Baie Apu and Tabu Island

Baie Apu is at the southeastern corner of Taha’a.  Our surveyor lives at this baie and suggested we visit it since we had not been there before.  The first thing we noticed were a lot of boats on moorings. Hmmm.  I am thinking we need to grab a mooring since it is pretty darn deep here (30-40 meters).  Lucky for us there were several to choose from.

This is a really interesting baie because a reef outlines its edges making most of the surrounding land inaccessible.  Unless of course you are a local landowner who has dredged and added a personal dock.  In addition to the beautiful reef is a small motu or ilot in the middle of the bay called Ile Toapuhi.

Baie Apu

Baie Apu

We explored by dinghy and found the reef to be peppered with huge coral heads and lots of little fish.  In the photo below you can see the lagoon (dark blue foreground, reef (brown) and then light blue (sand).  Then we came across this really interesting tree that captured my heart.

Baie Apu and its reef

Baie Apu and its reef

Suri, a Super Yacht’s Toy Storage Vessel

We discovered this huge motor yacht called “Suri” in the back of Baie Apu.  I think it is toy storage vessel for another vessel, but not 100% certain.  There was an enormous slide that was calling my name but I didn’t think they’d appreciate me asking for a run.  On the back they had a super beautiful, sleek speed boat, a fishing boat, several jet skis, paddle boards, 2 large inflatable dinghies and a fishing boat!  It was registered in Bikini Island.

Suri super yacht

Suri super yacht

Looking back toward the anchorage.  Can you spy Sugar Shack in the bottom photo?  Lots of catamarans.  In fact, there were 5 Catanas and 2 Otremers.  Of the 22 boats moored here, 10 were in storage mode (nobody living on them).

Ile Tiapuhi is an unusual motu or ilot in the middle of the bay.  It too has a reef around it making it difficult to access.  However, we did find a small dinghy dock with a “prive” sign.  There was a small beach, a copra farming area, and a small cleared area.  I wonder if it is called Tabu Motu or if it is Tabu to go to this motu?

Tabu Motu

Tabu Motu

Baie Apu Onshore

We got up early to explore onshore.  We pulled up to a dock that we believe belongs to someone we met a few years ago called Captain Richard.  Although we did not see him, we did take advantage of his dock.  He has a gorgeous house with a fully open concept.  I loved it!

A short distance away is the Champon Pearl Farm which was started and is run by a family for the past 20 years.  The mother designs the jewelry, the father and brother harvest and graft and the daughter gives the tours and assists with the jewelry.  They have a gorgeous property on the corner of Baie Apu.  On the property is their house (white wood in top photo), a stunning wood pergola, a tree house, sandy beach, and their pearl business.  The pearl farm is actually located out by the reef where there is better water flow.

Champon Pearl Farm

Champon Pearl Farm

The actual harvesting of the pearls takes place in a small hut over the water (as it is a dirty business).  Here they do the cleaning, harvesting, grafting, and growing.

Champon Pearl Farm

Champon Pearl Farm

Miva gave us a free tour and actually taught us several things we did not know.  Strange considering we have done 4 or 5 pearl farm tours! See this blog and this blog for pearl farm tours.

This pearl farm has about 100,000 shells at the farm.  They harvest 30,000 each year but only 20,000 are pearl producing.  They are one of three active pearl farms on Taha’a. 

Here are a few things we learned:

  1. They search for a clam shell with exceptional color. Once found, they “sacrifice” it to be the host for other shells.  How do they do that?  They take snippets of its black muscle (the lips of the clam) and insert it along with a nucleous into another shell.  This helps the new shell produce a colorful pearl.
  2. They can harvest the same shell 5x before it is done. (We’ve heard this varies based on the pearls it produces but most shells are only harvested 2-3 times.)
    1. The 5th graft would be a very large pearl and can take up to 10 years to produce.
    2. One should note that the larger the pearl the more chance for imperfections.
  3. A pearl has to turn regularly inside the shell, in every direction to become a perfect pearl. However, often times a grain of sand or something will be inside the shell causing imperfections. For example, we have several pearls with rings around them. That happens when the pearl turns in the same direction while rubbing against a grain of sand.
  4. If the shell rejects the nucleous, they will leave the graft tissue inside to produce keshi pearls.
  5. 0-1% of the pearls produced are perfect pearls. They do not drill these pearls, but put them in beautiful “cages” to preserve their perfect status (see image below)
  6. 3% are considered “class A” pearls which have less than 10% of imperfections. Very difficult to see and can often be hidden with the jewelry clasp.
  7. 10-15% are considered “class B” pearls with 30% imperfections which are visible with the naked eye.
  8. Class C pearls either are lacking in luster or have many imperfections. Miva believes it is better to get a pearl with imperfections than to get a pearl with no luster.

Harvesting and Grafting Pearls

We’ve seen this done so many times that I honestly did not think we would learn anything new.  But I was wrong!  First, they showed us how a nucleous was born.  They take shells, found in Mississippi, cut them in strips, then in strips are cut into squares and then the squares are rounded into a nucleous (see top left photo).

The 2nd row, left photo shows pearls cut in half so you can see how much is actually the pearl and how much is the nucleous.  All of these are 18 months old.

These are the very pretty perfect pearls in their cage.  You can actually open the cage and take the pearls out too.

Super cool day!  This occurred on 25 September 2020.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind our adventures.

Survey for Sugar Shack

Every few years private yachts / vessels need to get a survey.  It is similar to surveying a house when you want to buy or sell it.  Our insurance carrier requires a survey to verify their investment is valued at what we have it insured for – or at least close to it.

There are three types of surveys:

  1. Out of water survey (typically done with an in water survey)
  2. In water survey
  3. Rigging Only Survey

Sometimes you can get away with doing an “in water” survey which looks at the interior and not the exterior or structure of the boat.  This is the cheapest and easiest to get done.

The out of water survey requires a haul out (taking the boat out of the water) which gets expensive.

Our insurance required an out of water survey in addition to the in water and rigging.  Crapola!  Our last out of water survey was 2016, our last rigging survey was 2017.  So, technically, I guess we are do.  Photos from our last survey.

Hindsight is 20/20

In 2018, our boat was struck by lightening in Costa Rica and had a major refit of all electronics (see blog).  We spent 8 months on the hard working on the boat, fighting with insurance, and replacing lots of gear.  We were working closely with a local surveyor who was extremely helpful and quickly became a friend.  Toward the end, we had asked him if we needed to resurvey the boat and he said “no, save the money.”  I should have pushed and insisted as I really wanted an updated survey.  But, I didn’t.   This survey would have saved us a lot of heartache when searching for a new insurance carrier.

That decision has bitten me in the a$$ more times than I care to admit.  So, we are here a few years later finally getting that out of water survey.

Finding a Surveyor

Most insurance companies based in the U.S. require the surveyor to hold either a SAMS or NAMS certification.  NAMS surveyors are pretty much based in the U.S.  SAMS has surveyors in 22 countries with the closest being Australia or Panama.  So, basically, we would have to fly someone to French Polynesia, pay for the flights, hotel, transportation, and their daily rate, plus the survey.  All in all, it would be thousands of dollars!  Not going to happen.

Plan B

We found two “surveyors” in French Polynesia.  I have them in quotes because neither are SAMS or NAMS certified.  One I contacted last year and he was not very responsive so I went to the other guy this year. He was very responsive and seemed “easy going” which is always good when assessing your boat.  I asked him to send a sample survey so I could get it approved by the insurance carrier.  He had just surveyed a Catana 50 which could not have been better for us.  They approved his survey and we scheduled our meeting.

Surveys are Subjective

You have to understand that a survey is pretty subjective (like art).  Sure, there are lots of boxes to check, but for the most part it is subjective.  Which is always worrisome when you want and expect a specific outcome.  Sugar Shack is insured as stated value, not depreciated value, considering she is in excellent condition — even at 20 years old.

Out of Water Survey

Our surveyor remained patient with us as we changed our out of water survey several times.  We were trying to get work finished up before he took photos and put them in the survey.  Unfortunately, it did not work out that way.  He came a day early and took photos while they were still doing fiberglass work and paint. Ugh!  So, I took photos and he promised to include mine in his report as well (we shall see).

The out of water survey consists of examining the hulls, props, rudders, through hulls, ground plates, SSB plates refrigeration plates, and dagger boards.  Pretty straight forward.  He walked around writing notes and asked a few questions.  It felt like the entire thing took 6 minutes but in reality, it was longer.  He said “for a 20-year-old she is in really good condition.”  Surveyor upside down by dagger board as Matt and I watch on.  Noel (foreground) working on the polish.

In Water Survey

I sent a very detailed list of all of our equipment to the surveyor prior to the survey.  The list included the type of equipment, the make/manufacturer, model #, serial #, date purchased, and location.  This list included everything on our boat.  I am sure the surveyor has never seen anything so comprehensive from a client.  Made me kinda proud – yea me for my Project Management certification!

Christophe showed up right on time and worked diligently for 4 hours checking, opening, testing, and verifying that our boat was in good working order.  From testing the strength of our hand rails, to making sure our hatches are water tight to verifying up to date fire extinguishers, EPIRBs, PFDs, Life Raft, Medical Supplies, and more.  He verified my equipment list and ensured that all of the equipment was onboard and functioning properly. 

He went up the mast to check the mast, standing rigging, rods, connection points, radar, antennas, lights, and wind indicators.  We started the engines and all the electronics, we showed the amperage of the electronics and batteries, and opened up all the bilges, engine rooms, cabinets and more.  The boat was completely exposed having a stranger poke and prod everywhere.

The Result

The only complaint I have is with his value of our boat.  We disagreed on the value and he would not budge.  He was unyielding and stubborn.  Even after I showed him comparable yachts and our previous survey.  I was severely irritated and pissed off.  I could not believe how unreasonable he was when it came to this one thing. Everything else we agreed upon.  I thought the value should be higher based on all of our new electronics and good state of the boat – but he refused to budge. 

After arguing for a week, we agreed to disagree and there was nothing I could do.  However, we  are now armed with an up to date out of water, in water, and rigging survey.  We will use this when we shop around for a new insurance carrier in Q1 2021.

The survey took place during the week of 25 September 2020.  The blog post is 6-8 weeks behind the survey date.

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.