Category Archives: Passage

Passage to New Zealand

The passage from Fiji to New Zealand is known to be a difficult and challenging one.  The biggest problem is the weather and the fact that you have to cross through two systems (a high and a low).  Within these systems are storms, high winds, and big seas.  Nothing you want to be in the middle of while on a passage.  So, the trick is picking a window where you can squeeze between the systems.  It is “tricky” and hard to do.

We spoke to many, many cruisers about  picking the “right window.”  Finally, we came to a consensus about a departure date, 26 October 2022.  Now, we are in a rush to finish preparations:

  • Pick up small amount of fresh produce, eggs, tortillas for the passage (small because they will be confiscated when we arrive)
  • Print out all NZ documentation for entry
  • Send updated forms to NZ agent, Craig Roe (RYS) with departure date, arrival date
  • Notify Marsden Cove Marina of arrival date (where we clear in)
  • Notify Town Basin Marina of arrival date (where we will stay for a month)
  • Sign up for Passage Guardian (he tracks our progress and assists in emergency)
  • Prepare ditch bag, medical bag, jack lines, PFD’s, and foul weather gear
  • Put out jack line, stow anchor bridle.
  • Reschedule blog posts to not post until after passage (allows for live posts to post)
  • Prepare valuables in waterproof bag: documents, cash, jewelry, etc…
  • Email family and friends Passage Information
  • Update Facebook (personal and Sugar Shack page) going dark
  • Make and pre-cook passage meals.  Enough for 2 people for 10 days (20 meals)
  •       Matt made: pulled pork, cajun pasta, gumbo, chicken parm, eggplant parm, Roti,               
  •       schwarma, Bahn mi
  • Make bread dough and put in fridge 
  • Make cookie dough: snickerdoodles, gingerbread, and chocolate mint and store in fridge
  • Snack Basket (so we don’t have to go down below)
  • Last thing is to clear out of Fiji

More Preparations

New Zealand requires proof of a clean bottom (not the ones we sit on, but the bottom of the boat).  We have to show proof that there is no hard or soft growth on the hulls, between the rudder and hulls, on the props, seacocks, or waterline.

Since Matt’s ear is still healing it falls to me to do this massive job.  We just did our bottom in May so it was not terribly bad, but it did require me to wipe down both sides and the bottom of both hulls including the water line.  That is 15 meters x 4 = 60 meters of cleaning.  I cannot do it with just a snorkel so we get out the hooka (which is similar to scuba gear, but attached to the boat).

It took me over 4 hours to wipe it all down and I was exhausted afterwards.  But it looks great now!

Departure Day

We arrive for our scheduled appointment time to clear out of Fiji and are surprised to find a huge line outside of Customs/Immigration.  We discovered that one of the agents went to Musket Cove to clear out the Outremer Rally and the other agent was late.  She showed up 2.5 hours later, but they cleared the line fairly quickly.  We were hanging with our friends on Eastern Stream, Rhapsody, and Sea Tramp.

Waiting in line to clear customs/immigration in Fiji

Waiting in line to clear customs/immigration in Fiji

We pick up our delivery of fresh goods from Farm Boy and we head out!  Whoop Whoop!   It is about 3 miles from Port Denarau to the pass.  We hoist the main with 2 reefs and set the jib. 

A friend of ours captured Sugar Shack leaving the pass…

Strangely enough we are surrounded by boats.  We look at our chart and there are 18 boats departing with us.  Not including the other 7-8 boats that are departing later in the afternoon.  I guess this is a good window!  We are the red arrow and the green ones are other boats heading to NZ.

In the Middle of Nothing

A frequently asked question….Where do you anchor while you are underway?  We don’t.  We sail 24/7 for as long as it takes to get from Fiji to New Zealand.  Usually after the 2nd day we lose sight of land and proof of life (birds, fish, other boats).  Periodically, another boat will show up on AIS, but usually too far to see with the naked eye.

This is a screen shot of us in the middle of the Pacific.  Nothing out there, not even charts on Navionics (see gray area)!

One night, this boat popped up on our charts at 3 miles away and yet we could not see it.  In the photo it looks like he is right on top of us…

Personal Best

Sugar Shack is a really amazing boat!  She is comfortable, safe, and fast.  Usually we do not push her as we are both conservative cruisers.  But this trip we had to push in order to get to NZ before a forecasted storm.  Even though we had either 1 or 2 reefs in the main and jib, we were still flying!

We had two days where we sailed over 200 miles – that is like the illusive unicorn showing up in your backyard.  Rare!

Many beautiful nights with a partial moon.  Unfortunately for us, he went to sleep before 10:30-11p each night.

We also had many beautiful sunsets

We went through the closet during this passage.  Started out in shorts and a tank top, wore our foul weather gear (and dry suit), and then to warm weather clothes.

The Passage

We ended up arriving in 6.5 days which is ridiculously fast.  We anticipated 8-10 days underway and grossly over estimated.    But we did have a pretty direct route from Fiji to NZ.  If you start at the center top of the image, Fiji, you will see our red line go south toward NZ.  The yellow marks are storms that we dodged.

Where is Waldo the Wind?

We found the blue hole where there is no wind!  We turn on the motors and continue on.  The strong, yet not too strong winds spoiled us by catapulting us at great speeds toward NZ.  But them they just disappeared.  So, we motor sailed, motored, then motor sailed, then motored.

We ended up with at least one engine on the last 2 days.  Bummer.

What Broke?

On Day 2 during a particularly windy period around midnight, 1:00am, we noticed something flying around the top of the mast.  What the heck?  It appears our VHF/AIS Antennae no longer wanted to participate in our reindeer games.  Matt tried to lasso it with a halyard, but within 3 minutes it was gone into the deep, blue sea!  Crap!  Good thing we have a backup.  It is not as good, but it will still send out our position which is what our passage guardian and our charts use to track our progress.   You can see the ripped cable that used to hold the antennae and to the right the new one on a temporary mount by the helm.

The starboard side wind instrument also decided to stop working.  It showed some of the data, but it lost its little arrow which tells you which direction the wind is coming from.  Grrrrr.

Once we got to NZ we were able to reboot the unit and it came back to life.

Almost lost the pin to a car that holds the main.

Check in next week for more on our safe arrival to New Zealand.

Passage Details

  • Total Miles:  1131
  • Max Speed:  13.3kt
  • Average Speed: 7.2kt
  • Total Time at Sea: 6 days 8 hours
  • Port Engine Hours: 51
  • Starboard Engine Hours: 55

If you missed it, check out Matt’s live blog during our passage. They are really, really funny!  They published October 27 thru November 1.

The events from this blog occurred in early September 2022.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  We visit Yalobi in Waya and are rewarded with many beautiful waterfalls in our last blog

Fiji to New Zealand Day6 – and a little more..

Eat it or Loose It ..

So this voyage has been faster than we expected. The trip south is never an easy one, weather changes every 5 days or so. So forecasts are notoriously wrong.

But we still have a day or so to go, can’t spoil the trip already.

Another day, another 100+ miles or so we hope. The drone of the engines (both) running hot, pushing faster than our ‘normal’ diesel conservative mode. Trying every thing we can to arrive either Opua or Marsden (Whangarei) in the day light.

Day starts off as is should, the last bit of, the very last bit of Jimmy Dean was used to make the last Egg McMuffins for breakfast.. Tasty and sad all at the same time.

Morning time, engines running for hours on end, its time to give them a check up. Stop one, for a bit and let the oil rest to see the level, check the belts the fuel filters etc.. Make sure we are not being mean to the life blood of the boat on an ocean without wind. First port, then starboard and all is well. Nothing out of the ordinary. Get side tracked for a while while port is cooling. Checked weather and distance and speed. No matter what we did, it would be near impossible to arrive either Opua or Marsden with daylight. Dusk would be a good bet at Opua.

Coins were tossed, reality set in.. never started the second engine, and just used the conservative forward effort. Said we would arrive at 11pm. So technically there isn’t much difference between 11pm and 4am in terms of light and safety. Moon would provide the same light either way, 1/2 moon at that.

Couple of boat projects along the way, nothing major, just something to keep the energy flowing and keep from falling asleep. Washed this, cleaned that, glued this, checked skies and instruments for hopes of wind.. Good day but darkness was setting..

Uh-Oh.. new territory. Taking a short cut to the destination. Seemed fine. Plenty of water, no rocks or islands in the way. Accidentally zooming in .. spot a that says “area to be avoided” on the chart. Huh? What does that mean. Normally there is a ‘note’ on the paper chart to explain that. Digital charts say the thing, but then when you zoom in, you can’t find where to look for the “note”.. So after searching, best to just not cross the line.

Hour goes by, checking agin on a different device.. the ‘note’ is for cruise ships and things over 50 meters wishing to cross over a marine reserve. We would have been fine. So add another hour to arrival.

We can see the island, or rock of New Zealand sticking out of the water at 50 miles out. That lots of hours of seeing where you want to be but still waiting to be there. And then the sun goes….

TechNerd: I see a cargo ship on the screen. Will it go into the bay were we want to go. Please let it go that way. We have no tracks to follow to get to through the dredged channel. We have charts but its dark, very dark. The prudent sailor would find an alternative. The sailor that just wants a cold beer on anchor makes different decisions..

The cargo ship eventually decides to head in. Great, I use the electronics to record his path. Now I have a path of a huge ship to follow while red and green blinking lights try to help as well.

Whew, made the long part… now the technical part to find the small path to the marina. Again, it’s still dark, there are no street lights now. Just a silent version of ‘Tom Tom’ (for those with the first gps brains) .. Luckily we have a saving grace. Another boat “Only Time” is also trying to get in, we briefly met in Musket Cove, Fiji and know they have done this trip before. Quick chat on the VHF radio and we get to follow them in to the marina.

Okay, we are doing 5mph, with sunglasses on night trying to find a parking spot at Walmart. Oh my. Just then the Walmart greeter jumps out and says, WELCOME. Scares the “blank” out of you and its just the channel marker you just about ran over.

We make it in, pucker factor in full effect the dock is full. Decide to take a different dock “Only time” takes 1/2 then helps Sugar SHack take the other 1/2.. its 3 AM .. Customs dock for 2, now has 4 catamarans for breakfast.

.. all good.. a nice cold beer and out like a light but need to be up early for the officials.


Overall 1100 miles
7.2 average
Just over 6 days, for something we expected 10 possible with the crazy weather that is possible.

Morning comes as does the bio security guy. All our favorite meals are now gone. The pulled pork made Christine cry. But we did finish the gumbo and Jimmy Dean.. They just mainly wanted the meat, so we should have had pork chops the day before instead of the egg plant parmigiana that we could have kept. Oh well.

All good, we are allowed to stay. After clearing in .. headed to Whangarei..

Rain, Winds, Calm, Waves, Seas, Sun, Clouds .. I think we had it all.

Arriving Whangarei and trying to pull into our slip, we bounce off another boat.. but that story is for another day… Current and wind are sometimes very silent.

Welcome to New Zealand. French craft beer and local rose wine for dinner.

[tag Live, Passage, Underway]

Fiji to New Zealand Day5 – Poof and its gone

The champagne is gone, the bottle must have broke.

Cruising along comfortably and its time for breakfast and we know we are going have to change directions a bit today with the rain clouds all around and gray skies everywhere, there was bound to be action. So a big breakfast was necessary..

Once again enter Mr Jimmy Dean! Dangerously low now, but at least the customs office won’t get to confiscate the treasure. A nice big breakfast of Texas Migas (well some Malaysian chips for tortilla chips), Jimmy of course and anything else that sounded like Migas that needed to be used before arrival. Yum.. served over Fijian tortilla – close as it gets out here.

Gray clouds, everything is gray. Gone are the blues of the pacific, just grays. Some darker than the rest, those dark ones are dropping water from the sky so avoid them. Rain means a wind shift of some sorts. We were getting set to Jibe through all the gray and trying to avoid the rain droppers to cut across and minimize our time being wet.

There were 3 other boats on our make shift AIS setup that we could see. Also navigating the maze of thunder showers. Visually I spotted what looked like a good opportunity to cut behind a thundershower that just passed but infront of the next one back. Was patiently waiting, and waiting on the passing shower to go by. Taking forever. Hmm. Radar alarm goes off. Go check the radar, sombiotch. That thing is huge, 6 miles long and at least 2 miles deep. Well lets just slow down some and let it pass faster. Bearing away a bit to give us more time. Well the thing gets closer and closer, what was 6 miles from us was now getting closer to 3 miles. Okay, lets just drop the sails and let it do its thing, we’ll motor across.

Roll the foresail (jib) no worries. Turn into the wind to drop the main, now the wind is kicking upper 20s, mainsail get stuck on the way down. First time since we’ve owned the boat it doesn’t come down smoothly. Now we have bouncy seas and lots of wind and sail that won’t come down. I go to the mast to investigate and climb up on the boom and was able tug on the sail and bring it down. Not to bad. Now to tie the main down, I notice that the top batten, where the sail attaches to the cars that slide up and down the mast had an issue. The pin that holds the slide to the sail was dangerously close to going swimming. The pin is normally secured by a cotterpin/split ring that prevents the pin from leaving of its own free will. Well the cotterpin took a break at some point and went swimming without asking. Silly thing didn’t know there was not a lifeguard on duty. Oh well he knew the risks.

Now holding on for dear life with one hand for me and one on the pin the struggle started. Bouncing back and forth, up and down and trying to get leverage to pull the pin or to complete re-insert the pin, either would have been fine, the pin was bound pretty tightly needed a tool or something help. Christine brought me some things to try eventually, a large and I mean large screw driver I was able to re-seat the pin and go in search of the spares. Found em, now back to the bucking bronco to thread this needle with one hand and not dropping anything.

Success, sail still onboard and now completely attached again we will be ready for the wind when it returns in our favor.

We motor on through the clouds, look back at our track and the track of the neighboring boats. No one had fun, they all went different directions to fight their own battles. And then continue on.

Later that evening we are still motoring along, we tried to sail again several times but the wind was too fickle with its directions or speed to provide adequate speed to arrive in New Zealand before the ‘approaching front’ with high winds that we want to avoid. So motoring is the call being made by us.

We chatted on our evening SSB (radio) net with our friends boats behind us, and several hours after our fun, the found the rain system and had also resorted to engines. Made for a nice restful sleep and evening watch as there wasn’t much wind, the waves were moderating so it was just the dull roar of the diesel being burned to keep you awake. Staying awake with nothing to do is always a challenge for me.

Gone is the Champagne sailing, enter the day of the dry-suit. Its cold and rainy, at least most of me stays dry and warm with the layers under the dry-suit.

[tag Live, Passage, Underway]