Category Archives: Fiji to New Zealand

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