Category Archives: Upgrades

On the Hard: Raiatea Carenage

It is that time again – time to haul our beautiful boat out of the water to do some general maintenance and repairs.  It is always nerve racking to pull your boat out of the water, but the team at Raiatea Carenage really take care of you.

We pull into a narrow waterway (which will be expanded this year) with rather large boulders on either side.  Several team members grab our lines and slowly direct us toward the travel trailer.  In addition, there are guys in the water watching our rudders, dagger boards, and props to ensure they play nicely with the boulders.

The Work List:

  • Repair Port Bow (damage from another boat)
  • Repair Port Hull (damage from coral head)
  • Port Rudder Repair (damage from coral head)
  • Re-fix Port Hull side (fix color match from previous work)
  • Sand down all bottom paint to gel coat (22 years of paint)
  • Apply barrier coat (sigmacover 280) and 3 coats of bottom paint (Carboline AF 3000)
  • Apply Peller Clean on sail drives and props
  • Rudders: replace bushings (DIAM 67 JP3)
  • Sail Drives: change oil and replace sealing and O-rings)
  • Drill hole in new anchor shaft
  • Weld/Sauder lifeline
  • Rebed starboard large window (leaks)
  • Rebed deck and hull (about 60% of it replaced)
  • Complete wash and wax of entire boat
  • Spinnaker Repair (taken to Marina Apooiti)

Dominique, the owner, expertly uses a remote control device to maneuver the state-of-the-art trailer.  It is frightening and yet so very impressive to watch them pull Sugar Shack out of the water.

The first thing they do is pressure wash the boat to get all the grime and stow away critters off the bottom.  Then they remove both of our rudders which need repair and service.  The photo shows them removing and installing the rudders.

Next we are placed in our new temporary home.  Dominque is able to squeeze us in right up close and personal to other boats.  Thank goodness we won’t be onboard for the entire stay.


The bottom of the port hull needed some extra love.  We had the yard sand down to the gel coat, apply fearing and fiberglass, barrier coat and paint.  Just like new.

The port rudder needed additional love.

While in Huahine, another boat lost control and hit our port bow.  Causing about $3300 worth of damage.  Lucky for us he was insured and covered the cost.  

When we returned, we had lots of beautiful sunsets.  The waterway at Raiatea Carenage.

Our view from the hard at Raiatea Carenage.

Splash Day

The day has come to put Sugar Shack in the water – exactly 1 month from the haul out date!  We are so excited to go back on the water!!!  Dominique is driving or should I say using the play station remote control while 3 guys are in the water and 2 guys are on port waiting for lines.

The team expertly maneuvers Sugar Shack’s wide back side around the many boulders on both sides of the boat.  She slips by without a scratch or bump!  That is how good this team is!

The Team

Dominique is the owner and such a sweet, fabulous man!  Fa’ura is the office manager and she always had a smile for me.

Spinnaker Repaired

We took our spinnaker to be repaired and they did a great job.  She was efficient, reasonably priced, and on time!  We flew her a few days later to see how she looked and we were very pleased.  Sure some of the colors don’t match, but hell she is a 22 year old sail!

We spent a lot more time on the hard than anticipated but it is always better to get the job done correctly rather than quickly.

Dominique at Raiatea Carenage certainly took good care of us. We are so very grateful for his help, patience, and care!

We finally say Toodles to Tahiti in our last blog post.  Events from this blog in April and May, 2022.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Life Saving Life Raft

What do you do when you have to abandon your ship (or in our case, our home)?  There are a few different trains of thought here.  Some people say that you jump in your life raft and get away from the boat.  While others say, jump in your dinghy or life raft and stay tethered to your boat.  If your boat is not sinking, which catamarans don’t sink, then they are a much bigger target to spot than a small dinghy or life raft.  Of course, everything has to be reconsidered if you are on a monohull.

So, unless Sugar Shack is on fire, we would stay with the boat.  One of the safety features on Sugar Shack is the life raft.  We currently have a Winslow 6-man offshore life raft which came with the boat (2001) and was last serviced in 2011.  Yep, that was a long time ago.  We needed to service and re-certify our life raft before our next big Pacific Crossing (from French Polynesia to Fiji).

However, as luck would have it, some friends of ours gave us their old Viking 8-man ISO Pro OffShore Life Raft.  They bought a much smaller life raft as their boat does not require an 8-man size.  This is a bigger life raft than our original one (8-person vs 6-person) and is a very well-known brand.  The problem with the new to us Viking is that it too needed to be serviced and re-certified.  We decided to keep the Viking and sell the Winslow.  Which means we needed to take the Viking to Station de Survie Nautisport to be serviced and certified.

The Viking Life Raft

We rented a car to transport the life raft which weighs in over 115lbs (not something you can carry on the bus).  This is super exciting for me as I have never seen a life raft inflate nor have I seen the inside of one!  Lots of firsts for me.  The tech at Nautisport, Terangi was super nice and spoke excellent English!

The life raft came to us in a hard case for storage which helps maintain the integrity of the raft.

We immediately search for documentation that tells us when it was serviced last.  We discover it was born in November 2002, the last service was 2015 on the raft, and 2014 on the cannister.  Well drat!  Typically, the life expectancy of a life raft is 20 years, so this only gained us 2 years before we have to buy a new one.  New rafts can cost up to $6000-$6500! 

The cannister has to be serviced every 10 years.  Since the last service was 2014, we did not have to service it.  However, we do have to service it in 2024 which means our certificate will only be good for 2 years (rather than the typical 3 year certificate).

Opening the Case

The shell is removed exposing a gray shrink wrap which is then removed.  The black fabric (upper right) is the bottom side of the raft.  Slowly we unwrap the raft exposing the orange top side.

Inflating the Life Raft

When you pull the emergency cord to inflate the raft it will automatically blow the large zip tie holding the outer shell and blow off the shrink wrap covering while simultaneously inflating the raft in 2 seconds.  Since our cannister is in good working order we decided to use an outside source to inflate the raft. (which took about 2-3 minutes).

There is a built-in tether to the raft that gets attached to your boat or to the rescue boat.  This tether connects to another line which is accessible around the entire bottom of the raft.  If you decide to get in the water (for swim, bath, or fishing) and need to get back into the raft, you step onto the white line (left photo) under the raft and use the triangle rope ladder to pull yourself up.


Terangi pointed out a lot of features.  There is a water catch feature on the outside that can be funneled inside.  (top photo and left bottom photo).  The black edge leads to a small pocket that collects water.  In addition, there is a window (lower right) and a small hole (top and middle right) to stick an antennae out (your EPRIB or beacon).

Inside the raft are a few elements including flares, flashlight (with spare batteries), whistle, mirror, horn, sea sick medicine, bucket/scoop (top left).  There is a large white arrow pointing to the emergency knife, a drogue (sea anchor), spare line and empty bag, life ring with line, and small paddles.  In addition, the life raft has a flashing light on the exterior and a small interior light.

There are two different trains of thought when it comes to additional perishable items.  Some people like to have water, food, batteries, and other items inside the life raft.  But you may be forced to open or service the raft more often to replace those items. So many people, like Sugar Shack, have a separate ditch bag.  In our ditch bag we have everything from t.p., glasses, sunblock, batteries, can opener, blanket, medical supplies, utility knife, money, water bags, long-term food (space food) and oh so much more.  We can then toss this into our dinghy or the life raft if we need to.  Plus, it is easier to access and replace items when needed.

Keeping the Life Raft Upright

Under the raft are four large pockets that hold water to keep the raft upright.  Or as Matt stated, it is a good place to store his beer while keeping it cold.  You can also see the rope that is used as a ladder (center U shape) and the line that goes around the entire raft to hold on.

The life raft technically can fit 8 people.  But, to be honest it would be a cramped stay.  But for the 2 of us it was very roomy and spacious.  The silver floor lining helps keep your warm inside and acts as a barrier between you and the sea.

The Outcome

We stayed for an hour to watch the initial assessment and reveal.  But left them to their work to complete the service and certification.  They replaced all of the essential items including flares, batteries, medicine) and tested the air pressure over 3 hours.

We left with a fully serviced and certified Viking Life Raft good for another 2 years at a cost of $690.  Not bad.  We anticipated it being well over $1000 so I felt good about the overall process and I learned so much about our life raft which I hope to NEVER have to see again (especially out in the open water).

Farewell Fakarava was our last blog post (see passage post).   Events from this blog occurred in March 2022.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Love my varnished entryway

Spa Time to Beat the Boatyard Blues

Boatyard blues effect Matt and I as well as our boat.  I think it’s a necessary evil, but it takes its toll.  While we are waiting for repairs to be completed, we decided to beautify Sugar Shack.

Five years ago, we painted our dinghy davits that were showing some wear and tear.  Then 2 years ago, we painted the mast, boom, and bow sprit while we were in St. Maarten.  We have wanted to paint our bimini support poles for some time now, but thought that the best way to do it was to remove our bimini which was just too big of a job for the two of us to tackle on our own.


The support poles get a lot of rubbing from our jib sheets and the paint has just worn down over the last 18 years.  So, since she is on the hard and the bimini is raised to thread the solar panels wires, we decided to get the job done.  We hired Bristol Marine to do several projects for us.

They masked off all areas, sanded and removed all flaking paint and glue residue, prepared metal with acid wash Alumiprep 33, rolled/brushed Zinchromate Yellow, Primer, applied Epoxy Primer White, sanded, and then painted by brush, 2 coats of Stark White AwlGrip (should have been cloud white, but they are close enough).

Bimini Supports Getting Some Love

Before photos of Bimini Supports

Photos below below show bimini supports with primer (lovely green), the cockpit table is gone (being sanded) and the entryway is being varnished.

Bimini Supports with Primer

Bimini Supports with Primer

We had to have the team redo some pieces because they were not done to our satisfaction.  But to Ben’s credit, they re-sanded and re-painted until we were happy.

Here are some shots where there was paint drip, low paint coverage, yellow primer on the bimini track, and bubbles in the varnish.  Matt even got in on the action to show them how it he wanted it done (and they call me the “perfectionist”)

Few places to fix on the bimini supports

Few places to fix on the bimini supports

And now it is simply smooth and lovely:

Bimini Supports Completed

Bimini Supports Completed


Back in 2013, we had “Vision” varnish our entryway in St. Lucia.  It has had many a feet stomp across wearing it down and it was time to refresh it.  After all it is the first thing you see as you enter our dwelling.

This process requires a lot of masking as the old varnish is stripped way with a heat gun and scraper.  Haner, our worker said that it is a bit more difficult as we have a thin layer of varnish.  He has to be very gentle as not to overheat or burn the natural wood while removing the varnish.  If there was a thick coat, he could make better use of the heat gun.

The photo on the right shows where he removed some varnish and then shows the depleted varnish.

Repairing the Varnish on the Entryway

Repairing the Varnish on the Entryway

Once all of the old varnish was removed, they block sanded it, cleaned, applied yellow primer AwlWood and 10 coats of gloss (while sanding in between coats).

Entryway Completed and looking marvelous.

Entryway Half Way Mark

Entryway Half Way Mark


Our cockpit table is protected with a wood stain, but it tends to need updating every other month.  The sun fades the stain and exposes the wood which could cause damage.  We decided to have the team sand the table and apply Semco Oil Natural Color to see if this will last a bit longer.

We really liked the look of the entryway at the half way mark and asked Bristol what the cost would be to do the same treatment to the cockpit table.  Unfortunately, it was way out of our budget at $2500 so we opted to go back to the Semco Oil Natural Color.

This is a photo of the table using StarBrite Stain. It actually is not really bad now, with the exception of the center edge where the flaps leave exposed surface.

Before Photo: Cockpit Table StarBrite Stain

Before Photo: Cockpit Table StarBrite Stain

The cockpit table all sanded and ready for Simco Oil


All ready to host dinner parties:  Super pretty!



Both the Port and Starboard Engine Teak is coming up off the cover.  We decided to remove them so we could properly glue them down.  It was so bad that when it rained it leaked a little bit into the engine room – and we can’t have a wet engine room.

Photo shows corner teak coming up and 2nd photo is Matt stepping on it and you can see the water seeping out.

Engine Teak Coming Up on Cover

Engine Teak Coming Up on Cover

Bristol sanded both hatches, so now we need to sand down the other teak steps on each sugar scoop before sealing with Star Brite.


The boatyard blues are always made better when your home looks good. It’s a slow process, but soon Sugar Shack will shake off her boatyard blues and be back in the water.  Who said that the boatyard blues can’t be productive?


Here are some before and after shots of the interior cabin during work and after the boat has been put back together.

Before and After forward cabin and main salon

Before and After forward cabin and main salon

Main or master cabin


Master cabin head (bathroom)


Aft cabin / office:

After cabin office before and after.

After cabin office before and after.