This has been our view for the past ten days. It’s awesome, isn’t it? We rented a house high in the mountains because Cream Puff went to the spa and we became homeless.
It is that time again when we open our wallets and shell over thousands of francs for the Puffster to have her special deluxe treatments. The Puffster went to Technimarine here on Tahiti. It is by far the most expensive yard we’ve encountered but also they performed the best work we’ve seen. It all starts with the lift out of the water and a high-pressure wash. Then there is sanding. This is usually a light sanding but since we are changing the type of bottom paint on the Puffster, she needed a heavy sand job.
After the sanding, work began on a nasty scratch I put on the port side of the Puffster. This happened a couple of months ago when we were docking on a rather windy day with a side current and I misjudged the entry into the slip. There is a part of the dock missing padding. And of course, this is the part I manage to scrape. I felt bad about it for a few days because in all the time we have owned this boat, I have never hit the dock and scratched the hull, until now. Oh well, I guess it was due. Techimarine did such a great repair, even I can’t see where the damage was.
Next, the top-sides were cleaned, polished, and waxed. Then, new bottom paint was applied. This is special very expensive paint to prevent nasty things from growing on the bottom of the boat. It also protects the fiberglass hull. We requested three coats applied to everything below the waterline and then an additional three coats applied at the waterline and down a couple of feet. Additional extra paint in this area is because most marine growth happens just below the waterline. As the growth falls or is scraped off, it takes a little bit of paint with it. Thus, more paint in this area.
Cruising sailors are faced with a couple of choices when the haul-out is due. One option is to do the work themselves and save labor costs. Most boatyards allow some level of DIY. This requires a few days of unpleasantness. Let me explain what I mean.
The unpleasantness is dressing up in a bunny suit (protective coveralls) and wearing a full-face respirator doing hard manual labor. Keep in mind how hot it is here. This getup isn’t exactly body temperature friendly. The dust from the paint being sanded is toxic to breathe. The precaution is not optional if you want to stay alive and sail another day. Then, comes the painting. This is applied like house paint with a roller. And like house paint, it splatters everywhere and the splatters follow the laws of gravity heading downward. Guess where the painter is? Yep, standing under the boat. Does this sound like fun to you?
The next decision a cruiser has to make is where they plan to live while the boat is in the yard. Our boat is our full-time home. Some yards allow people to stay on the boat while the boat is up on blocks and jack-stands. Personally, I consider this darn right dangerous. For the life of me, I can’t believe some yards allow people to do this. The yard makes people who do this sign a waiver freeing them from all responsibility. The reason why? We personally know several people seriously hurt because they were living on the boat on the hard. Most involve falling off the ladder while trying to get either on or off the boat. Some of the injuries required lengthy hospitalization. Besides the obvious dangers of falling, there are other factors to consider.
If a boat is out of the water, certain systems cannot work. Air conditioning is one of these systems. The compressors in the AC units are cooled by pumping seawater in coils near the compressor. Without the seawater, the AC systems quickly overheat and shut down. Just leave the hatches open, you say? Well, remember all that toxic dust from the paint sanding? The neighbors are also doing this too. It never stops in the yard. Yards are filthy. I can’t imagine what the inside would be like with open hatches considering the state of the outside.
What about going to the bathroom or showering? Our boat uses holding tanks and we can release waste when away from land. However, these tanks are not sufficient to accommodate the 10 days it takes to do the work on our boat. The yards don’t have the ability to pump out the holding tanks but do offer public bathrooms. As you can imagine, they are not exactly like the Four Seasons. Think gas station level of cleanliness. In a conversation with another cruiser about living on the boat in the yard, they told me they use a bucket aboard the boat for nighttime WC visits to avoid the peril of going up and down the ladder at night. Yuck!
Perhaps the best way to describe living in the boatyard for non-boaters: imagine living in an RV while hoisted high on a mechanic’s ramp inside a noisy, smelly, dusty garage. If you are like us and none of this living aboard the boat in a boatyard appeals to you, then you can do what we do. Get on AirBnB and find a house. Tourists have not been allowed in French Polynesia for the past couple of months (this is changing) meaning we had our choice of just about all the rental properties on the island. In addition, some properties lowered prices in an effort to snag the occasional opportunity.
Cindy communicated with the boatyard explaining what work we required, how much it would cost and how long it will take. They settled on 10 days. Once this was established we shopped for a place to live. Do we want to stay near the boat in Pape’ete or head out to the hills? Staying in Pape’ete means paying a little more for the rental. The plus side being we wouldn’t need a car. Staying in the hills requires a car but the houses are less expensive. We opted for the hills. But, we also took this to the extreme.
When shopping on AirBnB, we found a fabulous two-bedroom house. It was discounted and additional savings offered for rentals over 7 days. The property is high, and I mean high, on the hills offering remarkable views. The location is on what is called Tahiti-Iti meaning the part of the island located south of the isthmus. The drive to Pape’ete is about 1.5 hours with no traffic or 2 hours with traffic. Looking at the online pictures I quickly imagine myself doing the morning crossword with a mug of tea watching the green mountains of Tahiti-Nui (the northern part of Tahiti) come to life as the sun rises. Perfect!
Next step: rent a car. I have had a great deal of success renting cars from Eco-Car, a locally owned company. Avis and Hertz are stupid expensive here. The best car deal I found is Tahiti Rental used by mostly local residents but their availability is limited. I prefer the economy car for a couple of reasons. First, the roads are narrow and smaller cars are more suited for this. Second, street parking is easier with a compact car. And of course, the price is better. For a 12-day rental (we will need the car after the yard work is done for shopping), an extra US$10 per day in savings versus a midsize car equates to US$120. Looking at Eco-Car’s webpage, I was thrilled to find an economy car for the required period and made the reservation. We are all set. We have the yard booked, a place to live, and transportation. Now begins our vacation away from the boat. Well, sort of.
Whenever the Puffster is hauled, there are a couple of maintenance items unique to Amel boats needing attention. We prefer to do these tasks ourselves since attention to detail is utmost. Items included are: servicing the C–drive (gears to turn the propeller), the bow-thruster, and the folding propeller. The work is not difficult and takes us two half days. We try to time our work so as not to interfere with the boatyard professionals. Once we understand their schedule we decide we want to work on the boat when they are polishing rather than sanding or painting. The yard manager is happy to convey the progress and the schedule updates so we can coordinate coming off the mountain into town.
Since we had to be in town for a couple of days we invited a couple to spend the night at the house with us for a wicked game of Mexican Train dominos. We picked them up in the marina and returned them the next day. As an added bonus for us, they saved our slip in the marina which is full now and has been for a couple of months. We had grandiose plans of a rally of Mexican Train dominoes. But, silly me forgot the dominoes. I was supposed to grab them when up on the boat. I got sidetracked. It was probably something shiney getting my attention. As it turns out we just enjoyed a fine meal, wine, fabulous conversation, and some great laughs.
The Pape’ete marina has a really odd policy. It doesn’t take any reservations. It is first come first served. If you pay for a slip for a month and then decide to leave for a few days to go sailing you must tape off the slip to avoid someone else occupying the slot. But, if someone decides to ignore the tape and park there anyway, it is a 50/50 chance the marina will make the second boat move. With the marina full our friends who plan to depart for Fiji in a few days desperately wanted a space in town to do some last-minute provisioning. We worked out a win-win deal. They could use our space while we were gone. As we exited they entered. And then, the same on return leaving nothing to chance. Marina slips are precious commodities.
The house we rented is fabulous. It is a true gem on AirBnB. If someone, like us, is looking for solitude and a fabulous view then this is the place. The only sounds are the birds singing and a very occasional car. Once in a while, the wind will rattle the palm leaves. A young child passed. He was about 20 meters (65 ft) away and I could hear his flip-flops as he walked down the lane. Sitting on the back deck overlooking the ocean and Tahitian mountains it is so eerily quiet.
We are often asked what we enjoy most when off the boat. We’ve had 10 days to think about this. Top of the list is a fully equipped kitchen and a stove with more than two burners. Not having to worry about odd noises or something breaking is also high on the list. Actually being able to be more than five feet apart from each other throughout the day now feels strange. Sleeping in a king-sized bed feels luxurious even if it doesn’t gently rock us to sleep. Real toilets!
I took advantage of the rocking fast Wi-Fi in the home and played my online game. Stretched out on the lounge chair on the deck while watching the rain on the mountains I heard Cindy ask, what are you doing? My answer, killing monsters to get wishing coins so I can give them to the dwarf with the lucky apples and in exchange, I hope to get a pie so I can give it to the mystical witch for treasure. Yep, I was lost in another world. I can’t help but wonder who else on this online game with thousands of players all over the world has a view like the one I am enjoying.
When we first walked into the home we were thrilled with the fresh flowers in every room. This is a nice Tahitian touch. Flowers are a huge part of their culture. It didn’t take us long to realize the flowers were cut from the garden outside. With the window open, the fresh air wafting in was often scented with a floral aroma. Just off the deck are fragrant gardenias creating a sweet smell for those lounging nearby. The air is so clean the smells seem rather loud. As a car traveled by, I notice I could smell the exhaust fumes for a short time afterward. It’s hard to imagine life back in Atlanta when I would see orange smog over the city from the airplane window when landing at Hartsfield Airport. I do not miss that.
Although Tahiti is hot and tropical, the mountain altitudes offer cool weather. In the mornings, it can be a little nippy. Perhaps a light sweater will take the chill off. During the day the heat is mild and a cool breeze in the shade is all that is needed to keep comfortable. The sun is still brutal. There is no escaping this. The house has no heat or air-conditioning. These are just not necessary.
The house is owned by a lady in New Zealand. Cindy conversed with her by email and told her how much we appreciated the home. We gave her a wonderful review on AirBnB. The lady is stuck in New Zealand and can’t travel to her getaway home due to their Covid restrictions. Cindy informed her besides our friends who joined us for a night; we also are sharing the house with another couple. We met Izzy and Lizzy. They come out only at night and provide entertainment.
Izzy and Lizzy are two tropical lizards who have somehow managed to get past the screens and live inside. In all honesty, I am surprised there were only two lizards inside. At nighttime on the porch, there are at least ten of them within a few feet of us at all times. These are harmless tan lizards about 5-15 cm long (2-6 inches). They are everywhere on these islands.
Speaking of nighttime, on Saturday night we dined at one of our favorite restaurants on all of Tahiti, Tavania. When we have a rental car we will often eat lunch there. It out of the way for us, about 1 hour and 45 mins from the marina. However, from our rental house, it is only about 15 minutes. The staff is starting to recognize us and were surprised we came for dinner. We are greeted with “hello” and not “bonsoir”. The restaurant is run by a father (the chief) and his daughter who does everything else and speaks English. It is a small place seating about 40 people. The food is very traditional Polynesian and it is delicious. Being off the tourist’s path and away from Pape’ete, the prices are reasonable. Cindy enjoyed the fresh catch of Mahi Mahi and I had a nice rib-eye steak with pepper sauce. Following, we treated ourselves to dessert. Dad made a coconut pie and it was served with fresh coconut ice cream.
Returning to the house feeling rather full we drive up the hill and park the car in the driveway. Our ears pop at least twice as the tiny rental car struggles with the climb. We forgot to leave a light on and it is pitch black dark. I mean the sort of dark where you can’t see your fingers at the end of your arm. There is no moon out yet. Then, I happen to look up. It was an “oh my” moment. Stars! Not just the stars but also the Milky Way. We are often treated to nights like this on ocean passages when the moon has yet to show itself. It is one of my favorite things about sailing at night. However, only on rare occasions have ever seen stars like this while on land. Dang, I could quite easily get used to this living off the boat thing.