Haul Out in Vava’u, Tonga


Last Updated on September 5, 2019 by Amy

We spent our first 6 days in Tonga acclimating ourselves back to boat life, cleaning the bottom, and starting the myriad of small projects we brought the parts for.  When we sailed from New Zealand to Tonga, we discovered a few issues that would require us to haul out in Tonga.  Thankfully, there’s one boatyard in Tonga, the new The Boat Yard Vava’u in Neiafu.

A new fan in our main salon.
New anchor bridle snubbers.  The water in Port Muerelle is so gorgeous!
Engine coolant sensors.

The Haul Out

The Boat Yard has a fancy new trailer, a Sea-Lift diesel-hydraulic trailer.  We approached the ramp at high tide, and the crew got in the water to help guide us onto the trailer.  The ramp is on a hill, which is very steep, but Joe and his team did a great job getting us up the hill and settled.

Leaking Thru-hull

As we made the passage to Tonga, we, unfortunately, found a leak in our port aft head thru-hull.  The leak was resulting in saltwater (and probably black water) in the bottom of our bilges. The holding tank was empty and we’ gave it a good cleaning before we left SH in Neiafu. The harbor of Neiafu is flat calm most of the time, so the leak wasn’t too concerning. The thru-hull itself is actually right AT the waterline – just enough that we have to haul out to fix it.

We ordered a replacement thru-hull while we were in the states and brought it back with us. There are several parts to the holding tank system. There is a vertical hose from the deck down to the holding tank. The holding tank is mounted to the hull with a few brackets.  There are hoses coming off the sides to the head. From the bottom of the holding tank, there’s another large white hose.  This hose connects to the black 90-degree valve, which is screwed into the thru-hull. All this is incredibly tight. There is hardly any wiggle room to separate the system and pull the tank out.

It’s a tight squeeze in there!
After getting the thru-hull off, you can see the sealant.

But, we did manage.  We took apart everything below the holding tank.  This allowed us to inspect the system for clogs. This holding tank frequently gives us trouble, and we found the culprit – a cut out from the original installation, that was dropped into the tank and no one fished it out.  For more info see here.

The offending small disk – perfectly sized to clog the pipe.

Back at the thru-hull I scraped the wet balsa from around the hole and applied a heat gun to dry it out.  Then, we put epoxy in the core, sanded it down to fit the thru-hull, and put a sealant in as we reinstalled the thru-hull.  We don’t know why it was leaking really – it must have been the sealant because the thru-hull itself was fine.  Fortunately, the core of the Helia is small squares of balsa, each square lined with epoxy.  This ensures leaks don’t permeate throughout the hull.

Sail Drive Damage

We got a pleasant little surprise when we went to clean our hull last week.  We wanted to scrub off the small amount of growth before we hauled out. David popped into the water to clean off barnacles and noticed that our sacrificial anodes were COMPLETELY GONE.  Not only that, but they’d been gone for so long that there was some damage to our sail drives and rope cutters.

To those unaware, all boats have sacrificial anodes on them.  Often, they are just called zincs, their primary material.  When you have multiple metals underwater, and there is an electrical current in the water (which there always is), the weaker metal deteriorates through electron loss.  Zincs are weaker than most metals commonly found on boats (weaker than the aluminum of our sail drives), so they erode away first. Usually, we replace our anodes once a year, and this is something David can do with a bit of free diving, although we typically do it during a haul out.  We installed these anodes in Whangarei, so they lasted less than 4 months.

Once they were gone, the aluminum of the sail drives was weaker than the bronze of the propellers or the stainless steel of the shaft.  Why did this happen?  There are two possibilities.  One is that our boat is having an electrical issue, and is producing a stray current.  We’ve done some testing with a multimeter and we don’t think that’s the case.  The second possibility is that there was a stray current somewhere where we were staying.  Unfortunately, we didn’t check our zincs before we left the boat in Neiafu.  So, we don’t know if the current was in New Zealand (they are doing construction in the Opua Marina) or in Neiafu (where I don’t really think anyone is paying attention to it).

We took apart our propellers and cleaned everything.  The yard applied etching primer and then primer and we added back on our Pettit Vivid antifoul, the same stuff we applied in Whangarei.  We had to have the rope cutter repaired, by machining a new post for the fixed blade and welding it on.

Yup, the new antifoul is bright blue!!

Cap Shrouds

When we arrived in Tonga, David did the routine rigging inspection and noticed that one of the wires in our port cap shroud was broken.  This is a pretty big deal – the shrouds hold our whole rig up, and should last 10 years.  We filed a warranty issue with Fountaine Pajot and they filed with Zspars, the manufacturer.  Zspars denied the claim, saying the cap shrouds must have been installed improperly.  Fountaine Pajot stepped up to the plate for us though and sent us new shrouds.

The best part was that FP was able to ship our two new shrouds to Hawaii.  These were the two boxes we took on the flights with us.  The shrouds were actually fairly easy to replace with some minor help from the yard; David up the mast, me working the winch, and two people to guide the shroud up or down to the ground.

A 3′ by 3′ by 8″ box weighing almost exactly 23 kg (the luggage limit) with our shrouds coiled inside.
SH minus a port shroud.

We don’t know why this damage happened.  David checks the shrouds all the time and makes sure they are tightened to FP specifications.  We are very pleased that FP was able to ship to us so quickly.

Main Sail Repair

Before we left Tonga we took our sail off and left it at Vava’u Canvas Repair.  Phillip repaired the torn part and we put the sail back on by ourselves.  Going on went much better than coming off!  Now that we knew what we were doing it was a lot easier.  You have to de-tension the shrouds, to allow the mast to flex forward a little bit. Then, using the removable track, you move the cars one by one off the mast, while being careful not to lose any ball bearings.

We lost 3 ball bearings taking the sail off and 1 installing it, but thankfully we’d bought two bags of ball bearings (12 each) while in the states.

Spinnaker Head Block

On the Helia, the top of the headsail rigging is attached via a U-bolt with rivets.  In our regular inspecting, we noticed the rivets had corroded away, so we needed to come up with a replacement system.  We had a welder here in Neiafu (Friendly Islands Fabrication) construct this piece for us and rivet it to the mast.

Weather in Neiafu

The weather in Neaifu has been pretty tricky.  There was allow pressure system crowding out a high-pressure system, causing persistent, dribbling rain and high winds.  We had to delay painting the sail drive due to rain.  Due to the clouds, our solar panels couldn’t keep up with the fridge and freezer.  We had to shut everything off.  Once the system passed through, the yard is in the lee of Mount Talau and it was dead calm and HOT.

Thankfully our friend Kjell put us up at his hotel, Mystic Sands.  This place is amazing.  It’s small and quiet, with just six rental units.  Our back porch leads directly to the beach, and there’s an infinity pool, kayaks, snorkel gear, and a palapa.  If we don’t leave early for the yard, Kjell arrives around 9 am and sits to chat with us for a little while.  And, bonus, it’s just a 10-minute dingy ride to the yard!

Now we’ve been pretty productive.  There are still a few things to do around town, but our hope is to launch Tuesday and leave for the Ha’apai group in a few days.

My favorite hammock at Mystic Sands.

All Haul Outs

  1. Nanny Cay, BVIs
  2. Grenada Marine
  3. Norsand, Whangarei, New Zealand
  4. The Boat Yard, Vava’u, Tonga
  5. The Boat Works, Coomera, Australia
  6. Phithak Shipyard & Services, Satun, Thailand
  7. G&T Boat Yard, Phuket, Thailand

Watch the Video:  Tongan Boat Yard Blues


  1. Hi Guys
    Would you mind elaborating on which shore power converter you have? And did it actually do its job since you were plugged in but still had galvanic corrosion? Im about to acquire my cat and need to learn and prepare for all these potential issues. And we def need more maintenance videos ha ha.Your explanations are awesome.

    Cheers and good luck with everything


    1. Hi Mike! We have an Atlas ShorPOWER Ultra. If we were doing this all over again, we would not buy this shore power converter because 1) we never use it and 2) it’s very heavy. We have not plugged into shore power since Dec 2015 and have never plugged into a 220V shore power. Stay tuned, though, since we are headed to Australia for the cyclone season. Sorry we aren’t more help other than that! I’ll put in a request to David for more videos! Thanks for following.

  2. Hi Amy/David. On the Anodes/SD issue I have been looking at this and decided to install a Victron Isolation transformer to ensure 100% galvanic isolation when shore connected. This also protects your systems from leaking back. I won’t go further as I know David is up on such matters, but this may solve longer term issues.

    PS. S/V Safire arrived in La Rochelle old port this week from the factory. Almost our time!


    Colin & Lesley

  3. Question for you – If I were to purchase a new boat in North America, it would likely be set up for 110 volt power. I assume that since you have a European boat that it must have 220 volt components and wiring. Would a North American boat with 110v components be a real pain for international cruising? What would your recommendation be regarding this?

    1. Hi Brent! When you are having a new boat built, even in Europe, you can pick which system you want. Our boat is 110 volts.

      We rarely ever plug into shore power, so having 110 volts is not an issue. The last time we plugged in was a year and a half ago.

      However, if a 110V boat plugged into a 220V, it really depends on the equipment. Some equipment will be fine. Some would not be able to run. It just depends on the equipment, but you can pretty easily figure out the ratings.

      1. Victron sells a sshore power isolation transformer and voltage converter. You can hook up to pretty much any power source though there may be a 50hz/60hz differential. You just need to make sure as much equipment that you buy can handle working on 50 or 60. Most marine aircons can at least the 230V one can….etc…check the specs and the forums for more info and quid pro quo’s!

    2. Victron sells a sshore power isolation transformer and voltage converter. You can hook up to pretty much any power source though there may be a 50hz/60hz differential. You just need to make sure as much equipment that you buy can handle working on 50 or 60. Most marine aircons can at least the 230V one can….etc…check the specs and the forums for more info and quid pro quo’s!

      1. Hi Allyn
        This is useful but be aware that it only works for resistive and not inductive loads. You cannot run anything with a 50Hz compressor if connected to 60 Hz supply as it will mess up the inductive load (AC, refrigeration etc or on AC).

        You can get a unit that converts 50hz to 60hz and vis a versa very but I understand that apart from cost the transformer is a very heavy beast.

        I think therefore it may come done to the area`s you cruise and how long you may stay there. Overall there are a lot more 240V 50Hz marina`s, but as said it all depends on your eventually locations.

        Hope this offer some thoughts.

        KR Colin

      2. Hey Allyn and all. We actually do have a shore power converter onboard. It is a BEAST! And we rarely ever use it since we haven’t plugged into shore power in a year and a half. Definitely not the best use of space and weight on Starry Horizons.

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