We chose to leave Skylark at Apataki on the suggestion of our friends John and Trish on Lumiel who had heard that the yard was friendly and well run, if a little basic. They lifted out in August and Lumiel will be parked there until their return next year. Being well to the N of the Society Islands, Apataki is out of the Cyclone belt, a massively important consideration if you are intending to leave your boat in storage over the summer period. Our options in this part of the world are limited as many yards don’t store catamarans leaving Hiva Oa, Apataki and Tahiti the only places you can haul out and store in French Polynesia. Our preferred site of Raiatea don’t do cats, Hiva Oa is way too East for us to think about and Tahiti is way too expensive and it can get hit by weather. Whilst I trust John of Mary Ann II’s analysis of the very small likelihood of a cyclone within the Societies the year after an El Nino event (see article written by him and published on Noonsite), the added advantage of Apataki being cheaper by half than the big Tahiti yards was another key factor.
The SW pass at Apataki has a little dog leg at its end which turns straight in to the prevailing E-SE wind. The good books say only go in at slack and expect falls on an incoming tide on the inside of the bay. We arrived just before slack and punched through about two knots outgoing current with no drama at all. It got bit bouncy on the inside of the pass as a 9 mile fetch with the Trades blowing had set up a nasty Solent like chop, typically coming from exactly the bearing we wanted to go. We pulled the jib back out and motor sailed, tacking back and forth with just enough angle to avoid slamming.
We arrived at the yard late afternoon and anchored in 25’. We were pleased to see Sanuk, who we first met at Isabella in the Galapagos, then again in Hiva Oa and Cheeky Monkey, last seen in the Marquesas. It was good to catch up and talk shutting down techniques. Whilst we did that, the girls played and petted the “tame” 6ft Nurse Shark that lives by the yard. The yard also has three dogs. H says her favourite is a small puppy called Viron.
We started to clean and strip Skylark of the external deck paraphernalia and sails. The mainsail and foresail are to be sent to Tahiti for some TLC but we are also looking at renewing them for our last year and we are waiting a quote from Lee Sails. However, the rest of Skylark is in good condition with just a few bits and pieces needed before we start again next year. We do have a few knocks that could do with the touch of an expert in gelcoat repair but I don’t think we will find anyone like that until we hit the Societies next year. Our shopping list, considering how far we have come, is a surprisingly short list. Most we will get in NZ; some in Tahiti to be sent up by ship.
The watermaker got one last blast to provide us with a big fresh water load to clean the boat with and then was pickled, an easy process when clutching the instruction manual in one hand. We have noticed a little bio contamination in the water quality of late and we will return with an acid and alkali wash which we will do on recommissioning next Spring. It may damage the membrane with the quality of water not to be quite as it was before but it will kill anything left after pickling. We will do a little bleaching of the tanks on our arrival back as well.
Engines and generator had their oil and filters changed as did the fuel lines. Fuel tanks (diesel and petrol) got biocide treatment. I’ll need to remember to change out the impellors on all engines before we kick off next Spring.
The lift went well and Skylark came out looking pretty clean but primer shining through in several places. The jet clean was excellent. The worker who did it was a dedicated soul who ripped in and saved me a huge amount of effort by stripping away a lot of paint that was left on the bottom. We will probably stick with ABC3, the paint we got last year and Lou and I have already decided to paint her ourselves. It is a bit more expensive than the paint the yard sells but Tony, the youngest member of the family that runs the yard, likes it better than the stuff they are contracted to use.
Dinghy – scrubbed, cleaned and dropped to sit under Skylark on tyres to protect her from the sun. Tied off at four points to ensure she doesn’t try to take off if there is any wind. Engine – 18HP – washed, oil changed, greased and internals wiped down.
Skylark has been scrubbed within an inch of her life with vinegar to minimise mould and bleached. All the external holes have been plugged up as we have heard that infestations of ants are common here. The water line was well scrubbed by the girls (a very wet affair) and is now gleaming. All the scuff marks have all been polished out, using the excellent 3M marine restorer and wax product I have. We wrapped anything delicate (EPIRB, hand mikes etc) in towels and placed them down in the hulls, out of the cabin area. Our last action was to put tin foil over all the windows to minimise the sun getting into the boat. Neil, an Aussie who has left his boat in the yard three years running recommended this as the yard in summer can get to roasting point and this reflects away a lot of heat.
It unexpectedly rained the night before we left which left us with a clean boat but with wet canvas that we didn’t want to put away. We have to give a huge thank you to Sanuk and Mary Ann II who put away our bimini and screens once they had dried off and covered off a couple of items that we forgot about before we left. Mary Ann II also very kindly finished off a few tasks that we had not managed to complete and that only occured to us once we were sat on the plane to Tahiti! It was massively appreciated.
After a presentation of flower necklaces, we had a dry but bouncy ride across the lagoon to the airport for our flight to Tahiti. As we were a little early, we were taken to Tony’s family house in the village for coffee and a shower. They really have looked after us very well. Our plane was a small one with 12 seats and it was great to be able to see into the cockpit as there wasn’t room for a separating door. Belts were worn throughout the flight and just as well. We hit one bit of turbulence that Eleanor likened to the Tower of Terror she remembers from Euro Disney. A big lurch!
One note on your luggage allowance if you are leaving your boat in FP. If you are joining an international flight out of French Polynesia (and you will need to show them proof you are – a copy of your e-ticket is fine), your allowance is 23kg hold and 5kg carry on. Interestingly enough they measured the total weight of all our bags to ensure our family weight was less than the 92kg allowed. If you don’t show proof, then your allowance is limited to 10kg and 5kg respectively.
Our 2016 itinerary has seen us visit visited Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands) and in French Polynesia, the Marquesas and Tuamotus island groups. We have added just over 6600 miles to the log, had to say our goodbyes to some old friends but have met and made some great new ones too. It has been a wonderful year and even taking in a few lonesome moments when we have felt very far from friends and family, we have all loved it.
We now look forward to life on dry land for a little while. New Zealand is exciting us and our list of to dos is growing every day. The one thing we are wary about is the temperature that we will have to deal with. I haven’t been in less than 75F since I left the UK over two years ago. I haven’t been in less than 80F since we left the Marquesas. The last few weeks have been 90+F!
Auckland today was 65F.
The girls have the advantage of woolly hats, sent to us oh so long ago by the lovely Elspeth Logan. Hannah’s hat was the first thing on her packing list. Expect to see it in a few photos over the coming months as we get used to the temperature down in the 40S latitudes.
Skylark will be back in the water at the end of February. In the meantime, watch out for posts on our New Zealand travels.
Next year’s agenda – The Society Island, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia. Oh yes!