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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Back in the Boat Yard
08/25/2008, Raiatea

Today we got a lot done at the yard. The bottom got two coats of paint and a couple extra at the water line. We went through the standard six cans to coat everything well.

The rain threatened, which seems to be my luck, as it poured in between painting sessions in Grenada. Other than a little sprinkle though we had no real rain today. The Raiatea Lodge, on the other hand, is right at the bottom of a rain funneling draw. It can really get going there. It never last more than a few minutes though so it is perfect. You can just go in for a coffee when there's a little shower and in exchange you get a lush garden to enjoy when the sun comes back out five minutes later.

Fred had the rudder all epoxied up and was fairing it and prepping it for foam injection. That put the two biggest projects in good stead.

Unfortunately the old stripe stickers were still on the boat. I hope the yard guys come through here as I am not looking forward to peeling these suckers myself. Some guys have the touch and they are not me. It took me forever to get the boot stripe off of the sterns so that I could raise the water line a little aft.

We have not had any reason to raise the factory waterline except in the transom area. This area can get and stay pretty moist though because it is so low and flat in the first place, and when we load up the new dink it gets a little lower.

We also had some nasty gel coat like stuff on the starboard stern at the waterline. This is the kind of thing the yard guys sort of gloss over. It took me half a day to clean up so that the bottom paint could be applied properly. I can only assume it was the result of some spillage into the water, perhaps when the guys were doing the glass work in the Grenada lagoon. Not sure but I am sure it was no fun to clean up and probably pretty harsh on the environment when it happened.

The Canvas guy completed some minor improvements to the cockpit enclosure we have today. It is still not exactly the way we want it but getting closer. The local canvas guy is a great Italian character. He's fun to work with and has a wonderful attitude. He does good work and pretty much on time but he only had the materials he has, which is to say nit much. The work he did for us was with non UV resistant thread. I would have probably skipped the effort if I had known because it will likely have to be redone in three years or so. If you have your own material and thread or just need some repairs I would recommend him (get the name and number of the Italian Canvas guy from Dominic at Raiatea Carenage).

Propane tanks came back and they said they could not fill them (I suspect due to the US spec valves). The unhappy part is that one was a third full and the other was a quarter full when they went out and they are now empty. Doesn't bode well for our culinary pleasure back on the boat. Dominic is going to see what he can do.

French Polynesia
Raiatea Tour
08/24/2008, Raiatea

The island of Ra'iatea is not known around the globe like Bora Bora. However, in the 18th century this island was the center of religious beliefs for much of Polynesia and the home of the principal Marae of "Oro", the god of war. Polynesians from New Zealand, The Cook Islands and Hawaii came to pay homage at Taputapuatea where the God Oro was worshipped. Coming to French Polynesia by modern sailboat took some time and I can not say it was always fun and comfortable. So influencing people to come to this island from so far away by canoe demonstrates the great power this religious site possessed.

Before we reached the marae, we drove from the Northwest of the island around to the South side the long way. Once you leave the main town of Uturoa, there aren't that many cars going by. It was a very relaxing drive.

We saw many huts built on the shallow lagoons about 5 seconds by boat away from shore. I wonder if these are island versions of tree houses that kids can play in. There are many rivers on the island and we spotted a water fall from the side of Mt. Aahinui. Many breadfruit (when you cook breadfruit, it is like potatoe), banana, mango and papaya trees were growing along the road.

The most important marae, Taputapuatea was in about 5 acres of land right by the water. There were not just one but a several different marae of different sizes in the park. The small black coral stones were laid on the floor and bigger coral stones with flat surfaces were standing very impressively. It was hard to imagine that this was one of the most sacred place to worship the Polynesian gods. When we were there, there was only one other local couple visiting.

As we drove the islands we saw churches full of Polynesians, not marae. It was Sunday so there were many dressed up people, women with fancy hats singing, most singing inside the churches.

French Polynesia
Relaxing in Raiatea
08/23/2008, Raiatea

We decided to rent a car and go around the island since the boat yard is closed on the weekend. The rental car showed up at 8 o'clock as we requested. We were usually at the breakfast table at 7 o'clock this week but somehow we both did not want to get up that early this morning. Forcing our sleepy bodies downstairs, we received the car and we sat at our usual breakfast table. Oliver served a couple of coffee, baguettes, home made coconut jam, papaya with vanilla jam and yummy eggs.

I was ready for an island excursion but after the week of hard work, Randy's body wanted to get a rest. So instead of driving around the island, we spent the day enjoying the lovely Raiatea Lodge Hotel's scenery and people and good food.

French Polynesia
Relaxing at the Lodge
08/22/2008, Raiatea

It was another long day at the boat yard. I was having troubles getting Micron 66 locally and I had begun the unpleasant process of trying to identify a paint I would be happy with that didn't require a complete strip of the existing antifouling. The bottom had been painted only 10 or 11 months ago and it was in pretty good shape, I was loath to scrape it all off at $300 a can!

Just as I was digging through my Practical Sailors in earnest Valeria, the office manager came through with the 66 but in black. The paint on there was blue but hey, I'll take pink if it means a light sand and paint away. Better yet they could have it tomorrow! I guess Raiatea has a pretty good connection with Papeete.

In the mean time I prepped and painted the drive legs with Trilux. I used the spray can last time around but Dominic only had gallon cans of brush on. He let me borrow a little from an open can they had. The drive legs were black but of course the paint the yard had was white. The designer genes in me suggest that a blue hull with black drive legs make for the best fashion statement, but since I'm not looking to make a fashion statement and probably don't have any designer genes anyway a black hull with white drives will have to do.

I managed to get the zincs installed, the props prepped, lubed and installed, all with healthy doses of loctite.

Fred had the rudder shaft glassed back into the right side of the shell by the end of the day. The rudder project is a hurry up and wait affair. The shaft took a day to go to town, get in the press and come back. Then once the rudder shells are clean it has to be glassed in, which requires a four plus hour pause at the end for curing. Next the halves need to be glassed together, followed by curing. Then the beast needs to be faired and filled with foam. Then the foam holes are sealed and the rudder is primed, pause. Antifouling coat one, pause. Coat two pause. You get the idea. All of this with the majority being in epoxy for water protection and secondary bond strength.

I was trying to drive a Monday splash but it was looking tough. Still no bottom paint and no work on the new stickers, both big projects.

Back at the Raiatea Lodge Hideko and I enjoyed a sunset game of Patonk and another wonderful meal cooked up by Oliver. Eric and Oliver both try to teach me French at every turn. I am trying and making some progress but their English is too good to force the issue.

French Polynesia
In the Boatyard
08/21/2008, Raiatea

It was a standard day in the yard. I pulled our propane tanks and gas jugs for filling. I also pulled the props and zincs. The zincs were in pretty good shape but not good enough for me to skip the easy opportunity to replace them.

The Raiatea Carenage has a lot of the necessities but they didn't have Yanmar Zincs. Fortunately the Raiatea Marine shop, a whopping 5 seconds across the dirt, had Plastimo replacements for the Yanmars. They fit and they were zinc so I bought them.

The props were an interesting contrast. The port prop was brand new and installed maybe a month back in the water in Moorea. It already has some stuff on it. The starboard prop had two year old Prop-speed on it and was still clean as a whistle. If you have never used Prop-speed you might want to take a look. It is amazing stuff. The only person I have known not to be happy with it flagrantly ignored the application directions. It is a two step process with an etching primer and the paint after. You have to let the etch dry as per the instructions and you have to have the props totally clean when you start.

As I was messing about with the sail drives I noticed that the starboard drive had a spacer between the drive leg and the prop and the port didn't. At least it didn't now. Got me thinking about how we crossed the Pacific with no prop on the port shaft. Was it there when I checked into things in the Galapagos? Can't be sure. It had certainly gone missing somewhere. What are the odds of finding this little bit in French frickin' Polynesia? Not good.

I sought out the boss for this one. I told Dominic my situation and asked if he could source a part. The wheels turning in my brain: Let's see, two weeks for shipping because no one has the part, the distributor will only ship to a dealer in China who then needs to ship to Tahiti, where it will clear customs in 1to never many days, I will have to fly to Tahiti to escort the part through customs, two days to get back to Raiatea and in the end I will have paid $1,398 and worked for a month to get a $1 chunk of metal.

Dominic said let me see. Stuck his head in a tool box and said "here", as he handed me the exact part! Are you kidding me? I pinched myself the rest of the afternoon as I carefully sanded and polished the little metal ring.

French Polynesia
09/01/2008 | Kevin
Why do we always have to learn the hard way ;)
09/17/2008 | Randy
I ask myself that all too often...
The Raiatea Lodge
08/20/2008, Raiatea

We are greatly enjoying the lovely Raiatea Lodge. Oliver, Eric and their families have been wonderful hosts. They serve excellent coffee and baguettes with home made jams at 7AM everyday. Lunch is at noon and dinner is at 7PM and both are excellent French/Polynesian cuisine.

You can always stir up someone for a patonk game (popular in France and elsewhere, throw a small light ball and get close to it with bigger heavy ones). The grounds are lush Polynesian standard (watch out for falling coconuts). They have a nice pool, bikes, a great dock with boats for rent, and can set you up with all sorts of tours and excursions.

The dock has been great for us because it is much faster (and easier) to take the dingy to the boat yard than to drive. I am getting into a routine of coffee at 7, boat yard at 8 and home at 4. Hideko is enjoying the free wifi and getting caught up with her Mixi (the hip Japanese online social network). We enjoy a lovely dinner together at 7 and repeat.

Today at the yard we had the rudder shaft straightened as it was bent ever so slightly. Fred and I were impressed by the stocky build of the shaft. It will not be departing the boat without serious trauma.

I did a lot of work inside the boat today. It was hot with little breeze making it in through the escape hatches. The constant threat of rain (though in retrospect it almost never did in the yard) looming up in the highlands kept me from opening the over head hatches. On the bright side the solar panels were kicking out 20 plus amps at high sun. The rail angle actually helped produce more power! I once again find good reason to recommend our air cooled fridge and freezer, which hummed along on solar power unbothered by the fact that they are 15 feet up in the air.

The yard is all 220 so we are without shore power. I asked about a transformer but I got one of those, "I'll look into it", answers that you can interpret as "not going to happen".

French Polynesia
Raiatea Carnage Services
08/19/2008, Raiatea

Day one in the yard was fairly typical. I spent most of my time trying to make sure that everything with a lead time got started, that all of my projects that required a particular specialty had someone lined up and that everything in general got moving with an understanding that I wanted to be in the water a week earlier than I really thought possible.

Boat yards are boat yards. You are never the only client. There never seems to be a project manager looking out for your boat and its needs. Everyone tells you "no problem" and you rarely see results the same day promised. Perhaps it is because you are a captive client once you're there, I'm not sure. If you ever want to get you boat back in the water you have to figure out who the players are yourself and get after all of them in the morning and again in the afternoon of every day.

My idea of customer service comes from the financial services industry where the customer is king and the clientele are demanding if not brutal. Perhaps this is too harsh a standard, regardless we are dealing with the exact opposite end of the spectrum when discussing boat yards.

All that said, I think this is my favorite boat yard to date. We have had services performed in the USA, Turks and Caicos, (tried to with no luck in the) BVI, Saint Martin, Grenada and Trinidad. Here Dominic, the owner, is very knowledgeable and a straight shooter. He still yeses you a little and is sometimes hard to corner, but he is in the office much of every day, ultimately delivers, or at least tries, and tells you why he can't if there's a problem. In Grenada they just ignore you if they are late on a promise.

This yard also has Fred. He is the secret weapon as far as I can tell. Fred is very experienced and appears to be able to fix anything. Fred pulled our damaged rudder and had it split in two by the afternoon ready to inspect. He is the kind of guy who prides himself on his work and anything he is happy with you will be happy with.

The Tahitian guys working in the yard are also very friendly and helpful. You do need to stay on top of things if you need a better than average job done of something (like cleaning a degreasing the hull before new stripes are applied). If you spoke French this place would be almost perfect.

It is a boat yard and thus toxic fumes wafts through the air and you'd better be wearing shoes but it is better than many in these respects as it is small with only one travel lift slip and the rail adjacent to a limited amount of space on the hard.

I haven't really gotten used to the entire boat sitting on an angle yet. I have decided to save all non bottom related projects until we return to the water for this reason and the fact that oil is in the back of the pan, going up the rig is out, etceteras. I am presently hoping that in the following week we can get our rudder glassed up, painted and reinstalled, bottom prepped and painted, props removed cleaned, greased and reinstalled with fresh zincs and new Prop-speed, drive legs prepped and painted, sail drive oil changed, old (partial) stripes removed and new stripes installed as well as some canvas adjustments and other odds and ends.

Today we got the bottom pressure washed and sanded and the rudder is out and opened up. Many other items have been set in motion so we'll see how it goes.

French Polynesia

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