life in the yard
Boat yards. They're a place every sailor ends up and yet it never enters the mind when those initial dreams of setting sail across the big blue arise. Not only do you rarely think of them before sailing, you may not realize that a lot of dreams start and end in the boat yard. There are ghosts of dreams resting on stilts down every little alley in a boat yard. Reminders of why you need to wake up at 6 AM and get your ass to work.
Boat yards are unique places. I have asked a number of cruisers to define them to me, as if I knew nothing about sailing, boat work, or cruising. Their responses are, usually very definitive; "It's a big open space to store boats" or "They are DIY yards where boats are out of the water." While these are accurate descriptions, I feel they fall wholly short of what a boat yard really is. They miss the mark on one thing, and that is the community that resides within the boat yard. It's the great leveler of cruisers. No matter how much money you have, you end up in a boat yard. You could have a million dollar catamaran and, in a boat yard, have a neighbor that's been building a dilapidated pile of shit for the past 14 years. The great thing about it, though, is it seems everyone leaves their "land life" notions of class out of the yard. Million dollar boat owners chum it up with us $13,000 boat owners as equals. Tools are borrowed between everyone, problems are discussed and solved on a community level and there's always an end of the day cocktail hour to celebrate the wins and lament the losses.
Everyone has experienced each stage of boat yard work; just getting started, mid refit meltdown, and splash day. Everyone knows how it feels and can relate. I think this causes everyone to feel like a team. Rooting for each other and jumping in when help is needed. Of coarse after the boat yard, some will go on to marinas with fancy facilities and others will swing on the hook and take cockpit showers, but for those few weeks....ahem, few months everyone is stuck in the same situation.
Working on your boat in a boat yard can be difficult, stressful and trying work. There's always a point when you're cursing the yard and your choice to even go sailing in the first place, but I always try to remember to enjoy this slice of the cruising community while I'm here. Take in the nightly cocktail banter, the endless knowledge that surrounds the problem solving and the camaraderie. I take it all in and then work my ass off to get in that water and go sailing!