We have been playing this boating game since 1982 and the process of launching a boat from land to water is always an exciting process. It is exciting to trailer a boat and use a launch ramp. It is exciting for a forklift to pick up your boat and launch it. But to me, the most exciting process is launching a boat that needs a hydraulic go-cart and then a marine travel lift. It is exciting because this is the doorway to sailing and cruising adventures on bays, seas, and oceans. Our 20th year of cruising on Island Spirit has started and we are as excited as year #1. Here is our launch process today at Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
First Remove the Hurricane Straps
In the Caribbean, our yacht insurance company requires the boat to be strapped down with 2″ hurricane tie-downs hooked into concrete footings. Island Spirit had 8 tie-downs, 4 on each side.
This yard uses an under-yacht hydraulic lift cart that is controlled remotely by a very skilled operator. The U-shaped go-cart (as I call it) is driven under the yacht. The jack stands are removed, except the front and the two aft stands. VERY DANGEROUS as any wrong moves and the yacht could fall over or, worse yet, someone could be seriously hurt. Once the cart is maneuvered under the yacht, the skilled workers position the massive hydraulic arms, 3 on each side. The operator then remotely lifts the arms to support the yacht. Now the entire frame of the machine raises and 20,000 lbs are lifted off the final 3 jack stands. Next, the operator drives the cart out into the parking lot to the waiting travel lift.
Why use this cart?
Because this process allows them to park yachts within inches of each other, which maximizes the number of yachts stored on the land. (See below!)
The Travel Lift Ride to the Water
After the yacht has been transferred to the travel lift, it is driven through the yard and down to the water. At the water’s edge, this massive machine will drive out onto a concrete reinforced dock with a slot of water between the wheels. Once over the water, the yacht is lowered enough for us to climb up onto the bow over the anchors. With us on board, the boat is further lowered into the water, BUT it is not let go until all systems below are checked for leaks.
Check the FUEL, Fire it up
With the yacht still hanging in the slings, but in the water, we fired up the engine and checked the fuel system and the cooling water. Remember, the tradewinds are blowing 20-25 knots directly into this launching well. Once they drop the yacht and toss you the lines, you need to HIT IT, and get her moving, In 2017, we were 2 minutes out of the slip when the fuel plugged up and the engine died. We drifted hard back into the concrete dock and tied up. So, today we were remembering what can happen,
OFF WE GO
With all systems checked, we hit it hard in reverse and backed out into the tradewinds. We did a full 360 turn for a photoshoot for our surveyor who was there to inspect the yacht for insurance purposes. Off we motored!
The marina sent us to the wrong dock twice!
With 1,000 yachts in dock, this is the largest marina in the Caribbean. We checked our slip assignment every day for three days. While we were motoring to our assigned slip, the marina radioed us and sent us to a different slip. Once docked and plugged in there, they called again to say. “Oops…..you need to move to yet another slip. WHAT?! So tomorrow, we get to do this all over again. Let the adventures begin, at least Island Spirit ran perfectly with no fuel issues!
You Do NOT want your boat to stall…
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