We will be doing live updates on our blog while on our passage from French Polynesia to Fiji. So, I have suspended the regularly scheduled programming (blog posts) to prevent confusion.
We will resume our standard blog posts once we arrive in Fiji, but please keep in mind that they will be 10-12 weeks behind when these events actually occurred. Meaning a post in July might say “Toodles Tahiti” when we actually left Tahiti in early May.
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You can easily follow our progress directly from our website (here svSugarShack.com). Click on “Current Location” at the top of the Navigation Bar and then click on one of the links below.
We are well prepared for this 2 week passage. All of our safety gear is out and accessible (medical bag, ditch bag, jack lines, EPIRBS, PFDs, and life raft), foul weather gear is out, things are stowed and secure, gingerbread cookies have been made (prevents sea sickness) and weather has been checked, double checked and triple checked.
Several other boats are heading in the same direction, but not all are ready to go now. It would have been nice to depart with a few others as there is always safety in numbers. But, we have our good friend Donald who will be our land based weather guru and we have 4 weather sources onboard so we should be fine.
This will be our longest passage with just the two of us on board. Our previous passage was 11 days with just Matt and I. But our overall longest passage was 18 days with 2 additional people on board. 3-hour shifts at night – We’ve got this!
The migration from the Gambier Archipelago to the Society Archipelago is about 900 nm if we were to go direct. However, we decided to head north toward the Tuamotus Archipelago then west toward the Societies which ads several hundred miles and days to our journey.
The first leg of this migration is from Taravai, Gambier to Tahanea, Tuamotus. This passage is roughly 664nm direct and should take us 5-6 days. The predicted forecast is for light winds, little rain, long, rolly seas. We put up our largest spinnaker (200 square meters), since we were anticipating light winds. We call her “Big Bertha” and she is super colorful Usually, we take down our spinnakers at night and just run the “working sails” (main and jib) as a “just in case”. But the winds were super light at 6-8kts and predicted to stay that way all night.
Night 2 – dun dun dun
Matt wakes me up around 2:00am announcing a pending storm. We need to douse the spinnaker and raise the working sails. I grab a rain jacket and make a quick trip to the bathroom. I should have skipped the 2-minute bathroom break. By the time I got to the deck, the wind gusted to 26 and blew out our sail. Insert all sorts of explicates here! We rush to the bow to pull the sail out of the water.
Yes, Matt could have doused the sail by himself and I could have peed my pants. Both options would have saved the sail. Hindsight is 20/20. But the good news is that none of the sail pieces got caught on the dagger boards, rudder, or prop! We will try to repair her in Tahiti. She is 22 years old. Farfugnuggin! The lower left photo shows you where the sail ripped.
The top two photos show you the huge wind shift and gust of wind. The bottom right photo is the parasail that we put up afterwards.
On our 5th night, we had a guest on board. A silly, dirty boobie. It is so hard to be mad at these birds as it is clear they are tired and just need a place to rest before continuing on their own personal migration. But man, oh man do they leave a nasty mess!
Part I of the Migration: Gambier-Tahanea
Total Miles to Destination: 664nm
Total Miles Sailed: 710nm
Top Speed: 11.0kt
Average Speed: 6.1kt
Notes: Super beautiful sail with the light wind coming ENE and the seas coming from ENE to E. The seas were large at 2m, but they were long and lazy and came with long intervals in between. We ended up sailing 46nm out of our way to maintain the wind speed.
Don’t miss our blog post “Ta Ta Tahanea” where we explore this stunning atoll for the last time. Coming up next week.
Tahanea to Fakarava
This is the shortest part of our migration. The tricky part is trying to time the outbound passage through the Tahanea pass with the inbound passage through Fakarava. Unfortunately, it just does not work out. So, we decided to leave Tahanea at the midnight outbound slack time with the hopes of arriving at the Fakarava inbound around 9a-10a in the morning.
Typically, we don’t like to transit the passes at night because you cannot see what the water is doing. Is it truly inbound or outbound current? Are there standing waves? What are the eddies doing? Too many unknowns. But we have tracks from a previous transit and a wee bit of the moon light and forged our way out with no issues.
The winds were light at 10-12kts from the East on a perfect beam reach. We started with full working sails (main and jib) and were making a respectable 5-5.5 kts of boat speed. At dawn, we lost the wind, dropped all sails and motored. We hoisted our spinnaker but that only gave us 3kts of boat speed, so we took her down and reverted back to the motor and the jib. This would ensure we arrive during incoming tide in Fakarava.
Super peaceful and beautiful passage to Fakarava.
Part II of Migration
Total Miles to Destination: 48nm
Total Miles Sailed: 55 nm
Top Speed: 11.0kt
Average Speed: 6.1kt
Total time at underway: 11 hours
Fakarava to Tahiti
We had light winds predicted for this trip. We left the North pass at 3:00pm and had 238nm to Papeete. An expected 2-2.5 days. Since we did not want to arrive at night we decided to just go with our working sails. We set them up wing on wing which means the main on one side and the jib on the other.
We could have flown our spinnaker or parasail but then we would arrive at night – and what’s the point in that. So, we enjoyed a nice, slow, leisurely paced sail.
Sugar Shack under sail using the spinnaker (this is our medium sized 150 square meters spinnaker as the large one (200m) was ripped on the way from Gambier to Tahanea.
Total Miles to Destination: 238nm
Total Miles Sailed: 246nm
Top Speed: 9.3kt
Average Speed: 5.5kt
Total time at underway: 1 day and 20 hours
I ended up writing separate blog posts for Tahanea and Fakarava so be sure to read the next few weeks to catch up on our adventures on these two atolls.
A celebration and sad farewell to the Gambier Archipelago. (see passage post). The migration began 25 Feb. in Gambier and ended on 26 March in Tahiti. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.
After four seasons in Gambier, we are finally saying “farewell” to the beautiful Gambier archipelago. We have been unbelievably blessed with all the friends we’ve made here. So, it was a bit difficult to say farewell. By the way, “na na” is “goodbye” in Mangarevan (the local language in Gambier).
Our first arrival into Gambier was in April 2019 and we stayed for 6 weeks. Then we returned in January 2020 and stayed for 4 months. The third visit had us arriving December 2020 where we stayed for 5 months and our last visit was December 2021 where we stayed for 2.5 months. So, over the course of our 3 year stay in French Polynesia, over a year of it was in Gambier. That is how much we liked this archipelago!
We save all of our tracks as we move around. The image below made me laugh because we had so many yellow tracks all over Gambier! The green dots are noted anchorages, the yellow triangles are warnings of obstructions, the orange dots are points of interest. Clearly, we’ve been in and around most of the islands in the Gambier Archipelago.
Tracks around the Gambier Archipelago
Saying “Na Na / Farewell” is super hard…
Over the course of a few weekends, many drinks, and multiple occasions, we capture our farewells to everyone. The first person I met here was Stefan (or Tanavai) and his beautiful wife Manu. We’ve spent countless hours with them at their house, on our boat, at Puaumu, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and more.
Dada was gracious enough to showcase his pearl farm and all of his spectacular pearls with us and so many of our friends.
Heifera taught us how to carve the pretty pearl shells and gave many cruisers tours of the carving school.
Stefan, Manu, Dada, Heifera
One of my very special friends is Poerani (“Popo”). She teaches English, art, and dance. She has brought so much joy to our lives. It was especially hard to leave her glorious smile.
Poerani a true joy
The top photo is Titoan (he runs a small yacht services and charter business) and Juliet who is the local nurse. Teva (lower left) is the heartbeat of Gambier and has all the connections. Danny is a teacher and always has a pretty smile on his face!
We met Tehotu and Noella during our 3rd and 4th visit which is a shame as it would have been lovely to get to know them better. Truly blessed family with so much love and heart to give.
Taina (lower left) owns Taina Pearl and Keishi and she is an amazingly talented jewelry designer. And Atuona (lower right) greeted me daily at Magasin Jojo’s. Always brought a smile to my face.
On our last night in Rikitea (the main, and only village in Gambier), we had our cruising friends over for a final farewell happy hour. Photo: Matt, me, Dave, Pia, Daniela, Leo. Front row: Jan, Rita, Doug, Kobe.
We head over to Taravai for our last night. We invite Valerie, Herve, and Ariki for dinner and enjoy an intimate evening with our good friends. They loaded us up with lots of tasty fruits and beautiful flowers. It is Polynesian tradition to gift visitors with a shell necklace and flowers to set in the sea to welcome you back in the future.
It was super hard to capture the flowers in the sea as we were traveling 6kts, but you get the idea.
We have had countless sunsets and sunrises in Gambier, but here are a few of my favorites. A short farewell to the day made brighter by its brilliance.
The iconic Mt. Duff on Mangareva lit up by the sunset.
A dance, fun run, and raffle during the Valentine’s Day Gambier Fundraise (see passage post). Events from this post occurred mid-February. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.