It's 7am in Kahului Harbor, and Captain Caleb is donning a respirator and a faded long-sleeve shirt. Usually at this time he'd be prepping for a snorkeling tour—readying the gear, counting the food, and loading on Ka‘anapali Beach.
Today is a day of sandpaper and paintbrushes, where the sound of gentle trade wind breezes is replaced by sanders and vacuums. It's a day that will be spent at Trilogy's dry dock—a "behind-the-scenes," but important part of snorkeling tours in Maui.
What Is Dry Dock, and Why Is It Important?
In the simplest terms, dry dock is when a boat is hauled from the water and placed on land for repairs. On the Mainland, it's common for owners with smaller boats to regularly trailer their boats, or keep their boats in a marina or shipyard when they aren't in use in the winter. When running Maui snorkeling tours, however—especially on 60 ft. cats—our boats stay in slips in the harbor and operate almost every day. Luckily, thanks to Trilogy's fleet of catamarans, it's possible to take a boat out of action without having to cancel our tours.
As for why it's important, keeping our boats in good working order is vital to the safety of our guests. All of the boats must be regularly inspected for wear, corrosion, or damage, and every square inch of the hulls and rigging needs regular attention and care. Also, for commercial vessels such as ours in Hawaii, the boats are required to have regular inspections by a team from the U.S. Coast Guard. The thru-hulls need to be regularly examined (which is where sea water is drawn for cooling the engine), and the hulls need to be inspected for structural integrity to ensure the safety of our guests.
How Often Are Trilogy's Boats Dry Docked?
Every one of Trilogy's catamarans is dry docked every two years. The dry docks work on a rotating schedule, and during most years there will four different catamarans dry docked throughout the year.
It's a challenging task that keeps our maintenance team busy with the planning, prepping, and fixing, and it's also a time that our newer crew members can learn the boats inside and out.
Where Does the Trilogy Dry Dock Take Place?
For years, Trilogy's catamarans were sailed to the Big Island to a dry dock facility in Kona. The length of the journey is 100 miles, and requires crossing the Alenuihaha —one of the roughest channels in the world.
Beginning in 2014, however, the dream of a facility at Kahului Harbor finally became a reality.
The ramp on the inside of Kahului Harbor is wide enough to accommodate the catamarans, and there is ample room to park the boats on a custom-built dry dock trailer.
The facility will be used by multiple boat companies that are dry docking catamarans in Maui, and it's a huge development for the Maui community to have this facility on island.
UPDATE - Dry dock in Kahului has been indefinitely suspended and bots now return to the kona facility.
What Are Some of the Usual Projects?
While our boats are serviced throughout the year, dry dock is the time when the major projects are finally put into play. The hulls are completely scrubbed of algae and then entirely sanded and repainted, and any cosmetic dings in the hulls are also painted and patched. The propellors and rudders are pulled off the boat and the zincs on the shafts are changed out, and sometimes the railings and stairs are removed if they're in need of serious repair.
Another huge project of most dry docks is removing the rigging and mast. A crane is brought in to hoist the mast once all of the rigging is removed, and once it's painted and thoroughly inspected, it's once again raised, placed on the step, and the rigging is finely tuned.
As you can probably imagine, it's a pretty big project.
In addition to the mast, the hulls, and the rigging, every dry dock has a laundry list of projects that are needed for improving the boat. Sometimes new ice chests are added to the galley and sunken down into the counters, or all of the whites on the inside of the cabin are sanded, de-natured, and painted. The heads are sanded, repainted, and cleaned—as are the engine rooms and rudder rooms. Bottom paint is applied to the hulls to inhibit algal growth, and the sails are completely removed from the boat if they need sewing or work on the battens. The electronics might be worked on for installing new speakers or updating to new GPS, and every corner of the 60 ft. boat is polished until it shines.
It's a week that's filled with sweat and fumes and more than a little hard work, but at the end of the day, once the progress has been made, it's a project that you can step back and admire from afar, knowing you played your part.
Who Does All Of The Work?
While contractors are hired for special projects (such as climbing and tuning the mast), the majority of the work is performed by the crew that works on all of the tours. The same people who serve piping hot cinnamon rolls and lifeguard while snorkeling on Lana‘i, are the same people who strap on ventilators and grab a sander or paintbrush.
The talented, behind-the-scenes maintenance team are the ones who call all the shots, but it's a team effort from Captain through deckhand to get the boats back in the water. Once the entire project is finished, however, and the boats are sailing back home, there is a sense of pride and ownership in the boat that every crew member can take home. It's a way of helping take care of the boats that provide our livelihood and jobs, and respect for the vessels that allow us to wake up and share the beauty of Maui.