Category Archives: Boat Details

Teak Love

Teak Love and Care

The exterior wood on Sugar Shack is all teak.  It looks super lovely when it is well cared for.  For the most part, we can scrub it clean, then either oil or stain it to preserve and protect the wood from the sea, salt, and sun.  However, every few years we need to scrub it, sand it down, remove all prior coats of oil or stain and start from scratch.

Teak turns a white/gray color after being exposed to the sun with no oil or stain.  It is ok looking, but not something that I prefer.  Plus, it is hard on the wood because there is nothing protecting it so it does not last as long.

So, I get down to business.  There is lots of teak on Sugar Shack. This post will solely focus on exterior wood.  We have teak trim (5) along each helm station, (2) teak safety handles, (2) teak trim pieces over small hatches, (3) teak pieces of trim along the bimini, (2) teak hand rails, 2 teak hatch covers, (3) teak covers on each of the 2 sugar scoops, and (2) teak seats on the princess seats at the bow.  It’s lots of prep-work, sanding, and sealing.

Princess Seats

At the bow we have two princess seats which are fun to sit in during calm passages or sundowners.  The wood is screwed into a stainless-steel plate.  Sounds easy enough, simply unscrew it, right?  Well not really.  But it does come off.  These seats have deep ridges which have collected the stain over the years.  The seats have direct sun, sea, and salt coverage all day, every day.  So, they needed extra love.

First photo shows you current state, 2nd photo shows you the cleaned and sanded state, 3rd photo shows you half stained, last photo is finished.

Princess Seats at the bow of the boat

Princess Seats at the bow of the boat

The completed starboard princess seat:

Oh $hit Bars

We have two well used oh $hit bars in the cock pit. We call them that because you often grab them when sea conditions become bad.  They are truly safety bars.  There is one on the ceiling and one just above the cabin entrance.

Ceiling bar is grabbed a lot and has a combination of human oil, dirt, sun, and salt.  It was a mess and needed a good sanding.  I did not get a “before” shot, but below is a sanded, fresh stain, and final look.

Safety Bar

Safety Bar

The safety bar on the ceiling also gets used a lot and has curves that are very difficult to reach.  I destroyed a lot of pieces of sand paper trying to get to the curved areas.  The 6 images below show before and after. 

The left images are before and the right are after.

Here is the final version looking gorgeous.

Teak Trim Over Hatches

We have two small hatches that both lead to cabins.  The teak trim is a barrier to help prevent water and stuff from entering the open hatch.  Here is a before, middle, and final photo:

Trim over hatch

Trim over hatch

Helm Station Teak

We have two helm stations.  Each one has two pieces of teak trim along the seat.  The starboard helm also has an additional teak bar at the bottom of the seat.  This wood gets a lot of direct sun and salt.

Helm seat trim

Helm seat trim

It is hard to tell in these photos, but here is the before and after of the starboard helm seat.

Starboard Helm Seat

Starboard Helm Seat

The boat was a total mess with dust and soot everywhere for several days.  It just could not be helped with the sanding and all the wind.

Bimini and Cabin Top Hand Rails

The teak rails along the bimini and cabin top take a lickin!  Not only do they have full exposure to the sun, sea, and salt but they also get rubbed raw from the jib sheets (lines).  The lines rub and rub and wear the stain off leaving unattractive marks.  Left before and right after

Bimini Hand Rails

Bimini Hand Rails

The cabin top has two long hand rails running along the port and starboard side.  They too get rubbed by the same jib sheets.  Left before and right after.

Cabin top hand rails

Cabin top hand rails

Cockpit Hatches

The cockpit hatches get a lot of dirty feet walking all over them. Plus they get lots of dirt and grime being located in the cockpit.  We had scrubbed them weeks ago and did not put any oil on them so they turned a gray color.  Before shots of the sugar scoops (top 2 photos) and cockpit hatches (bottom two photos).

Sugar Scoops

We have two sugar scoops (steps that lead up the transom of the boat to the cockpit).  Each set of sugar scoops has 3 steps.  They get lots of dirt, salt, sun, and sea.  The starboard is used more frequently as this is where we get on and off the boat.

Additional Projects

Our outboard has been giving us some problems.  She does not like to go in revers.  Matt has looked at and worked on the shifting mechanism but nothing seems to work. He would get it working then it would stop.  Looks like it will take some more time.

The handles on the dinghy have needed some love.  I put duct tape on them thinking that it would strengthen them, but that only made a huge mess!  Note to self, don’t use duct tape on anything in the sun.  So, I made new covers using sunbrella fabric and velcro.

Dinghy Handle Covers

Dinghy Handle Covers

A leak at the bow.  We have had water get into the bow peaks for awhile now. We could never find the source.  Matt decided to take apart the mount for the gang plank and in doing so found two possible areas where water can sneak in.  Of course this turned out to be a much bigger project than he though.  First, we have to take everything out of the bow peak locker (2-bean bags, 3-sails, 2-folding chairs, luggage, noodles, old salon cushions, 2-SUPs, 4-water jugs)  Yep we can fit a lot in the bow peaks!

Events from this blog post occurred during the second week of June, 2021.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Marie Alice in Hao Pass

A Morning of Pure Havoc

A day full of havoc!  This is a continuation of the previous blog titled “Sorry Charlie – Yellow Fin Tuna” where we were under passage from Mangareva, Gambier to Hao, Tuamotus.

Hao Pass – ABORT!

We approached the pass at 5:10am and saw the standing waves inside the pass.  We approached again at 5:30am and decided not yet.  At 6:10am we saw an opening where we could enter.  Marie Alice was hot on our tail which was not ideal.  It would have been best if they gave us more lead time. 

Matt was able to maneuver around the first set of standing waves that break at the opening of the pass.  We made it in about a ¼ of the way before the 2nd set of breaking waves measuring at 3-4 meters (that is 9’-12’) started pushing us around.  Matt had both Volvo 50hp engines running full throttle at 2400rpm and we were not moving forward.

I rolled out the jib to give us more horse power along with the engines and still nothing. We literally stayed in one place for over an hour trying to make forward progression.  In the meantime, the waves are at our stern pounding and threatening to overtake us.  The current was so strong 7-8kts of outgoing current that it was preventing us from moving.  Look at our SOG compared to our boat speed.  It means at the time of the photo we had 5kts of outgoing current.   I was too scared to have my camera out when we had 8 kts of outgoing current as I was helping Matt with the boat.

Sugar Shack in Hao Pass

Sugar Shack in Hao Pass

Marie Alice had it worse as they are a monohull.  The waves wreaked havoc tossing them around like a toothpick in a washer machine!  I felt so bad for them as they took on so much water.  Wave after wave after wave crashed over them.  They later took out their jib as well but they could not move forward either.

Marie Alice Struggling in Hao Pass

Marie Alice Struggling in Hao Pass

Abort! Abandon! Exit Now!

Matt made the decision to abort after an hour of heart stopping attempts to move through the pass.  It felt like everything was causing havoc to our boat!  On the one hand I was relieved because this terrified me not being able move forward and having the huge waves at our back.  On the other hand, the thought of turning around in these wave conditions with another sail boat on our stern was even more terrifying.  And in order to turn around we had to roll the jib up which takes some of our power away.

No choice.  We rolled the jib and Matt waited for enough space to avoid hitting Marie Alice, avoid the waves as much as possible, and certainly avoid the reef.  It was dicey, scary, and challenging. It seemed like there was havoc everywhere!  But Matt’s expert skills at maneuvering the boat got us out.  Marie Alice was able to turn their boat around as well once we left.

These photos show our track into the pass.  The red line shows zig zags right and left where we tried for over an hour to move forward and couldn’t.  The right photo shows you how narrow the pass is with reefs on either side of us.

Going no where fast

Going no where fast

Regrouping In the Chop

Once we were outside the pass we went back to the Pacific’s choppy, uncomfortable, but safe waves.  Everyone regrouped and tried to make a decision.  We could either wait until the next “slack tide” which was predicted at 11:35am 4+ hours awa; we could go to Amanu which was 17nm away into the wind; or we could go to Fakarava a 2.5-day sail.  Pros and cons for each decision.

Fakarava has great internet and provisioning but we would have to sail in the upcoming weather system which was predicted with 30kts of wind.  Not fun or safe.  Amanu would be a 4-hr motor sail into the wind and waves, but we would have better protection waiting for slack tide.  The pass is “easier” and the lagoon not as crowded.  But no provisions and 2g internet.  Hao had a lot of our cruising friends waiting for us and hoping for some of the yellow fin tuna.  But we would have to wait for 4-5 hours in $hity conditions for the next slack tide.  We have a love hate relationship with Hao – see previous posts.

As we were “deciding” we got a call from Marie Alice.  He told me that the waves had soaked their instruments and they no longer had navigation or GPS.  Oh $hit!  They could not go anywhere safely without help.  Why don’t they have backups?  Gesh, we have the ship’s navigation, a hand held GPS, and navigation on Matt’s iPad and computer.  Yes, we run it all while underway.

Danger! Alerts! Alarms!

Alarms starting going off as we are contemplating the best thing to do for Sugar Shack and Marie Alice.  We both go running inside to see what is going on.  The starboard fresh water tank alarm was going off telling us that it was low.  What?  We just filled the entire tank with fresh water less than 24 hours ago.

In addition, the starboard bilge alarm is sounding.  This tells us that there is water in the bilge, inside the boat (NEVER a good thing).  We lift the starboard floor boards and then the false floor and see water sloshing around. Fuckity, fuck, fuck.  It is one bilge that flows under from the head (front of the boat), under the hall floor, to under the bed (back of the boat).  Well that sucks.  What other havoc can bestow our day? 

Decision made.  We will go to Amanu to help Marie Alice get somewhere safe and to deal with our water issue.  They did not want to wait in the horrible sea conditions for another chance at the Hao pass either.

Water Inside the Boat – Never Good

We set course and Matt gets to work trying to evacuate the water.  No need to find the source yet as we know the fresh water tank emptied into the bilge.  Matt has several pumps that he tries to use.  The issue is trying to evacuate it while underway in big seas.  You can’t exactly open a hatch and our hoses are not long enough to reach the cockpit from the starboard hull.

We tried sending the water outside the bathroom hatch as one of them is high above the water. But the crashing waves kept sending water inside.  We also tried stretching the hose from the bilge, up the stairs, across the salon into the cockpit. This finally worked with both of us holding and stretching for the hose.  Eventually we got enough water out where it would not slosh onto the floor boards.

We are still underway, heading into the wind and the seas.  It is uncomfortable at best. Poor Matt is a$$ up and head down into the bilge.  This is a recipe for disaster for someone like me who gets sea sick.  So I focused on helming the boat and getting us to Amanu. 

A few trial and error experiments and we discover that the leak is coming from a fresh water hose on the toilet. Matt takes it apart and finds the culprit.  A hose ruptured during the bouncing in the Hao pass and leaked all our fresh water from the starboard water tank into the bilge.

Fresh Water Leak

Fresh Water Leak

We Arrive Amano

Four hours later, we get to Amanu and get in the lee of the island.  The waves are down to .5-1 meter and the winds are blowing 18-20kts.  We wait for 4 hours for slack tide as we slowly make circles so that each hour, we can check the pass.

Marie Alice calls to tell us they are taking on water.  They cannot find the leak.  We continually check back with them for a few hours.  Finally, they tell us that they think the water came from the Hao pass as they took on so much water.  It must have entered through their companion way.  They had so much water that it flooded the interior.  They will have a mess on their hands but at least they are not taking on water.

Matt fixes the leaking hose on the toilet and then we continue to evac the water while we wait and circle.  Matt also determined the reason why the bilge pump did not do its job of evacuating the water.  Evidently the bilge filter had a clog (most likely my hair and dirt) which prevented the water from leaving the boat which caused it to fill up the bilge.  Havoc upon havoc.  By the time slack tide rolls around 2:15pm we have most of the water out of the bilge. 

Entering this short pass is fairly easy except it is really narrow which makes the water rip through and there is a dog-leg at the end where you have to maneuver quickly to the right.  We try to explain to the French boat that they must follow us exactly to avoid the reef and they do.

Both boats enter with about 3 kts of incoming current, but no problems.  We motor across the lagoon for an hour to a safe anchorage away from the upcoming SE weather system.  The hook is dropped and we both look relieved.

A nice hot shower, our last pork chops for dinner and a bottle of rosé!  We both pass out early.

Marie Alice

The owner, a 20-year seasoned sailor had never seen a situation such as that and had never had his boat in such a dangerous situation.  He said he truly thought he was going to lose his boat and his wife has decided she is done sailing.  They had a hatch blow out which caused loads of water to come into the main salon and cabins.  They have lots of damage including navigation and auto pilot which are critical to sailing.  His current thoughts are to file a claim with insurance, fix the boat and sell it.  They are done.

Sailing is not for the weak that is for sure.  Havoc can be upon you within moments.  It requires quick thinking, a jack of all trades captain, knowledge of weather and all systems, and patience.  It is sad that they are ending their sailing adventure on a sad note.

Despite the havoc showered upon Sugar Shack we were able to repair all damaged areas and are now smoothly continuing out our sailing journey.

Events from this blog post occurred during the first week May, 2021.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Honda Generator

Need Power: Honda Generator

Sugar Shack is its own city. We generate our own power using solar panels, engines, and/or a portable Honda Generator.  We also make our own water using a Spectra watermaker that desalinates the sea.  Typically, on a sunny day, we generate enough power to operate the boat. Sugar Shack has eight Solara Ultra 150-watt solar panels that can generate 1200 watts of solar.

We are considered “power hogs” compared to most of our fellow cruisers. We run 1 frigerator, 2 freezers, stereo, DiskStation, VHF, and electronics (lighting, AIS, etc…) all day.  On average, we burn 12-15 amps per hour.  If we are under passage, we burn a heck of a lot more while we run navigation, instruments, and auto pilot. 

This is with us trying to conserve power.  All the lights on the boat are LED and devices are turned off when not in use.  We don’t charge devices at night because we are not making power.

On a rainy or cloudy day, we tend to use our portable Honda Generator to charge the house batteries.  It is a 2000-watt, 220V generator that runs on gasoline.  It’s cheaper for us to charge the batteries using the Honda Generator than it is to use the main Volvo engines.  And it is way less wear and tear on the most expensive items on the boat.

Where am I going with all of this?

Our portable Honda Generator that was purchased in 2018 stopped putting out the proper number of amps and was making a horrible sound when we used it.  Matt took it apart several times and discovered the stator was burnt.  Crap! This must have happened when we over heated the generator while trying to weld steel for our engine’s alternator bracket (see this post) last year.

Honda Generator

Honda Generator

We sort of forgot about the issue as we had months and months of sunny days.  But as rainy season approached, we had to bring the old girl back out for service. Same problem, just different day. We decided to price out a new Honda Generator from Tahiti.  If we could hire an agent to purchase the generator for us at a “decent Tahiti” price we would buy it now and ship it to Gambier.  Sugar Shack will not planning on being in Tahiti for another 3 months and buying the Honda Generator now would save us from having to run the engines to charge the house batteries which saves money in the long run.


In the U.S. you can purchase an EU20i for about $1000.  In Panama, we purchased the same unit for $1800 but it included shipping from the states to Panama and the agent’s fees.  Not horrible. In Tahiti, the costs are as follows:

  • $2,555
  • $409 (16% VAT)
  • $15 – Shipping
  • $437 – Agent’s fees ($50/hr x 2hrs = $100, 10% fee $296, and VAT on their services ($41)
  • $3,416 total estimated cost

Our Agent told us that VAT ($409) would be waived using “Vessel in Transit” which would just about cover his fees ($437) bringing the new total to $3,007.

Most countries honor “Vessel in Transit” which allows boats to purchase items VAT/Duty free. However, French Polynesia decided to stop offering this discount because “supposedly” some cruisers were purchasing items for locals using this discount.  We pitched a fit because our agent did not tell us this.  Granted he said he did not know about this “new” law.  We would have declined the purchase had we known the 16% VAT was being charged. 

After a snit fit, we were able to get a 10% discount of $255 bringing our new total $3,161.  Three times the cost of a U.S. Honda Generator.  What can you do when you are in a remote third world country?  Ugh.

Wrong Unit

The agent was doing us a “favor” by fronting the money and rushing the purchase of the Honda Generator.  We wanted to get it on the ship which was leaving that day.  The agent did work some magic and was able to get the generator on the ship that very afternoon before it left the dock.  Remember, we only get the supply ship every 3 weeks so we did not want to wait 6 weeks for the next one.  We emailed the agent with the specifics of the Honda Generator that we wanted.  He said he purchased it, put it on the ship, and sent the invoices the following week. We did not have internet and could not download the invoices until the ship arrived.

Picking up the unit was relatively painless.  We picked up our shipping invoice from the ship’s office, waited for the container to be unloaded and unlocked, grabbed our Honda Generator and went back to the boat.  Immediately, realizing it is the wrong model.  We had asked for the EU22i and were given an EU20i.  They both will work, but the EU22i provides more power.  Oh, for fuckity fuck fuck sake!  Not only was it 3x as much but it is not even the correct model.

We contacted our agent who said the store did not have an EU22i in stock and if we wanted, we could send the EU20i back.  We would not be able to get our shipping fees (both ways), or the agent fees refunded ($467). 


We decided to keep the new unit because it is still better to run this EU20i than it is to run our main engines. And we expect to need extra charge over the next several months as we enter rainy season.  Not an ideal transaction, but what can you do?

The good news is we have already used the new Honda Generator 3x in the first week as we had lots of rainy/cloudy days.

Events from this blog post occurred during mid to late April 2021.  Our blog posts run 8-10 weeks behind our adventures.