A Weight Off Shawa’al

Rising Dust
Early last Friday morning as we sat eating breakfast in our 9th floor apartment,  first Sheikh Khalifa Bridge and then the Specialist Hospital disappeared from view as our building was wrapped in dust whipped up by strong winds. No yacht racing then today.

Lifting Out – Attempt One
Arriving at the yacht club the visibility out to sea confirmed our suspicions and we didn’t even want to venture out for a quick sail. It seemed a good day to provide Shawa’al with some of the TLC that she urgently needs. Kevin went off to see if the boat could be lifted out. The yard crew agreed, collected a trailer belonging to another similar sized boat from the back of the boatyard and brought it down to the slipway. Karl, Kevin & myself motored round to the shallows at the bottom of the slipway where the men got off leaving me to keep the boat aground by simply sitting on the bows. In came the trailer and on went Shawa’al and her passenger. Her keel wouldn’t touch the bed of the trailer though her sides were supported by the cradle arms. Basical the arms were too high. Boat pushed off, the trailer was towed up the slipway a bit so that Kevin and Karl could lower the arms completely using tools like a hammer and a wrench to undo the various nuts and bolts.

Another Attempt
The second attempt wasn’t much better, Organized Kaos whose trailer it is has a longer keel and Shawa’al’s stubby one simply couldn’t reach to take her weight on the trailer. Being GRP she can’t be supported by her topsides alone as she’d simply crush. Kevin sweettalked the yard team into using their slings, which they claimed were fully booked but were actually sitting idle at that point. “We only want to be out for a couple of days, back in tomorrow.” By now the yard team had had sight of Shawa’al’s barnacle covered bottom and were sceptical but all the same they went and fetched it.

Third Time Lucky
Karl paddling had hold of Shawa’al’s bow warp like a dinghy painter and heaved her into position. The tractor with its trailer reversed toward the boat.  Kevin took the rope from the rear of the slings and once I’d scrambled back to the cockpit so she was a float again heaved her onto what looks like some medieval tourture device. The slings are a basically a steel framed box without the top cross pieces. On either side are four chain driven block and tackles, the end hooks of which attach to heavy canvas straps that are slung under the boat. Two yardhands pulled the chains and the straps took hold, supporting the boat and preventing her slipping sideways. The tractor slowly moved forward and as the trailer moved higher in the water the keel came to rest on a wooden platform running fore and aft along the trailers base. At last Shawa’al began to be lifted from the water. For her passenger it was a bit unnerving as she began to sway gently from side to side rather like an elephant but the straps held as we turned left at the top of the slipway.

Three or four years growth of marine life clung to evey part of the undersides in amazing shapes and colours, bright orange and dark red patches like litchens, long greyish strands and millions of barnacles. One of the yard staff appeared brandishing a garden hoe to attack the bows of the boat. Kevin and Karl worked on either side starting from the stern with paint scrapers soon there was a growing mound of barnacles on the ground around the boat. It was already getting hot. I kept them supplied with pints of lime and soda from the bar. An hour or so later and the worst was off, ready for a pressure wash all over.


Time to go shopping so armed with directions to a near-by chandlers selling “good” (ie effective and cheap) anti-foul, the three of us headed off in the aircon comfort of the car leaving the pressure washing gang to do their stuff.  Now you don’t just need tins of anti-foul to treat a boat – there are rollers, brushes, sand paper, sanding blocks, primer, thinners and paint trays plus we also managed to add to our purchases a reel of thin string and a bottle of wax polish. The latter will be used to spruce up the topsides at some point in the future, whilst the string will help hold our Mk I sun awning, a large beach umbrella in place. Back in the boatyard after the wash the old white anti-foul had appeared. The whole of the hull below the water line was then given a good sand to provide a key for the new paint. We weren’t aiming for a racing smooth finish so the circles where the barnacles had been were still apparent but at least Shawa’al no longer had a ton of marine life attached so her performance should dramatically improve.

Preparing for Painting
Shawa’al was then moved to a quiet corner in the back of the yard in the lee of the shed, unfortunately though, no shade. It was amazing to see the precision of the expert driver who reversed the trailer with inches to spare through the maze of parked motor boats. Kevin taped up the waterline – he makes it seem really easy but I know different because I have tried and failed at this in the past. Its really hard to get the masking tape edge lined up perfectly along the rounded shaped of the hull. Then they set too rolling on the primer – only two rollers had been bought so I felt excused and took pictures and ferried liquid refreshments instead. The primer was a delicate shade of sausage pink and very runny but virtually instantly drying in the heat so quite quckly both Karl and Kevin were covered in pink spots! Once complete we all took a break for lunch before returning to start applying the anti-foul paint which should prevent a reoccurance of the barnacles for a year or so.

Painting in 35 degrees

Through the heat of the afternoon two coats or more of antifoul were applied to everywhere except under the single straps now supporting the boat fore and aft. The plus side of applying paint at Middle Eastern temperatures is that it quickly dries so two plus coats were soon completed. They’d even raised the boat off its keel to treat underneath. Nothing more could be done until the morning so after more refreshments and a chat at the bar with other members we headed to Juffair for showers and then out for a well earned meal. Later that evening Karl drove back across the causeway to Saudi vowing to return on Saturday after his packing was complete for a final, final sail on Shawa’al before he moves to the otherside of Saudi. Though we have told him he is welcome at anytime to come and sail his old boat.

Launch Day
Next morning, to avoid as much as possible of the heat we made an early start and were at the yacht club before 8am for the second succesive day. We found the yard foreman and much to his suprise said we’d be ready in half an hour or so.  Then we switched the straps around using the chain pulleys – so easy to do with one on each pulley either side of the boat. Afterwards Kevin completed the painting tasks eking out the remaining anti-foul but still having enough to put a little extra on the keel and leading edge of the rudder which are high wear areas.  To say the yard staff were amazed at our rapid progress was an understatement but once they’d bump started the big tractor by towing it backwards they quickly appeared to manouevre Shawa’al down to the water again. Kevin and I climbed aboard for the trip. A three point turn had to be executed by the tractor and trailer to get us facing the right way, again the driver made it seem easy.

Back in the Water
Once at the top of the slipway two yard hands climbed onto the walkways that run along each side of the cradle about half way up. They would lower the four slings once Shawa’al was afloat.  We backed down the slipway at an alarming angle and as the water came up to meet the hull there was a bit of a lurch backwards as she slipped out of the forward sling. We were afloat again. Kevin lowered and started the outboard, I moved warps and fenders and within minutes we were securely moored back in her berth. Less than 24 hours since we started but floating considerably higher!

Later that day Karl joined us for a quick sail before the dust started to come up again. Shawa’al performed beautifully, whipping through tacks and reaching unheard of speeds in light winds. The log, previously unable to sense any waterflow due to the abundant marine life shielding it, span round registering speeds of 3, 4 and even 6 knots (this last under engine).  She is a joy to sail, light on the helm, pointing well and quick through the water but the test will be to see how she performs in next Friday’s race.