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Refit Dangers
Posted: Monday, January 22, 2018 5:43 PM
Joined: 19/08/2014
Posts: 67

A crewmember asked Dockwalk to post the following on their behalf:

"If you are up on the hard doing refit, how dangerous is it for people to live on board? Should crewmembers have to do a watch all weekend?"
Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 8:39 PM

It's not more dangerous than any other time your having work done. I've spent many many months climbing a tall ladder when the boat is on the hard.  It does get nasty and I will have the remaining crew or myself  (if possible) wash down the outside of the boat, clean up all tools and materials EVERY day's end. It's a prime time for a fire to start so your job is to keep it from happening. 

Many boats "sink" on the hard so I will often leave a seacock open when there is a cooling tower hooked up. Keep those bilge alarms going all the time. 

You want to keep an eye on the work but never dictate to the yard workers what to do. Keep their chain of command solid. You should report to your captain who will get to the yard manager. You should be friendly to yard workers and keep them hydrated and provided with tools if you have them. 

Never go barefoot during a refit anywhere aboard or (need I even say this) on the hard. 

It's a toxic environment that does take some sense to keep yourself toxin free but it is possible and weekends in the yard on the hard are sort of fun.

Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 9:08 PM
Joined: 21/07/2016
Posts: 1

True Story - 

I was doing an refit on a 55' sailing cat where due to rudder work, the boat needed to be blocked up extra high.  The swim deck was an easy 20' off the ground.  The ladder had to have propping blocks added to the top step of the stairs to be able to even get on the back of the boat and even then, it was a stretch.  One night while trying to come down off of the boat, I stepped down onto the blocks on the top step when they just slid right out from under me and off of the stairs.  I fell those 15 feet from the top of the stairs to the ground with the blocks.  Somehow, I only came out of it with a fractured collar bone rather than a broken neck, back and paralysis.


Captain Jack
Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 10:05 PM
Joined: 06/12/2012
Posts: 5

I've crewed on a 130 foot workboat that was converted to a 36 passengers in a 18 stateroom adventure cruise ship. Every year we had to do our annual haul-out for USCG inspections and ship upgrades. The shipyard installs a very tall set of stairs that leaves you with little room to carry nothing more than a duffle bag. It's the same you see at construction sites. Anything larger like a bicycle they would get the crane out. 

We live on the ship for about a week to nine days depending on the amount work being done. We were never asked to do any work that would require us to wear a harness. Mostly we would help paint the bottom of the hull or do small jobs inside the ship. They really don't want crew involved in the work for safety and insurance reasons. That was fine with me! I think having crew living onboard is an added safety. If a fire started after the shipyard workers went home at night, we could deal with the fire quickly. We never held any watch standing persay. The place was gated which was an extra level of security we normally don't have as some docks. The shipyard workers were very trustworthy as they were like family to us. It was a small mom & pop kind of operation and at times we go drinking with the workers. Heck, having us in the yard was extra security for them at night. 

We were asked to not to take showers or let any gray water out during shipyard working hours as the drains would be over their heads and equipment. Toilets were fine as they lead to the holding tank. We put drain plugs in places where we needed water to wash, then unplug them at night and let them drain overboard. We were hooked up to shore power so the ship was powered normally as if we were at the dock. 

I have to say, the view was amazing from the upper deck. It was like being on a five story building rooftop. Living inside was odd for the ship never rocked. It was quite nice living on the hard. Getting off and on took time as the stairs were a bit of a workout. As for safety; I felt quite safe as the yard did it's best to keep us from harms way. I really missed living on the hard. It was like living in a building to look and work like a ship. 

Sorry that's a long winded answer to your question, but I really hoped to ease the concerns of living aboard while the boat is on the hard. I can't think of any safety issues other than if your boat has rigging (sailboat) that is being worked on and you are on deck. Other than that, it as safe as other normal ship operations on the dock. happy 

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 3:12 PM
Joined: 29/12/2015
Posts: 14

Hillary wrote:
"If you are up on the hard doing refit, how dangerous is it for people to live on board? Should crewmembers have to do a watch all weekend?"
That really a three part question.
If the vessel is on the hard are there added dangers? In a word, Yes. Though "dangers" is a strong word.
I've worked refits on vessels over 200' and under. Both on the hard and dockside.
With any refit there are things you have to mindful of. Open hatch's, fumes, and falling overboard on the hard isn't quite the same as falling overboard in open water.
Are you going or crew going to be staying onboard for a refit? In a word, "Maybe".
It depends on the refit and what's getting done, what amenities are available as to whether or not crew stays onboard. Generally, no you won't be staying onboard or it's skeleton crew onboard. Many times you'll be put up at either a crew house or apt or let go during a refit depending on your position and the extent of the refit.
If crew is onboard, pulling watches while on the hard is really just for a few reasons.
A) to have a presence onboard. They want to ensure someone is there. This could be to prevent theft, meet with our open the vessel for designers or contractors and other workers.
B) They're testing a system and they need someone there to keep a watchful eye on things.
Once you splash, or if the refit is dockside, yes, very often you'll pull watches. You're in the water.
It's it unusual to pull a watch for the whole weekend. No. 
As I mentioned, generally during a true refit it's skeleton crew. If you're one of two or three, or four permanent crew onboard aside from the Captain, and they need someone for watch. Either you're it or they hire in someone to pull watch or to relieve you.
Back to the "dangers" during a refit on the hard.
The bigger the vessel, the higher up she sits on the hard. You fall overboard, you either get badly hurt or die. There's no water to cushion the impact. So take precautions, use safety gear when called for. Harness in. Watch where you walk. Don't be stupid. 
Fumes from paint, chemicals, fuels, or open tanks present their own guidelines of how you work. Don't break out of those guidelines. They can and will mess you up in the head.
Open hatches. Watch for them. I have been right there when someone thinks they know the boat walk right into an open hatch not paying attention. Or stupidly point a flashlight straight ahead below main deck, fully blacked out thinking they knew the boat instead of looking where they walked.
One second they're there, the next second they're gone. It happens that fast. It's funny when you think about it and lucky if you have something to break the fall but if you don't.... You can seriously hurt more than just your pride.
Personally, I like staying onboard during a refit, depending on the refit of course. There's times you have the whole vessel to yourself. You can get things done without interruption or someone sticking their hands in it after the day ends and contractors and others are gone.
Are there more dangers...? There are different dangers or things you need to be aware of is what I'd say. That's all.
It's just another aspect of industry. You've got to know what you're doing or have someone around that does to show you.
Yachting isn't just about playing with the owners toys. Refits are one of them. Pulling weekend watches are another.

Posted: Sunday, February 4, 2018 11:37 PM
How about the everpresent risk of fire......
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