Fixing A Boat in French Polynesia

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!

Fixing the boat in exotic locations, Ua Pou, Marquesas
A beautiful view in Ua Pou, Marquesas

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!

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Getting Sava Fixed

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!

Propellor on sailboat Sava
The propellor is improved and reinstalled

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.

rudder on Sava
The rudder was rebuilt, refilled, and coated.
Rudder shaft being fitted
Ensuring the rudder shaft fits!

Sava has one coat of bottom paint and is waiting until just before she is ready to splash for the final coats.

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In The Yard in Tahiti

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!

Sava in the yard in Tahiti
The ladder we have to climb to get onto Sava

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.

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Transiting The Panama Canal By Sailboat

The Panama Canal, called “the path between the seas,” is the easiest route from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Completed over 100 years ago, it is a man-made marvel of engineering. Transiting the Panama Canal by sailboat is a bucket-list activity for those trying to circumnavigate, or get between oceans.

The land divided, the world united.

Motto of The Panama Canal

Hiring an Agent Versus DIY

It takes a lot of paperwork to get through the canal! We used an agent to alleviate some of the work. As Panama Posse members, we get a discount on the Canal agent. It saved us a lot of time, paperwork, and hassle. While it may be cheaper, if you don’t use an agent, you have to pay everything in cash. This means multiple trips to ATMs, which have very low maximum daily withdrawals. ATMs aren’t easily accessible outside of Panama City.

How Much Does it Cost?

Transiting The Panama Canal on a sailboat isn’t cheap, even for a boat under 65 feet! Here’s a breakdown on current pricing to transit:

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We Upgraded Our Boat to Lithium

Living on a boat has made us very aware of power usage. Our boat mostly runs on 12V power – lights, fans, water pumps, instruments – which comes from batteries on the boat. In this post, I’ll detail why and how we upgraded our boat to lithium batteries. We think it’s a good decision.

Rules of Batteries

Batteries on a boat are challenging. There’s all sorts of rules on things you should and should not do with traditional boat batteries. The main rules as we understand them:

  • Replace them all at once
  • Never let them go below 50% charge
  • Make sure they are all the same type and brand

It goes on. But the world of batteries is changing rapidly with innovation going on in other industries finding its way into the world of boats. The new technology uses Lithium Ion and is far more efficient and takes up far less space.

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