We started our adventure last January in the Koehler boatyard in the San Diego where we repainted Akela’s bottom and rebuilt all of the rigging. Since then, Akela has survived storms, giant waves, and even running into a hidden coral reef in Raroia with very few problems. The damage from the reef appeared to be limited to the outer layers of fiberglass on the bottom of the keel, so we assumed that all was well. But 3 months later, the inner hull sprung a leak where it connects to the the keel and we started taking water. The leak was slow enough that the pumps easily kept up — we were in no danger of sinking. But we didn’t know if it would get worse and we were already near a boatyard. So we had Akela hauled out at TechniMarine boatyard in Tahiti for repairs.
This is a serious boatyard that handles ships up to 300 tons, but they also take small boats like our 15 ton ketch and they allowed us to liveaboard in the work yard and to do all our own work. They used the “small” 75 ton travel-lift to lift Akela out of the water, drive it across the paved work area, and set it down where it rested on the keel and was propped up by metal stands.
The damaged region on the bottom of the keel didn’t look too bad, but it was seeping water. We drilled some holes into the keel where we found a void on the port side that was filled with seawater. We drained this and filled the void with over 50 gallons of expandable foam. I had filled a similar sized void on the starboard side a few years ago. The bottom repair was done quickly. The broken fiberglass was cut out with a combination of hammer/chisel and high speed grinder. This region was built up with new fiberglass to regain the strength and make the region watertight. An additional quarter inch of coarse rove fiberglass was added over the whole area to make the forward region of the keel extra-strong. It was all sealed with epoxy, faired out smooth and painted with black anti-fouling paint.
While we were in the yard, we also took care of some other jobs. We made fiberglass repairs to the dinghy, installed new stove mounts, replaced hardware on the scuppers, and replaced a bobstay fitting. The whole job took 4 days.
Like all working boatyards, TechniMarine was loud, dirty, and stinky. But occasionally the winds were just right to deliver fragrant air from a nearby coconut processing plant that was delightful! Also, we were treated to a beautiful nightly sunset over Moorea. And at night, we listened to local groups practicing their drumming for dance performances. We were glad to put Akela back in the water, but the boatyard wasn’t such a bad place.