Up until last month (May 16), it was not possible to haul out in the Marquesas. Previously the first place you could do so in French Polynesia was at Apataki, one of the northern islands in the Tuamotos, 600miles W of the Marquesas or even further on, at the larger facilities of Tahiti.
You can now. And boy, do you get a view!
Vincent and his wife, Maria , the owners, have invested heavily in a brand new hydraulic trailer and tractor and now offer the ability to haul boats up to 25t out onto the hard by the jetty at Atuona. Vincent is the aircraft engineer at the Hiva Oa airport. The yard is set up in a old pit, mined out to supply spoil to build the breakwater. It is very sheltered.
They were hoping on getting two boats a month initially with the occasional other perhaps needing longer term storage.
What they have got is one boat out for the next eight months, four on longer term fixing projects in the yard and another twenty enquiries from yachts wanting out right now! Skylark is the third and largest catamaran on a short term (less than a week) haul. Plus the locals are starting to ask for an area for their boats too. It has taken them rather by surprise as they thought it would take two to three years to get the word out.
They are a little limited with suitable boat supports (again all brand new) and can safely prop up six boats but due to the interest they have had, have an urgent order in for more props. The yard is basic with free water (not potable – untreated and straight from the nearby river as most water is here) and electricity (240V only). It is a grass field that they have started to settle out with gravel but is still soft when it rains. They intend to concrete the road up to the yard as well but they are planning to stage costs with other projects. A shower and toilet block, internet and a small store are in their plans over the next year too.
There are limited yacht services as yet but Vincent can source most generic parts you need from Tahiti with a lead time of 4-5 days. My replacement gear cable was $100, only 15% more than I would pay back in the UK.
Price wise, it is very reasonable. We paid around 11 Euro per ft for a two day haul out and a wash down. Monohulls are a little cheaper at 9 Euro per ft.
Hauling is done at high tide on the harbour slip with the tractor using a winch set at the yard gate to help it pull up the initial angle of the slope. For catamarans, the trolley supports are set to the inner width of the hulls and are adjustable up to 2.4m.
We required to be hauled due to the worrying knocking of the rudders we had picked up on the way to Galapagos. Having dropped one of the rudders in Isabela with the help of the Starcharger crew and failed to dig out the old bearing, we needed to lift to get at it properly. Just as well. The old stb bearing was completely locked in. After several hours of cursing and helpful advice from everyone on the yard, it required to be cut out. The bearing housing needed a lot of repolishing too. I think that whoever put the bearings in originally didn’t know what they were doing resulting in a fair bit of damage. I eventually froze the new stb bearing overnight which gave it just enough wiggle room to fit back in to its seating. The port bearing was an easy fix and took all of 20 mins to remove and replace.
When we dropped the rudders out, we found another problem. The stb rudder was cracked. Left to itself, the rudder would soon come apart, as it had done for So What this Spring, requiring a rebuild. Thankfully we caught it early.
Having watched but not done fibre glassing myself before, Youtube became my friend. I learnt a great deal from a US model maker, whose lessons were supplemented by Sid, another French boat owner in the yard, who is in the midst of epoxying his hull with Copper Coat.
We needed three days to complete the work. Seems a long time to do what we did but we needed to allow the rudder to dry out, run around for the epoxy and hardener kit we needed to fix the rudder, then to allow the layers of glass cloth to cure and finally to repaint it. In between dodging the rain. The rainy season has come early to Hiva Oa this year and we were getting an inch a day easy. It made life a little difficult but we had Skylark to hide under to work so were better off than the monohulls.
Initial sanding and first coat of glass.
Second coat of glass and then two coats of primer. We don’t have any antifouling left. Nor is there any on the island. It will have to last until we haul in the Winter.
We also took the chance to refill the gas bottles, or rather, as much as you can using the technique below. Takes a while but we can get about half a bottle using this method. We should be able to get the US bottles refilled conventionally once we get to Tahiti. When Hannah wasn’t helping, then she was playing with Kimiora, Vincent’s daughter who was great fun.
Finally, whilst the sign on the gate may be a little rustic, I have to give Vincent and family a big thumbs up, both for having the gumption to set up a yard and for the help they gave us. I’m quite sure they will do well with their endeavour. I recommend them to you.