Never Launch on Friday
29 August 2008 | Raiatea
We are finally back in the water. We probably could have been in on Monday if someone at the yard were actively managing the process of working our boat. Many things that required two days of waiting and two hours of working fail to start until the previous task (similarly structured) is completed. If yards had a little project management function where someone kicked off several wait oriented tasks simultaneously and then actively communicated with the clients, things would be smoother for the clients and the yard would process more boats, thus, making more money. This is not the island way though.
I would recommend this yard but I would strongly suggest establishing everything you need up front face to face with Dominic and then running everything down at least once a day. If you are not all over your projects they will all happen serially and often with a pause between each. You also need to insist on a liaison who speaks your language during critical operations (my experience is that the guys in the yard will just ignore you if they don't understand you).
We sent the yard a list of projects we needed to get done three weeks before we arrived when we made our appointment. I sent two follow up emails to see if they had received this and none were answered. I called to get price estimates and viability and Valeria, the office manager, indicated they had received the email but she couldn't say more. I had to corner Dominic to get rates once I arrived in Raiatea. Dominic, Fred and Valeria are wonderful people and truly want to take care of you. There are simply no business processes in place and everything is taken as it comes (probably the way they like it).
The rates here are high but not outrageous. That is with the exception of certain parts and supplies, in particular bottom paint and batteries. We had paid $300 for a gallon of Micron 66 bottom paint in the western hemisphere (US and Carib). This is the list price and certainly not cheap. Not thinking I could possibly be charged any more than this I told the yard to use Micron 66 on our boat (6 cans for two coats with lots of extra on the leading edges and waterline). The bill (after the paint was on the boat) came to $3,000 US, about $500 a can!! As it turns out there is a huge duty on bottom paint here to protect the environment. This is why locals don't paint their boats, they raise their boats out of the water when not in use. It's better than bottom paint and a whole lot cheaper. Hopefully my $1,000 bottom paint vigorish is going toward helping the environment.
We were launched with no one who speaks English present contrary to my request. I told the guys not to untie the boat until I could check the transmission, props, bilges, etceteras. They went from guys in the water swimming near the drives to all lines off and everyone over the side, leaving me alone on board. Good thing the motors engaged, there is a nasty reef just to starboard as you come out of the slipway and nothing would have stopped me from blowing down on it if the boat had failed to go into gear.
Once the boat was floating I turned on all of the electrics. The port bilge alarm went off. I couldn't check it immediately because I was busy staying off of the reef. The yard was supposed to come out to the boat on Monday to help me wrap up a few more things. I asked them where they wanted me to put the boat and they showed me a mooring to take.
After a quick single handed mooring pickup I checked the bilge and discovered the port hull had 8 inches of water in it! I invoked as much calm as I could and checked both engine rooms and the starboard bilge, they were all fine. I rechecked the port and it was draining. Once drained it stayed drained. Whew! Upon later investigation I think the bilge outlet was acting like an inlet when the boat was backed into the sea. The stern doesn't lift until they back you in far enough for the buoyancy to pick the boat up and they go necessarily slow. This ties into the problem with following seas pushing water into the bilge. I would have these outlets raised were I to build a new boat and I would put a flap on the aft facing scoops to shut out most of the following seas.
Regardless, you never launch a boat and send it off without giving it a thorough check and standing by to re-haul her if need be. It was 4PM on Friday though and the Carenage crew were not hanging around. We later found out that the mooring they gave us wasn't theirs to give and we had to move after sunset when the owner arrived. The anchorage is 90 feet plus and we had 30 knot winds forecast over the next two days leaving us to find another mooring or anchor in 90 feet at 3:1 scope and try to find swinging room for 300 feet of chain.
After a frustrating launch I piled into the dink and headed over to Raiatea Lodge to pick up Hideko. As always seeing her lovely face made all of the frustration go away and we had a wonderful evening, happily back aboard our floating home.