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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Rainy Season in French Polynesia

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.

Map of French Polynesia
Where in French Polynesia

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.

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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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Getting better on Sava

A couple weeks ago we posted about the issues on Sava. Overheating engine, freezer not working, Domino, battery challenges, and more.  And that was before we hit our lowest point yet with the electric head!

Well, we have good news: things are looking up right now.

The Engine

When we were in Tortola we hired a diesel mechanic, Wilbert, from Parts and Power. Wilbert and I worked for three days to diagnose and fix the overheating problems. We systematically went through the whole raw water coolant system and discovered that the pipe that fed water through the transmission was almost completely clogged. Three days of hard work later we cleaned it up and replumbed the system to prevent the clogging in the future.

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