We've been out in deserted island anchorages for the past few day in the eastern side of the Vava'u archipelago. Our current position is 18 deg 41.27 min south, 173 deg 57.43 west for those with a few minutes to spare on Google Earth.
The pristine sandy beaches and palm-tree islands here are beautiful so we'll post some photos when we get back to the main town in a few days' time. As always, though, it's not all swimming and sunbathing as we've taken some time to do a few boat jobs. The main one has been some maintenance of the teak decks.
For those not familiar with sailing yachts, Maunie, like most boats, is built of fibreglass which is a relatively maintenance-free material. It needs a regular clean and polish to keep it looking shiny but otherwise is very tolerant of the wear and tear of normal use. However, many owners don't like the look and feel of fibreglass decks (they can be slippery and dazzlingly white) so opt for an expensive additional layer of teak planking for a more 'traditional' look; when new it looks fabulous and provides really good grip for bare feet and sea boots whether the deck's wet or dry. So Maunie has a teak deck (now, like the rest of her, 14 years old) and the downside is that it's another maintenance project; neglected teak decks look awful and can result in expensive repairs.
Someone once told us that the worst boat to buy would have a dark blue hull (terribly difficult to keep shiny and it gets very hot in the sun) and teak decks. Maunie had both! The first issue we dealt with via an expensive but lovely paint job but the teak decks remain as a challenge. We were lucky that the relatively light use that Maunie had under her previous owner meant that the decks hadn't been scrubbed vigorously as it's very easy to wear them down in a quest to keep them clean and a nice brown (rather than a neglected grey) colour. If you have teak patio tables and chairs you'll know the issue if keeping teak looking attractive. However, in between the individual planks of the deck is a line of black filler called caulking which allows a degree of expansion and contraction between the planks but which, most importantly, also stops any water ingress to the fibreglass deck below.
Our caulking is beginning, in a few places, to show signs of old age. Our regular deck care regime is to swill buckets of sea water across them – the salt helps to preserve the teak and will deter any mould spores that makes it turn black, whereas fresh water just encourages them. Every six months or so we also use a solution of something called Boracol (boric acid is the main ingredient) which does the same thing but also chemically cleans and preserves the wood – it's great for timber decking in the garden, by the way, to get rid of slippery moss and green slime. However, we noticed that a few patches of the deck along the caulking remained wet for a while after its salt-water bath which is a sign that the seal between caulking and teak was beginning to fail – it would be really bad to allow water to seep between the teak and the fibreglass deck below. The only fix is to cut out the offending sections of caulking with a sharp knife and small screwdriver, clean and sand the teak groove that has been exposed and then apply new caulking, using a sealant gun. Lots of masking tape and care is needed to make a good job of it and Graham spent about 4 hours in the hot sun doing this yesterday. In the longer term we'll probably have to do the whole deck (not a fun prospect) when we get back to New Zealand this November but for the moment we've sorted all of the immediate trouble spots.
The timing of this job was perfect because today we've had very heavy rain and have put rags in the scuppers (drainage holes along the side of the boat) to direct water off the deck and into the water-tank filler on the port side. So far we've harvested about 200 litres of clean rain water which would have taken the water-maker about 8 hours of continuous running to produce so that's very pleasing.