Endeavour on the Hard (Part One - How does this all work??!?)
Updated: Jun 3
You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her colleagues got the spa treatment before they set off to meet the wizard? That's a bit what it feels like being hauled out in the shipyard, without the luxury and pampering (or the poppy fields and flying monkeys). We'll be traveling extensively for the next year or two, and some of that time will include the Endeavour's first ocean crossing. It makes sense to get it out of the water so we can poke and prod, find material or system weaknesses, and then set them right. Being in the middle of the ocean is not a great time to problem solve these issues (although Bill is a master at having multiple back up plans at hand).
One of the most critical parts of the boat to examine and treat is the hull itself and in fact the bulk of the month we're up on jack stands will be in the service of the interior and exterior hull. The Endeavour was built in 1954 out of 1/4 inch corten or weathering steel. The alloy is thus named to reference its highlighted properties - to resist corrosion (cor) and offer superior tensile strength (ten). Steel hulls are also fireproof and can cut through ice or withstand grinding over a reef. Corten steel was also developed to eliminate the need for painting, but that was before 2-part epoxy solutions were developed. Epoxy followed by a good anti-fouling paint is a great compliment to great steel. While work on the hull would comprise the bulk of our work, there were other issues we wanted to investigate and then address. We knew our septic or black water tank, after 40 + years, had begun to rust through and that's not something you want to ignore. We also needed to attend to our bilge. While corten steel is superior in strength, standing water and oxygen are its real nemesis, able to create corroding rust that can bore straight through if not tended to regularly. We also had pipes to replace, redundant systems to pare down, new navigation equipment to install, anodes to weld, and a host of other tasks that would only become clear when we had her pulled apart a bit.
We've always hauled out in Port Townsend, WA at the Port of PT Boat Haven. I'm sure there are many reasons to haul out here, but we love the shipyard, the people who work it, and the amenities that make it all doable. The Endeavour is our only home, and we opt to live on her while she's hauled out. We need to be able to stay clean (both our selves and our clothes), shop for groceries as well as the ship supplies we'll need and also keep a perky dog engaged. While we do most of the work ourselves, we also need access to the professionals who will be doing the work we can't - like welding the hull plates that need replacing and fabricating a new black water tank. All of that is within reach here with the added benefit of it being one of the most lovely historic towns in western Washington.
We arrived the evening before we were scheduled to be hauled out and there was a spot in the marina for us, just adjacent to the haul out channel we would be using the next day. The various lifts pick up and drop off boats from these narrow channels with room for the lift's wheels on either side. Once the lift is in place, its straps are lowered into the water and the boat waiting to be hauled out slowly motors into the channel, on top of those lowered straps. The straps are then slowly cinched and the boat is lifted out of the water and taken to the staging area where it's power washed. While that is happening, two other crew members are setting up the boat's dry slip with tarp, the concrete and wood blocks the keel perches on, a series of chained jack stands, and a bilge water tank so we can still use our sinks and showers. Depending on how much gunk you've got on your hull, this whole process takes about two hours with seven people: three working the lift, two power washing, and two setting up the tarp and supports. On a busy day, I've watched the 300-ton marine lift take out as many as four boats and return to water an equal number. A smaller 75-ton lift will take out and put back in a slightly higher number. It's a busy place and they've all been working with half the staff they normally do in non-pandemic times.
While some boats order a rolling stair, the yard was short on them and we had to make due with a ladder at the stern's swim step. This takes some getting used to, especially when you're bringing a dog, laundry, or groceries up. The ladder is secured, but still...gulp. After two weeks, we switched over to a port side ladder so we could remove and refurbish the bumper off the swim step and get the step itself painted with epoxy. As a bonus, our glutes and quads are getting great daily workouts.
During the month that we've been hauled out, we've had a rotating collection of boats as neighbors, most of them steel fishing boats getting ready for their Alaskan fishing season. Many of the professionals float from boat to boat, as our welder did. Ray welded a replacement plate on our hull two years ago. He was so heavily booked this year, he agreed to fit us in after his 10 hour days over the course of two weeks.
Bella had a crush on Ray's dog, Dusty, who also fancied her. Since Bella is no Rapunzel, Dusty would make like Romeo and climb our ladder to come visit her (and eat all her food and drink all her water - not quite the behavior we like in a gentleman caller, but who are we to judge?) and while his skill climbing a ladder was remarkable, he couldn't climb back down and instead needed a human to carry him down piggy back. There will be no stealth elopements, thank goodness!
The shipyard is typically filled with what eventually becomes a predictable array of remarkable sounds: rattle guns, steel saws, welding, grinding, as well as the drone of the travel and fork lifts. In addition to the sounds are a series of stories about every boat and every mariner. The large fishing boats are often run by families and when it's time to haul out, it's a family affair. The work is hard, the hours are grueling, but everyone has a job and they generally just get on with it.
There's a small industrial park near Boat Haven (or rather within it) and the businesses here are all in the service of the marine industry. Most are considered essential services and are open for those of us needing the endless supply of hardware, pipe, paint, and tools. These, by necessity, are within walking distance as many of us came by water and have no cars. So too are the businesses that take care of our personal needs, like the laundromat and the grocery store. We have a low slung wagon with a long handle that's super helpful for hauling both what we procure and that which we need to dispose. Cafes, bars, and breweries (even a martial arts dojo) are some of the businesses that have been shuttered during the pandemic, but some are starting just now to re-open at 50% occupancy.
Coming up, we'll give a full report of everything that needed doing - prepare to geek out!