For boat owners, having your vessel serviced at a shipyard is both a scary and fascinating experience. Scary, because you don't know for sure how bad things have gotten below the water line since your last haul out. Even if you're just addressing basic maintenance issues like applying a fresh coat of bottom paint, there are going to be surprises, possibly expensive ones. And it can be a slippery slope of "Well, since she is already out, we might as well..." that can soon challenge even the most carefully-considered budget.
The fascinating part is that the shipyard itself is like a little village, with more than a dozen storefronts of boat service providers encircling the main yard, and highly-specialized workers scattered throughout. It's an outdoor theater of sounds and movement that hosts a gritty ballet of ship-shuffling, measuring, taping, grinding, sawing and painting.
This month we brought our 1987 25-foot Catalina sailboat to Shelter Island Boatyard for a long-overdue coat of bottom paint. We were the smallest boat in the yard that week, and a quick job for them. But for the few days we were here, I was like a kid in a candy store.
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Our boat name came from the "ahhh" of relaxation we associate with Hawaii and the feeling we get from sailing. Shamefully, this was to be the first time we'd hauled out since we got her more than 7 years ago. When we saw her out of the water for the first time it felt more like "Aloh...Ah! what happened to our boat?" We were quickly reassured by the painter, who said he had seen much worse. In the end, the basic haul out, prep work and two coats of paint were reasonably-priced, and we were able to accommodate a few budgeted surprises.
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Amid the cacophony of industrial sounds filling the yard, you can always find Ray Timmons by following the sound of great jazz licks pouring out of his ever-present boom box. Known in the yard as "Jazzman," this light-hearted painter has worked at the boat yard for 25 years. Even at 68 he is quick to laugh and and keeps a positive attitude about this very physical work. "What else you gonna do?"
This rare 75-year-old Block Island Ketch sailed in the Ancient Mariners Race in 2013, but this week she was in for some overdue attention to her wooden hull and warped rudder. The owner and a hearty group of helpers were painstakingly cutting out about 200 weak or rotting sections, then plugging with individual cut-to-size blocks before trimming, finishing and repainting. The owner said they had just 9 days to get her back in the water.
Iantha's warped wooded rudder getting special attention
According to boatyard foreman Scott Crawford, Shelter Island Boatyard has hauled out and launched as many as 19 boats in a single day. This is a busy place, booked four months out, and a hidden part of San Diego most don't get to see.
J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 27 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:
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