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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Never Launch on Friday
08/29/2008, 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.

French Polynesia
The Raiatea Lodge Dock
08/27/2008, Raiatea

I was really hoping to get in the water tomorrow. Not happening. The sticker guy is supposed to come later today but he says it will be an all day job. I can believe it. We are not doing the boot stripe or the stripes up on deck, yet the big ones that run the length of the boat on both side and the bits that run from the bow back to the escape hatches on the inside of the hulls are substantial.

I did as much to prep the boat and run down little things as I could in preparation for a return to the sea regardless. Friday in the AM would be fine anyway as the wind would be down that day. It is supposed to be gusty tomorrow which is not so good for sticker application I guess. This weekend we are expecting 30 knots on Sunday and black skies for a few days. Hideko and I hope to be in a nice protected bay in Tahaa by then.

I went "home" for lunch today. As I tied up at the RL dock I marveled at how fantastic the coral and fish populations were right at the dock. This would be a fun place to snorkel. After a tasty cheese burger and some fun time with Hideko I ran back to the yard.

Jean Luc, the sticker guy, introduced himself. I was so happy to meet him because he was going to make our boat look nice for the first time since we purchased her (stickerwise), and he also spoke very little English. I learned more French in my two days with Jean Luc than I have in the last two weeks.

He also had a very professional technique and the right tools to make the transfers go on just right. The new stickers are the classic Saint Fraincis "sweep up from the stern" type. Tricky to get lined up to say the least.

French Polynesia
Closer to the Water
08/26/2008, Raiatea

Progress at the yard. The old stickers are off and the Sticker Guru responsible for all of the Moorings and Sunsail charter boats around here is going to help me put the new ones on! I haven't played with stickers since grade school and they always came out crazy then. I would hate to imagine what I would do to our boat unsupervised.

I am running out of bottom work to do so I took the afternoon off and enjoyed a lovely day with Hideko at Raiatea Lodge.

With the few local exceptions pretty much all of the food here in FP comes from New Zealand. Oliver, the chef/owner at The Raiatea Lodge, is not afraid to get out there either. We have seen Ostrich and Kangaroo on the menu along with the old Tahitian stand bys like Tuna and Rib Eye.

French Polynesia
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

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