Horror tales from the fridge

One of the things cruisers dread is a problem with the fridge. To do any repairs yourself you’d need at least a filling gauge to check the pressure and to add refrigerant, a bottle of refrigerant gas, a vacuum pump (in a size a yacht inverter or generator can handle), soldering gear, a spare compressor, a spare electronic unit, a filter/dryer, some copper tubes and the skills to handle all that stuff…
For obvious reasons only cruisers that have already been through very traumatic experiences carry all that gear–we don’t, although after the events of last week we’re considering getting all that and adding “fridge wizard” to the job requirements on Pitufa.

Last Saturday the compressor started behaving oddly, turning itself off and on all the time, then it suddenly stopped working. We couldn’t see any obvious malfunction, nothing burned through, but the filter/dryer was unusually cold. Of course it had happened on the weekend, no way we’d reach anybody before Monday. We were lucky though, as we were parked next to SY Jakker and our friends Jaklien and Toni immediately offered to store our stocked up cheese and sausages in their fridge. Additionally they supplied us with cold beer cans to keep the rest of the things in the fridge cool (and Christian happy).

On Monday we moved to the buoy field off the main village, asked at the chandlery, got a phone number for a fridge repair guy here on Bora Bora, called and he agreed to look at our problem on Wednesday. Imagine our suprise when the young Polynesian mechanic really showed up on Wednesday at 8.30 just as promised (that’s a very exceptional experience with the French businesses here in Fr. Poly). He briefly checked the pressure, looked at the problem, declared our compressor to be “mort” (dead) and admitted that he didn’t even know where to order one like that. Ouch. We already saw ourselves beating against the wind to Tahiti at that point. But then he phoned his supplier, who suggested Michel from the chandlery at Marina Taina in Tahiti. We phoned Michel at 10, he had one on stock, took it to the airport at 12 (!) and it arrived at the ferry dock in Bora Bora at 7 in the evening. We were awestruck, but also a bit suspicious if our luck would hold.

The next morning we ran out of luck though. Teri the fridge guy called and said he wouln’t be able to do the job, but told us that he’d refered our problem to Wilfried the other fridge guy on Bora Bora, who’d come in the afternoon. We waited and waited, no Wilfried. He finally showed up at 4, immediately went to work, discovered a leak in the soldering connection of the filter/dryer, suggested changing only the electronic unit and voila–the (not so late) compressor started again. He changed the filter/dryer, welded the copper tubes and then wanted to use his vacuum pump to evacuate the system of air and humidity. We plugged the pump to the generator we had borrowed from another boat, but it only gurgled nastily–the generator wasn’t strong enough… I immediately took the dinghy round the anchorage, asked every boat if we could borrow a generator, but most claimed they didn’t even have one (and no solar panels either, hmm, suspicious). Then I asked at the Top Dive Shop and a
t the Maikai hotel/marina, but the only advice I got was to buy one in Tahiti. Nice. In the end the boss of the hotel showed up, and suddenly our luck changed again. Of course we’d be able to come to their dock and use the shore power there. Hurray!

Early the next morning we took up a buoy next to the dock, tied the stern to the dock and started waiting for Wilfried once again. Like beginners we left the dinghy at the stern and of course the shore line got under it, a gust hit the boat, the line pulled tight and flipped the dinghy and drowned the outboard. We spent two happy hours cleaning it–still no Wilfried. In the end he showed up at 3, started the vacuum pump and disappeared for another 3 hours. When we had given up hope at 6 he came back, refilled the system with gas, the compressor purred happily again and Wilfried presented us with a hefty invoice and a lecture on how Jehovas Witnesses could save our souls…

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