...Or, how to spend 3 weeks in paradise
Week 1 - Work on Khulula, work on a super-yacht
Words by Hugh
At the dock
It is no secret that all boats require maintenance, but the types of problems people have when offshore cruising are astounding, endless and universal, almost. Broken wind vane? Yup, we've heard of 2 already. Dead radar? 3 and counting. Engine stopped? 4 so far. Struck by lightning? 2 boats since Panama. Leaks? Everybody. A common saying is that cruising around the world is simply fixing your boat in exotic locations. To be honest, I didn't think the same rules would apply to us. We all take special pride in repairing and re-building things that were never meant to be fixed; 'certified repair technician' and 'return to manufacturer for service' are challenges not stumbling blocks. I also figured we'd avoid fixing things while underway. Well, I was wrong. We're starting to live by the '1 job a day' rule. If you fix 1 thing a day, you can just about stay on top of the repairs, a satisfying feeling. For some it even pays, but we'll get to that in a bit. Occasionally the jobs are bigger and require 3 people for 5 days, ago. which is how we ended up docked at the Marina Taina in Papeete 2 weeks Without too many boring details, the problem goes like this. A plywood bulkhead (thingy used for strength) in our boat had become delaminated and detached from the hull. Attached to that bulkhead is the chain plate, with in turn the rigging is attached to, the rigging that holds up the mast. So without a strong bulkhead firmly attached to the hull, the mast was in danger of falling down! Not an imminent danger, but enough to cause us concern. Our solution? New plywood, big bolts, and lots of epoxy and fiberglass!
Since getting at the bulkhead involved clearing out half of the main cabin, including water tanks and most of our remaining canned food (lots) we decided to spring for a space at the dock for a few days. We needed a place to pile all our stuff, saw wood, cause havoc and generally decompress the boat. Within moments of tying up we'd quickly unloaded sails, boards, jerry cans and other miscellaneous gear to make room for the chaos that was about to ensue below decks. Being tied to tera-firma also gave us the chance to better socialize with a few other yachty-types.
At ~1.25$/ft per night the marina wasn't the most expensive in the world. The cost adds up quickly though, which is why dock fees are generally avoid by most cruisers on a budget. On the other hand, for a super-yacht with 5 - 6 paid crew, a fuel tank as big as a small swimming pool, and an absentee owner who might just rule a small country, it is a pittance. So amongst our neighbors were multiple +100ft sailboats and powerboats and their crews. Khulula looked positively miniscule among them. Fortunately, the crew on most of these boats are super-cool young folks who like boating and are out to see the world while getting paid to do it, a good bunch to hang out with.
"How white is your boat?"
After being around weather-beaten cruising boats all the time the first thing you notice about a super-yacht is how bright and shiny it is. Ryan was constantly ogling their rust-free stainless steel, and even asking around for some polishing tips! As I learned, the crew's number one job is to keep the boat in 'as new' condition 100% of the time. Which is why they have a crew of 5 or 6, full time.
For the most part, the owners of these boats are content to use them for only a few weeks a year, flying into the various exotic locations where the crew has delivered the boat. Don't even start doing the cost per minute calculations of these vacations because the numbers will boggle your mind. Did you have the absolute, maximum amount of pleasure in the past 4 minutes? Good because it cost you $7000! So when the owner is coming to sail for a week, as was the owner of the Beagle V, the boat better be ready. Apparently the boat wasn't quite shiny enough, nor quite white enough, because they enlist my help (can't imagine why) to help polish for a few days. Which how I ended up working on a super-yacht.
After 4 months off, waking up at 7 am on a Monday morning to go to work (for someone else) was a bit of a trip. It's funny, because despite what Ryan and Brys say, I have no trouble getting up at 7am on a normal day on the boat. But faced with the prospect of a 9 hour work day, it was pretty difficult! Not to mention that the novelty of being on a really fancy boat wore off pretty quick, and soon it was just work!
Well, I've now got 3 days of polishing under my belt and I'm happy to share all my newly acquired skills with you Ry. By the way, I've blown the rest of this year's budget on a pneumatic sliding door for our main cabin, all the super-yachts have them so I figured we needed one too.
Week 2 - To Teahupoo. No, wait, back to Moorea
With Khulula back together and my dose of 9-5 done for a month or two, it was time to escape the bustle of Papeete and the marina for some more laidback spots.
At the marina we met Suzi, a welsh native who called Southern France home in between multi-month adventures around the globe; another like-minded sailor, surfer and all-round world traveler. She was currently on boat laid-up waiting for engine parts and also eager to get away from Papeete for a few days of sailing and exploring.
The plan was to go the legendary Teahupoo first and then maybe back to Moorea. The weather forecast I had for the day we set out called for 15 - 20 kts of wind from the east. Since Teahupoo was only 30 miles, it didn't appear that it would be too tough to get there. Well, soon after getting out the reef pass, the wind built from 15 to 29, and then to 30 knots right 'on the nose'. A long beat we were not looking forward to, so when the gusts hit 35 knots I decided it would be much more comfortable to turn around and head downwind to Moorea 1st. It was a good decision, as shortly thereafter the wind built to a steady 40 knots, with one gust to 47! It was the strongest winds we've seen so far on Khulula and fortunately she handled it just fine. With a scrap of the headsail out we made 7+ knots to Moorea and were safely in the lee of the island in a few hours. Whew!
We spent the next few days again anchored in beautiful Opunohu Bay, making day trips for surf in the dingy.