk.

We’ve entered “the list” into Excel so it can be amended with columns for who owns the task, its priority, how long it will take, what day it’s  to be completed, where it’s going to be done – i.e. in the water or on the hard – and if there are any predecessors: should it be done under a full moon,does it deserve an ice cream for it’s completion, etc. As an R&D engineer, I’ve seen entire product research and design cycles with less organization.

Unfortunately we have one week before our scheduled haul out and it’s hotter than blazes, making work problematic. Sweating like police detainees, we drink gallons of water each day. Our sweet dispositions are reminiscent of Salvador Dali paintings. Everything is melting.

First on the list is to clear the decks of everything that can be moved. There’s the life raft, the inflatable dinghy, the outboard motor, the inflatable kayak, all the spare gas and diesel cans, sails. Why do we carry all this stuff? The stuff has to go someplace so they go  down into our living space. It’s time to move.

We move into an nearby, air conditioned apartment, for $29/day. Nothing fancy, but it has a kitchen and it’s clean.

We need to protect the boat, her teak, her ropes, lines, and halyards from the Sonoran sun. Damn, its seems like our ropes, lines, halyards, and sheets have been sitting in the sun doing their job for 30 years. I wonder why four months more will matter? But it’s on the list!

The engine needs to be conditioned, the watermaker pickled.

We’ve disconnected all our antennas, wrapped all our portable electronics in aluminum foil and put them in our oven and microwave, a Faraday Cage for lightening protection. They look like dinner. Hope I don’t forget to remove them in September before our first meal. Yum, roasted VHF.

We put aluminum foil over all windows. You don’t want all the bugs trapped in the boat  to see what they are missing on the outside. If it were just glass I’d be like a jail on visit day. You can just see the little cockroaches on the outside with their little antennae up against the screen asking dad when he is going to get out.  Dad doesn’t know because no one told him about the schedule. He thinks it’s a life sentence, only we all know that cockroaches will be the last creatures living in the post nuclear apocalyptic era so there is little chance that a few months of confinement will matter much in his longevity.

What he doesn’t know is there is another force working against him. Judy has been collecting shells from the area to use as dinner plates for an enticing mixture of coffee creamer and boric acid powder.

These small roach tapas contain a deadly, but enticing dinner, left strategically  around the boat. Especially since  every crumb, grain or morsel of food has been swept, vacuumed or otherwise removed from the boat and every cabinet, every corner cleaned as if this were a ultra-orthodox Jewish home on the eve of Passover, the creamed-boric acid tapa will be all the more desirable.

We’ve been filling every conceivable hole in the boat so no bugs can get in. Using aluminum foil, curled up scrubby pads and other temporary sealants, we push, stuff, cram, fill every conceivable hole. No bugs allowed aboard this boat.

Then there is the varnish. Cetacean has a lot of teak aboard. A few months ago we were varnishing the teak to make it look pretty. In the PNW we add varnish every one or two years. Here in Mexico a layer of varnish seems to vanish in about an hour of full sun. To minimize the sun problem we’ve brought with us full teak Sunbrella covers and Judy has made covers for our dorade boxes (and written an article about them). The teak should be protected but it’s still a PITA. One of these days we are coming back from the hardware store with a couple gallons of white paint.

On haul-out day, you motor your boat over to what looks like an ordinary boat ramp.. The Company has a large rubber tired tractor to pull our little 24,000 pound boat.  Attached to the tractor is a boat trailer. No ordinary trailer, this one is slid below our boat and then hydraulic arms are swiveled up by remote control to lift the boat  far enough out of the water so the tractor can start backing out, and keep our keel from hitting the ground.

Tits of the Goat Rock in the background as Cetacean is pushed toward the "hard"

Tits of the Goat Rock in the background as Cetacean is pushed toward the “hard”

As the boat is hauled we can see marine life that  has managed to call our boat home for the last year. I feel like the food kitchen in the homeless section of town. We have barnacles, and snails, and moss and seaweed living and attached to the underwater portion of our boat. Euell Gibbons would have been proud.

I can’t believe we’ve completed “the list.” It’s done. We only had to call the divorce attorney three times, threaten to never return 10 times.

The boat is now moved to the “hard.” Unfortunately we have to reverse it all in September.