Winter haul-out is a melancholy time; the final admission that, this year, there will be no more sailing... no more anchoring in quiet and beautiful places, no random encounters with big beasties from the deep. This winter, Briongloid will get new pintles & gudgeons, and maybe a few electrical tweaks to satisfy her owner's fantasies of hot drinks in cold places.
In compensation for having to leave the water, I did get to participate in the small adventure that is the haul-out. I'm aware that city-folk hire full-time experts who simply crane the vessel straight out of the water and deposit it neatly on a trailer or a stand. Where I grew up, the ritual is practiced in an older and more character-building and ingenuity-testing form, and this last weekend, my Briongloid experienced this form for the first time.
This haul-out went relatively smoothly, but not too smoothly (that would be boring). The local haul-out wizard and myself used van power, muscle power and ultimately an interesting grapnel+outboard engine technique to get the trailer into about 6 feet of water. Briongloid was towed on with an anchor laid out astern to check her way (boats don't have brakes!). Unfortunately, she landed just slightly off-centre on the trailer, missing the trough that normally holds her keel. I did try to fix this (setting a personal speed record for time taken to change into a wet-suit), swimming down to hold the trailer and kick the keel (it has worked before), but she was already too well settled (we had used the van/rope combination to haul the trailer higher on the slip, not a reversible procedure), but ultimately, it was not serious balance problem, and had the advantage of allowing us to clean beneath the keel.
The keel: ah yes. The one part of the boat I couldn't reach to anti-foul before launch. I knew the result would not be pretty, but... wow! After 4 months afloat, the bottom of the keel was encrusted with sea-life. Most prominent were several kilos of mussels - which I seriously considered saving for the pot, until I remembered how close to lots of very toxic paint they had grown. There were also several mysterious animals that were quite transparent - oblong, featureless, with a small yellow structure inside. When squeezed, they squirted. I asked the haul-out wizard their name; he said a local boat man had called them "pissers" - but this wasn't the actual Linnean name. I was amazed to find a relatively large and completely static animal I've never seen before in water I've spent quite a bit of time snorkeling in.
Funny thing about that haul-out: technically, it is mere drudgery, part of the price of owning a sailing boat. This one ate up some hours on a sunny flat-calm Sunday, and involved some moderately heavy manual work, a few good chances to get a nasty crush injury, and at certain points I was cold and wet. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed the whole thing. Water Rat has a point about messing about in boats.