Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Rescue in Cook's Bay, Moorea

On Oct 22nd we motored down inside the reef from Papeete (carefully weaving in and out of red and green and yellow markers — that are passed exactly opposite of the way we navigate in the US) to Marina Taina. The route goes right along Faa’a Airport, so we had to call in to Airport Control at the end of each runway so we didn’t get run over by a 757. 

Marina Taina has duty-free diesel (which works out to approximately one-half price). Our plan was to fill up, then come back up inside to Papeete and leave for North Fakarava in the Tuamotus that day. We ended up running late and the weather was very windy so we just took a mooring ball for the night, with the plan of leaving in the morning. Once we checked the weather, however, we saw the conditions were too light to sail to the Tuamotus so we went with Plan C and decided to motor over to Moorea, about 10 miles to the north. 

Large cruise ships make it through the narrow pass into Cook's Bay on Moorea.
On Oct 24th we ended up motor sailing most of the way to Cooks Bay on the north side of Moorea. Cooks Bay, home of the famous Bali Hai Club and admittedly the most beautiful bay in the South Pacific, was socked in with storm clouds. When we rounded the corner to enter the pass the wind was ripping through the bay at 20 -25 knots. We got anchored and went down below for short nap when we heard someone outside our boat yelling. Meryl popped up and it was a Spanish guy (Paco) on a catamaran that we had followed into the bay. He said the 40 ft. sailboat next to us had dragged anchor and was headed onto the reef.

Meryl got on the VHF and issued a “Pan Pan Pan” distress call hoping to elicit more help. Paco went back to his boat to get his spare Spade anchor and I tore apart my aft lockers looking for a 120 ft. spare line I had. We then jumped in his dingy and rushed over to the boat. When we boarded (we had seen the owner leave earlier in the day) we looked for the ignition key (we always leave ours in for exactly these situations) but there was none. And the cabin was locked so we couldn’t turn on the windlass. All the while the boat was slowly drifting towards a reef about 100 feet away.

So we went to Plan C (we seem to do that a lot) and dropped the Spade anchor off the bow and payed out the line. Just as the anchor started to grab (we’re now 50 ft from the reef) the French-speaking owner comes rushing up in his dingy. He immediately turned on the engine and started motoring ahead. Luckily Paco speaks excellent French and English so he translated between the three of us. We eventually got all the anchors up and motored back to the head of the bay and re-anchored.

To say the Frenchman was appreciative is an understatement. We all knew how close he came to loosing the boat (and that’s how quick things can happen out here). His name was Pierre and he lived in Tahiti, but his recently divorced wife and their 11-year-old daughter lived on Cooks Bay in Moorea so he was visiting for the weekend.

We all met later for Happy Hour at the nearby Club Bali Hai (yes, the famous Bali Hai resort) for drinks (Pierre would not let us pay). It was interesting getting to know each other. Ironically we had a child’s wetsuit on board that a boat named Sunrise had given us in case we ever ran into a cat called Ole. That was Paco’s boat so we gave him the wetsuit for his 2-year-old son.

Paco had also sailed across from the Galapagos to the Marquesas with Messaluna, other friends of ours who we hadn’t seen for over a year but just got an email from the other day. We even got to see the special Friday night Tahitian Dance Show that they put on for the tourists. The highlight (for me) was when Meryl was selected by an especially hunky Tahitian guy to dance with him. I think a strong gin and tonic helped her.

Meryl found some good bargains from the local artisans.
Artisans have booths set up selling the beautiful black pearls from the Tuamotus.
We all marveled at what a small world it is. And as we told Pierre, “our job is to help each other, because we’re all that we have for support out here.”

Nice end to a dramatic day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Visiting Robert Wan's Black Pearl Museum

Priceless bikini made of natural black pearls from the Tuamotos
  Black pearls are everywhere in French Polynesia so not knowing anything about them I decided to take an excursion to the Robert Wan Museum in Papeete to learn more about the history of pearl farming and how to identify a good quality black pearl.  Here is an abbreviated version.

The people of Polynesia are among the most accomplished divers in the world. The divers of the Tuamotu archipelago have exceptional skill, frequently reaching depths of 100 - 130 feet, some can
remain under the water for as long as 3 minutes. Unlike the divers of the Persian Gulf or Ceylon, they do not use stones to weigh themselves down and reach the seabed using only their arms to pull themselves down, hyperventilating and occasionally performing chants before beginning the dive.

Over the last century there has been a steady decline in the pearl industry.  Since 1960 a decrease from 645 tons to 185 tons in the Tuamotu Archipelago in 1970. Today the traditional activity of pearl fishing has been superseded by pearl farming. Pearl farms currently are the biggest source of income in French Polynesia. Using sophisticated techniques, pearl production on a grand scale has allowed Polynesia to capture much of the global market and demand for Polynesian black pearls in Europe and the US since the 1980’s.

The real growth in the pearl industry, took place thanks to the invention of modern farming techniques by Kichimatsu Mikimoto of Japan.  A process that involves growing the oysters to a certain age when they are ready for grafting. Next nuclei between 2 and 12 mm are cut from the shell of certain varieties of fresh water mussel and then smoothed off so they are perfectly spherical. Then the oysters are grafted involving the cutting of small pieces of flesh from the mantel and the nucleus which are then inserted into the oyster’s gonad. The oyster is then massaged to speed up the healing process.

Beautiful mother of pearl objects and jewelry were on exhibit. This photo shows a Silver Rosary, Pair of Opera Glasses, Tea Caddy, a Silverboar’s head stamp, writing set, a natural seed pearl necklace, drop earrings, and a natural pearl brooch.

The Chinese and Japanese were also very interested in pearls and mother of pearl for decoration for military attire, regal crowns, and also a large oyster shell engraved in Japanese is exhibited.

Large oyster shell engraved in Japanese
Here is a list of basic criteria to look for when choosing black pearls for purchase and to help guide in  determining the value of black pearls,
Luster, which is the reflection of the light on the surface of the pearl giving it brilliance.
Orient, is the way the mother-of-pearl reflects and splits the light through aragonite crystal’s secreted around the nucleus.
Surface, shows marks of gestation, such as tiny streaks of sand or depressions that make each pearl unique.
Size, the smallest pearls are 8 mm in diameter. The majority are from 9 to 12 millimeters. Those over 13 mm are rare.
Color, the basic black or grey have a multitude of tones from white to lunar grey with tints of cherry, peacock, blue, Tahitian silver, Tahitian gold may appear. Personal preference is always yours.
Shape, perfectly round and symmetrical pearls are the rarest and most outstanding. They represent a maximum of 5% of the harvest. Round pearls which are the most sought after are mainly used for rings and necklaces, whereas other pearl shapes are used for original creations by designers.
Matching pearls can be extremely difficult and prized necklaces may take several years and harvests to complete.

While, the price ranges are from thousands of dollars for top quality pearls to smaller less perfect pearls for 2-3 dollars each.  My hopes are to find some beautiful pearls from an interesting island in the Tuamotus for a reasonable price.  For me it is primarily about the cultural experience and interaction with the islanders than finding the perfect pearl. They will have much more memorable value to me and make wonderful gifts for family and friends.  But then again, I could be happily swayed into a lovely gift set from my husband!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Papeete Marketplace — revisited

Looking back as a young lady in my early twenties and just out of college, I had the privilege of visiting Papeete on a regular basis. The Seattle Pan Am base had Tahiti and Auckland trips every winter and I was eager to sign up. Those early flying days were pretty ideallic to say the least. We laid over at the gorgeous Intercontinental Hotel Tahara built on a hillside overlooking the ocean. Each room had a huge deck overhanging the next level with cascading bougainvillea all the way down the hillside. A beautiful swimming pool and a black sand beach down at the shore. Its a wonder we ever left the hotel but often “Le Truck” (fun open-aired colorfully decorated trucks with polynesian music blarring) would take us into town to the marketplace for shopping and  sightseeing. At that time it was a much smaller market but none the less colorful.

 Arriving back in Papeete by boat was an eye opening experience to see all the changes over the past 40 years. We soon sadly learned the Tahara Intercontinental Hotel was now defunct and the new Intercontinental (also very nice) was just past the airport.  No more “Le Trucks” and a much much larger city with freeways and traffic. I didn't expect to recognize very much as 40 years is a long time.

While we were docked at the Papeete City Marina everything was conveniently located and within easy walking distance. With a wide variety of shops, restaurants, museums, cathedrals, parks and promenades along the shore to keep us occupied.  The Marketplace has been rebuilt numerous times over the years and was most recently rebuilt in 1984. It is still the central focal point of the city and a wonderful gathering place with food stalls, bakery, ice cream parlor, and arts and crafts on the first floor.  The second floor has a restaurant and more shops. 
Today's Papeete Market

Fortunately, I managed to escape from some boat projects on Sunday morning for the Local Market Day when all the locals come in with their produce. It starts at 5 am but if you arrive by 7am you still have a good chance of finding everything you are looking for.  So I arrived at 7am, a more civilized time, and started shopping for much needed fresh fruit and vegetables. 

One of my main objectives was to find some honey or “miel” in french.  They don’t import honey from other countries but raise it within French Polynesia. We found some in Fatu Hiva but they wanted $30 for a small quantity so we decided to keep looking. I finally found a young lady selling some from the Marquesas for $20.  I realized if I wanted to make my granola I would have to splurge!

Little bottles of "teddy bear like" honey cost aproximately $20
The Tahitians have a beautiful way of displaying the flowers of the island. From lovely scented lai’s, to colorful crown arrangements worn for special occasions by the women, as well as lovely table arrangements. 

One of my first observations was a long line for a special marinated fish, tuna I believe.  Seafood is the staple of the Polynesian menu.  I also found several stalls of BBQ pork and chicken. The Chinese use a Hoison Sauce to marinate the meat and call it “char su”. Added to rice and you have a yummy dish.

I would come across a fruit, vegetable or root that I wasn’t familiar with. Always eager to learn something new I would try and ask in my broken french how it is used and prepared. I try not to get too outside my familiar zone as I have lots of foreign ingredients I can’t translate and they sit in the cupboard unused just taking up space.

Total purchase $45 including honey, BBQ pork & chicken, bananas, 5 ears of corn, long green beans, lettuce, cabbage, green onions, bok choy, tomatoes, and a papaya.
The whole experience was a colorful canopy of exotic foods, people, and music all blended in harmony.  The Polynesians along with the French seem to have found a happy balance in their lives.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Papeete or Bust!

We were so excited to have our boat projects “finished” (more on that later) and to be living on a functional boat again that we forgot about the realities of sailing the boat. With the goal of sailing from Port Phaeton to Papeete, we got up at 6 a.m. only to be met by a pelting rain storm. After not having been on the boat for over three months, just trying to remember if we reinstalled everything the right way (we didn’t) and how to sail the boat was a huge challenge. 

With surf breaking on both sides of us we carefully navigated out the pass, but when we got the genoa up we realized the furling line (that pulls the sail back in like a window shade) was way too short. So out in the middle of the deep blue ocean I had to go forward and undo 20 wraps of 80 ft. line off the drum, no simple task at the dock and certainly more challenging with the waves breaking over the bow. 

With that task done, we experienced some excellent sailing, up to 10 knots with the wind off the beam. Then the wind totally died and we motor sailed for about three hours, and then ran into a wall of 23- to 30-knot winds right on the nose. We debated about going back (there was a huge reef to leeward of us for the next 20 miles. For every 100 feet we sailed we slid about a couple of feet towards the reef. If I had been a Math major I could have calculated whether we would make it or not, but I was a History major so it was a moot point. It was very questionable in my mind if we could sail that high to avoid eventually hitting the reef. But with the motor on to assist us it turned out we’d left just enough sea room and came roaring through the pass at Papeete. With my left leg not working because of a torn meniscus, walking around the bouncing decks and getting done the sails was not fun, but we got it done.

The marina at Papeete was recently remodeled and is now a first class operation. We enjoyed watching these huge cruise ships tie up and disgorge their thousands of passengers onto the streets of Papeete.
Arriving at Papeete we thought all our "boat jobs" were completed so we could just relax for a while. It turns out we were a tad bit optimistic.
The promenade along the waterfront is packed with people day and night.
Of all the places we've traveled around the world, we've found the Polynesians to best understand the concept of "work/life balance."
It was wonderful to see Marce and Jack on Escape Velocity again, even if it was only for two days.
Luckily our friends Jack and Marce on Escape Velocity (leaving tomorrow morning, as always) helped us get tied up, which was wonderful given that we had about 25 knots of cross wind. The dock at the City Marina in Papeete was totally rebuilt several years ago and it’s now a first class marina. It was nice to sit in the cockpit and watch everyone (it’s like the Seattle waterfront on a warm summer’s day) walking along the seafront promenade that goes for about three miles along the water. On the seaward side of us are several cruise ship docks, and there’s a huge cruise ship in right now that blocks out the sky. Quite the show.

While the installation of the water maker was a fairly simple job, it's always the complete disruption of our living spaces that's the most difficult to deal with.
The Spectra Ventura 200T water maker fits well into one of our deep lockers. A high pressure Clark Pump forces the salt water through a special membrane that separates the salt from the water, quite an amazing process when you think about it.
The water maker's membrane needs to be flushed with fresh water following each water making session. The filter on the left filters out any chlorine from our fresh water tanks that could damage the membrane. On the far right is the feed pump that pumps salt water to the Clark Pump for separation into salt and water.
On Saturday Oct 10th, in fit of masochism, I decided to take a crack at installing the new water maker. I was going to wait until we got to the Marquesas, but I’d read enough that I thought I could do it. I explored the most likely installation locations and found the previous owner had the exactly same water maker (Spectra Ventura 200T) installed at some point on the boat. That meant I just had to match up the screw holes, and the plumbing/wiring runs were already in place. 

I had a few hiccups along the way when the instructions were ambiguous, but I got it working on Sunday morning — producing beautiful, pure water for free (solar panels power the 24-volt water maker at 5 amps/hour). I had a few leaks at first and got them fixed, but then I noticed a weird thunking noise every 20 secs. I  powered the water maker down and sent an email to our friends on Escape Velocity (who had just left). They have the same water maker and they said the noise is normal from the high pressure pump shifting. So I guess we’re good to go. 

Having a water maker dramatically changes our lives in a number of ways. In the South Pacific there are fewer locations to get water and many times you have to land the dingy on beach with breaking surf and then haul 250 pounds of water in 5-gal. containers down the beach, into the dingy, and onto the boat. Not fun. 

Now we just flip a switch and cool, clean water comes flowing out the hose. We get to take longer showers (not sure we can do that at this stage), have fresh water to wash down the boat and SCUBA gear, and don't have to plan our lives around water acquisition. We did loose a lot of storage so the problem now is try to get everything back into new places. That will definitely be a challenge.

It was fun to watch the passengers on this huge cruise ship as they looked down, watching us.
Amazingly my torn meniscus kind of moved back in place so the pain is gone for now and I can actually walk. We took a celebratory walk along the incredible waterfront promenade that goes along the Papeete Harbor shoreline. The government built a wonderful park along the water with lots of grassy fields where the locals play soccer, volleyball, and picnic areas. 

The Central Market in Papeete is a huge covered building full of fruits, vegetables, fabrics, and curios that attracts crowds from the cruise ships as well as locals.
At night near the square the "roulettes" (food trucks) set up operations. It's a wonderful place to get a relatively inexpensive meal (somewhat of an oxymoron here in Tahiti).
Meryl and I absolutely love the Polynesian print fabrics, so you can imagine our joy finding this fabric store in downtown Papeete. Here Meryl shops with Britta from the sailboat Desire.
Papeete is chock full of "black pearl" shops where the cruise ship passengers can get good deals on the unique pearls. We will be traveling to the Tuamotus where the pearls are farmed so we will probably wait until then to buy some as gifts.
This woman gave me the best 10-minute shampoo massage and haircut I've ever had. In many of the South Pacific islands men are raised as women depending on the needs of the family. In Tahiti these "women" are called Mahu and are totally accepted in society.
The weather has calmed down a bit and it’s actually cooler at night, almost a perfect temperature. We took some time (in between long walks to marine chandleries and ACE Hardware looking for parts) to enjoy some local French restaurants (I especially enjoy the hot fudge sundae at Chez McDonalds) and to do a little shopping. Meryl got me a beautiful Polynesian print shirt so now I look exactly like all the guys coming off the cruise ships. Our plan now is to just wait a bit for the right weather and then head to the Marquesas.

Well, as usual I spoke too soon. I said something no cruiser should ever say: "I think our boat projects are almost done." Any cruiser worth his salt knows that utterance is the kiss of death, even with "knock on teak." Sure enough, that night -- after spending a lovely day just wandering around Papeete "because our boat projects are done," I heard an ominous noise from the engine compartment. The refrigerator was making a weird sound. The fridge is the one thing (outside of the engine) that we can't afford to lose. After listening to the fridge I surmised that the carbon brushes to the electric motor that drives the compressor were failing;  this has happened twice before.

The next morning we began a campaign of trying to find out who could fix electric motors in Papeete. We arrived at the most likely candidate's shop at 11:46 a.m., just one minute after they had closed for their one and one-half hour lunch at 11:45. Oh, I forgot to mention we'd walked halfway across town to get there. A nice engineer at a neighboring electrical business helped us out, even driving us to the second most likely business to fix electric motors, who informed us "yes they do, but at their other location (located right next door to where the engineer worked and where we started our search). Well you can see where this is going.

Long story short, we found a great refrigeration guy who confirmed it wasn't the motor but the flexible coupling between the motor and the compressor that was failing. Wow, I thought, do I feel better now. We could try to order one from the States, but it would take up to a month and one-half and cost up to $500 with shipping and customs duty, that is if we could find one. Or, our mechanic had a machinist friend who could fabricate one out of teflon for $250. A Hobson’s Choice, we chose the second option. Now, just two days later we have a functioning fridge again and we can hopefully leave here this Friday.

As typical, when you start fixing one thing it leads to another, a boat being just like a big Pandora’s Box. Since I had to fix refrigerator, I had to disassemble a lot of stuff in the engine compartment, so with the area open I decided to tackle one more thing on the list, a lot of rust on the aft end of the engine, especially the starboard aft engine mount and transmission linkage. This is stuff you can’t have fail and rust will do that fairly quickly. 

It meant getting in there with a very powerful grinder/electric wire brush and getting everything shiny again without ripping part of your hand off with the grinder. Actually the hardest part of the job was finding a single spray can of Yanmar engine paint that I know is on the boat somewhere. It was supposed to be at the bottom of the deepest, most crowded compartment on the boat, the one we’d just emptied four days earlier to install the water maker. After emptying not one, but all three deep compartments the paint was no where to be found (I did find a bunch of other stuff I’d been looking for, however). So out of eight cans of paint on the boat, I found seven, but not the important engine paint. That meant another hour-long walk down to the ACE Hardware to buy something that approximated the color, but not exactly. 

Since two metals were involved in the area, I had to first put on a special primer that bonds with the rust to the steel, and then zinc chromate as a primer for the aluminum engine.  After two days we got everything painted and it looked brand new, but when I was putting all the parts back together I felt a drip of water on my neck. Eureka! I had finally found the elusive drip that had been causing the rust issue. The vacuum breaker on the engine cooling water loop that was overhead behind a bunch of wires had been leaking for years. It was a fairly simple fix to put new vacuum breaker on, so hopefully this persistent problem is solved. 

Never again will I say “all the boat projects are done.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The "Back in the Boatyard" Blues

Waking up in the hotel room in Papeete and taking a nice hot shower was such a treat, but we knew what hell we had awaiting us for the next two weeks at “the boatyard.”  Usually we’re anxious to leave a hotel room, but not this time.

We somehow managed to stuff, and I do mean stuff, all our 350 lbs.+ of luggage in a tiny Renault rental car.  With all the weight in the car I could barely make it out of the steep hotel access road using 1st gear and after getting a run at it.

After a leisurely one-hour drive down the west side of the island we arrived at the boatyard and carefully carried all that luggage up a rickety ladder propped against the stern of the boat. We had taken great precautions to protect the boat during our absence, but we could immediately see the mold on the leather cushions and other surfaces. Well, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We just left everything out in the cockpit, got out the vinegar/water/soap spray bottle and started cleaning everything. After about three hours we had the boat aired out and somewhat inhabitable. Luckily we had put our sheets, pillows, and other soft goods in vacuum pack bags and they seemed OK.

Meryl was in heaven finally being able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at a well stocked super market.
Just down the road from Taravao is the world famous Teahupoo surf break. This is actually a photo mural of the wave that's at the McDonald's drive-in in Taravao. Hey, you borrow what you have to borrow.
We next took a quick trip down to Carrefour to get groceries and bags of ice cubes so we could use our fridge again (for some reason they don’t sell block ice in Tahiti). Slowly we got things put back and collapsed in bed after a very long day. I knew what was coming up and I dreaded it so going to sleep quickly seemed like the best solution.

Every three or four days Meryl and I would drive about five miles down the road to a roadside faucet that the locals insured was drinkable water. The water in the yard was muddy brown on a good day. 
I can't say Meryl throughly enjoyed this job, but she did good work in cleaning then taping the 88 feet of waterline so we could begin painting the bottom.
We first had the boatyard guys erect a walkway about six feet high around the port side of the boat so we could wash, polish, and wax the sides of the hull. I went in a lower compartment to get my favorite Makita Polisher — that was double wrapped in ZipLoc bags — only to find the bags totally full of water. I dried it out as best I could and prayed when I plugged it in, but nothing. I then disassembled the tool only to find all the electrical circuits covered with rust. To say I was upset is an understatement. For four years that compartment has been bone dry, where the water came from is a mystery to me. Back in the car I drive about three miles south to Taravao where there is a great Ace Hardware full of Makita tools. They had the exact same polisher, but at 3x the price and in 220 volts, which I can’t use once we’re back in the States. But with no choice I plunked down the credit card and walked out the door. Naturally the treads on the spindle were different so some of my polishing bonnets wouldn’t fit, but I somewhat expected that.

The French owner of the boat behind us kindly took this iPhone photo of the happy crew of Flying Cloud working away. Standing on that scaffolding was like walking on a slack line.
Over the next few days we got the boat washed, polished and waxed. I have a favorite wax, Collinite Fleet Wax, but TSA confiscated it out of my luggage last time we flew, so I had to use a not as good substitute. Meryl and I have gotten fairly good at waxing the boat (one yard even offered us a job waxing boats) and the hull is now shiny and looking factory fresh. The next job was not so much fun.

Great shot of me after sanding the bottom of the boat. One wag suggested I join "Blue Man Group." Considering how toxic this paint is I probably won't have to worry about shaving my face for the next year.
Suiting up in my OSHA-approved white bunny suit, with respirator and hat on, I cranked up my Honda genset to provide the 110v my power tools needed, and started at the rear of the boat with a brand new DeWalt orbital sander that I had bought in the states. If you did this job at home you’ve have to have a tarp under the boat to catch all of the old toxic bottom paint and an approved vacuum cleaner hooked up to the sander to catch the dust. But then again, we’re not in the US. 

Fortunately we use an ablative-type of bottom paint that literally wears itself off the boat a little bit every day, so by the time haul out comes (once a year) there’s not much paint on the boat. You really just rough up the surface to accept the new paint. It’s a dirty, ugly job, and when doing it in a tropical environment expect to loose about 3 lbs. of body weight just by sweating inside the bunny suit. Meryl helped by hand sanding the water line and after a long day we had most of the job done.

The next project was to fix some dings I got on the bottom of the keel and rudder when I got two feet on the wrong side of a channel marker (an old rotten timber) in the Los Rosario islands off the coast of Columbia. After sanding the area I mixed up a buttery paste of epoxy and micro-ballons (if you like frosting cakes you’ll love this job) and applied a smooth a paste over all the scratches. Once it hardens you sand it down and do it again, usually by the second coat you’ve got most of the scratches covered. Since the bottom of the keel was partially covered by the support blocks we’d have to do the missed parts later. It looks ugly once all the patches are sanded down, but once the bottom paint goes on you’ll never find them.
A little red paint, then a little black paint. They actually recommend you use two colors when you paint the bottom, that way when you start seeing the red color showing through you know it's time for new bottom paint.
Speaking of bottom paint, we searched all over Tahiti for a special bottom paint called Ameron ABC3. It’s what the US Navy puts on its destroyers and has proven to be a very effective paint in tropical waters. No store in Papeete had any, but we’d heard a rumor that our very own Ace Hardware in Taravao might have some so we jumped in the car and drove down.  The good news was they had some. The bad news was they sold the last two cans of blue, our usual color, the day before. We settled for what they had left on the shelf, two cans of red and two cans of black. This bottom paint sells for about $200/gal. so you want to be very careful with it.

Now here’s the part where they just about hauled me off to the mental institution. We’re on a tight schedule to go back into the water at the boat yard. That means we’ve got to complete the bottom paint and finish all our other jobs. The day before we’re ready to paint we make one last run to ACE to get some paint rollers, trays, etc. and one more can of black bottom paint that had just come in. We kept all the paint on the floor of the back seat of our rental car. When we got back to the yard, we parked the car and I opened the back door and out flies a can of black bottom paint. In my youth I could have done the diving fly ball catch, but no longer. It hit the ground, the lid sprang off and $200 of very rare and valuable paint began a circular migration to the center of the earth. That was truly the last can of paint in all of Tahiti (you can’t mix brands of bottom paint, it’s tough enough to get the same brand to stick over the top of itself). I saved about a quart that still hadn’t poured out, but not knowing exactly how much paint we’d need (and needing the black to cover the red first coats) I was in a super crabby mood for the rest of the day. As Meryl mentioned, what if it had opened inside the car? The rental car company examined the car with a microscope before they released it to us so I can’t imagine how that scenario would have gone. 

These are the things that happen cruising that seriously test your mental stability and ability to get out of bed the next day.  We got a coat of red paint on without any drama the next day and knew we were going to be super close on the amount of black needed to finish the job. Luckily we ended up with about one quart left over after the entire job was done. The good news is we did a much better job than the typical yard workers would do (we’d had the yard do this job for the last four years, but in Tahiti labor is just too expensive). We breathed a huge sigh of relief, high-fived each other, and promised to get really drunk at some point just to forget the whole experience.

I found a wonderful Makita high speed die grinder on Amazon that spins at some ungodly RPM. With a good brass cup brush you can clean the underwater metal on the boat fairly quickly. You just need to make sure you don't grind your thumb off (don't ask me how I know this). 
The world's most expensive paint (even more than bottom paint) is PropSpeed. It does a great job of protecting the prop and shaft from underwater growth for exactly one year. In this photo you can see the new protective zincs on the prop, prop shaft, and underbody of the boat.
The last job was to coat the prop shaft and prop with a special PropSpeed paint that is hard to find and normally costs $200. They only had it in a larger size in Tahiti so we got to spend $400 (hopefully we can use the rest next year). It’s a very tricky job, but since we’d done it last year we’d gained some experience and actually did a fairly good job. You have to have the shaft and prop super clean right before you apply the PropSpeed, and I enlisted my secret tool (a Makita electric die grinder that spins at some incredible RPMs). I put a brass wire cup brush on (also impossible to find in Tahiti) and got the shaft and prop looking like a trophy on championship day. Coating the shaft/prop with PropSpeed just about guarantees you a year of no growth on the prop. I can actually feel the difference when I’m motoring the boat.

The new 40-ton hydraulic trailer does a good job of adjusting itself to the shape of the hull.
Meryl always has great trepidation whenever the boat is being moved, perhaps rightly so.
Meryl and Yvan, the yard manager. Yvan did an excellent job making sure everything went smoothly in the yard. Also, having someone who spoke English helped us in a hundred ways when we were tying to order parts, etc.

The hydraulic trailer is not self propelled, rather they use the red tractor to very slowly move the boat from location to location. Then they anchor the tractor with a heavy chain and slowly let gravity roll the trailer into the water.
After three weeks of no toilets, no showers, and no refrigeration on the boat we were extremely happy to see Flying Cloud gently lowered into the waters of Port Phaeton. We actually got to sit out in the cockpit that night sipping a drink and enjoying the sunset without becoming hors d’oeuvres for the local mosquito population.  Never have I been so glad to have the boat back in the water.

To celebrate we walked the mile down to the Carrefour with our little baggie of chocolate chips and bought the world's most expensive Haagen-Dazs ice cream. And it tasted ever so good.
I loved watching the local Tahitian kids at their sailing school. It's serious training with the students learning boat rigging, navigation, safety, tactics, and general seamanship. One day it was blowing a steady 20 knots and they still went out sailing. This little girl always had the proper Gallic pout on her face, and always was in the lead over all the boys.
The next day we were blessed by the local Tahitian kids, who having attended a two-week long sailing school, all sailed past us in their Optimus racing dinghies and waved. The only reply I knew was from watching the Tour de France bicycle race so I yelled “Allez, allez.”

They probably thought I was a dork.