Hauling Out

The ICE is a curious vessel. It was built to go to Antarctica. So it is well insulated and very strong … which of course means very heavy. Here on Liapari Island, Noel buggered up his big slipway a while ago hauling out some giant vessel, so until he fixes that one he’s just got the small one.

And I think this is the heaviest vessel he’s hauled on this slipway so far.

Now, a slipway is a simple thing in theory. It’s a pair of railroad rails that just follow the bottom from the shore out to where the water is deep enough. On it there is a cradle with a bunch of wheels running on the rail. Put the boat in the cradle, pull it up the rails out of the water. (It used to be done with greased skids instead of rails, which is why it is called a “slipway” and not a “railway”.)

In the morning Abraham and I pulled the anchor and I drove the boat into the cradle. There were a couple of guys in the water checking out the cradle. The ICE has a “bow thruster”. This is a reversible propeller mounted in a piece of pipe that goes crossways right through the nose of the boat below the water line. It enables you to push the nose of the boat to one side or the other. Makes it easier to do things like cozen the boat into a slipway cradle with a cross wind blowing.

liapari 01.png

There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, because the cradle is smaller than the boat. So the boat needs to be set down square on the cradle—too far to one side and it will fall off, which is a Very Bad Thing™.

After much in the way of small adjustments, we started being pulled out of the water. Here’s Noel and one of the guys standing by the wire rope that’s attached to the cradle, and contemplating whether the ICE is going to crush the slipway …

liapari II.png

The winch, of course, is geared way, way down. It might move the cradle a metre per minute or something. Slowly, slowly she emerged from the water.


When she got close enough to shore, I jumped off for two reasons. One was, I wanted to see what the underbody looked like. The other was, I don’t like riding boats up slipways … I’m not scared, mind you, that would be unmanly, so I call it “cautious”, it sounds so much better …


Here are the guys running the winch. It takes three men to run it. One to control the on-off and the brake, one to turn the wheel on the hand-powered level-wind Noel built to keep the cable spooling up smoothly, and a guy with a stick of wood to push the cable to one side or the other and ensure it doesn’t wrap over itself.

liapari 05.png

Bear in mind that my mad mate Noel designed and built this sucker from the ground up, put the winch together from spare parts, constructed the cradle, poured the underwater concrete … all on a remote South Pacific island.

And at the end of the pull, all of Noel’s hand-built parts came together, and we’re safely out of the water.


Of course, that was the easy part. Now the work begins …

Walking over to the office, there were kids playing by a canoe. I took a photo … but this is Western Province, and as I mentioned, the folks have what I consider some of the loveliest, and also the darkest, skin on the planet. It’s a gorgeous sooty black, but boy, it makes photos hard to take …


The canoe behind the kids is a dugout. They still build them here out of a single tree, and they’re the universal means of transportation. Paddle canoes. The whole country might have sixty miles of paved road, and that’s on just a couple of islands. Everyone else travels by canoe. I’ll see if I can find some nice ones to photograph, each one is a work of art representing endless hours of labor.

Evening now. At dusk I sat around with Noel, my friend Pat who came over from Gizo in his skiff, and four of the the yachties that are staying in harbor here. As you do in the tropics, we drank beer and swapped stories of things we’d seen and done. Noel won hands down with his story of the last time he went to Australia.

The people at the immigration department looked at him suspiciously … he’s my friend, after all, so I guess that makes sense … and the immigration officer lady said

“Have you ever been in jail?”

His response was,

“I didn’t realize it was still a requirement!”

He said she was not amused … but we sure were.

Night-time now, and the lights just went out. Like almost all small islands that have productive enterprises on them, Liapari runs on diesel. The generator goes off at 9:30 PM, no use wasting fuel … and a wonderful silence descends. The moon is up now, and I feast my eyes on the volcanic cone of Kolombangara, clearly visible across on the other side of the Vella Gulf, with its peak shrouded in cloud. The waves on the outer reef are playing musical notes, and the night air is thick with tropical smells. And to top it off, the doves have started cooing in the trees, a resounding hollow call. A gecko chirps on my wall …

Ah, dear friends, what a world! What a world, and we have such a short time to see it! Ten lifetimes would not be enough to take in all of its wonders.

My best wishes to all of you,


22 thoughts on “Hauling Out

  1. Thanks W….felt I was there with you…enjoyed the post as I was waking up early thus morning. Smally world. My Uncle Jim, WW2, Hellcat fighter pilot, was shot down very close to the Solomon Islands on April 4th 1943. Our family started out with a cha rter fishing boat business un Costa Mesa, Ca.

    Live reading your posts W…look forward to your next submission.


  2. Once again you bring understanding of a world only dreamed of, long, long ago watching the TV program “Adventures in Paradise”. The writers back then weren’t nearly as good as you are at bringing the place forth. The back lot of a film studio is a poor substitute for the real world as well.

    The closest I ever got to your world was in KL, at a Vietnamese restaurant at the edge of the jungle, the sounds were fantastic as were the odors. Palpable fits best I guess.


    • Oh, “Adventures in Paradise”! Thanks, I’d forgotten about that. I loved that show, that and the movies “South Pacific” and “The Crimson Pirate” ruined me for life.

      Thanks for the reminder, good times,



    • I have a distinct recollection of “Adventures In Paradise.” In its day, the series was the definition of exotic. I can hear the theme song running through my head.

      To my surprise, I just discovered that James Michener was the creator of the program.


  3. “The waves on the outer reef are playing musical notes, and the night air is thick with tropical smells. And to top it off, the doves have started cooing in the trees, a resounding hollow call. A gecko chirps on my wall …’
    There must be something lost, if you can’t appreciate such things.


  4. Pingback: Tamino | Watts Up With That?

  5. In my part of the world, they were called “marine railways” and they were ubiquitous. They’re mostly either gone or rotting away nowadays, replaced by travel lifts.


  6. Glad to hear you were able to dry dock the ICE. Hopefully the hull won’t need too much scraping/filing and painting. The ordeal sounds rather straightforward… which normally isn’t. Anyway, thx for the update. I can almost hear the waves resolving their energy and the local smells wafting about. Keep posting. Very enjoyable read.


  7. Nice looking boat. It looks like it should be quite stable in rough water with a heavy keel. But … it doesn’t look so stable with the ‘hauled out’ structure. Tiptoe much? LOL


    • Indeed, eyesonu, I do tiptoe … from the head post:

      When she got close enough to shore, I jumped off for two reasons. One was, I wanted to see what the underbody looked like. The other was, I don’t like riding boats up slipways … I’m not scared, mind you, that would be unmanly, so I call it “cautious”, it sounds so much better …




  8. What is the apparatus with the trailer tongue on the right in the 5th pic (possibly being evaluated by the ‘Tongue Advisory Group’)?


    • Thanks, eyesonu. I fixed your typo, I hate them but WordPress doesn’t have a preview function.

      The trailer is the bed of an old pickup that Noel cut off and made a trailer. It houses the pressure washer.




      • As for the old pick-up truck bed it seems some old trucks never die, they just need a little help getting around but still serve a useful purpose.

        I am making an assumption here but it appears that the heavy wire mesh positioned between the slipway winch and the boat is for protection (human operators) from a snapped cable. A 1″ cable is a serious hazard when they break and snap back. Maybe this is not Noel’s first rodeo. Kudos to him for safety first! Then I may have made a wrong assumption and it’s just mosquito mesh for tropic island size mosquitoes.

        Then one more thought: suppose the ICE rolled over on her side while dry docked with no damage. How would you set her upright and get her back to sea without modern cranes and equipment? Well I had a beer or two and a fun thought session. Then had another beer and envisioned a new wet slip located under her now grounded keel. I’ll have another beer while I ponder that.

        Anyway ,,, have fun! Maybe even bring the above scenario to one of the islands many advisory committees!


  9. The ICE’s Antarctic root has a nice Arctic counterpoint in the St. Roch. It is hard imagine circumnavigating North America. Yet the St. Roch made the north leg of the trip during WWII to emphasize Canadian claims to the Arctic Ocean. Any boat lover will revel in a trip to the Vancouver Maritime Museum and an hour-long visit aboard the St. Roch.


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