Fat Bottomed Girl

We have hauled ¡Pura Vida! out of the water several times to work on her bottom, but it has always been done by a boat yard with a sling crane. These beastly contraptions place two or three enormous straps under her hull and gently lift her out of the water. The crane then moves to a location in the yard where she is lowered onto blocks. This process is always a bit unsettling, but the cranes usually have a lift capacity of several times the weight of ¡Pura Vida!

Previous haulout with slings

This year, the marina we chose for haul out uses a trailer with hydraulic arms to get boats in and out of the water. The trailer looked quite small to us, but the marina manager assured us that it could handle our heavy girl. ¡Pura Vida! weighs in at a hefty twenty tons. At least, this is the weight listed by the manufacturer. More about this later.

We had little say about the date of our hauling out. The marina informed us that because the levels of the high tides were getting lower as the moon phase waned, our window for getting our girl on land was narrow and not ideal. Damn those tides! We would have to haul out four days before our departure and find a place to live in the meantime. Not only does the marina not allow living on boats in the yard, but no sane person would want to live in a boat with no air conditioning, baking in the sun, sitting on a gravel parking lot in the sweltering tropical heat of Panama.

So, once again, the huge Pacific Ocean tides were dictating our schedule. We set the haul out date for the last possible day before the high tides were too low. We literally had to go with the flow.

The day before, the boatyard manager and his crew came to do a final inspection. One guy jumped in the water to check our hull for the best possible placement of the trailer’s six hydraulic arms and to ensure they would not damage any sensitive sensors that protrude from our hull. This was very reassuring.

“Hmmm,” querried the yard manager, “How much does she weigh?”

“Twenty tons,” I said.

“We should be able to do it.”

Should?” I asked.

“Yes, the trailer is rated up to twenty-five tons, but the equipment is old, you know,” he said. This was NOT reassuring.

Needless to say, we did not have a good night’s sleep stressing about whether our weighty boat would win the next morning’s wrestling contest with the old trailer. Visions of ¡Pura Vida! crashing down kept us awake most of the night.

The fateful morning arrived. At the appointed time, a young man named Edwin asked permission to come aboard. He would be our haul out advisor to guide us from our slip into the waiting hydraulic arms of the old trailer. Off we went.

Edwin relocating fenders and lines

Once we arrived at the haul out ramp, a crew of five was waiting for us. They tied us off to a wall on our port side and a diver tied us to buoys on our starboard side. They were exceptionally meticulous, and carefully adjusted the lines to ensure ¡Pura Vida! was centered on the ramp.

The tractor slowly crawled down the ramp pushing the trailer in front of it. The ramp is not particularly steep, but it certainly appeared that way when considering just how much tonnage we were about to move. ¡Pura Vida! was going to test this process and equipment.

The yard manager, Soto, hopped aboard and directed all the moving parts from our bow like an orchestra conductor. He yelled quick instructions to me at the helm, the line handlers on shore, the diver, and the tractor operator. All while managing the hydraulic arm controls that raised to hug our hull. The diver would then inspect our placement underwater and report back. More adjusting, more moving. They repeated this several times until Soto was satisfied. His usually jovial demeanor was gone. Soto was all business. Perhaps he was stressing as much as we were about pushing his equipment to the limit.

Few things rattle your nerves on a sailboat as much as feeling things hit your hull, even when you expect them. When each of the six trailer arms touched our hull, our rigging would wiggle and our nerves would fray just a bit more. We were still aboard and felt each gentle touch of the hull like a punch to our gut.

“Back up!” Soto instructed the tractor driver. Slowly, excruciatingly so, the tractor started pulling us from the water. Just a few feet into the process, Soto halted everything. He was not satisfied with the way ¡Pura Vida! was sitting on the trailer. Did I mention he is meticulous? We were lowered into the water once again until we were floating, and they adjusted the supports and the lines so everything was perfect.

There was nothing more we could do, so we were instructed to get off the boat. Now, we would get to watch the slow-motion tugging, and cross our fingers that the trailer would win. I think we held our breath the entire time as ¡Pura Vida! ascended from the Pacific Ocean. It was not smooth. The trailer struggled, and we could see its back tires occasionally lift off the ground slightly as the twenty tons flexed their might.

Struggling to pull ¡Pura Vida! up the ramp

Once the trailer cleared the top of the ramp, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. But there was a small problem. One of the tractor’s massive tires was going flat from exhaustion. The crew had to pause to fix the tire before they could continue moving our girl into her “parking spot.” It was only nine in the morning, but we felt like we needed a drink.

Tractor got a flat tire

The rest of the process was easy and the crew expertly slipped ¡Pura Vida!  between two other boats in the yard and installed braces to keep her upright. It was done! We could now finish preparing her to spend six months alone. For some reason, we feel guilty every time we leave her, like she’s going to be angry with us when we return. Or, perhaps, she wants some time away from her people to rest and not be bothered.

When we posted on social media about the hauling out and how near to max capacity we came, the owner of an identical boat let us know we were much closer to max than we originally thought. Turns out, ¡Pura Vida! likely weighs closer to 45,000 pounds. He knows this because he had his boat weighed during a haul out. We were going by the factory production weight, but failed to consider all additional equipment on board, a full fuel tank, and 550 feet of anchor chain. Fortunately, the marina equipment worked and the yard crew expertly handled it.

Boatyard bird’s eye view

We spent the next three days working in the boatyard getting everything inside and outside ¡Pura Vida! ready. The tropical heat and humidity are vicious beasts that love harming boats if you give them a chance. After checking and double-checking Kimberly’s list of preparations, we finally declared her ready. We were exhausted, filthy, reeking, bloody, and bruised. But we were prepared to go to France; after a long, cool shower, of course.

On y va!


  1. WOW WOW WOW, we had that same process in Clarks Court Grenada and it was crazy. I agree, it is wild and nerve-racking for sure. When they lifted our lil 35, the back pads where under the belly too far, like in the qtr berth floor area and it pushed up the floor as the hull there was flexible. She was not meant to be lifted there, but rather by her solid keel. Congrats on the haul, and now the FRENCIE fun can resume.

    1. Wow just a nerve wracking experience! I was feeling anxious reading this blog.

      1. It was anxious for us for sure. It’s a huge compliment that you felt it as you were reading it.

    2. Our girls are definitely heavy for their class. But that makes than them so seaworthy. Now on to the less maintenance intensive boat.

  2. I loved reading and seeing this process unfold. Glad you guys learned her true weight for future haul-outs! One of these days we are going to see her again in person…

  3. As always, great job explicitly explaining the process
    John-Michael….Bob would have had a heart attack worrying about every step!

    Enjoy your time in France & your visit with Deb & Burt! Maybe next year I can convince Bob to go (we were only in Paris for 1.5 days 18 yrs ago)

    LOVED seeing y’all at Marks😘

    1. Aunt Brenda, I think this is a binding agreement to come see us in France. Maybe not in the strict legal sense, but I’m holding you to it 😉. It was fabulous seeing y’all again and can’t wait for our next gathering.

  4. My husband Dan and I always enjoy your posts. So well written and exciting. Thank you for letting us live vicariously though your adventures. I’m excited we are all going to France (through you) next.
    Melissa and Dan
    Dallas, Texas

    1. OMG, what a fabulous compliment. So happy you’re enjoying our posts. More coming soon, we promised.

  5. Love reading about the adventures of Capt. Wells and Kimberly!! Have a great time in France.

  6. Wow – how nerve racking !! Glad she is OK!!!
    So will they use the same equipment to put her back in the water 😏😏

    1. It will likely be the same equipment, but at least gravity will be helping us instead of additng to the challenge

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