Category Archives: Passages & Crossings

Pleasant Passage: Tahanea to Tahiti

Matt and I got up early, picked up the hook and started our passage.  We were anchored in the SE corner of Tahanea which is about 10nm from the pass.  The first part of our journey was a beautiful sunrise sail with the jib across the lagoon.  We were not in a big hurry as slack tide was at 0830 {the best time to exit the lagoon}.  We managed to arrive to the pass around 0745 and it looked manageable.  So, we ventured on.  We had the fishing poles out and the jib flying as we exited.  With a 2kt outgoing current we made it out with no issues, always a relief.

We had hope to catch a grouper or something as we exited the pass, but no such luck.  After we went through the washing machine of waves caused by the pass, we changed out the sails and raised the parasail.  Our first day was incredible.  We had perfect winds at 15-18kts from the east.  A 2-meter following sea that pushed us along toward our destination. 

All the Excitement Packed into 15 Minutes

Around dusk we were contemplating swapping the sails. A storm was forming on the horizon and we did not want to get caught with our “new to us” parasail up in high winds.  As we are discussing this, a nibble hit one of the poles.  Hmmm…then nothing.  Another nibble, then nothing.  Then another.  Finally, on the 4th bite we caught him. 

We both turned at the same time to see a beautiful marlin dancing across the top of the water.  Unfortunately, we had to let him run with the hopes of tiring him out.  We scrambled to swap out the sails to slow the boat down.  No easy task with the parasail up.  By the time we got back to the marlin he was gone.  He did manage to take a Sugar Shack souvenir with him, Matt’s new lure.

Probably a good thing. Reeling in sailfish is long, hard work.  Then once you get it to the boat you have to be careful not to jab your fiberglass hull with his protruding hard nose.  Matt was disappointed though.

A few minutes later, our jib suddenly started flapping. I am stunned as the working sheet (line), holding the jib in place, was gone!  Yep, gone. How the heck does the working sheet, with a full load, fall off?  We tacked (moving the jib to the opposite side with a working sheet).  Evidently, the knot on the starboard working sheet came undone while under load.  Maybe when we surfed down a wave and the sail luffed, who knows.  This has never happened to us – ever.  Really strange.

Day 2

Our second day had us flying our parasail again but in lighter conditions.  We were losing the wind as it slowly came down to 10-12kts from the east.  It was really fun to watch the apparent wind and our boat speed.  As we surfed down a wave, our boat speed would exceed our wind speed (zoom in on the photo to see the Raymarine screen).

Matt finally crashed hard on the 2nd night.  I took the 1130-0330 shift.  As we neared Tahiti, we started to see some boat traffic.  Always a good sign.  But it was strange that they all popped up at once.  Nice to be in company on a dark and lonely night.  No moon, no stars, and no phosphorescence. 

Arriving Tahiti

Tahiti welcomed us with a fresh wash of the boat.  Rain and gloomy day.  It is always a good way to end a passage with a fresh rinse of the boat.  Even though we did not have a lot of salt water on her as it was a following sea.

We entered north pass just around 1000.  In Tahiti, you enter through a pass that gives you access to a passage between the shoreline and the reef.  All vessels entering the pass must call into port control.  Port Control monitors the traffic in the passage and ensures the boats do not interfere with commercial traffic or air traffic with the neighboring airport.

We travel about 2 miles down the passage toward our favorite anchoring spot in front of the Intercontinental Hotel.

Passage Details:

  • Total Miles Traveled: 285
  • Max Speed:  12.5kt
  • Average Speed 5.8kts
  • Total Time at sea: 48 hours

This post was written in July 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures.  Be sure to see previous posts on Tahiti, go to svsugarshack.com and click on “Society Archipelago/Tahiti”

Our New to Us Parasail

Downwind Passage: Gambiers to Hao

After we left Rikitea, we headed to Taravai for one last visit with our friends Herve, Valerie, Alan and Ariki.  We needed a day of rest before our downwind passage. Plus, it is a good excuse for a beach BBQ and volleyball.  Stefan had left us with several fish that we cooked up on the grill along with chicken and lots of sides.  We loaded up on my tasty fruit from Herve’s garden and wore ourselves out with a few volleyball games.

Our friends on Sea Jay (Fred and Chris) and on Hoodoo (Yanell and Missy) were planning on heading to Hao in the Tuamotus as well.  It’s funny as we are all American catamarans and we all left at the same time.  Strange coincidence.

Leaving Gambiers

We got up early to begin our 3.5/4 day downwind passage.  But evidently, not as early as Sea Jay and Hoodoo.  They left about an hour before us right after dawn.  I had to stop to enjoy the beautiful sunrise and give a proper goodbye to this amazing archipelago that has been so good to us.

We left at 0700 and could see our friends up ahead of us with their head-sails.  Sea Jay is in the front with a large spinnaker and Hoodoo is just behind them with their parasail.  Hoodoo is a 38’ Leopard whereas Sea Jay is a 50’ St. Francis custom boat.

We started out flying our large spinnaker.  This is our largest downwind passage sail and reaches from the top of our mast to the waterline.  She is very colorful with blues, green and pink.  We can fly her in light winds up to about 10-12 kts.  She is an asymmetrical kite which means we cannot actually go directly down wind.  We have to go slightly off course to fly her.  But the good news is that the weather forecast had us going east off the rumb-line anyway.

Our Large Spinnaker

Our Large Spinnaker

In the middle of our first night we had shifty winds and big seas.  We were seeing 3 meter seas in 8-10 second intervals.  Good that there was plenty of time between waves, but bad because they were large seas.  The wind picked up, as it usually does late at night.  We decided to do a sail change.  We took down the large spinnaker and put up the parasail (another downwind passage sail).

Our New to Us Parasail

Our New to Us Parasail

New to Us Sails

Reminder…last February, in Nuku Hiva, we purchased two “new to us” downwind sails.  A small spinnaker and a parasail.  We had never flown the parasail before – well except one time in the lagoon when we taught ourselves how to set and take down while sailing in the lagoon.  The small spinnaker is about the same size as our small spinnaker which is in need of repair.

First 24 hours of passage down

In the first 24 hours we managed to fly 3 head sails (large spinnaker, small new spinnaker, and the parasail) and our jib.  In other words we were up most of the night doing sail changes trying to accommodate the wind and ensure we do not overpower the sails and blow them out.

We caught up to Hoodoo within a few hours and then lost them from view a few ours later.  Sea Jay kept to the rumb-line (direct path from Gambiers to Hao) and we veered east.  We lost them on AIS and out of view by sunset.  Lucky for us we have communication via our satellite systems.  Great first day of our passage. 

  • Miles Sailed:  136
  • Miles to Go:  324
  • Max Speed: 9.7kt
  • Average Speed: 5.4kt

Day 2 of our Downwind Passage

We started our day changing back to the small spinnaker as we had winds of about 15-16kts and 3-meter seas.  This sail can hold its shape a little better in higher winds.  We did do a few sail changes to accommodate a pending storm, but came back to the small spinnaker.  This is a really pretty blue spinnaker that dances just above our bow sprit.

Our New to Us Small Spinnaker

Our New to Us Small Spinnaker

We were both tired today as neither one of us got much sleep the first night of this passage.  A few naps and an attempt to fish all day netted zero fish on board.  Maybe tomorrow.  We did have several birds stop by for a visit.

  • Miles Sailed:  153
  • Miles to Go:  171
  • Max Speed:  11.5kt
  • Average Speed:  5.7

We had an expensive day today.  We were flying the “new to us” small spinnaker while the winds were blowing 12-14kts with no problem.  All of sudden we heard a “pop” and down went the sail. It tore from the top all the way down the seam to the clew.  Crap.  Into the water like a heavy water logged fishing net.  Of course, we had multiple fishing lines out as well. First things first, reel in the lines, then secure the sail that was remaining on board.  We determined that most of the sail was under the port hull so we started the starboard engine and put it in reverse.  This caused the sail to float in front of the boat (instead of under).

We successfully got the entire sail onboard and stowed it.  We will have to take it out while at anchor to see what happened.

Photos taken once we got to shore.  We think the rip started from a small tear on the leading edge and under pressure tore straight across all of the panels near the top.  

Small spinnaker ripped

Small spinnaker ripped

Once the top portion was separated from the bottom it ripped the bottom opposed leading edge off from the seam.  This second rip happened while we were trying to secure the boat and get the sail down.

After that big blow out we were a little gun shy to fly another head sail.  So, we decided to raise the main and fly the jib.  However, we could not get the main up past the first reef.  After a diagnosis, we discovered the main halyard (the 100-meter line that lifts and lowers the 300lb sail) had a section where the cover had separated from the inner coil.  It does not decrease the strength of the line but it did prevent us from raising and lowering the main.  Since it is pitch dark out we will have to fix this in the morning.

Passage Day 3

The next morning, Matt was able to sew the lower portion of the main halyard but he could not reach the top portion until we lower the sail.  It will need to be replaced when we get to Tahiti, Argh!

The winds have shifted to the East and the swell has gone down to 2-2.5 meters which is a nicer ride.  The skies are blue and the sun is out.  Would be nice if we could get a little more wind to fly the head sail.

Passage Day 3.5-4 

We decided to slow the boat way down after we realized we would not make it in time to enter the pass during slack tide (when there is little to no incoming or outgoing current and swell).  So, we dropped the main and reefed the jib to avoid having to drift once we arrived.

Why is it that you go “fastish” when you want to go slow and you go slowish when you want to go fast?  As it turned out we arrived at the pass at 2200 which meant we had to circle or drift for the next 11 hours.  We ended up drifting about 8nm out, came back and went out again.  Waiting for sunrise and slack tide. 

Hoodoo arrived around 0500.  Then we both drifted until 0900 for slack tide.  Entering the pass is always a challenge as you never know what you are going to get.  Hoodoo was closer so they went first and we followed.  We both saw about a 3.5kt outgoing current which was not terrible.  It was in fact rather easy with auto pilot steering the boat.

Arrived and Tied Up

Sea Jay helped Hoodoo tie up and then they all helped us.  Love this community!  The last time we were tied up to a dock, where we could walk off the boat to shore, was back in Costa Rica after our lightning strike (over 2.5 years ago).  This will be a treat!

Tied up at Hao Basin

Tied up at Hao Basin

A small mono, Queen B came in the day after we arrived (they left the same day we did but it took them 36 hours longer than us).  They decided it was best for them to squeeze in between Hoodoo and our boat.  We had told them they could medmoor (stern tie to the wall) yet they squeezed their entire boat sideways in.  It took both Hoodoo and us to secure them and a few choice words.  They are French – nothing else needs to be said!

Here is a link to another boat’s passage from Gambier to Hao.

Not the ideal downwind passage we had hoped for, but we made it safely.

This post was written in May 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Matt on watch during sunset

Passage: Marquesas to Gambiers Part II

We left on a Saturday for our 900-mile passage with the hopes of arriving by Friday.  We had strong winds, big seas, lots of squalls, a few rainbows, a large pod of dolphins and a few birds along the way.  Overall it was a great passage, but there were times, many times, where it just seemed endless!

If you missed Part I of this series, click here to read it.

First 24 Hours of the passage

  • 15 February, departed 11:15am, 797 to destination.  
  • 25-28kts of wind coming N of E
  • 2-2.5-meter seas in short increments making a lumpy ride
  • Avg. Speed 6.4, Max speed 12.6 (surfing down one of these big waves)
  • Travelled 155nm, 642 nm to go

Really choppy sea conditions, making it an uncomfortable ride all day and night.  Good, strong winds during the cloudy day which kept it cool for us while at the helm.  At night we had several squalls with lightening on the horizon (which is frightening). We danced with 2-3 reefs at night depending on the wind conditions.

After a short squall, we were gifted with a pretty rainbow.

Rainbow at sea

Rainbow at sea

Matt at watch just before sunset.  He makes this passage look easy.

Matt on watch during sunset

Matt on watch during sunset

This is a good shot of a rain cloud just over the sunset.

Rain cloud

Rain cloud

Here is a shot of a squall that just missed us – ha ha ha!

Rain cloud on the horizon

Rain cloud on the horizon

48 Hours

  • 16 February, 457 miles to go
  • 25-28kts of wind coming N of E
  • 2-2.4-meter seas in short increments, lumpy ride
  • Avg. speed 6.9, Max sped 12.6 (from day 1)
  • Travelled 340 miles, 185nm sailed in this 24-hour period (WOW)

It was another cloudy and dreary day which brought cool weather.  More squalls all night kept us playing dodge-squall.  We did however have an amazing day covering the miles.  We consider a good or average 24-hour period being 120nm sailed.  That is 5kts an hour which keeps us comfortable and the boat moving.  Today, however, we sailed 185 nm which meant we had maintained a 7.7 speed for a long time.  Of course, our “average speed” above includes the speed from day 1 so it does not reflect our great day today.

Blessed to receive another pretty sunset photo.  Photo doesn’t capture the purple and pink sky, but it was pretty!

Sunset at sea

Sunset at sea

Here is a photo of our radar showing us an upcoming squall. Doesn’t that look like fun to go through?  We actually were able to dodge this squall, but it did bring us some good rain and strong winds.

Radar showing a squall in front of us

Radar showing a squall in front of us

72 hours

  • 17 February, 306 miles to go
  • 25-28kts of wind coming N of E
  • 2-meter seas, starting to calm down, longer increments in between the waves
  • Avg. Speed 6.7, Max Speed 12.6
  • Traveled 488 nm, 148nm sailed in this 24-hour period

Sunshine in between the squalls today.  Bright and cheery.  Winds slowed down in late afternoon and evening making it a lot more comfortable.  Funny how you get addicted to the speed.  When you slow down your desire to get there faster outweighs the uncomfortable ride. 

96 hours

  • 18 February, 173nm miles to go
  • 18-22kts of wind coming N of E but winds are starting to shift more E
  • 1.5-2-meter seas, longer increments (9-10 seconds), little calmer, nicer ride
  • Avg speed 6.5, Max speed 12.6
  • Traveled 623nm, 135nm sailed in this 24-hour period

Sunny day, bright and cheery.  A few squalls at night bringing rain, early morning got a double rainbow

A beautiful double rainbow appeared just after sunrise.

Wowza, double rainbow

Wowza, double rainbow

120 hours

  • 19 February, 25nm miles to go
  • 13-15kts of wind mostly E, we lost the Northerly aspect which is frustrating.
  • 1 meter seas in 9-10 second increments, nice and a lot more comfy
  • Avg. speed 6.4, Max speed 12.6
  • Traveled 773, 150nm sailed in this 24-hour period

Wind shifted to East and East of South which makes us point almost into the wind at a 35-38 degree angle, which is really hard to sail. Most boats can point at 50-60 angle, but our stellar boat can do better.  Its’ just not terribly comfortable sail.  On starboard we can do 30-32, but our current port tack is better at 38-45.

This photo is our wind instrument which shows us the angle/direction of the wind (just barely before the 30), the wind speed “13.0” and our boat speed 6.3.  It also has “—” for depth as it is too deep to measure. Our depth gauge stops reading after 100 meters.

Raymarine Wind Instrument

Raymarine Wind Instrument

124.5 hours

  • 16 February, arrived 1545
  • 8-12kts of wind coming E of S making it incredibly difficult to sail.
  • 1-meter seas
  • Avg. speed 6.4, Max speed 12.6

Had to motor sail most the last 8 hours because the wind was not cooperating and came south of east.   It was such a relief to see land.  The island to the left is Mangareva (main island) and the island to the right is Taravai (where we are headed).

Land a ho!

Land a ho!

Entered the NW pass with no current or swell.  Nice, easy, calm, and wide entrance.  Followed our path from a previous trip here.  6kts of wind speed coming south of east. 

Photo of Taravai as we head toward the pass

Taravai approach

Taravai approach

Photo of Mangareva as we head toward the pass (you can see Mount Duff which we hiked last year).

Mangareva, the main island

Mangareva, the main island

Heading to Baie Onemea (where we anchored with Halcyon and Agape last time we were here).

Total Passage Data

  • Average overall speed 6.4
  • Max Speed 12.6
  • Trip distance 800.2nm
  • Total miles sailed 838.9 (up and down waves, through water)
  • Total miles from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas to Taravai, Gambiers = 969nm
  • Time in Total 124.53 hours

And we rest after a yummy pork chop dinner, cold beer, and admire the sunset

Sunset at Taravai

Sunset at Taravai

What do our gauges tell us on a passage?

Sugar Shack has a lot of amazing technology on board.  It keeps track of everything from current weather conditions, direction of the vessel, auto pilot, and more.

Our B&G chart plotter is what I reference most.  It has many screens, but the two I use are this page and the radar page.  This overview gives you all the data you need to know.  Wind speed (true and apparent), wind direction (true and apparent), boat speed, course, longitude, latitude, steering, and VMG (velocity made good).  Along with lots of other important data.

B&G Chart plotter

B&G Chart plotter

Raymarine wind instruments are located outside in the cock pit (one on port and one on starboard).  They show us a visual of the wind direction, wind speed, boat speed and depth.

Raymarine Wind Instrument

Raymarine Wind Instrument

Raymarine auto pilot head instruments are located outside at the helms (one on port and one on starboard).  They provide a lot of useful information in addition to controlling “auto.”  You can set each square to display the information you want, but we have them set to display AWS (apparent wind speed), depth, SOG (speed over ground), DTW (distance to waypoint), COG (course over ground), and AWA (apparent wind angle).  With autopilot we can set it to “wind vane” where it holds the approximate course but based on the wind angle.  You can plus or minus in increments of  “1” or “10” to change your direction.

Raymarine Auto Pilot

Raymarine Auto Pilot

At the Navigation Station Inside

Inside we have another Raymarine auto pilot set to display different setings.  TWS (true wind speed), AWS (apparent wind speed), SOG (speed over ground), DTW (distance to waypoint), XRE (cross track) and Heading.

Raymarine Auto Pilot Nav Station

Raymarine Auto Pilot Nav Station

VesperMarine is our radar display which shows us what is coming within a 24nm radius.  We can set alarms that beep at us if anything comes within a certain radius (like another boat or squalls).

Vesper Marine Radar

Vesper Marine Radar

We use Navionics on every passage which is on the iPad and shows a map of where we are, where we are going, our boat speed, and approximate arrival date/time to either the waypoint or the final destination.  This photo was taken on day 4.

iPad showing Navionics

iPad showing Navionics

We use Open CPN on Matt’s computer.  I could not possibly tell you all that it does, but it is invaluable to us.  We can overlay our course over maps which show us areas to avoid (bommies, reefs), depths, other vessels (their distance to us, direction, size), etc…

Computer using Open CPN

Computer using Open CPN

We use everything we can to insure a safe passage.  It is a blessing that our boat is so well equipped with top of the line technology to get us safe.