Fathom arrived at the carenage (boatyard) on the island of Raiatea on the 3rd July after a pleasant overnight sail from Mo’orea with Waterhoen again in convoy. Both boats managed to get a berth inside the little harbour and this would end up being Fathom’s home for just about the next three weeks. I had made prior arrangements with Richard, a boaty handyman on the island, who would help me with the repair to the mast step and deck. He would provide jacks, 2×4’s and various electric tools needed for the job. The reason for doing all this work was to investigate and try and rectify the depression in the mast step where the mast step fitting had been slowly sinking into the deck at a slight angle to starboard. I was hoping Richard would arrive the following day but he was finishing another job and then got sick so in the end didn’t turn up until Saturday 8th. It was a frustrating few days waiting around but I got a lot of the prep work done such as removing the sails and boom to reduce weight on the mast, slacking off the rigging and setting up a tent in the cabin to try and contain the dust. Adva was still around on Waterhoen so we made a quick visit to Taputapuatea. Here there is a site with a number of marae and other stone structures and was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia.
Once Richard showed up the first task was to jack up the deck slightly with two pieces of 2×4 to support the weight of the mast and cabin top so we could remove the support post. We calculated it was safe to leave the mast up with slack rigging and wedges on the deck to help spread the weight. Once the support post was removed we cut out a section of the fibreglass and plywood under the mast step to see if it was wet or there had been any other structural failure. It turned out the wood was dry but had been notably compressed compared with areas further from the step. I am surprised that no load bearing plate or wood had been added above the support post when Fathom was built instead the compression post was in direct contact with the underside of the deck presenting a relatively small area for the loads from the mast and rigging to be transferred to the bulkhead.
The next step was to glue a piece of hardwood into the hole with thickened epoxy. We discovered there was no epoxy available to buy on the whole of the island due to a stock issue in Tahiti but luckily some Swiss friends sold me theirs so it didn’t slow us down too much. Once in place the hardwood plug was covered and glued by a piece of fibreglass offcut so that it came up nice and flush with the surround.
Richard was still struggling with flu like symptoms over the next couple of days but in fear of further delays I managed to keep him alive by providing regular doses of Ibroforin, hot water with lemon juice and bowls of soup. In order to add strength to the deck support I wanted to shorten the compression post and add a piece of hardwood to the underside of the deck to help spread the load. There is only one place to buy wood on Raiatea and thankfully they sold some hardwood, a bit narrower than I would have liked but workable. The hardwood was shaped using a jigsaw and two 18mm pieces epoxied together. Once dry a hole saw was used to make four cut outs allowing access to the mast step nuts and bolts. The hardwood was then attached to the underside of the deck with thickened epoxy.
Once the epoxy had cured the final task was to jack up the deck very slightly, shorten the support post and put back in place. This took some careful measuring and a steady hand with the saw. I rebuilt some of the headlining support around the post and then it was time to clean up and remove the dust. From the deck the mast step fitting now looks straight again and is no longer rubbing away at the mast heel. Nearly all of the depression in the mast step area has been removed except directly under the mast step fitting which is permanently bowed. When the mast is next stepped I will install a new mast step and flatten this area.
Fathom spick and span again I was all ready to depart Raiatea for Bora Bora on the 14th when I noticed a broken strand at the top of the forestay while doing a rig check. Very very thankful I discovered this as I could have got in a spot of bother on the way to New Zealand otherwise. With the help of friends Robin and Fiona from ‘Monarch’ the forestay was detached and taken ashore inside the foil of the furling gear. The stainless screws in the aluminium foil were completely seized so it was not possible to take the foil apart and separate from the forestay. I got in contact with a rigger in Tahiti who was able to make up a new forestay, supply a swageless terminal and deliver here to the carenage in Raiatea by plane. The new wire had to be spliced to the old one and pushed through the foil. A norseman swageless terminal was then fixed to the top end. It took quite a while to get everything back installed, thanks again to Robin and Fiona for their help. Touch wood Fathom is now back in commission and ready to get some more miles under her keel.
The plan is to sail to Bora Bora tomorrow for a shakedown sail and there I will begin the process of checking out of French Polynesia on Monday. Weather permitting I hope to stop at Aitataki, Palmerston and Niue in the Cook Islands en-route to Tonga.