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!
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.
Our longest passage yet will likely be our longest passage ever if I can choose. I expected the voyage from Panama to Polynesia to be a mix of bad and good. I was correct. Compared to others who did the journey, thirty days at sea from Panama to Polynesia was average. I’m happy it’s over.
Even on a short sail problems inevitably pop up, so with a 3800 mile+ passage, we knew anything could happen! Since we arrived in Nuku Hiva unharmed and with no major boat damage, we count ourselves lucky but the sail from Panama to French Polynesia was far from perfect.
Leaving Panama, we expected to have very little wind, and we were right. The first few days of the passage we crawled and we covered very little ground. In fact, many followers noticed our boat do a big circle on our map tracker. It wasn’t a mistake. With no wind and trying to conserve fuel that early in the trip, that was our actual course that day! Fortunately, that section of Panama was the lightest wind we had on the voyage. Unfortunately, it was the end of the warm weather. We were in hoodies soon after!
Even worse for us with our new lithium batteries and upgraded solar panels was the absolute lack of sun. While we didn’t have much rain and only a couple minor squalls on the trip from Panama to Polynesia, the clouds followed us for weeks! Fortunately we brought a lot of gas for our generator because we used it! We had to run it early and often to keep our battery – and autopilot and chart plotter – running at night. Which leads us to another problem!
We aren’t going to Galapagos on Sava. We thought we would go but plans change. Fortunately, we flew and ferried to some of the islands in 2015, and loved our time there. The photos in this post are from that memorable visit.
It’s a new rule but Galapagos doesn’t allow cats, and we have Domino. Galapagos is a protected National Park with endangered indigenous animals, so they won’t admit potentially invasive animals.
Since Domino is a respected crew member on Sava, we have no choice but to skip it and sail somewhere else. Domino is 13 years old, and she’s spent more time on the boat than we have since she doesn’t leave it.
We spent a weekend in Palomino with a group of cruiser friends and it was my favorite of our adventurous getaways from Santa Marta. A laid-back beach town with a weekend tradition of rafting down the Rio Palomino, Palomino is a blast!
Palomino is a small town on the north Caribbean coast of Colombia, near the Venezuela border. An agrarian community, it is now seeing tourism due to its beautiful white sand beaches and chill vibe. The town consists of one main paved road, the road from Santa Marta, and dirt road offshoots to the beach, the river, and farmlands.
We walked around the town a bit and it’s rustic and charming, with lots of restaurants, hostels, artisan shops and some cool street art. And, one of the top attractions is tubing down the river. No wonder backpackers are flocking to Palomino.