Mazatlán 2019: The Good, the Bad, the Boat Yard

Oh da boat. I think our new tag line should be “It’s Always Somethin’,” since “Going Everywhere. Very Slowly.” seems to be BS, as we have been moving around Mexico quite quickly. But not this month…As most boaters know, every few years, we must bite the bullet and do some serious maintenance, odd jobs, and pain-in-the-ass projects that can only be done while the boat is out of the water – that is to say, “on-the-hard.” You may recall that 2 years ago in La Paz, we had cracks in both bows repaired, which also necessitated repainting the bottom. Well, without going into all the sordid details, the bottom paint quickly became a high-maintenance situation, so we determined that we would need to get hauled again sooner than we would typically want or need to. And while we were at it, we’d change out the rudder bearings, as we’d had some annoying (read: noisy) movement of the rudder shafts for quite some time. However, because the stars did not align, and we had to wait on the rudder bearing parts (that were supposed to arrive Spring 2018) and because the yard (Fonatur Mazatlán) couldn’t squeeze us in due to their busy schedule, this haul out ended up getting postponed, postponed, and postponed again. Until May 2019. And then it was a doozy.

But it wasn’t all bad – we did manage to play with some friends before and during our 5 weeks of hell. En route to Mazatlán, we spent a few magical days at Isla Isabela with some new friends; witnessed the 24th Annual International Motorcycle Week in Maz, enjoyed morning walks up El Faro, and blood red sunsets with Tigress II; ate pretzels and drank good beer at Tres Islas; splurged on yummy dinners at various eating establishments with other sailors; and wandered the Liverpool Mall in search of Avengers: Endgame. We never did see Avengers, but we certainly relished the joys of good friends, good food, and no boat work while we could. So, there was a lot of good – until it was time for the boat yard.

We knew this was going to be a massive effort. In addition to the rudder bearing replacement and the bottom paint, we decided to go after some gelcoat/fiberglass repairs that had been niggling at us for some time. It all started innocently enough – there were a few small cracks on the bows and some spider cracks emanating from underneath the D-rings on the transoms. This is because they weren’t installed with a proper backing plate and, therefore, over time and under light loads, little cracks started forming. Eventually, the cracks got a little bigger and joined with cracks that followed the inner edges of the transom steps that had been imperceptibly “mushy” for a while. Also, from the beginning, we really disliked the black rubber bumper that lined the transom, so we decided to have it removed and faired and fix all of the cracks on the bows and transoms in one fell swoop. And it was a big job. The downside was that finding a yard in Mexico that does gelcoat repair with actual gelcoat was almost impossible, so we ultimately had to settle for paint. It wasn’t until near the end of our stay in the yard that we found out that Active Marine, which is next door to Mazatlán Yacht Services, who did all of the work on Free Luff, recently starting working with gelcoat. Oh well – FL’s hulls are now part paint, part gelcoat, but she looks pretty darn spiffy.

Seems like a fairly short list, right? But as I said before, the project list is typically (much) longer than just the initial jobs that prompt the haul out in the first place. And, it is also typical for one smallish job to turn into one big job, or for one project to turn into multiple projects. And, it is almost never the case that you start one project and work on it continuously until finished; every projects proceeds in starts and stops because you have to wait for something to dry or caulk needs to set, or we need to find a certain part, or this or that – you get the picture. So what happens is you start a project, wait, start another project, wait, start another project, and wait…Then all of a sudden you’ve got 10 projects going simultaneously and the boat looks like an explosion went off. And you can’t clean anything up until it’s all said and done. Blerg. To see our final list, you’ll have to get through the 20-plus-minute vid below (sorry) – or you can skip to the end.

The smartest decision we made, knowing da boat would be in the yard for about a month because of all the glass work, was renting an apartment to live in. We normally stay on da boat while in a yard, but it’s challenging. Getting on and off requires going up and down a ladder; doing the dishes requires a using a bucket; taking a shower requires sharing a very public bathroom with lots of other people; and dealing with the chaos of crap everywhere is simply mind-numbing, especially for me. Having the apartment saved our sanity and probably our marriage. Thanks to Kris and Kirk of S/V Linger Longer for putting us in touch with Saul, the property manager of a nice little pad at the Costa Veleros complex, which is a stone’s throw from the yard. It made life so much easier. We could walk back and forth whenever we wanted – to have a snack or get out of the boat yard dust – and we had a nice big space (comparatively) to work on projects off da boat, like the cork-on-the-floorboards project (post/pics/vids to come). And the proper showers at the end of the day (and sometimes twice per day) were simply heaven. Whew!

The only bummer was the water leak we had while staying there. The valve on the inlet for one of the toilets was cracked, and what started as a trickle at 8am in the morning turned into a torrent that lasted 28 hours. Once Rand discovered the leak, we went to the office, they called a maintenance guy who came to the apartment immediately. Unfortunately, the valve for the water main for our apartment was broken and the trusty maintenance guy threw up his hands and left. A plumber had been called, but until he arrived, we were stuck emptying large sauce pans every 5-10 minutes – this went on through the night. All we needed was for the main to be turned off so we could change the valve. Is that so much to ask? Finally, around 11 am the following morning, the plumbers came. They had the water main for the whole tower turned off and changed the valve, all inside 10 minutes. So frustrating, pouring all that water down the drain.

So anyway, after 27 days in the yard, we tidied up da boat just enough to get her to the marina and prep her for a summer without us. We had a week to strip her down – that is, remove the head sail (the main was already down); run messenger lines for all the halyards and reefing lines; break down the bimini cover and solar array; shut down/unplug all electrical; decommission the fridge/freezer; wrap blocks and other exposed lines with foil and Sunbrella; put foil in all the hatches; fill and bleach the water tanks; pickle the water maker; wipe the whole interior down with vinegar; wax the cockpit and cabin top; treat the nonskid with Woody Wax; and, oh, first we had to try to remove hundreds of smallish rust stains that were all over the deck because while in the yard, small metal shards from sanding or grinding landed on da boat and dissolved into insidious rust stains because of the night-time dew. Seriously. So, essentially, we went from yard chaos to marina chaos. Plus, we had to pack for months away from home. Amazingly, we pulled it off. FL looks beautiful – making it really hard to leave her, our marriage is intact, and we’re off for some serious family time in the States.

The take-away message here? Do not schedule the stripping down/buttoning up of your boat for summer right on the heels of a rowdy yard job. It’s stressful and exhausting. We’ll certainly never do it this way again. So, enjoy the photos and the vids below. Because of the duration and number of projects, we made two separate videos – one of just the fiberglass/paint work and one with the rest of the yard work. They’re trimmed and edited to keep things quick(ish) and light, but the vids do incorporate some of the stills included in the galleries, so we apologize for any redundancy. Until next time…

Outside the Yard Gallery


In the Yard Gallery



  1. Don

    Hope we get to see you while you are stateside! BTW Jimmi and I were just accepted at Silver Gate

  2. Rob Armstrong

    Hello Cousin (and Jody)! I’ve been jealously watching you from afar (yes jealous even through the rough Yard patch) and have been looking for your email address to communicate directly. Is that on this site anywhere? Cheers!

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