Shudder (verb) to tremble convulsively, typically as a result of fear or revulsion. There are three words that can prompt an involuntary shudder in a trawler owner. Sinking. Fire. Haul-out. Yes, indeed, the dreaded haul-out. There is something terribly wrong about a 144,000 pound boat moving in a travel lift, hanging over concrete. We hate it. Seeing our girl out of the water creates all the feels – and not the good ones either. Shudder.
This past spring, we began to contemplate our haul-out plans. We were shopping for insurance – another word that is a serious contender for the shudder response top three. Several of the underwriters providing quotes noted that they would likely require a new survey as our existing survey was from June, 2016. An insurance survey of course requires a haul-out. Double shudder. Hmm. Kevin began to do some algebra and flow chart creation. If this, then that. X+Y=Z. Z-R/S=Q. It was complex. Steam came out of his ears. But in the end, he had an answer (aided by an insurance solution that would accept our 5-year-old survey just under the wire). We would haul-out in La Cruz in the fall and hit the timing (slightly early) for our 6-year stabilizer service, do an insurance survey before the next annual circus of policy procurement began, and complete the bottom paint/maintenance at the same time. Ding, ding! We have a winner!
So here we are in La Cruz, and we just spent some quality time in the shipyard. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is in the Bay of Banderas, just northwest of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s a fabulous, friendly small town that also happens to be a cruiser hangout and the jumping off point for boats doing the Pacific Puddle Jump from Mexico to the South Pacific. In other words, you can always find a cool person doing interesting things to chat with.
As we haven’t written a blog post about boat projects things in awhile, we thought it might be fun to do a little story on Life in the Yard, aka The Dirty Sweaty. So here it goes!
We arrived in the Bay of Banderas in late October, just as Hurricane Rick was thinking about maybe coming up to pay us a visit. As such, we changed our coastal cruising plan from Mazatlan to the Bay and headed straight to Paradise Village, a well-known hurricane hole. Paradise Village is a nice marina attached to a resort with pools, a spa, restaurants, and best of all our friends Pat and Alexa on N50 MV Noeta who call PV their summer home. Tacos were eaten, pools were tested, the crocodile slide got a good run (I couldn’t leave without doing that!) and the dogs ran on the long, long beach.
After a harrowing 6 nm trip across the Bay to La Cruz (seriously joking here), we began to prep for the yard in earnest. The first step was to go immediately to Tacos on the Street to eat prime rib tacos. I mean, priorities people! We then participated in the building of an ofrenda for Dia de Los Muertos, handed out candy to local kids on Halloween, checked into our Airbnb and started to pull out all of the tools, paint, seal kits, and materials that we brought with us for the haul-out. In June we drove from Loreto to the US to not only visit Kevin’s company, friends and family, but also to prepare for the haul-out. We have a very specific bottom paint that we are using, and we wanted to continue to use it. Seahawk Bio-cop is a hard ablative bottom paint that is great for tropical conditions. We’ve been really pleased with the performance to date, plus bottom paint is more expensive here in Mexico as it is generally imported and therefore subject to import fees. We also brought along Prop Glide which we applied to the main and wing engine props as well as the 6-year service kit for our stabilizers, and all of the tools to do this service.
Our good dogs Bean and Rio were included on the ofrenda. I hope their spirits came to visit Zoe and Max.
One of the projects we wanted to accomplish during our time out of the water was to pull the keel cooler off and have it completely cleaned and flushed, inside and out. This was a challenge as we’d heard from other owners that no one in the PV area had a tank big enough to manage the keel cooler. Well, we never met a challenge we didn’t enjoy finding a solution for! Kevin posted on a Puerto Vallarta area Facebook group and asked about radiator shops. Within an hour we had some direction, and in our rented car we set off to inquire about a keel cooler flush. GoogleMaps helped us find the shop and the two of us stepped out to have a Google Translate assisted conversation with the radiator shop owner who did not speak any English. But this is Mexico, and he wanted to help us and he appreciated that we were trying. We left after he agreed that he could likely do the work and that we would have our project manager Peter call him to have a more specific conversation beyond our language skills. Wala! Keel cooler flush solution!
On November 1, we left the dogs with new bones in the Airbnb and met Pat at Red Rover for a quick cruise around the dock to the yard. Marina Riviera Nayarit (more commonly just called La Cruz) operates both the marina and the yard, so it is pretty easy to coordinate coming in and out. That said, here in the Bay of Banderas, you hire the yard to pull you out of the water, pressure wash the bottom, put the boat in the stands and then put you back in the water. You hire a project manager and his/her team separately to do any work on the boat, including bottom paint. We had heard many positive reviews of Peter (Pedro) Vargas and his team from other Nordhavn owners, and as such hired him to do some of our work. He was also happy to support us as we did our own projects, lending some muscle or recommendations when needed. A very good experience and we too would recommend Peter to anyone hauling out here in La Cruz.
For the first few days, things went really smoothly. Peter’s team got right to work prepping the bottom for paint and the props for Prop Glide, we removed the keel cooler and it was taken to be cleaned and flushed, we re-painted the footage markers on the anchor chain and we pulled the stabilizers. Ah, the stabilizers. Everything seemed to go pretty well removing the fins except that on the starboard side, the pin and nut that are the attachment to the stainless bar holding the fin onto the bar came out together rather than separately. We didn’t think much of it at the time, as Kevin thought a little heat might loosen the bond and we could take the two pieces apart later.
So we moved right along, replacing the exterior seals on both fins, which went swimmingly. The next morning we tried to loosen the pin and the nut once more. No luck. Hmm. Well, we’d try some more things later.
Time to move onto the interior seals before the sun was high in the sky! Afterall, there isn’t any AC on the boat when it is out of the water and it was HOT. And dirty. And sweaty. The interior seals require some really exciting boat yoga skills, which Kevin has honed to perfection over the years. Add the 90+ degree temps and it was Hot Boat Yoga! I reminded him that some people actually pay for the privilege, and he should feel quite fortunate twisting his body into new weird positions in the hot, humid, airless laundry area outside of the engine room. He didn’t love my humor. So strange. The hot boat yoga for the port fin was a little too much fun for Kevin, and he declared that we would need to dismantle my very stocked pantry as a result. I am pretty sure this was payback for the hot yoga commentary. Everything came out and up into the galley and the pantry vanished, providing clear and easy access to the stabilizer. Wala!
Our standadyne collection needed to move for boat yoga to commence.
With the interior seals changed and the midori sensor reset back to zero (the sensor tells the system when the fins are level), we turned our attention back to the pesky pin and nut. It just wasn’t moving. A call to the ever-awesome folks at ABT-TRAC who manufacture and provide excellent support for our stabilizers revealed what we really didn’t want to hear. We needed a new pin and nut. One of the truly admirable things about ABT-TRAC is that they build ALL of the parts for their systems as they want to ensure the highest quality possible. When we went to their owner’s training and toured their facility this absolutely impressed and amazed us. But now, we needed this part and we were in Mexico. Hmm. Time to put our problem-solving hats back on! Kevin looked at me with a gleam in his eye. Uh oh. I was going on a mule run and I knew it. We madly began looking for flights leaving within the next few hours, texting Pat and Alexa for intel, calling ABT-TRAC about part procurement and generally acting like crazy people sitting at a computer in a boat yard. Within about an hour and a half we had a plan. The original plan involved me flying to Seattle within the next few hours, renting a car, sneaking into my friends Jim & Jim’s home late at night to sleep, driving to Arlington, WA to pick up a new pin and nut and then flying a red-eye to Chicago, transferring to a plane to Puerto Vallarta and arriving back at the yard with the pin and nut in time to slap the stabilizer back on and launch the boat back into the water.
An important side note to this story is that the boat was scheduled to “splash” back in the water on Saturday morning. Or maybe even Friday. The Airbnb was not available after Sunday. It was now Thursday late in the morning. The race was on!
After many phone calls, texts and emails we had a plan (let’s call this Plan A). I would thankfully NOT be hanging out an a red-eye to Chicago (where I would without question freeze to death), but rather I would be flying on Friday to Tijuana on the Mexican airline, Volaris. I would then use the CBX (cross-border express) option and walk into the United States, rent a car on the US side and drive to our friends and fellow Nordhavn owners (N68 Dragon) John and Erin’s house. In the meantime, the incredible Steve Ring at ABT-TRAC would “red label” overnight the replacement pin and nut to San Diego to the Ellis household. I would pick up the parts, have a great dinner with Erin and enjoy 12 or so hours in sunny and not as hot Southern California. At 4 am I’d walk back across CBX into Mexico, board a plane to Puerto Vallarta and land by 10 am on Saturday with parts in hand. We would make our launch time and everything would work out. But this is a boat. In Mexico. And things just can’t be that easy. Nope. Not at all.
I mean, the trip worked just fine. Alexa kindly drove me to the airport. I got to stop at my favorite fashion store, the flagship West Marine by Shelter Island in San Diego to pick up some new Pelagic shorts. I had an awesome dinner and a fun time with Erin, who also hosted me for the evening (and somehow I didn’t take a photo???) We missed John as he was out-of-town! At some point during the evening, I had an odd text from Kevin asking if I was still at dinner. I asked if everything was ok… he replied, “TBD.” Never a good sign. I picked up the phone. Unfortunately, when Kevin went to put the stabilizer with the good pin and nut back on, the process was a little rushed (the fins are heavy) and with Peter’s team trying to keep the fin up and in place as Kevin put the hardware back on, the pin and nut became stuck on that side. ARGH! But he and Alexa (MV Noeta, now back at their winter moorage at La Cruz), had a plan. Alexa, who speaks fluent Spanish, would drive Kevin to a Peter-recommended machine shop in Puerto Vallarta in the morning. They would see if the machine shop could separate the pin and nut and do any necessary repairs to the threads AND they would pick me up at the airport.
I spent my flight wondering what was happening, and hoping I’d land to great news. Despite their valiant attempts, it was not to be. The pin and nut were galled. Just like the other one. Note to anyone who might be considering doing their stabilizer service: order two pins and nuts. Just to be sure. Alexa and Kevin picked me up at the airport and we tried one more machine shop, but sad apologetic head shaking resulted. Feeling a little defeated, tired and deflated, we went back to our rapidly expiring Airbnb to hatch a new plan.
Sunday dawned and we began to execute Plan B. Kevin went to the yard to meet the surveyor, David Wheeler, who had been planning to do the second half of his work with the boat in the water, but as he too is a flexible guy, he was willing to get started with the boat still on the hard. In the meantime, the dogs and I moved us up to our new Airbnb, located up on a steep hill above town. The views are amazing from up there, but our proximity to the shipyard was gone. Ah well, the upside was that there were three pools to test out!
But what about the new parts? Never fear, Alexa, our incredible amiga and stupendous solution finder, had yet another idea. This woman is simply amazing. And I sure am glad that she is not only a part of our Nordhavn family, but that she is our friend. Alexa’s sister was coming for a visit within days. And she was willing to be our parts mule. Hallelujah! Steve Ring, the super-duper parts manager at ABT-TRAC arrived in his office Monday morning to yet another request from Red Rover. And once again he made things happen. This time two sets of pins and bolts made their way to Boise and landed at Alexa’s sister Leslie’s house to be brought carefully in carry-on luggage to us here in La Cruz.
On Wednesday morning we carefully installed the first fin, using the pin and bolt that I had schlepped from San Diego. Success! Giant sigh of relief. And later that day, on Wednesday afternoon, Team Noeta arrived from the airport with our two new pins and bolts. THANK YOU to Leslie, Pat and once more to Amazing Alexa! Within 20 minutes we had the second fin on, and we were ready for our new launch time at 11:30 the next morning.
Thursday brought another beautiful day, a move out of the Airbnb, breakfast out at the La Cruz Inn and some dog sitting by the Jack Shanafelt (N50 MV Noeta Resident Cool Boat Kid) and his friend Wyatt, another super great boat kid. At 11:30 am, the boat was in the slings, paint was being applied to the stand locations and we were psyched! This was happening!
After a flawless launch, we made our way back to our slip, tied the boat up, turned the A/C on, greeted the doggos and as with any long passage, celebrated with a margarita. We were home. AHHHH!
Sitting here reflecting on the experience, we are once more amazed by our Nordhavn people. Without hesitation, our Nordie family is always there to help, whether a trusted supplier, a friend, owner and fellow cruiser or a NOG (Nordhavn Owner’s Group) expert who lends advice. It is an incredible community that we are so thankful to be a part of. Time once more for us to pay it forward. Thank you to everyone who helped us. We appreciate you all!