Yacht Repair in Exotic Places

If ever world cruising could be aptly described as in this blog’s title, our recent stay at Vudu, on the west side of Viti Levu, Fiji, reinforced that view.

After a week’s cruise with my wife Jamie on board, we arrived here last Sunday so she could catch a flight out Monday night, and my friend Phil Krevoy, flying in from Los Angeles, could join us before dawn that same day. As Travis and I had multiple major projects to address, Phil and Jamie took off on a ferry that morning, and enjoyed a fun day swimming at a remote island while we, the “permanent” crew chased down contractors. 

The major issues were our boom gooseneck (where the boom articulates with the mast, and important point), which was making clunking noises due to excessive movement, our hydraulic panel, which controls the backstay and boom vang, and our autopilot, which was leaking hydraulic fluid. We had torn into each of these systems prior to our arrival at Vuda, done what we could, but needed both a machine shop and a hydraulic expert to put these systems in order.

Fortunately, our Fiji expert, Curly Carswell, who not only helps cruisers plan navigation but also provides excellent references, gave us two names, Seamech and All Engineering, both firms with 200 employees located near the marina.  I had called both of them the previous week, and they were ready to help immediately.  Our boom gooseneck needed to be machined and fitted with some custom washers and stainless bushings, and All Engineering agreed to do the job.  Seamech sent their resident expert, Anasa, to trouble shoot our hydraulic panel, and he showed up mid-morning Monday, took the panel with him, and also drove me to All Engineering to deliver the gooseneck parts to be reworked.  By noon Monday all my technical projects were in professional hands! 

However, my friend Phil had delivered a new elk-hide steering wheel cover to replace the original, which Travis and I had worn out sailing 5000 miles since March, but someone had to install it.  Since Travis had agreed to clean our teak decks, at least a ten-hour job on his hands and knees, I took ownership of the wheel cover, which had to be installed using 2 needles and a baseball stitch pattern.  After 2 hours, I had the old cover off, then had to use solvent to remove the old 2-sided tape that had held it in place for the past 17 years.  This wasn’t going to be an easy project.  Next I had to apply the new tape, then sew on 8” leather pieces on each of the six spokes.  That took another 2 hours, and I hadn’t even begun the 48” wheel cover.  By sunset, I had it half finished, and Travis was 75% done with the decks.  Jamie and Phil came back to the boat, happy and relaxed, and Jamie later left that night for the flight back to Cleveland.

Jamie getting ready to fly home

Tuesday was a continuation of Monday’s work, but we also got another visit from Anasa, who agreed to come look at our leaking autopilot that I had neglected to show him on his initial appearance.  He noted that all it needed was some special thread sealant we didn’t have on board, which he could provide when he delivered the rebuilt hydraulic panel.  Meanwhile, Travis kept cleaning teak, and I threw more baseball stitches at the wheel.  By 1530 hours, we were both tired, but done.  We treated ourselves to dinner at the marina’s waterfront restaurant and I was in bed by 1900.

Travis’s “Superyacht” standards
New Swan wheel cover after 12 hours stitching

Wednesday was delegated for provisioning and tying up loose ends, so I took a cab to town with Phil, picked up the gooseneck from All Engineering ($280 Fiji Dollars, or $140 U.S., a super deal!), went to the supermarket, but being a Hallal shop, they carried no beef or pork.  Next we went to the butcher, and stocked up on steaks and smoked fish.  Travis took the afternoon off to meet friends at a nearby beach, so Phil and I reinstalled the boom with its new gooseneck, which fit perfectly.  By then it was dark, so  we grilled steaks, made a huge salad, visited with some friends on another yacht (that was air conditioned, thankfully), and retired early.  Thus completed 3 days of nothing but work.  Phil by now was hoping to see something besides Vuda Marina before departing Fiji, but was being a good sport.

Thursday, as promised, Anasa from Seamech returned with our repaired hydraulic panel, which he promptly installed, and it worked perfectly.  Next he dropped into our stern lazarette and sealed the autopilot’s leaking fitting, which also corrected that problem.  His charges, including three round trips to our boat, was around $250 U.S.  I expected a $1000 invoice.  By then it was 1300, so Phil and I took another cab downtown to replace my aged i-Phone, but couldn’t get the new phone to sync with my old one.  I gave up in disgust and still don’t have it working right.  Returning to the boat, we found Travis reinstalling the mainsail, and I made my weekly trip up the mast in the boatswain’s chair to complete the rigging job.  Having skipped lunch, we had an early dinner and again I was in my bunk by 1900.  Does this sound fun, or what?  Phil wonders if he’s ever going to get out of Vuda Marina.

We were supposed to meet Fiji Customs at 1000 Friday morning and depart for Vanuatu by noon, but after waiting at the appointed locale for an hour, were informed by the marina office that Customs was still in  Latouka, 30 minutes distant, and had to finish checking in a container ship and two private yachts before they could come to us.  Hence, I began writing this blog post, hoping we could get out before nightfall.  Phil continued to be a great sport, but had spent four of his first five days’ vacation helping us fix our boat, and would spend the next three making an extremely rough passage to Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Tell me again, why did I retire?

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