Category Archives: Repairs

Sugar Shack gets a new skirt

Raiatea Carenage: Bottom Job

Busy, busy! The Raiatea Carenage team worked hard on Sugar Shack.  They had to complete the wash and wax of the hulls, before we start the bottom job.  You may be thinking, what is a bottom job?  It does not have anything to do with my buttocks or the head (“toilette”).  It is what we call a new paint job on the bottom of the boat.  This usually occurs every 2-2.5 years as it requires the boat to be hauled out and can be pretty darn expensive.

We wanted to get a full wash and wax before we started on the bottom job.  So, two workers got started on washing the boat.  They used a new compound that removes the “yellow” tint from the hull.  Sweet! They apply it like paint using a roller on a long stick, then rinse it off with water.  They do this process several times.  These two workers could only do the starboard inside and outside hull and the inside of the port hull.  Since we were doing fiberglass work on the outside of the port hull. The last side will get done as soon as the fiberglass work is complete.

Pressure washing Sugar Shack

Pressure washing Sugar Shack

After 4 hours they broke for lunch.  When they returned it was time to start the waxing and polishing process.  This is certainly something that Matt and I could do, but ugh we did not want to!  It is a pain staking process standing on wood suspended on metal platforms.  No thank you!

First, you apply a small amount of compound, then you use a buffer to apply it.  After a short period, you circle back and buff it off.  Basically, you touch every part of the boat at least 3 or 4 times with the buffer.

The first photo shows a before and after.  The 3rd photo shows Noel standing on a barrel on a piece of wood on the platform.

Polishing the boat

Polishing the boat

Paint Fiasco

While we were negotiating the scope of work for our haul out we discussed the price of bottom paint.  In the U.S. you can buy Sea hawk Island 44+ for about $280 per gal.  We knew it would be more expensive here because it is French Polynesia and they have to import and ship it here.  But, we did not expect it to be 2 or 3 times as expensive.

The yard said they offered two kinds of Island 44, we wanted the “plus.”  Dominique, the owner, asked me, “did you see the price and notice it is more expensive?” I replied, yes, but that is what my husband wants.  Fast forward to the next quote where we discovered one gallon of paint was 92157xpf ($927) per can!  Holy $hit!  I called and asked if it was a mistake and he said no, remember I asked you about the cost.  What did I do – I must have converted it wrong originally but I had no idea.  I asked them to hold off ordering the paint.

Ocean 2000 in Tahiti sells this same paint. So, I contacted them and they had 6 cans in stock!  Great, how much is it?  They sold it for 70890xpf ($708) per can.  However, if I bought 6 cans they would give it to me for 20% off at 56712 ($567).  Well that is much better than $927 per can!  but still almost 50% more than in the U.S..

After we paid for the paint, Ocean 2000 put it on the next ship to Raiatea for a whopping 2500xpf ($25) shipment cost.  We arrived to the yard with our paint waiting for us – a savings of almost $2200.  Phew.

The good news was that the yard did not care.  We thought there may be repercussions with us bringing in our own paint but they just wanted us to be happy with the paint of our choice.  They even picked up the paint from the supply ship for us as we were not here when it arrived.  Everyone’s happy.

Sugar Shack gets a new skirt!

Sugar Shack got a high pressure wash immediately after being hauled out.  This removes soft growth, hard growth, barnacles (if we had any which we did not), excess ablative paint, dirt, grime, and most anything.  It is the first step in getting a new bottom job.

Pressure washing the grime away

Pressure washing the grime away

Matt and I try to change the color of the bottom paint each time we have the work done.  One, it is like changing your dress and gives you a whole new look.  Yes, I am a girl and I just wrote that!  But more importantly it allows us to know how much ablative paint has come off and what layer we are on.  In other words, it tells us when to get a new bottom job.

In Costa Rica we had them apply a dark blue paint.  However, the first coat was more of a light blue and I flipped a gasket.  They said, not to worry, we will apply the proper color on the 2nd coat.  Ugh, not what we wanted.  Within 6 months Sugar Shack was sporting two colors on the bottom (dark blue and light blue).  Not sure if the paint was bad or watered down or if the water we were in just sucked the paint off.

Another 6 months later and we were seeing dark blue, light blue, and red.  Another 6 months later and we were seeing another dark blue and then the turquoise.  Ugh.  We had to wait to do the bottom job until we got to the Society Islands (where the yards are located).  Fast forward to today and the psychedelia bottom job we’ve been sporting around town.

Putting on her skirt – painting begins

The team offered to come in on a Saturday, their day off!  Imagine the type of leadership it possess to have your employees offer to come in on a Saturday to get caught up in the work!

2nd and 3rd Layer of Paint

We bought a little too much paint.  Sort of a bummer as it is really expensive, but it just means a few extra layers on the boat.  In between coats, Noel lightly sands the hulls to ensure a good stick for the next layer.

The before and after are amazing.

She looks lovely

And she got new shoes to go with her new dress (special paint for the props)

Expert Maneuvering

There are at least a half dozen pieces of machinery in the yard.  Several fork lifts, the large travel lift, the travel trailer, and more.  It is amazing to see the team maneuver around the yard with this large machinery.  It takes patience, expertise, and precision.

For example, the large travel lift has to maneuver between the monohull, its stands, and our boat to get close enough to this small boat to move it.  Look closely and you can see the driver and its cage is actually between our hulls!  Nothing scratched or moved.  Precision!

Raiatea Carenage Leadership

Dominque is a true leader, not just a boss.  He instills a sense of passion, dedication, respect, and love of boats in all of his workers.  He does everything that he asks his workers to do – everything.  We saw him driving the fork lift, trailer lift, platform lift.  We saw him showing his workers how to polish, paint, and work the fiberglass.  He has his hands in everything.

Matt and I bought a case of beer for the workers who came in on Saturday to work on Sugar Shack.

If you missed Part I of this series click here “Raiatea Carenage Haul Out” or Part II “Raiatea Carenage Fiberglass Repair.”

The events of this blog post occurred on 15-22 September 2020.  The blog post are 4-6 weeks behind our adventures.

Raiatea Carenage: Fiberglass Repair

Raiatea Carenage has a well-known reputation for good fiberglass work.  Fiberglass work is tricky as you have to ensure you don’t compromise the integrity of the boat (our hull).  Plus, you want it to be visually pleasing.  Try matching 20-year-old gel coat!

We stopped by the yard a week before our haul out date.  The owner, Dominique wanted to see the damage to determine the amount of work it would require.   The dent occurred in Hao during a torrential storm (see “Disaster Strikes Maramu” blog post).  The dent and scratches are about 1.5 meters long, 1 meter tall, and 20-30 cm deep.  It does not penetrate through and there is no hole!  Thank goodness!

The work began bright and early on Tuesday morning.  First the owner, Dominique and his worker, Teina tapped the boat.  They are looking for the bulk head and any possible delamination.

Dominique and Tiana

Dominique and Tiana

Then the heart wrenching act of taking a grinder to your boat!  It is horrible to watch someone grind away the gel coat and fiberglass, but it has to be done. 

Grinding down the fiberglass

Grinding down the fiberglass

Layering the fiberglass

Next, Teina mixes the resign and hardener to make epoxy.  It’s all art and science.

Starting with small pieces of fiberglass, Teina places it in the center of the area (the deepest section). He layers concentric circles to spread the load.  More and more layers, each one gradually bigger than the last.  Matt was impressed with the number of layers of fiberglass.  He assumed they’d put 4-5 layers but instead they put 12-13 layers.

Layering the fiberglass

Layering the fiberglass

Then he sands it down to ensure it is level with the rest of the boat.

Then the hard part begins.  Trying to color match 20-year-old gel coat.  Poor thing, tried 5/6 mixes before telling me “no good.”  He walked away to make more mix.  Try and try again. I think no matter how close you get; it will still look like a patch. The unfortunate thing is that it is right next to a previous patch from an incident that occurred in Trinidad many moons ago.  Can you tell the difference between the two whites in the photo below?

Gel coat application

Gel coat application

A light sand, more gel coat, light sand more gel coat.  Constantly trying to match the 20-year-old color.  It is artwork, truly. You can see (1st photo) the repair). the 2nd photo shows color disparity, the rest show them trying to fix with gel coat.

Perfecting the Work

They worked on it for several days.  Ensuring the small dents and scratches were filled in, the entire surface smooth, and the color matches as closely as possible.  They worked tirelessly perfecting it each time.

Teina is wet sanding and smoothing the surface, then more gel coat.  I swear this man is so patient and persistent!

Usually the new paint absorbs the UV differently than the old paint.  But for now it looks pretty darn good.

Protecting the Shack

They needed to paint the monohull in front of us so we watched them resurrect a huge tarp to protect Sugar Shack.   It was so funny! They tied one end to the giant ferry to our right (the Aremiti) and then they tied the other end to the fork lift and raised it up to cover our boat.

A huge dinghy pulled in to get serviced and she was almost as big and certainly way more expensive than our boat.

Out for a Walk

There is not much to do on the yard when you have workers all over the boat. I can write the blog and we can do small projects (like the prop work, lazy jacks), but for the most part we are antsy.  We go for walks, but there is nothing around the yard.  The closest magasin (market) is over a mile away.  But we head there anyway because why not?  We did pass this beautiful little church on the way.  Look at the pretty green mountains in the background.

Prop Work

Matt worked on the props while the yard was working on the fiberglass work.  We needed to remove all the barnacles and growth from the props and change the zincs.  So much easier to do this on the hard than in the water. (See blog post “Underwater Mechanic”)

He changed the small zincs on both props and we are good to go for several more months!

Mast head Work

Matt wanted to do three things at the top of the mast. 

  1. Tighten and adjust the windex
  2. Test the AIS antenna which was acting weird
  3. Measure the top lazy jack line that is frayed

We set up the climbing harness and a safety line and up he goes.  It took 5 trips up the 20 meter mast.  Keep in mind that the boat is about 8 meters off the ground so he is really, really high up.

He was able to fix the windex, tried several tests on the AIS antenna and measured the lazy jacks. 

It took Matt a day and a half to recreate our lazy jacks that had frayed.  Originally he was only going to do the top portion, but he ended up replacing all of them.  Mission complete!  The lazy jacks hold the sail bag which holds the main sail.

This and That

We are usually up early to catch the sunrise.  It is pretty even when you are at the yard.

Check in on our next blog (part III) as we do a full wash/wax job and get new bottom paint.  If you missed part I of this series, check out “Raiatea Carenage Haul Out.”

The events of this blog post occurred on 15 September 2020.  The blog post are 4-6 weeks behind our adventures.

15' ladder

Raiatea Carenage Haul Out

It was time to haul Sugar Shack out and I was on pins and needles!  We left our anchorage at 0600 and arrived at Raiatea Carenage at 0715.  Arriving early, we had 30-45 minutes to wait so we hovered by the entrance and watched them prepare the platform.  We were being hauled out on the platform and would remain on the platform while they do the work.

Five employees worked diligently to get the platform ready and lowered into the water.  They store it on a driveway (for lack of better word), and slowly let it descend into the water.  Once in the water, they set lines based on our boat’s dimensions.  When they are ready, the wave us in.  Photo: #1 shows the platform on the driveway (below the monohulls) with rails.  #2 shows the platform lowering into the water, #3 shows the workers in the water waiting for us to drive up to them.

Look where the man in blue shorts is standing – he is on rails which is part of the platform on the cement slope.  The #2 has the platform half in and half out of the water.  

Raiatea Carenage platform haul out

Raiatea Carenage platform haul out

It is really freaky driving over huge steel rails with people standing on them!  What if we hit the rails?  Or a person, or the ground?  Oh my goodness!

Raiatea Carenage has a platform system which is pulled by an 8 to 1 pully system that required constant lube and water.  The top photo shows the owner, Dominique operating the pully system and the bottom photo is the platform attachment point.

Securing the Boat to the Platform

Once the boat is aligned, they start attaching lines.  This was a constant push and pull to get the boat centered on the platform.  They attached a line from the starboard bow to the port side platform and from the port bow to the starboard platform (a criss cross).  Then they repeated the same thing with the stern.  Next, they attached a line from the center of the bow to the center of the platform and from the center of the stern to the center of the platform (prevent forward and reverse movement).

Securing Sugar Shack to platform

Securing Sugar Shack to platform

Lifting Out of the Water

The pully pulls the platform out of the water.  The platform’s outer edges glide over rollers which are on rails.  It was shocking to see the workers right in front of the platform adjusting these rollers while under water!  I could not believe the danger they put themselves in.  The photos below show what they are doing once the platform came out of the water – but they did this under water too.  They place the rollers under the steel rails to allow a continuous movement of the platform.  Yes, the entire platform that holds our boat is directly over his fingers.

Almost out of the water, you can see the entire platform and pully system

You can see the wood blocks they placed, while under water, to set the boat on the platform.  They put them under our bulk heads (the strongest part of the boat) to support us on the platform.

This is the fun ladder I get to climb up and down on to get to shore.  I hate it!  It wobbles and is creepy.

15' ladder

15′ ladder


We still had soft growth and algae on the boat, despite the fact that we cleaned the water line and the bottom of the boat the day before we arrived.  The start of the work is pressure washing the boat. As you can see, we are in desperate need of a bottom job (new paint).  We change the color of our bottom paint to know how many layers down we are.  On the center photo you can see at least 5 colors!  Yikes!  And look at that growth. Workers are pressure washing the boat in the top photos.  The bottom photos show the boat after the work is done. 

Pressure washing the grime away

Pressure washing the grime away

Hauling out other boats

Today was an extremely busy day for Raiatea Carenage. They hauled out 6 boats.  The yard used the platform to haul Sugar Shack out.  The same workers used a 25-ton trailer to haul out another catamaran.  The catamaran had to navigate down a narrow waterway to get lifted out by a trailer.  A mono and 4 other boats were lifted out by a travel lift.

French Polynesia Can Be Dangerous

There have been many stories of boats running aground in French Polynesia. Especially in the Tuamotus where there are lots of coral heads and hidden reefs. Four boats were severely damaged after running aground last year.  Raiatea Carenage was still working on three of them when we arrived..

Over 135 boats have been repaired at this yard since 1987.  That is almost 2 boats a month that run aground!

This yard has a great reputation for fiberglass repair work.  Which is good considering we have fiberglass repair work to do on Sugar Shack!  However, it is difficult to see these horribly damaged boats.

This 45’ lagoon is a charter boat.  It ran aground and tore off the bottom of both hulls.  They had to make a mold of the hull using another lagoon in order to recreate the original.  You can actually stand underneath and be inside the boat!

These three boats did not seem repairable, but they were going to try!

This beautiful 47’ Outremer was on a mooring in Fakarava (Tuamotus) during a maramu (big storm).  The mooring gave out and the yacht ended up on the reef.  They had both hulls and rudders damaged beyond repair.  Raiatea Carenage sent 4 people to Fakarava to transport the boat to Apataki yard and do a temporary repair which took 3 weeks.  Then they sailed it to Raiatea Carenage to finish the work (which is still a work in progress 8 months later).


Here is a photo of the lovely bathroom that we’ve been using.  They have one head and one shower (with no locking door).  We share it with everyone at the yard and even some of the boats at the anchorage.  Luckily we have not had to wait much.

We’ve seen several people do laundry here too.  The yard provides us with water and electricity for the boat.  Good thing as we get to keep the house batteries at 100% which is rare when we are not plugged in.

The yard has access to a sail loft and two small marine stores.  They do everything here including fiberglass, wood work, metal work (aluminum, stainless, steel), paint, electrical, mechanical, plumbing.  They have a boat building business, towing and shuttle.  Very successful!

Check in on our next blog as we begin the fiber glass repair and start on a few other boat projects.

The events of this blog post occurred on 14 September 2020.  The blog post are 4-6 weeks behind our adventures.