Tag 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

Sail: Fulanga-Taveuni-Savusavu

Sugar Shack is in Fulanga which is in the southern Lao group.  Super fun place to be, but Wayne is coming to Fiji soon so we have to sail back North.  We head toward Komo, but quickly realize we have a great wind angle to go all the way to Taveuni.  There is a beautiful place called Paradise Taveuni Resort that we can stop at for a quick dinner before heading back out to sail toward Savusavu.

Trip Details

  • Total miles: 160nm
  • Passage time total: 22:35
  • Max Speed: 13.2
  • Average speed 6.9
  • Sea was huge and uncomfortable at 3-4 meters
  • Very sporty ride.

The resort is very cruiser friendly.  They provide (7) moorings for free for cruisers to stay with the hopes that we will patronize their resort. 

WE did not get to enjoy their pool or other services, but hopefully next time.

We arrived in time to have a late lunch with our friends on Sea Jay (they arrived shortly after us).  We

Sail: Taveuni (Paradise) to Savusavu

It was a really short visit, less than 12 hours, but we had to leave.  So, we pull off the mooring shortly after sunrise.

Trip Details

  • Total miles: 45nm
  • Passage time total: 6 hours
  • Max Speed: 13.7
  • Average speed 6.9
  • Sea was huge and uncomfortable at 3-4 meters (still)

We spend all of Friday and Saturday running around doing errands.  Not to bore you, but we hit (3) different grocery stores, (2) butchers, the bakery, liquor store, fresh market (produce and kava), fuel (gasoline), post office (buy toys for kids), Jack’s of Fiji (gift for Wayne’s bday), Digicel, and Vodafone.

Of course, I wanted to do my quarterly chores before Wayne arrived so I spent half the day cleaning all the stainless steel, oiling the exterior teak, cleaning the bathrooms and setting up Wayne’s room.

I’m exhausted before he gets here, but we are ready to entertain him for 3 weeks.  But we are ready…

We are invited to a lovo celebration in our last blog.  Events from this blog occurred in early July.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.

Passage: French Polynesia to Fiji

It feels like we have been preparing for this long passage for months.  Way longer than the actual passage.  But it’s all in the preparations to make for a smooth and easy sail.

Matt posted “live blogs” during the passage (which took place in June 2022) so I will try not to duplicate him, but if you are interested in reading them (he is super funny).  Click here to read the first of his 12 posts during our passage.

We left from Bora Bora and our friends from Askari managed to get a departing photo with the Bora Bora caldera in the background.

Departing Bora Bora

Departing Bora Bora

Trip Details

  • Departure Date and Time: Saturday, 4 June 2022 at 12:30pm
  • Miles to Destination (as the crow flies): 50
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4213 and Starboard: 4374
  • Estimated Arrival Time: 19 June 2022 (Fiji is 22 hours ahead of Tahiti so we lost a day)


Matt and I do 3 hours on and 3 hours off for passages.  Basically, Matt works the 8p-11p shift, I work the 11p-2a, Matt is back up 2a-5a and I am up from 5a-8a.  During the day we rotate however we want (sort of light schedule).   Averaging 5 hours of broken sleep a night is challenging at best.

Day 1

We purposely picked this weather window because it had light winds for the first few days.  This is crucial for me because I am prone to sea sickness.  Having light winds allows me to slowly get my “sea legs.”   Weather predictions are really guessing as they are often wrong.  But usually the first 3 days are somewhat accurate.  Four different forecasts had us going way North increasing our cross track to over 100 miles (meaning we went over 100 miles out of our way to ensure we stayed in the wind zone).

Forecasts Routing

Forecasts Routing

We flew wing on wing (main sail on port and jib on starboard) and then tried to fly the parasail.  We lost sight of land at dark, just a mere 6 hours after we started our passage.

Day 2 & 3

Lovely days with light winds.  We flew the parasail for most of the day and managed to maintain a 6.5 boat speed.  Another boat showed up on AIS (radar) called Moondance.  They were mirroring us which was odd.  We headed to port, then they did, we headed to starboard, then they did.  We eventually lost them and left them in the dust.



We leave French waters and enter Cook Islands territory.  The closest island is Suwarrow which is south and still over 300nm away (2-2.5 days).

Crossing into Cook Islands

Crossing into Cook Islands

Day 4:

A rather large squall came through in the wee hours of the morning bringing over 35kts of wind and super strong, large rain drops.  Just as we finished dropping all the sails, the winds picked up to 35kts and the rain pelted us.  It was a downpour and both Matt and I were soaked to the bone.  We motored during the worse part of the storm and then it left us with no wind when it passed.   Drat, we ended up using the motors for close to 20 hours.  Since it was a motor day, I made chocolate chip mint cookies.  We need all the sugar and caffeine we can get to keep us awake during the night shifts.

Day 5

We finally broke the 1000nm mark.  Yeah what a relief.  In addition, we reduced our cross track bringing us closer to our destination.

Medium Spinnaker 150m

Medium Spinnaker 150m

At night we rely a lot on our instruments.  We are running weather forecasts on Matt’s computer, we have radar on (bottom circular diagram), Vesper Marine, and B&G instruments all running at the same time.  In addition, we have 2 iPads that are running different charts.

Day 6

Two things to celebrate: (1) We reached the half way mark of 832 nm to go.  Of course, that is as the crow flies and does not take into account that we have to sail around islands (vs through them).  The second thing we celebrated was a beautiful pod of whales.  I saw a spout and thought was that a spout or just the wind kicking up sea spray?  It turned out to be a spout.  At least 4 whales played around Sugar Shack for about 20 minutes.  One came alongside our boat and then went under the boat.  Super cool, but holy h3ll that could have been disastrous if he breached the surface while under Sugar Shack.

The photos are not very good as I was frozen in place when they breached.  But they were there, I promise.

Day 7-8

We alternate between our medium spinnaker, the parasail, and the working sails.  Depends on the winds and gusts.  We had particularly calm weather and decided to swap out our sails.  As we hoisted the medium spinnaker a gust came up and made a slight tear at the top.  We had to bring her down to avoid total destruction.  Matt was able to repair the sail and get it back in the rotation a few days later.

On a good note, we caught (2) male mahi mahi in the afternoon.  The first line went “zing” and as we went to pull in the other lines a 2nd line went zing!

These are the winning lures that caught our tasty fish.

Day 9:

We enter the waters of Tonga.  I sure wish Tonga was open but alas she is shut down due to Covid still.  So, we sail on through longingly looking at the beautiful islands from a far.  Kidding we can’t see anything as it is way too far away.  But the longing is still there.

Day 10:

Another beautiful day on passage.  We were changing sails from the jib to the parasail when we had another little mishap.  Matt was raising the sock (with the sail inside) as per usual.  However, I noticed that the sock looked empty so I shouted at Matt to stop, but he couldn’t hear me over the roar of the wind.  I stepped up my vocal cords and got his attention just as the entire parasail came out of the sock and into the sea.  Holy cow!

It is 3am and raining.  We are both at the bow trying to pull in the sail.  Just as we got the sail onboard, the sock goes under the boat.  You’ve got to be kidding!  We manage to salvage both the sail and the sock and bring them back to the cockpit. What happened?  Well, there is a shackle at the top of the sock that holds the sail inside.  That shackle opened up and we nearly lost the sail.  Lucky for us, an easy fix.

Day 11

We make our first land sighting at 122nm to go.  Super cool to see land after being at sea for 11 days.  The islands are far off in the distance, but you can certainly make out the beautiful mountains.  We had a very squally and rainy day today which makes it hard to fly the lighter sails (spinnaker and parasail) which make us go faster.  But we continued on averaging 5-6kts for the day.  Today was my last day as net controller on the Poly Mag Net an SSB radio net that I’ve been volunteering for over the last 2 years.  It was hard to let go.

Day 12

We arrive into the island of Vanua Levu and go to Savusavu bay to clear into customs.  We arrived around 10:30am which was 11 days and 23 hours after we picked up the hook in Bora Bora!  Not bad, not bad at all!  We had anticipated it taking 2 full weeks and we made it in 12 days.

Trip Details:

  • Miles to Destination: 1,664
  • Actual Miles Sailed: 1,777
  • Average Speed over 12 days: 2
  • Max Speed: 9
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4233 and starboard 4384

We motored about 20 hours with the majority of that time being right after the large squall on day 4.  The rest of the time we were able to sail.

Here is our track from French Polynesia to Fiji.

French Poly to Fiji Track

How did I entertained myself?

I read 3 books, I watched Season 2 of Bridgerton and S1 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and watched 2 movies.  Of course, there were lots of games of solitaire and word puzzles too.

Some beautiful moon pictures.  The moon came out during the second half of our passage and lit our way through the darkness.

And a collection of sunset photos during our passage.

Sunsets during passage

Sunsets during passage

We prepare to vamoose from French Polynesia in our blast blog.  Events from this blog occurred in early June.  Please note that our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.