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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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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One Year On The Boat

We moved onto Sava a year ago today! It seems like such a long time and we have been through a lot: good and bad. We love it most of the time and plan to continue living on the boat and exploring the Caribbean. These are some of the things we’ve learned after one year on the boat.

We Do Not Need Much

Seriously, none of us need much. We’ve been conditioned by advertisers and merchants to think we do, and then we’ll be happy.

We moved onto the boat and this lifestyle knowing it was completely different from our Toronto existence. There is not much room on board, and a lot of it goes to ship equipment and systems.

luggage for a boat
What we brought with us when we moved on board Sava one year ago today

At different times we have had to sacrifice what we thought were key elements of a life well lived. Things like heat and hot water, plentiful showers, ice cold beers, sleep, wifi, fresh veggies and sun protection were not always available. Now that we have put lots of work into Sava, and learned a thing or two, life has improved. Cold beers!

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Constant Boat Work

“Living on a sailboat is doing boat work in exotic places”

Sad but true. After living aboard Sava for nearly 10 months, we are constantly doing boat work.

One step forward..

We have some good news, but I am afraid to celebrate too much for fear of jinxing us. We are embroiled in what feels like constant boat work but have some good news: the engine and auto pilot are still working!

And several steps back

Just because I haven’t posted recently about breakdowns doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I will recount the latest issues we’ve had with Sava.

Recent Boat Work


We tried to anchor in a new spot a few weeks ago only to have the windlass fail again. We moved onto a mooring ball at a lovely marina with a great restaurant, Whisper Cove, while trying to fix the windlass.

Brian dismantled the windlass, unwound the entire anchor chain, and consulted professionals. They cleaned it and couldn’t find anything wrong.

When Brian reinstalled it, it worked better than ever. While we don’t know what was wrong with our windlass, it’s raising and dropping the anchor perfectly so we are happy.

STATUS: Working

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What’s Broken On Sava

You may be under the illusion that everything works fine onboard Sava. Not true. While our autopilot is still going strong, a lot of other boat parts don’t work. Below, a comprehensive accounting of what’s broken on Sava, and some things that broke and got fixed.

Also, I am not a handy person so my explanations are very basic because that’s my level of understanding. Thankfully Brian is at a much higher level than me. If he wasn’t so handy, we wouldn’t have made it out of Florida. Brian also recommends a good resource for these jobs, the Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual.


We thought we got this fixed after the engine debacle, but this freezer is finicky. A couple of times we noticed it was off and we are now very vigilant about ensuring the freezer is plugged in. We also keep the vents clean – got to get rid of the cat hair.

Yet still the temperature regularly creeps above freezing. This is understandable when we haven’t been under power or it’s cloudy, but we don’t know why the freezer doesn’t work when the solar charge is full and we run the engine.

This freezer is driving me crazy. I obsessively check the temperature, which is not easy to do. Because the freezer is strapped into our salon sofa, we have to peek under the table to see the power and temperature indicators.

A view under the salon table of our freezer indicators
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