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Taking your Steel houseboat to the shipyard for haulout  [Naar de helling]

This scares the hell out of people.

Don't worry too much; all the steel boats go every four or five years. It's a normal thing normal people do, and you can do it too.

The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with the shipyard. Personally, I like Brouwers in Zaandam, but other people prefer other shipyards. If you ask them why, they'll usually say it's because that's where they went before; or where the previous owner took them when they bought the boat, and the yard "knows the boat".

They don't know the boat, they see hundreds of boats. They don't really need to know it, those guys have a lot of experience. They pull it up, look at it, and figure it all out each time. They don't remember your boat.

Anyway, if you're happy with your shipyard, keep using them.

 It can take time to get an appointment, especially in summer. Most yards take holidays in July and august too, so make your arrangements well in advance.

In times past, there were shipyards right in Amsterdam itself, but they've mostly been closed down now, with a couple of exceptions. Check for yourself, because things change all the time; but last time I called around for prices, it worked out cheaper to have my ships towed to Zaandam [about an hour sailing] than to have the work done in town. And the bigger shipyards over there tend to be better able to keep their schedules, since they have many slipways and large workforces. It can be very disrupting to get a call saying that due to unexpected work on the boat before you, your appointment has been bumped a week or two. Usually, you've scheduled you vacation time for the job.

Shipyards; look in the yellow pages under "Sheepswerven" or "Hellingen" that translates as "Ramps", but it's what the Dutch call their shipyards.

There's nothing like a competent tug captain. I like Rolf at He and his wife Charlotte have been towing our boats for more than 30 years. He does lathe work too. As soon as you have your shipyard appointment, make your towing appointment.

Make sure you're able to leave in time to get to the shipyard early if that's what they want. I usually go the day before, and moor up in front of the slip. it gives you all day to get everything together, untied, disconnected, etc., then get under all the bridges and all the way to where you need to go.

Look under "sleepdiensten- Sheepvaart"

If you have no rudder and you will transit the north sea canal, you now need 2 tugs, one in front and one behind.

Even if you have no working rudder, it's actually not a problem to tow even a large boat with one small tug. There must be someone on board the towed boat though, with a good boathook to pull in or push away from other boats as needed, as well as a tire or fender on a rope to drop between when the wind or whatever causes your boat to swing against another or the canal wall. You should also have mooring ropes at ready on the front and rear [kept coiled] to tie up when necessary. Normally the boat owner fills this role, but if you're unsure of yourself, the tug company will be happy to provide another man [or woman] for a fee.  Normally the charge is by the hour, from the time the tug leaves its mooring until it gets back to its mooring.  it isn't cheap, so don't waste time. I had one guy charge me for washing the tug afterwards; I didn't use him again, and told everyone I knew not to either. He doesn't do that job any more.

In many cases, you'll need to have the bridges opened for you. Usually the tug takes care of this, using the radio, but ask in advance. You might need to call the BBA to come open the bridge. Call about 20 minutes beforehand, and make sure you have the right number handy. Some bridges only open at certain times [not at peak traffic hours] some don't open at weekends. Go to the nearest manned bridge [where a main canal crosses the water, like at Tasmanstraat and van Diemenstraat] and ask a couple of days in advance.

You should put new anodes under the waterline while the boat is out of the water. The shipyard can weld them on for you. see; corrosion and electrolysis on steel boats

Sometimes, a boat might have trouble getting under a fixed bridge. One time, I waited for 6 weeks for the water to be low enough!

You can ballast the boat, but DO NOT flood the hull. That makes a vessel unstable [aside from other problems]. Some tug companies will rent plastic barrels to put inside and fill with water. It takes a lot of barrels usually, and it adds up. And takes a lot of time, and makes a mess in your living space too. A 25 meter boat will need 1000kg to sink 1cm.

Weight at one end will push that end down and the other end up; if that will work for you, it doesn't take as many barrels.

Or you can wait for the water to be low; but that's very tricky with the timing, since you can only find out a day or two in advance what the water levels will be. Here's the big secret; you can phone Rijkwaterstaat "het gemaal" in Ijmuiden, 0255564242,  where they monitor and control the water levels. It depends on tides outside [they drain at low tide], rainfall all over north Holland, and wind. They have a computer model to predict water levels at any point in the system. That phone number is a bit old, so if anyone has an update let me know.

While under tow, a yellow ball must be showing on the tug and on the tow. The tug will bring one along to put on your boat.

Most people bring a bicycle to get back into town on. The tug may need to go somewhere else, or you might get a ride back with it.

You need to get everything loose before the tug arrives, or you'll be paying for it to wait. See the section; getting the gaspipe loose.

These days most shipyards don't include a hull survey. in the old days, the foreman or boss would come along and tap the bottom with a hammer, then tell you where [if] you needed new plate welded on.

The problem was conflict of interest; a judgment call by him decided how much work he got from you. Today you can have someone come with an ultrasonic thickness meter to find out precisely where the thin spots are.  Call your insurance company to check if they want to send someone, or ask the shipyard what their policy is. Often they'll do the survey for an extra fee. If you do need plate attached, it's expensive. Some insurance companies don't allow triple plating, so if it's already double you need to have the old layer cut off. That's a lot of work.

Me? I check mine myself. With a hammer. As I have no qualification whatsoever, I don't do this for anyone else's boats.

One important point; the weakest, most dangerous, and most often overlooked point in your hull is where the waste pipe comes through the bottom. Make double sure your toilet pipe is checked from below, and any other through pipes [kitchen, shower]. Sometimes they get covered by the supports the ship is resting on, or just forgotten. Just about the only way a houseboat can sink too fast to do anything about is when the toilet pipe breaks loose from the hull.

You might find the staff a bit offish at the shipyard; that's because they're busy, and every houseboat that comes in has owners who want to ask a lot of questions. Mostly the same ones they've heard before many times. Find another boat owner hanging around, and ask him / her instead.

But do talk to the foreman about the paint they'll use on the bottom. in most cases, they'll quote you a bottom price, and you end up with a cheap bottom coating. Ask about your options; usually a better coating is in the shed, and only costs a little more.

Epoxy coating;        On a new hull, I wouldn't use anything else. but on an old hull [like almost all of our ships have]  a hundred years of being painted with bitumen [or tar] has left a lot of old material behind. It can be stripped clean enough for an epoxy coat some say; others say the overlap between the riveted plates will cause it to fail. Either way, I don't think it's worth it. Here's why; even if the epoxy is good for 20 years or more as they claim, you'll still have to take your ship to the wharf and haul it out to check it once every 5 years or so. If you don't, and there is a problem, your hull would rust right through in the intervening 10 or 15 years. Besides, it's required by your insurance. Since a new [conventional] coat or two of bottom paint will only add a few hundred euros to that cost, and you have to go to the wharf anyway, there's just no point in the VERY expensive cleaning and epoxy coating.           

Naar de helling


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