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It has now been a day shy of a week that Rebecca and I have been living onboard Frost in the boat yard. Without this kind of experience, many may not fully grasp why boatyard life is so thoroughly hated by most people. The following are a few of the ways that it differs from normal life on a boat, if it could ever be called normal.

  • 1. It’s a long way down

Frost has a draft of six and a half feet. That is the measurement from the water down to the bottom of her keel. She also has a fairly high freeboard, the measurement from the water up to her decks. If you add those two numbers together, plus add on a bit for the wooden blocks that her keel is resting on, you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how far up in the air we are when we’re walking around the deck. How high exactly? I haven’t measured it but I think it’s safe to say that those with a fear of heights may have some adjusting to do.
How do we get on the boat, or off of it? By using a tall ladder that we have tied on to the rail. Trust me, it’s important to be careful when going up or down that ladder. If you fall, you won’t be landing in any water!

Be careful!

  • 2. The plumbing doesn’t work

While fresh water will still flow from the taps, that’s about the extent of the plumbing that continues to work, or that we choose to use. All of the sinks on the boat gravity feed out the bottom so, even though they would still function, we don’t want to be dumping dirty dish water, etc. on the ground below us. You can only imagine the bugs that the dirty water would attract.
It should also go without saying that the toilets don’t work either. When nature calls, we need to do one of two things:

  1. Make a trip to the restrooms by the marina office. This entails a trip down the ladder (see above) and a fairly long walk across the yard. Not fun at night.
  2. Pee in a container. For those who want the dirty details, we use an old engine coolant jug and a funnel, and we take the container to the toilets to empty it once per day. Glamorous, isn’t it?

Dishwashing station on the side deck.

  • 3. Mosquitos suck

People often ask us if we are troubled by bugs when living on the boat. The truth is that, when at anchor, the near constant breeze, and the fact that we’re not actually on the land where the bugs breed, keeps us pretty much pest free. This is not the case in the yard though. Each night this week I have fallen asleep to the sound of mosquitos buzzing in my ears, and each morning I have woken up with new bites on my skin. Not cool!

  • 4. It’s dirty

I’m not sure if our feet will even be clean again! Boat yards are notoriously dirty and dusty (or in the rainy season, muddy). At the moment, our boat is situated in what you’d call the “dirty” part of the yard, where boats, including ours, are having toxic bottom paint sanded off their hulls. During the days when the work is going on, we need to keep every hatch on the boat closed to prevent that dust from getting inside. At the end of the day, I also need to take a hose and rinse off the decks. If I didn’t, our feet would end up even more black than they already are!

  • 5. It’s loud

Gone are the sounds of waves lapping at the boat, or the sometime melodic twang of a halyard clanging on a nearby mast. Those sounds have been replaced by boatyard noises: banging, grinding, and sanding. It’s hard to describe just how loud it is inside a boat when someone is using an electric sander to remove bottom paint off its hull. Trust me, it resonates!

At least it’s peaceful at night, if we ignore the traffic noise on the adjacent highway.


  1. #6– it can be unbearably hot day and night. Those closed hatches leave the interior boiling during the day, and there is almost no breeze at night making sleep fitful at best. Sigh.

    • I suspect that in the summer, that is more than true. Surprisingly though, and why I didn’t add it to my list, at night time we have found it quite comfortable. In fact, even with the hatches closed (to keep the mosquitos from eating me alive), I have found it sometimes necessary to cover up with a sheet. This is without AC!

  2. Ah, I remember those days! When I was a kid and Traumerei was hauled out I actually fell off the ladder one day. She too drew 6 feet so it was a long way down. Made a heck of a racket which could actually be heard above the boat yard noises. Got a lot of attention but believe it or not, no broken bones just some beautiful deep purple bruises. At least my parents were pretty sure nothing was broken, we actually didn’t venture to the hospital in Grenada very frequently back then. I think it was a panel of salty sailors (Don Street might have been one of them as I think I was racing down the ladder to get back to playing with one of his kids.) who decided I was just fine.

  3. With a cat we didn’t have the the ” heights’ problem.

    We would make the walk during the day for the head but used our tanks at night with freshwater.

    We have a land style stand alone ac unit to run on land( ducted out a porthole) it is worth it’s weight in Florida!

    I completely agree about how dirty everything gets- constant up and down in the mud, gel oat dust, etc etc

    At least St Augustine is a fun town!

    • I don’t know, even on ZTC, which draws only 3 feet, we’d still be about eight feet in the air (she has fairly high freeboard). It seemed high to me!

      For some boats with narrow side decks, like an older Leopard or Voyage, that would still be precarious IMO.

      They offered to rent us an AC unit but I’m glad we didn’t take them up on it. We find it quite comfortable at night.

  4. Screens for Frost!

  5. Put blue tarps on the ground all around the boat(imaginary water), earplugs in ears, mentholatum on your body to deter Mosquitos and beer to drink! Now the ladder deal is always the scary part, zip line???

  6. Good post Mike. An honest reflection on life in the yard. All of our grey water drains down to one grey water holding tank. If we shower on shore, this 35 gallon tank can hold at least a week of grey water from the sinks. Since it all comes out of the same thru hull, I normally fit a hose to it to take the water away from the boat. This way I can avoid having a continuous puddle under the boat.

    Peakes has very good water pressure because they have their own well, in addition to the “city” water. There used to be a charter sailboat that spent hurricane season (not now) on the hard down near the waterfront. The owner/Captain would stand out on the foredeck and take a pee in the afternoon, when he was too lazy to go down their stairs, not ladder, stairs. Can you imagine that? In the yard? This same boat had 4 pressurized water hoses going up to it, and 3 coming down. Their grey water dumped directly below the boat (including their clothes washing machine that seemed to be run daily) making a virtual continuous lake below their boat. What were the other 3 drain hoses for you may wonder? They were used to drain the fresh water that was circulated through their air conditioning units. Yes, this boat ran 3 water cooled air conditioning units, 24/7 while on the hard at Peakes. They always did this. Did this have an effect on the water pressure we experienced? Yes. We were “parked” right next to them for 5 months, twice. Your neighbours are also much closer in a boat yard than out in the water.

    • Wow. You’re right, your neighbors would be a lot closer. Fortunately for us, this is not prime yard season. There is no one near us.

      As for the water pressure, you’re right there too… it is awesome!

  7. Having spent five days with Ken Page on the water I gotta say, my hat is off to cruisers. A different way of life for sure.

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