We spent a year in French Polynesia, exploring beautiful islands, communing with marine life, and meeting amazing people. We also dealt with lots of broken equipment. From sails to machinery, something was always broken on board Sava. Sometimes it was easy to solve, sometimes it wasn’t. Here’s what it’s like fixing a boat in French Polynesia.
Location Location Location
One of the cliches and constants of life on a cruising boat is fixing your boat in exotic locations. At least we have nice views while we’re dirty, tired, and frustrated. In French Polynesia, the views are beautiful. That’s an excuse for a scenic shot!
papeete is best for fixing a boat in French polynesia
The best place to be when fixing a boat in French Polynesia is Papeete, Tahiti. Since all the stores selling marine hardware, and regular hardware, are in Papeete, you almost always have to source from there unless you get very lucky. In our three different stays in Papeete over the year, we visited every possible chandler and hardware store. Multiple times. And a machine shop. Living the glamorous yacht life!
The rain started early this year in the South Pacific. Rainy season normally hits The Society Islands in December. This November, rainy season in French Polynesia has already begun.
About The Tuamotus
The Tuamotu Islands are a French Polynesian archipelago located south and west of The Marquesas and east of the Society Islands. A natural progression for sailors is to visit The Tuamotus after landing in The Marquesas. Since we have a year in French Polynesia, we’ve already visited this area once, before Tahiti, and now again for part of cyclone season.
The motus (islands) are basically big sandbars interspersed with strips of coral. The atolls make nearly circular shapes, surrounding water, known as the lagoon, and creating nice protected anchorages. We visit the atolls with entrances, called passes, where the water between sandbars is wide and deep enough for boats to pass. While there are almost eighty islands, we can probably enter twenty on our sailboat.
A trans-Pacific 30 day passage does a lot to a sailboat. Our time in the yard in Tahiti isn’t over! While resolving the known issues, we’ve found more problems with our twenty two year old boat. From sails and rigging to appliances, we’re getting Sava fixed so we can return to the water.
The Reasons We Hauled Out
Sava had water coming in through the stuffing box due to a vibrating engine. So we had to replace the engine mount and stuffing box and realign the prop shaft. We also needed to dry out and rebuild the rudder. After two weeks, we’re making progress on these jobs.
The engine mount is rebuilt and working. The prop shaft was straightened and realigned and is now installed!
The rudder is dried out, refilled with fresh epoxy, and fitted with new rudder shafts. We know everything fits properly and will be reinstalled next week.
Sava has one coat of bottom paint and is waiting until just before she is ready to splash for the final coats.
Sava is out of the water and in the yard in Tahiti. We’ve been having some issues the last few months and sailed to Tahiti a week ago to try to get stuff fixed. It’s taking longer than we thought but it’s okay because Sava’s getting better and we’re in paradise!
Why We’re In The Yard in Tahiti
Initially, we hauled out to replace the stuffing box, which is where the prop shaft enters the boat. The stuffing box has been leaking seawater into the engine bilge whenever the prop moves, basically whenever the boat was moving. The leak began during our Pacific passage, and got worse the last couple months.
After taking a few weeks to catch up with the world and clean and fix up ourselves and the boat, we’re reflecting more on our voyage across the Pacific. We learned some lessons from our longest passage, and know what we will do – and not do – again.
Convenience is Key
Some days, going down below to scrounge up a meal was beyond my capacity. Having a handy cache of nuts, granola bars, crackers, and ginger snaps made life easier on those rough days. We put them in the storage compartment of our cockpit table, where we usually keep sunscreens, and it was very handy.
Our Aeropress could not cut it in those rolly seas! Fortunately, Brian had the foresight to buy a stainless French press which became part of our morning coffee ritual. We still had to set it in the sink and pour carefully, but it was the best method of safely getting our much-needed morning joe.
One of my favorite things about passages is not wearing shoes! The downside? Since returning to daily shore visits, I’ve sprouted a few blisters, even wearing my trusty Keens.
In addition to no shoes, we were very casual on Sava’s long passage. I thought I’d be in bathing suits the whole time but it was too cold! Instead I wore pajamas plus hoodies, especially after dark. Surprisingly, we still had a full laundry bag when we arrived, but that also included dish towels and bed linens.