Essential boat repairs in Hiva Oa

Sunday we stayed on board in the sporadic rain bursts feeling quite low after the latest setback with the stainless steel.   

We had suffered another restless night’s sleep on Saturday with more rolling…. sigh…. and more worrying.   We were just hoping that on Monday we would be able to get things moving in the right direction.   We watched the anchorage turn brown with run-off rain water mixing with the sea water as little waterfalls appeared along the shore.   We had another early night still trying to catch up.

Early Monday morning we went ashore:  to pick up our laundry;  dump the rubbish;   buy some petrol;   and pick up the electrician at 10 am.   I was also going to try to get some internet from the building at the top of the hill which we’d just found out about.  So laundry was collected – at a huge £25 for two small shopping bags worth! – and we had disposed of our rubbish along with everybody else’s which then gets picked over by wild chickens and their chicks.   

The quay was incredibly busy because the supply ship had arrived overnight and it was fun to see everyone getting excited about picking up their new stuff.   We were hoping that it had a huge consignment of flour for the baker so that finally we could get some fresh bread LOL.   

While Richard went off to get petrol I headed up the hill with the computer to get online.   Mission accomplished I slithered down the muddy hill just in time to see Richard heading back in dink to Morphie.   Hmmmm…wonder who he has been chatting to…..he needs to turn around pretty quickly to get back for the electrician at 10.   I sat on a rock and waited.   And it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t returning – so the guy must have been ready early and they had left me stranded!    I was happy to catch up with my emails when I realised that the internet access code only worked up the hill – they must have had a restricted zone on it.   So I trudged back up in the mud….and sat overlooking the harbour.   I did eventually manage to catch up so thanks to everyone for their patience in awaiting my tardy responses.

Of course, there was no power up there so when the computer’s battery died I headed back down the hill – around lunchtime.   And there was Richard in the boat yard chatting to Vincent, the owner.   The amazing thing was that Fred, the electrician, had fixed our autopilot.   Woo hoo!!!!    Apparently he thought the control head was dead too as there was power and data running through the cable from the control unit up to the binnacle.  Scratching his head he cut off the SeaTalk connecter and directly connected the cable to the base unit – and it worked!   So the unit wasn’t dead but still wouldn’t work in the nav pod.  So he took the pod apart and found – on the hidden four inches of cable – a chafe through the cable insulation which had finally parted in the difficult conditions whilst underway.   What a genius!!!   Soooo happy……   

We were even happier when Vincent confirmed that they could haul us on Wednesday and do the stainless steel welding.   Luckily we had an old flag pole – marine-grade stainless steel – which had become redundant when the arch had been installed.    They were going to use that to make the new connecting posts so no problems over lack of materials.    Amazing.    Feeling much happier Richard and I decided to go back.    The little dock, by now, was struggling underwater with a big high tide and there were chunks of wood everywhere… we navigated our way through that and got back to Morphie eventually, albeit a bit soggy.   We took our lives into our own hands trying to get back on board as there was a huge swell running and the movement meant we had to time our leaps onto the transom accordingly.     What a day!

Later that evening we had just had dinner and a celebratory few beers and the sun had gone down.  And a big skiff thing pulled up behind us and told us to move to let the ship leave.  Damn…..why now?   We had been on board most of the afternoon and had had a few beers and in the dark we had to pick up two anchors.   Stern first….success….then I was on the bow trying to pick up the main anchor.  And, of course, the windlass failed…. just clicking away.    The ship hadn’t waited for us to get out of the way and was coming towards us….. luckily, at that point, the problem resolved itself and we did manage to get out of the way just in time.    We weren’t amused.   Finally we had both anchors reset and had an early night but although irritated by the ship we were pretty happy that things had taken a turn for the better.

Tuesday morning we returned to town to get some cash out.   And, of course, the cards didn’t work again.  So we went to Make Make snack bar and had some lunch whilst getting access to the internet for a skype call to the bank – £3.50 an hour this time.   The bank confirmed that everything was OK and they had not blocked the cards for any reason…. so it must be the ATM.  We had tried three at two different places so not sure about that!   Anyway, not wanting to find ourselves sort of readies, we decided to use our credit card to get some money out instead.   And, of course, the most expensive method worked beautifully.   Typical.

Now with cash in hand and after the mandatory lunchtime closures of all stores we went shopping – and found loads of fresh baguettes in every store.   Yay!!!    We also visited the hardware store where Richard managed to spend a huge £10 on 20 screws….. seriously….. this place is not cheap.  Oh yes and the Post Office has stopped selling SIM cards so no internet for us on the boat.   More sighing.   A few more stores followed and then we headed back to the port with a free lift from the guy who runs Make Make.  

Back on Morphie and we got the outboard off of dink onto the rail and hauled dink onto the bow.   Boy dink is heavy and we struggled until we managed to get another cruiser to help us.    So if we are not going to use the arch for dink when doing a long passage in future we need to seriously consider swapping him out for a lighter version that we can both handle easier.     Eventually he was on the bow and tied down in preparation for being hauled.   We collapsed into the cockpit for dinner and an early night.   Oh yes and it was raining again… we collected rain water to top up the tank with.  

Wednesday morning we went ashore and couldn’t believe it….the docks were maybe three feet above our heads and the swell meant catching hold of them and staying upright without getting your head knocked off – it was downright dangerous.   We tried three docks before we finally managed to get close enough for me to jump off onto the rocks and take the rope with me.    What a palaver!!!   We dropped all our frozen food off at the petrol station minimarket – as the lady had kindly agreed to store our food in their large walk-in freezer – got some fresh bread and headed back to Morphie.  And that is where we stayed until we got the radio call from Vincent that they were ready for us.

We picked up the anchor….very slowly as the problem persisted with the windlass being non-operational lots of time during the process….and drove Morphie towards the ramp where the tractor was waiting. 

Richard couldn’t see the bow because of dink so I directed him in – with assistance from the land – and threw a couple of ropes to the boatyard guys to pull us forward the last few feet.  Finally we were in the cradle – so the engine was killed and the fridge / freezer turned off (they are water cooled so don’t work on land) – and we were off being pulled up the ramp and into the mud.  Richard’s job was done…..

We swayed….we slipped…and finally we arrived at the entrance to the boat yard.  A six-point turn continued to get us in through the entrance…..

Until we were finally installed – having been jet washed – on the only piece of concrete in this muddy quagmire which is Hiva Oa boatyard.   Phew…we were safe. 

We got shore power installed and (patchy) internet access sorted and it was time for the yard to close.    We bagged up some more rubbish and Richard braved the mud to walk to the gate only to find we were locked in – they had forgotten to give us the code LOL.  Who cares anyway???  We had no plans on going anywhere.  So we enjoyed a nice evening in the steady as a rock cockpit and so to bed.  It was lovely to sleep on a bed that didn’t roll around.   It was just a shame about the 10 foot ladder and the muddy walk to go to the loo though LOL.

Thursday morning and work started in earnest at 7am.   Christophe realised that he couldn’t work on the stern arch without assistance from the tractor and its moveable platform.   And, of course, Morphie was still attached to the tractor.  So they chocked Morphie up the front and removed the tractor so Christophe was happy and could start his preparations.    

I found a platform with wheels and started to clean the stainless and the hull – the ocean grime didn’t even come off with the jet wash – so this was going to need a lot of elbow grease.   Richard took himself into the starboard lazarette to reinforce the autopilot shelf;    he helped Christophe pull two cables through the arch so that they wouldn’t get fried while the welding was going on;   he topped up the oil and tightened the fan belt;  checked the rudder / cutlass bearing / bow thruster;  cleaned keel coolers and the ground plate;   and I moved on from cleaning to waxing and polishing.   Finally, around 4.30 pm we were done – we still need to clean the last bits of the hull at the stern plus the sugarscoop once the welding is finished.   The topsides are also covered in mud from everyone coming up and down the ladder. 

At 6pm Christophe gave up for the day as the light faded….

We finally had power restored to Morphie – so we had a lovely lamb dinner and a few beers in the cockpit before turning in for the night.   Then we found another problem – the gas solenoid is running way too hot – so that’s on the list to be swapped out now too.  Luckily we have spares for this.   Living on the boat on the hard is not my favourite pastime….but I’m managing so far!

Friday morning one of the boat guys came by and gave us two pamplemousse – a cross between a grapefruit and an orange.  

Before they had turned up at 7 am we had already finished the hull cleaning at the stern so just the sugarscoop to do.    It is lovely to see Morphie without that ocean grime all over her again….    

We ate the fruit for breakfast – was lovely and sweet – and Christophe turned up so we lost our power again when he started welding.    Fred, the electrician turned up, and obviously wasn’t able to troubleshoot the anchor windlass without power.  He is such a genius we are going to get him to look at our defunct GPS too just in case….

So Fred has gone off to do another job elsewhere on the island and, it looks probable, that we might need to chock and stay in the boatyard over the weekend too as we may miss the high tide this afternoon to splash.  Oh well, never mind…..   Thought a Friday splash was a tad optimistic!   Oh yes and Fred also gave us some pamplemousse and some fresh limes so we are quite well taken care of.   They are such lovely kind people.

In case you are wondering about the water beneath the ladder….well it has been raining on and off again….and there are waterfalls behind the boat and we are living in a sea of mud…..

Christophe has just finished….not a great job but definitely a get out of jail one….and Fred has returned.   He has confirmed that the GPS antennae is kaput so something else to buy.   The windlass motor is running OK but it still cuts out – so Vincent and Fred have decided that this is probably a thermal issue – in that the old motor is drawing too much power and the internal systems cut out as a result.  That would explain why it goes and then comes back.  So Vincent (as Fred is too big to get into the anchor locker) is going to swap the old motor out for our spare.  

Too make our day, the shore power has just failed on us – reverse polarity – so they are looking into that too.    Christophe apparently got an electric shock from the ladder this morning before it tripped.   Thankfully now that the welding is finished the solar panels are operational again and we are drawing very little power so we should be OK in the meantime.  

This certainly wasn’t what we were expecting to get up to in French Polynesia but needs must – so far the timelines haven’t slipped so far that the rest of the season is still doable – fingers crossed that remains the same.   And I want to see the sun!!!!  

Bye for now