Category Archives: Upgrades

Fancy New North Sails

Sugar Shack has been propelled by the same double layer dacron sails for the last 22 years!  Yep, you read that right, our sails are over two decades old and still propelling us forward.  Granted, the sail shape is not ideal and they look a well “used” but they still worked.  After all, they got us from Fiji to New Zealand in 6 days which is pretty darn impressive.

But it certainly was time to replace them.  We interviewed several sail lofts in New Zealand before landing on North Sails.  Roger, came prepared to talk to us about different fabrics, techniques, and sails.  He was the only one to bring us material samples and was very honest about being the most expensive sailmaker. He was right, he was the most expensive one.  

But, that is not why we selected him and North sails to make our new sails.  Roger has been manufacturing sails for 40 years.  He used to work for Doyle sails but moved to North Sails because of their 3Di technology.

The Technology of Tour Ultra X Sails

Our new custom designed main sail will be one giant sail with no seams, edges, or joints.  The corners and high pressure points will be built up to sustain heavier loads.   These sails are meant for reefing and designed to handle reefing.

The sails have a life expectancy of 8-12 years if treated well and a 5 year warranty.  We are also given a free annual check up at any North Sails location.  A repair kit is provided for us to do small minor repairs while at sea which is a simple patch and glue (no sewing).

We paid a little extra to have a mildew spray on both the main and genoa since we plan to spend a lot of time in the tropics.  The material itself has UV protection as well, but we plan to have her tucked nicely into her new sail bag when she is not in use.

Roger came by a few times to measure our sails, note the placement of reefs, attachments, battens, and mast cars.  He then heads off to place our special order.

The Sails Arrive

It took a few months to manufacture our new Tour Ultra X sails but it was worth the wait.  Roger came with our new main, battens, and genoa.

The genoa goes up first as it is the easiest.  She is a slate gray with a gray protective UV cover.  There is a small patch on the sail to protect it from our spreaders (bottom left photo).  The top right photo is our new main flaked out.

We have no problems getting the genoa on.  However, we have a few issues with the main sail.  The cars that attach the main to the mast have the wrong size screw hole.  So, Roger has to return them and get new ones.  A week later he comes back and Matt and Roger put up the new main!

Matt and Roger work diligently in the early morning to get the sail up before the wind picks up.

The full main sail up and proud – just needs some wind…

New Sail Bag

Matt had a very specific idea in mind of what he wanted in a sail bag / stack pack.  He wanted it to be low profile to keep the shadow off the solar panels.  He also wanted it to either wrap in front of or behind the mast to prevent the sail bag from billowing in high winds.  This is in addition to specifications for size, shape, style, fabric, zippers, clips, and velcro attachments.

Our old sail bag had a very high profile and a lot of extra room inside the bag (waster space).  But she was beautiful and lasted 13 years!

The new sail bag has a much lower profile, does not have a lot of extra space inside and is really kick a$$!  It took us awhile to get to where we wanted, but Roger came through in the end!  We are thrilled with the new bag.

Matt made new lazy jacks out of 4mm dynema which make it look even better.  

A few Snags

Roger from North Sails in Opua is fantastic to work with.  He is extremely professional, friendly, responsive, honest, and true to his word.  We did have a few snafus, but overall we are very pleased with our new sails.  What happened?

I mentioned above that our mast cars had to be remade because the manufacture made the screw holes a size 8 when they should have been a 10.  Also, we had two batten cars that had to be replaced because they did not fit properly.  The sail bag was supposed to be made within a week of delivering the main sail, but it did not arrive for almost 6 weeks.  Partially due to the the various holidays and bad weather, but it is what its.

However, Roger was up front with us along the way, kept us informed, and made sure we were happy in the end – and we are!

Events from this blog post occurred in early November (bidding) and in late March (initial install) thru May (sea trial).  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.  Did you see our new canvas work throughout the boat in our last blog?

A New Ticker: Lithium Batteries

House batteries are the heart of our boat that keep everything running.  Our AGM gel batteries are only 4 years young and probably have another 3-4 more years of life left.  However, we are in NZ and we finally have access to lithium batteries, expertise to install and knowledge of how to re-program C-Zone for the new lithium batteries.

Matt has always known we would switch to lithium batteries; we were just waiting for the right place to purchase them.  I think he started talking about switching to lithium back in 2016, then again considered switching when we replaced all the electronics in Costa Rica after the lightening strike.  But in the end we waited…until now.

We contacted several dealers and settled on Cleagh Limited because Matthew Duckett has a significant amount of experience and expertise with C-Zone and Mastervolt.  We are a Mastervolt boat so for the most part it “should” be a plug and play with the batteries.  However, we have to update C-Zone and all of our electronics which will take a day or two.

Also, the Mastervolt warranty and our insurance both require a licensed electrician to do the install which is where Matthew Duckett comes in.

As a dealer, he was able to secure our Mastervolt MLI 12/6000 at a very reduced price.  We saved hundreds of dollars!!!  So, far loving this guy!

Removal of the AGM Dry Fit Batteries

We currently have (8) Sonnenschein Batteries A512 12V 115A Dryfit 500. They are long-life batteries that are similar to AGM but much better.  They each weigh in at about 42kilos / 93lbs.  Hope to sell these guys to recoup some of our money.

Installing the new Mastervolt 12/6000

The new batteries look like beasts when they arrive, but in actuality they will take up a lot less space and weigh much less than our original batteries.

We are replacing 8 Sonnenschein batteries with 2 Mastervolt lithium batteries.  These are slightly bigger but they weigh considerably less at 49 kilos / 108lbs.  So we are removing 336kilos / 744lbs and adding  98kilos / 216lbs.  This is a weight savings of 238kilos / 524lbs!  That is significant on a boat!  yeah us.

It is an awkward space to be in as you have to work around the “seat holes” upside down.  Both Matt and Matthew were in the hole for the better part of two days.  Matt Mitchell is in red shirt (middle photo) and Matthew is bottom photo.


 Matthew connects up with Tim who works at Mastervolt and has to review and certify our system.  It took a few tweaks, but after a few hours we were totally configured and up and running.  This is a screen shot of Matthew’s computer as Tim was diagnosing and reviewing our systems.


Originally Matthew thought it would take 2 weeks to complete the entire job, but then he amended it to 1 week.  As it turned out, it only took 2.5 days because Matt did a lot of prep work in removing the old batteries, reconfiguring the wood slats that hold the new batteries in place and built the strap system that secures the to the floor.

Feeling super excited to see how our power consumption, usage, and recharging improves with these beautiful Mastervolt batteries!

And look how much room we have for storage!

Time to Stay Connected: Starlink

As most of you know, we struggle with internet connectivity especially in the remote places of Fiji and French Polynesia.  Here in New Zealand we have had great access, but we won’t always be in the land of plenty.

Starlink was running a discounted special here in NZ at the end of 2022.  We couldn’t resist since it was almost half the price of what the units were selling for in the U.S.  Matt was like a kid in the candy store when the big gray box arrived.

He ordered the residential unit and will add portability when we leave NZ.  He also ordered the ethernet box which he plans to butcher to make work on 12volt.  

The unit does not draw a huge amount of power, but it is more than we expected.  Luckily our new batteries can handle it!

In an effort to save some money, we downgraded our Iridium Unlimited plan for the next 4 months.  We will most likely reinstate it when we move to Tonga in May just as a back up in case Starlink does not connect while underway.

We have seen really great speeds.  In the first image you can clearly see where we started using Starlink vs the local marina wifi and our Vodafone connection.

Not the prettiest solution for our dish, but it works while we are on the dock.  It has to be free and clear of obstructions and away from our solar panels and radar.  So, for now, here she is.

This could be a game changer for us!  Stay tuned.

Events from this blog occurred in mid-January 2023.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  We enjoyed the Highland Games in our last blog, did you read about it?

Cracked Neck & Rusty Elbow: Engine Repairs

Sugar Shack has been an incredibly trustworthy yacht and home.  Since we bought her in 2010, she has never failed us, she has delivered us across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans putting well over 40,000nm under her keel.  Besides general maintenance, we have not had to do a major overhaul.  Until now….the boat repairs and projects have been piling up, but we could not get to most of them because we either did not have the resources or the expertise. 

Arriving in New Zealand has been a blessing in that we now have access to both the resources and expertise to get many of these repairs done.  Most we will do ourselves (or shall I say, Matt will do himself), but some we are hiring contractors to help us out.

Busy Work:

The starboard engine needed some serious love.  The coolant neck is cracked.  Matt had been gluing the coolant neck onto the coolant manifold but it really needed to be re-braised (type of welding).  The problem is the entire manifold had to come off in order to get the part to the welder (Absolute Stainless).  And this piece has not been removed in the boat’s life (22 years and counting).  So, Matt had to finagle the bolts using a new ¾” impact hammer.

He finally removed the piece after using much elbow grease.  One of the owners offered to come pick it up, but Matt had to carry the beast a few hundred yards to the parking lot.

They were able to fit us in right away, despite the shop being incredibly busy and way backlogged.  He contacted us the next day and said that he was able to braise the coolant neck with no problem.  Top left is the glued coolant neck and the other three show it re-braised properly.

1 Problem Solved: 1 Problem Discovered:

Slight problem – when Simon at Absolute Stainless was cleaning up the rusty exhaust elbow on the manifold, it started to crumble.  Well $hit!

We contacted the Volvo dealer (as this is a Volvo part) and they informed us that the part is not available in NZ and it would take several months to get it.  Considering we can’t use the engine without this part, we opted to ship this part in at a whopping $250USD shipping.  But we got it within 2 weeks!

Engine Cleanup

In the meantime, Matt replaced several raw water hoses that were looking ratty and difficult to see through.

Once we got the exhaust elbow back on the manifold, he installed it back on the engine. 

Next, the alternator bracket.  He had to take this off because it had a crack in it and needed to be welded back together.  You can see that we have welded this piece several times.  The alternator is very, very heavy and when under load while under passage it tends to put a lot of pressure on this huge piece of stainless steel.  The blue arrows indicate new weld.

Matt took advantage of the situation since the engine was really accessible and torn apart.  he cleaned up all around the engine, painted special rust repellent then volvo green paint on the engine.

The starboard engine after a very long spa treatment.

A Few Other Odd Jobs

  • Replaced fuel tank caps, gasket and lid (port/starboard)
  • Sewed new fender covers for our large A4 fenders (old blue cover, lower left corner, new black covers)

  • Received new Highfield 360 PVC Dinghy. Our sailmaker took us to collect our new dinghy from All Marine. He will graciously store it for us at his barn until the canvas lady can make her dinghy chaps.  Talk about great service!

The events from this blog occurred in early December.  We find fabulous hiking trails in Whangarei in our last blog post.