This week Jonty Pearce worries that the season is shortening for sailors, and suggests keeping your boat in the water all your round


We lowered our Southerly 105 into the waters of the Weaver Navigation at Northwich in 2009, and she has not been lifted out since. We had taken the wise step of slurry blasting her bottom before applying four coats of epoxy followed by four coats of Coppercoat, a metal laced epoxy product claimed to provide a foul free 14 years. I’m glad to say it’s still looking good and only needs a light wipe down to leave Aurial’s bottom pristine. As a result, we have not felt the need to disturb the cobwebs guarding my wallet for a winter lift-out ashore and underwater maintenance for six years.

Instead, we enjoy the option of drying out. With a hydraulically lifting keel, all we have to do is press a button on the remote keel control, pull up the rudder, and, once anchored in a suitable spot, wait for the waters to recede. Aurial settles her 2 ton cast iron grounding plate onto the sand, and we crack open the gin. Indeed,the process is so gentle that I am often not even woken as the tide cycles through the night despite being blessed (or cursed) by the sailor’s subconscious awareness of boaty noises or movements through the supposed sleep hours.

The key words here are ‘suitable spot’. These do not include a lee shore, exposed beach, or a rocky or unknown bottom. Waves are bad karma, and good shelter imperative. We definitely have our favourite spots where we know we will be safe where the bottom is flat, rock free, and ideally sandy – trying to do hull maintenance in glutinous mud is miserable.

Once the water has receded there are advantages and disadvantages. There is no swell – so we are still and steady. We can come and go as we please, and can have a beach barbecue by the boat. But if we want to use the heads, unless a bucket of seawater is kept handy, there is no way to flush, and if you do any product is evident there before you on the ground.

But the best bit is that I can scrape the barnacles off the propellor before applying the current fad of whatever non performing antifoul is on board (or just leave it bare – it seems to have the same end result), and know that our speed under engine will be restored. If I am really feeling keen before the tide has left and the water is still shallow enough to paddle in, I can use the deck brush to scrub away slime from below the waterline, rinsing the brush until Aurial seems to be marooned in her own little green puddle. Drying out also gives us the opportunity to clean and polish the hull, spruce up the rubbing strake with new teak oil, and even mask and repaint the waterline strip. Replacing anodes, servicing impellers, and cleaning depth transducers is simple – and then, hey presto, it’s time to put out the deck chairs on the beach.

Those with bilge keels will dry out higher above the beach but that allows them to be more risqué on shingly surfaces than flat bottomed craft, while the French with their typical panache use legs – even scaffold poles – to stay upright. Otherwise, for fin keelers there is the option of the harbour wall or drying posts to lean against, though the latter are scarcer and less trustworthy than in past years.

I worry that the season is shortening for many sailors – I used to think that boats went in at Easter and came out at Halloween – now it seems that they sit on the hard till Whitsun and are lifted back out again after the August Bank Holiday. You can’t sail your boat when it’s out of the water – so make the most of the increasingly frequent Easter heatwaves and Indian summers – keep your boat in the water all year round and find a cozy sandy cove or a handy wall to dry out against for maintenance. If nothing else, it’ll speed up your antifouling application between tides!


Jonty Pearce