Category Archives: Upgrades

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.

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.