Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hauled out at Apataki Carenage - As Flat As It Gets

For a couple of days, the weather in Apataki was beautiful; the sun shining brightly in the blue sky and the waves of the lagoon lapping gently on the coral beach. Then, the wind shifted to the north again and arrived with a vengeance. The lagoon water churned up, the wind chop grew, the waves produced foam while crashing on shore and it was blowing a steady 30+ knots, with squalls bringing 40-50 knots! The big sailboats on the moorings pitched wildly. Luckily, Mark and I were safely on the blocks and stands by then, “barely” noticing the mayhem inside the atoll. The boat didn’t move at all; we were safely “anchored” on terra firma. It was actually fun to see our wind meter climb higher and higher to wind speeds it had never registered before.

A crazy lagoon in north winds, making hauling and launching a real challenge…

Two days prior, we were promised a morning haulout. By the time their machine was fixed and the boat ramp was cleared of all the coral rubble, which washes up constantly, and taking the long lunch break into account, the day had mostly passed. Initially, we were very relaxed about it, but when 2pm arrived, all the waiting around did get us a bit antsy to get going. Around 4pm, we were instructed to approach the carenage (boat yard), following a path in between coral heads, and once we were close enough to shore (too close for comfort in any other situation), lines held Irie in place, about 5 feet from the beach. The whole lifting us out of the water was a sight to behold, involving a few people, a tractor, and a trailer with soft pads supporting our bridge deck. Alfred worked the controls, son Tony was in the water inspecting and instructing, Alfred’s wife Pauline gave mental support and stood by in case of emergency or language barriers and Nini took care of all the other odds and ends. Alfred’s dad Assam was present as well.

Irie close to shore, with the trailer coming underneath

By the time we were installed on the trailer and pulled higher up the boat ramp, it was 5pm and the work day was over, so we spent the first night on the machine. Another step closer to being hauled and being able to start our projects! And, a first introduction to the massive population of mosquitoes and the hot nights, being sideways to the breeze (our hatches face forward for ventilation). The following morning, we were assigned our own working space and that is where Irie comfortably rested for about a week. Alfred put us in a “nice spot”, next to some trees which would provide shade early afternoon, so we “could keep the work up without being too hot”…

Our home for about a week

Not a bad thought, if it weren’t for a few minor inconveniences: the trees totally blocked our wind generator, so while the heavy weather brought all the electricity needed just in wind alone, we received none; being faced southeast, the breeze rarely entered the boat, so it was hot inside at all times; and just imagine what falls out of trees when it is windy... I’ll just say that we couldn’t collect any of the rain because of natural debris landing and staying on our roof, that our ant population multiplied and thrived on the dead bugs falling out of the sky and that our gecko population tripled as well. And, that mosquitoes LOVE shady areas, so they kept us company from dawn till dusk, cheerfully ignoring the mosquito spray we applied and the coils we lighted.

This Lagoon 450 catamaran was too heavy to get hauled, so they had to fix their problem on the lifted trailer in the water

All that being sad, our stay in Apataki Carenage was one of best haulout experiences we have had in seven years of sailing. And believe me, we have hauled out plenty of times, probably beating the record in the cruising community with an average of 1-2 shore visits a year! Do the math… The climate outside was just about perfect; none of that super-hot and sticky summer weather of the Caribbean. Of course it is beneficial to have a catamaran and work intermittently on the shady sides. The Lau family is very friendly, helpful, accommodating and professional. They have their act together, especially considering this place in the Tuamotus is fairly remote. The usual facilities of a boatyard are absent: the toilet barely works, there is no shower, there is no running water (so no pressurized hoses), every boat receives a big barrel of well water to use for cleaning and rinsing (it gets filled regularly), there are no trash containers (your garbage gets picked up by Nini once in a while) and there is no electricity. You can rent a generator or use your own.

Saildrives are a lot of work, especially when you are meticulous about them

Apataki Carenage is truly a do-it-yourself, bring-it-yourself boatyard. Come prepared! Tony can be hired to do boat work, you are allowed to borrow some tools and they have selected marine items for sale, but it is best to ask ahead of time about particularities and order your bottom paint. They are very responsive by email, but speak limited English. Being able to communicate in French is advised and very helpful. The location is unique, with the clear water of the lagoon a few feet away and the palm trees offering sweet coconut water. Fresh eggs can be bought from grandma and the family offers taxi service to the village. 16 tons is the maximum boat weight they allow and 2 meters the maximum draft, but they are very accommodating if there are special needs. All you need to do is ask.

Rinsing the boat with cups of water – very inconvenient and time-consuming!

How did we and Irie do during our week on the hard? Well, we decided to take it easier than other times and that actually worked. We seem to have gotten more done than ever without losing our moods and being too frustrated. The lack of rain showers helped and we focused on inside and underneath projects on the crappiest day. We spread out the work over time and between us – as usual working as a “well-oiled” team - and realized that a lot can be done when your day starts at 7am and you go to bed at 8pm. More often than not, the work ended around 5pm, with a cocktail on the dock overlooking the lagoon. Yes, we managed to buy a bottle of rum from another cruising couple who left the US not so long ago. J

My favorite boat yard chore: removing the tape after painting

Irie is cleaned, scraped, sanded, washed, painted and waxed. She is stain- and scum-free and “as good as new”. The sail drives underwent the same procedure with different paint and had their seals and thru hulls replaced, and the rudders received new bushings. We were lucky to have another cruiser fix a rip in our jib (which, unfortunately needs replacing) and even managed to bake bread (there is no food on this island) and do laundry. And right now, we are back in the water, relieved about our successful haulout and our shorter project list, and … we are ready to see and enjoy some of these Tuamotus, also called “the dangerous archipelago”!

Getting “settled” close to shore before getting on the trailer

Irie getting pulled out of the water by the tractor

Being moved to “our shady spot”

Hermit crabs abound – we have never seen or avoided stepping on so many of them (especially at night)!

The “cocktail pier” during nice and mellow weather

Anaho keeping us company and being cute next to one of our rudders

Nini shoveling the coral to clear the boat ramp

As good as new and almost ready… And very pretty! J

Rudders back in place. Now we are ready to splash (launch)!

Irie getting back in the water (photo by Pauline Lau)

Good overview of the haulout facility – yes, those black spots are shallow reefs (photo by Pauline Lau)

There we go! Irie back in the water where she belongs… (Photo by Pauline Lau)

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