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Weather, a fickle mistress, Arrival, Recap

The weather in these parts can be quite the mess. So we were looking, as many other boats for nice weather windows to leave the ‘cyclone area’ for season and go somewhere “safe” ..

Well I guess there is no really cyclone/hurricane safe place. The systems will just be called by different names to lure you in. We will probably be dealing with typhoons next as we go further west. Ugh,

Anyway, waiting for weather is an extreme exercise in patience, boredom, itchy feet, mental stability all play a role, which might explain things.

In Fiji, we were waiting and watching, a Tuesday looked good – but further looking had winds on the nose. Then a Friday looked good, but had a constrained finish, had to arrive before the following Friday. So why not Thursday .. hmm maybe some on the nose, similar to the Tuesday that we passed on. Then Lola started to swirl around and make noise about coming to Fiji.

Cue “The Clash”, “Should I stay or should I go”.

Leave Thursday so there is a buffer on the Friday deadline. We did this trip last year in nice conditions and it was a 6 day trip, the models were showing 9-10 days for the Thursday or Friday departures. Doing math and redoing math and checking with weather people and routers etc.. It’ll make your head spin. Weather router said, “doable”, not a warm fuzzy by any stretch of the imagination. Doable did sound, well doable.

Thursday got the call, a few other boats were leaving, others were staying. Thursday did have the allure of a couple nice days at the beginning, to get your feet wet on the long passage, And running “away” from the future Lola that was brewing near by gave a bit of weight to Thursday departure. So we cleared customs and departed just after lunch.

Thursday evenings updated forecast after we left, had future Lola (had not be named yet) coming on our path. Ugh more math, double check dates. Want to turn back, more math, nearly 100 miles into 1100 mile trip we could turn back easier than the 90% left in front of us. Decision was, wait till next forecast, continue on. Whew.. next forecast kept future Lola north and not following us. Still had the Friday constrained by cold front from the Tasman sea.

Christine will have her own view of the passage, but for me, a couple nice days for decent sailing, a couple days of pure crap into the winds with demoralizing VMG (progress to destination) followed by a couple good sailing days, and still a looming Friday constraint. So we kept pressing hard and making forward progress with eyes on arriving Thursday, ahead of the Friday cold front. Amazingly enough that Friday constraint has been in the forecast and never wavered one way or another for over a week. We calculated we needed a 6knot VMG (to make 6nm every hour toward the destination) to make it by Thursday. Boat can be going 10knots and only making 3kn VMG which is what was happening on the ‘crappy’ days, where we sailed 80 miles off course because of the wind direction. We made it.

Lola did materialize and did start her way south, kind of regrouped into the forecast you see below. This forecast is for Monday, the boats in the picture should all be in on Friday or Saturday at the most. Just in time to hunker down. Hopefully we will be nicely tied up to a good strong floating dock by Thursday evening awaiting the Friday event that has now tuned into a possible bigger deal with the addition of Lola remnants.

Predicted forecast for Monday.

We averaged 7.3kn for 1200 miles, used a bunch of diesel, broke the jib car, but we made it before the deadline, now time to sleep, clean, secure the boat for 50 knots of wind in the marina.

As the crow files the passage is 1100, we did this in 160 hours so we made 6.8nm per hour as the crow flies. Our VMG goal of 6nm is what we needed to make our Thursday arrival. The 7.3 average was over the entire distance the boat went, of 1200 and change.

Arriving in the dark
Rounding the Whangarei heads at day break

Now back to your regularly curated blog posts.

Ceiling Panels: A New Hat

The original ceiling panels on Sugar Shack are made of corrugated PVC.  They are well over 23 years old and were in need of replacement.  We had replaced the salon ceiling panels in 2016 and it was beyond time to replace the panels in all of the cabins.

We took some of the panels down to fix the leaks a few months ago.  It is a very long, time consuming, and uncomfortable project.  Matt has to carefully remove the old ceiling panel without it cracking, tearing, or disintegrating.  I then come in and remove all the glue and sticky residue which requires me to work upside down.  Not a comfy position to be in for days on end.  

To remove the glue I use multiple tools to scrape it off (scraper, knife, pick, brillo pad, acetone, elbow grease).  Once I get the majority of the glue off I get to work on the sticky residue which is much harder to come off.  I use sand paper, brillo pads, and glue gone.  It has to be smooth and clean in order for the VHB tape to stick.

Complete Chaos onboard

Each cabin has been exposed.

Office and Guest Cabin

Office and Guest Cabin

The main guest cabin (port bow) had some serious issues.  Once Matt removed the panels, the frame sort of collapsed.  Evidently the 5200 (glue) that was applied 23 years ago lost its stick.  So, Matt had to create new supports and reglue the frame prior to beginning work.

Guest Cabin

Guest Cabin

Normally it takes two people to put each panel up.  One holds one end while the other peels the tape and secures the panel.  However, Matt was able to do the ceiling panels all by himself.  He used everything at his disposal to get these panels up.  The green is just a protective cover and will come off once we are done.  I was in the states and unable to help him so he set up the GoPro to take time lapse photos.

Office Ceiling

Office Ceiling

And the finished Office with nice beautiful ceiling panels and new lights.

Completed Office

Completed Office

And the completed Guest Cabin.  Keep in mind that when we have guests we actually put bedding, towels and a little lovely decor out to make it more welcoming and homey.  But since this is just a “hey we finished the ceiling panels” photo I did not do all of that.

Master Bath “Head”

He also worked on the master bath which has a combination of corrugated pvc and fiberglass.  Unfortunately, we cannot remove the fiberglass panels so we will have to sand them down and paint them but that will be a project for another year.

In the photo below you can see where Matt is installing the new pvc panel and replacing the gross light fixtures that turned green from the salt air. He also removed the old shower head.

The updated bathroom or “head” is looking good.  We replaced all of the ceiling lights, the shower head and trash can. I bought a new scale, rug, and full length mirror.

Master Bath (Head)

Master Bath (Head)

There are not many times I need a full length mirror, but I’ve wanted one for years.  It keeps me honest.

New Full Length Mirror and Shower head

New Full Length Mirror and Shower head

On to the Master Bedroom Ceiling Panels

Back to the ceiling panels.  It was a really long project with us living in chaos and mess for months!  We finished the port side office and guest cabin and the starboard master bath but we still needed to work on the master cabin.  Once we had the ceiling panels off we needed to address the leaks.  Yep, we have a few leaks.  Some were from joints that needed new glue, some from worn out fittings.

The elbow fitting and hose were just old and warn. We had to replace them in all four corners of the boat. All the water from the deck flows to the four corners of the boat and into these drains.  They all were replaced with new drains and new hoses.  But of course to get to them you had to remove years old thickened epoxy

Master cabin and leak above bed

Master cabin and leak above bed

We install the new drain and hose, replace the thickened epoxy and start working on leak under the bimini.  Lucky for us we can do this outside rather than inside.  So, we put our new ceiling panels and new lights in the master cabin.

New Lights

Since we had all of the ceiling panels off we decided to upgrade our lights.  The current lights stated that they were stainless but we found out later on that they were not as they turned green and speckled.  

We found a great lighting store that sold stainless steel framed lights and white ceiling lights that fit our holes perfectly.  We ended up buying 4 small and one large stainless steel lights for the salon and galley,  But for the cabins, master bath and hallways we bought 15 white ceiling lights.  They look super sharp!

I must say that it is glorious having the ceilings completed as it was a mess along with all of the other construction projects.  

Events from this blog post occurred from November 2022-May 2023.  Our blog posts run 8-10 weeks behind schedule.  In our last blog post I shared our brand new stainless steel counter tops – they are spectacular, did you see them?

It’s Been Long Enough: New Counter tops

When we purchased Sugar Shack back in 2010 she came with “lovely” turquoise green counter tops and matching pleather interior cushions.  We could not fathom owning a boat with turquoise green pleather cushions so we had those changed immediately.  Matt promised me that we would replace the counter tops “soon” but since they were in decent shape we lived with them for 13 years!

Matt decided he did not want Corian or marble countertops, he wanted stainless.  We ask our friends at Absolute Stainless to do the work.

Prep Work on the Countertops

Absolute Stainless said that they did not want to touch the 23 year old wood fiddle around the counters.  I really could not blame them as the chance for them to break is high and they don’t have a wood shop.  The fiddle is the wood lip that surrounds the edges of the counters.  They are curved and nailed in to the cabinetry.

So, Matt tackles the project himself with the hopes of removing them without damaging them.  It is a super slow process which required a lot of patience and tools.  But he was successful!

Next, Matt has to remove the veneer.  What would seem like a fairly easy project ends up taking the major part of a two weeks.

He then removes the other side of the counter tops.

Creating a Template for the New Counters

Absolute Stainless sent over Damon to create the template for our new counter tops.

Then we wait for the magic to happen.

Installation Day

So excited for installation day!  Damon and Harry (apprentice) arrive with our new countertops!  Before we bring the new pieces in we have to do some trimming of the wood to ensure a nice snug fit.

In comes the new pieces.  Matt is holding the small side by the refrigerator (the large hole is for the refrigerator door).

It’s a little tricky getting the long countertop inside and fitted.  

We ended up grinding the larger piece to fit properly by the wall (near Matt’s side), had to remove our light switches and shave a little more wood from the sink area – but it fit!

Damon loads up the undersides with a ton of special stainless steel glue and they leave behind over 400 pounds of weight to hold the counters in place as the glue dries.

We end up having to wait a week for them to come back.  Mostly because there was a weekend, 2 holidays, and Matt and I had to go to Auckland for 2 days.  Sort of a pain as we had no kitchen sink and no refrigerator.  

The Final Touches

The big reveal and we are both anxious and excited.  Wow, they came out looking terrific – what do you think?

The larger, longer piece with the sink and stove top came out stunning as well.  We bought a new sink that was welded into the countertop and since we had a new sink and new countertops we bought a new stainless steel faucet too.

It took us another few weeks to reinstall the wood fiddle around the edges, but the final product exceeded our expectations!

Now I need to learn how to clean them 🙂

Events from this blog post occurred in late March thru end of May 2023.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind live events.  In our last blog we take my family to the northern most part of the north island during a massive thunderstorm.