Category Archives: Boat Details

Tired and Worn Out

After our amazing experience in the Musket Cove Regatta we head to Denarau to provision, fuel, and tend to other necessary matters.  As soon as we leave Denarau we will head up wind to the eastern Ringgold Islands and Taveuni which will take us approximately 2-3 days.  But the universe had other plans for us when our main sail decides she is worn out and tears 7 meters across – from being just tired and worn out.  How did that happen….read on.


We are lucky enough to secure a mooring during our brief 2-night stay in Denarau.  There is a lot to do in a short amount of time.

We hired a taxi to take us shopping in the main town of Nadi.  Stops include:  2 grocery stores, the fresh market, the butcher, and a pharmacy.  We were able to replace several expired medications for our onboard medical kit including antibiotics, ear and eye drops, anti-malaria pills, and a few other key medications (without a prescription).  I had hoped to purchase an Epi Pen and my chemo pills but alas they did not have those in stock.

I know it must sound odd for me to write about running errands, but please remember we can only do this in a few villages on a few islands.  Out of the 332 islands in Fiji there is really only 1 place where we can do ALL of this in one place, so it is BIG day when we can check these errands off our list.  Sometimes we go months without seeing a grocery store and certainly longer for a pharmacy, butcher, and doctor.

Doctor Says “It’s a Perforated Ear Drum”

One of our priority items was to have a doctor look at Matt’s ear.  A few weeks ago, he free dove down to 45’ to retrieve our dinghy anchor that was stuck.  Typically, he would clear his ears several times when going down to this depth.  Clearing your ears is easy.  You pinch your nose and blow out – which gently relieves the pressure in your ears.  However, this time, he was using both hands to scale down the dinghy painter to get to the bottom faster.  He only cleared once and when he got to the bottom, he heard a loud pop in his left ear, and then felt pain. Not good.  He retrieved the anchor, came up, and we rushed to the boat. 

We had hoped it was just water in the ear so we put swimmers ear drops in and that hurt like hell (so we did not do that again).  Next, we started him on antibiotics and he stayed out of the water until we could get to a doctor (2 weeks later).

We stopped in the Emergency Clinic and saw a lovely physician who told us that Matt had a perforated ear drum.  The good news is that it was not infected (probably because he stayed out of the water and was on antibiotics) and it was healing.  The doctor prescribed 2 more weeks of antibiotics and 1 week of antihistamines.  He can’t go in the water for 4-6 weeks (which is the rest of our stay in Fiji).

Chores and Errands

  • Laundry (3 loads at the marina’s laundry facility which is awesome!)
  • Bank (more Fijian funny money)
  • Extend Visas (lots of paperwork and visits to customs and immigration)
  • Farmboy delivery (fresh produce we couldn’t find elsewhere)
  • Taxi run to town: Markets, fresh market, pharmacy, butcher
  • We say goodbye to our friends on Sea Jay and Anima as they head to Vanuatu
  • Fuel (644 liters of diesel and 105 liters of gasoline)
    • We had not fueled since we left French Polynesia (over 3000 miles ago!) Of course, a lot of that was sailing from FP to Fiji.

After several busy days, we are a bit work out, but we are ready to leave.   Yea, a new adventure and new islands.  Our plan was to head NE around Viti Levu, then cross the Bligh waters toward Vanua Levu, then make our way back to Taveuni and the Ringgold Islands.  However, the universe had other plans for us.

Tired and Just Done with Us

Our main sail and jib are 21 years old and are original to the boat.  This is actually incredibly surprising since most sails last about 10-12 years.  We have been very lucky that they have held up for so long!  For several years we have been “making due” with the poor sail shape which impacts the boat’s performance and speed. We knew they were tired and worn out, but it did not make any sense to replace them in French Polynesia or Fiji where the options were limited and very expensive.

We knew the sails had to be replaced and soon, but we were hoping to do it in New Zealand where there are several sail makers to choose from.  And frankly, it is a huge expense at almost $20,000 that I was hoping to put it off as long as possible.

Well, as we started crossing the Bligh waters our sweet sail finally was worn out and she blew a spectacular 7-meter rip along the seam just below the second reef.  Not a little tear mind you, but a massive one.  We quickly turned into the wind and dropped the main to prevent further damage.  We looked at each other, then at the instruments – we were in 12kt of steady wind, no squalls, or wind puffs, just a steady breeze.  I wish I had a photo to show you but we were so shocked she ripped that we went into salvage mode to prevent further damage.

We had no choice but to turn around and head back to Denarau – 2-day motor.  The good news is that she blew when we were close to land and only 2 days away from “town” vs tearing while we were in the middle of the Pacific under passage to New Zealand.  Thank God for little blessings.

The Hunt is On

It was Sunday, but I started emailing companies and checking resources to see what our options were.  Not many.  There is only one sail maker in Fiji, Marshall Sails.  There are several canvas makers but they don’t have the machinery big or strong enough to go through two layers of heavy dacron material (our main sail is double layer). 

By Monday morning at 0900, the owner of Marshall Sails tells me he can fix our sail and get it back to us in 10 days.  This is a huge blessing as we are scheduled to leave for New Zealand in 2-3 weeks and we kind of need our main sail!

Taking the Main Sail Down

It is no small chore to remove the main sail.  First of all, she weighs in at over 300lbs!  Matt does most of the work as I am sick with the flu and a fever and am tasked with manning the helm.  Steps to remove the main sail:

  • Remove the halyard (we tie it off to a port cleat)
  • Move the boom to the side so Matt can reach the reefing lines (upper right corner shows the red, yellow and green reefing lines around the boom)
  • Remove the cars (while not losing the very small pins while underway) that raise the main at the mast
  • Remove half of the lazy jacks holding the sail bag (lower photo)
  • Remove the other half of the lazy jacks and the entire sail bag

At this point we can see the severity of the damage.  It appears the stitching gave out but the majority of the sail is fine.  The only part of the sail that needs a dacron patch is the end (upper right corner photo).  The rest should be an easy, although long zig zag stitch to fix the tear. 

Together, we flake the sail and put her in her bag and ready it for delivery.  We managed to get to Denarau by 1400 on Monday, while the owner was still there.  We had to use the halyard to get the sail from Sugar Shack into the dinghy.  Again, not easy to do with the winds and chop in the anchorage, but we succeed.

Marshall Sails to the Rescue

Alan Marshall, the owner of Marshall Sails meets us, helps us get the sail into the truck and takes it back to his loft.  The next day he sends me a quote which floored both Matt and I. We anticipated it being well over $2k USD to repair the seam and to re-stitch the other seams which are probably just as worn out as the torn seam.  But he came back with a quote of $500 USD.  Most excellent considering, we just need it to last long enough to get us to New Zealand (2 more months or 1500 nm).

Alan had to confirm that our sail was truly 21 years old.  He was surprised that it was in “such good shape” for her age and thought she would have been “more worn out” than she actually was.  If you might recall, in Q3 of 2020 we had the entire sail examined, repaired, and resewn in Tahiti (blog post).  They checked all the seams, reinforced the corners, and verified that she was in good shape.

The Results

We got our sail back (a day ahead of schedule), for the quoted price, and they did really good work.  It was a process getting the sail back to the boat.  After all she is 300lbs of dead weight!  One of the guys from Marshall Sails helps us load her into the dinghy and we make the 2nm jaunt across the bay.

Installing the Main Sail

Then we use the halyard to hoist her onto the boat.  Thank goodness we have light winds and very little swell.

Matt spends about an hour installing the sail bag and lazy jacks.  Next, we unroll the mighty beast and lay her out so we can prepare to install her back in place.

We have to start installing the sail before we can evaluate the repair.  First, we put the batons in from top to bottom (short to long). There are 6 of them.

Matt connects the sail to the mast at each baton point.  He will connect the bungee points as we lower the sail (hard part first).  Look how he has to balance to reach the halyard.

The Repair

We are finally at the big repair seam.  It looks good.  The used special sail tape to connect the seams, then they stitched 3 times with a 3-point zig zag stitch.

Marshall Sails also used the 3-point zig zag stitch over the other seams that run across the sail.  Extra reinforcement as they are just as compromised as the one that actually tore.

The overall repair looks strong and ready to test out!

After we attach all the cars (so she goes up and down the mast), we (meaning Matt) has to attach the rest of the sail bag, the reef lines, and the main sheets.

It took 3.5 hours the first day (we worked until dark).  Then it took another 3.5 hours the following morning to complete the install. 

Our anchorage was blessedly calm with light winds and no swell as we are protected from 3 out of 4 directions.

Thank goodness that is done.  Now all we have to do is test her out!

Here she is happily flying again, albeit, still out of shape, but getting us to where we want to go.

The events from this blog occurred in early September 2022.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  Matt tries out a new sport in our last blog post – did you read it?

On the Hard: Raiatea Carenage

It is that time again – time to haul our beautiful boat out of the water to do some general maintenance and repairs.  It is always nerve racking to pull your boat out of the water, but the team at Raiatea Carenage really take care of you.

We pull into a narrow waterway (which will be expanded this year) with rather large boulders on either side.  Several team members grab our lines and slowly direct us toward the travel trailer.  In addition, there are guys in the water watching our rudders, dagger boards, and props to ensure they play nicely with the boulders.

The Work List:

  • Repair Port Bow (damage from another boat)
  • Repair Port Hull (damage from coral head)
  • Port Rudder Repair (damage from coral head)
  • Re-fix Port Hull side (fix color match from previous work)
  • Sand down all bottom paint to gel coat (22 years of paint)
  • Apply barrier coat (sigmacover 280) and 3 coats of bottom paint (Carboline AF 3000)
  • Apply Peller Clean on sail drives and props
  • Rudders: replace bushings (DIAM 67 JP3)
  • Sail Drives: change oil and replace sealing and O-rings)
  • Drill hole in new anchor shaft
  • Weld/Sauder lifeline
  • Rebed starboard large window (leaks)
  • Rebed deck and hull (about 60% of it replaced)
  • Complete wash and wax of entire boat
  • Spinnaker Repair (taken to Marina Apooiti)

Dominique, the owner, expertly uses a remote control device to maneuver the state-of-the-art trailer.  It is frightening and yet so very impressive to watch them pull Sugar Shack out of the water.

The first thing they do is pressure wash the boat to get all the grime and stow away critters off the bottom.  Then they remove both of our rudders which need repair and service.  The photo shows them removing and installing the rudders.

Next we are placed in our new temporary home.  Dominque is able to squeeze us in right up close and personal to other boats.  Thank goodness we won’t be onboard for the entire stay.


The bottom of the port hull needed some extra love.  We had the yard sand down to the gel coat, apply fearing and fiberglass, barrier coat and paint.  Just like new.

The port rudder needed additional love.

While in Huahine, another boat lost control and hit our port bow.  Causing about $3300 worth of damage.  Lucky for us he was insured and covered the cost.  

When we returned, we had lots of beautiful sunsets.  The waterway at Raiatea Carenage.

Our view from the hard at Raiatea Carenage.

Splash Day

The day has come to put Sugar Shack in the water – exactly 1 month from the haul out date!  We are so excited to go back on the water!!!  Dominique is driving or should I say using the play station remote control while 3 guys are in the water and 2 guys are on port waiting for lines.

The team expertly maneuvers Sugar Shack’s wide back side around the many boulders on both sides of the boat.  She slips by without a scratch or bump!  That is how good this team is!

The Team

Dominique is the owner and such a sweet, fabulous man!  Fa’ura is the office manager and she always had a smile for me.

Spinnaker Repaired

We took our spinnaker to be repaired and they did a great job.  She was efficient, reasonably priced, and on time!  We flew her a few days later to see how she looked and we were very pleased.  Sure some of the colors don’t match, but hell she is a 22 year old sail!

We spent a lot more time on the hard than anticipated but it is always better to get the job done correctly rather than quickly.

Dominique at Raiatea Carenage certainly took good care of us. We are so very grateful for his help, patience, and care!

We finally say Toodles to Tahiti in our last blog post.  Events from this blog in April and May, 2022.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Life Saving Life Raft

What do you do when you have to abandon your ship (or in our case, our home)?  There are a few different trains of thought here.  Some people say that you jump in your life raft and get away from the boat.  While others say, jump in your dinghy or life raft and stay tethered to your boat.  If your boat is not sinking, which catamarans don’t sink, then they are a much bigger target to spot than a small dinghy or life raft.  Of course, everything has to be reconsidered if you are on a monohull.

So, unless Sugar Shack is on fire, we would stay with the boat.  One of the safety features on Sugar Shack is the life raft.  We currently have a Winslow 6-man offshore life raft which came with the boat (2001) and was last serviced in 2011.  Yep, that was a long time ago.  We needed to service and re-certify our life raft before our next big Pacific Crossing (from French Polynesia to Fiji).

However, as luck would have it, some friends of ours gave us their old Viking 8-man ISO Pro OffShore Life Raft.  They bought a much smaller life raft as their boat does not require an 8-man size.  This is a bigger life raft than our original one (8-person vs 6-person) and is a very well-known brand.  The problem with the new to us Viking is that it too needed to be serviced and re-certified.  We decided to keep the Viking and sell the Winslow.  Which means we needed to take the Viking to Station de Survie Nautisport to be serviced and certified.

The Viking Life Raft

We rented a car to transport the life raft which weighs in over 115lbs (not something you can carry on the bus).  This is super exciting for me as I have never seen a life raft inflate nor have I seen the inside of one!  Lots of firsts for me.  The tech at Nautisport, Terangi was super nice and spoke excellent English!

The life raft came to us in a hard case for storage which helps maintain the integrity of the raft.

We immediately search for documentation that tells us when it was serviced last.  We discover it was born in November 2002, the last service was 2015 on the raft, and 2014 on the cannister.  Well drat!  Typically, the life expectancy of a life raft is 20 years, so this only gained us 2 years before we have to buy a new one.  New rafts can cost up to $6000-$6500! 

The cannister has to be serviced every 10 years.  Since the last service was 2014, we did not have to service it.  However, we do have to service it in 2024 which means our certificate will only be good for 2 years (rather than the typical 3 year certificate).

Opening the Case

The shell is removed exposing a gray shrink wrap which is then removed.  The black fabric (upper right) is the bottom side of the raft.  Slowly we unwrap the raft exposing the orange top side.

Inflating the Life Raft

When you pull the emergency cord to inflate the raft it will automatically blow the large zip tie holding the outer shell and blow off the shrink wrap covering while simultaneously inflating the raft in 2 seconds.  Since our cannister is in good working order we decided to use an outside source to inflate the raft. (which took about 2-3 minutes).

There is a built-in tether to the raft that gets attached to your boat or to the rescue boat.  This tether connects to another line which is accessible around the entire bottom of the raft.  If you decide to get in the water (for swim, bath, or fishing) and need to get back into the raft, you step onto the white line (left photo) under the raft and use the triangle rope ladder to pull yourself up.


Terangi pointed out a lot of features.  There is a water catch feature on the outside that can be funneled inside.  (top photo and left bottom photo).  The black edge leads to a small pocket that collects water.  In addition, there is a window (lower right) and a small hole (top and middle right) to stick an antennae out (your EPRIB or beacon).

Inside the raft are a few elements including flares, flashlight (with spare batteries), whistle, mirror, horn, sea sick medicine, bucket/scoop (top left).  There is a large white arrow pointing to the emergency knife, a drogue (sea anchor), spare line and empty bag, life ring with line, and small paddles.  In addition, the life raft has a flashing light on the exterior and a small interior light.

There are two different trains of thought when it comes to additional perishable items.  Some people like to have water, food, batteries, and other items inside the life raft.  But you may be forced to open or service the raft more often to replace those items. So many people, like Sugar Shack, have a separate ditch bag.  In our ditch bag we have everything from t.p., glasses, sunblock, batteries, can opener, blanket, medical supplies, utility knife, money, water bags, long-term food (space food) and oh so much more.  We can then toss this into our dinghy or the life raft if we need to.  Plus, it is easier to access and replace items when needed.

Keeping the Life Raft Upright

Under the raft are four large pockets that hold water to keep the raft upright.  Or as Matt stated, it is a good place to store his beer while keeping it cold.  You can also see the rope that is used as a ladder (center U shape) and the line that goes around the entire raft to hold on.

The life raft technically can fit 8 people.  But, to be honest it would be a cramped stay.  But for the 2 of us it was very roomy and spacious.  The silver floor lining helps keep your warm inside and acts as a barrier between you and the sea.

The Outcome

We stayed for an hour to watch the initial assessment and reveal.  But left them to their work to complete the service and certification.  They replaced all of the essential items including flares, batteries, medicine) and tested the air pressure over 3 hours.

We left with a fully serviced and certified Viking Life Raft good for another 2 years at a cost of $690.  Not bad.  We anticipated it being well over $1000 so I felt good about the overall process and I learned so much about our life raft which I hope to NEVER have to see again (especially out in the open water).

Farewell Fakarava was our last blog post (see passage post).   Events from this blog occurred in March 2022.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.