Sailing Tahiti, Whales and The Cost of Iron Wind

Sailing Tahiti, Whales and The Cost of Iron Wind

The weather prediction is looking good for sailing around Tahiti. We’re on our way from Papeete to Tahiti-iti (Little Tahiti) which is on the opposite end of the island about 35 nautical miles away. The Billabong Pro Surf Competition is going on and…when in Tahiti!

sailing around tahiti map

We haven’t topped up our fuel since the Marquesas and the winds are light, which is ideal for cozying up to a fuel dock. Because it’s been a loooong while since we’ve touched a dock and fueled up, it got us thinking about our fuel usage.

We keep pretty decent logs of our fuel consumption. So, we have a good understanding of how much diesel we burn when motoring, or motor-sailing, with our catamaran. As much as we would love to burn zero fuel…sometimes the wind doesn’t show up at all, or it blows from a different angle than predicted (that’s why I say it’s a weather prediction and not a premonition). It’s times like these we’re forced to use The Iron Wind to help move us along.

Sailboats don’t come with fuel consumption information like you find for a car or truck. There’s no estimated MPG sticker or EPA website that documents the fuel economy of a sailboat. So, we thought you might be curious to know the fuel economy of our catamaran too. We’re taking advantage of our scenic motor-sail around Tahiti to fill you in (pun intended).

Plus, it’s whale season here in French Polynesia and we had two giant humpback whales stop by to say hello. Magical prehistorical creatures I tell you, just magical!

You know you are impressed with that thumbnail! Ha, we were so surprised and focused on video, we forgot to take any photos of the whales. But a screen grab plus a little photoshop action and what a moment!

I am always surprised by how good a screen grab from a video can look. It’s nothing you would ever want to print but works great for social media and blog posts in a pinch. 😉

whale tail while sailing in tahiti
whale tail while sailing in tahiti
nikki wynn face palm for not spotting the whales

Cost of Diesel & How Much Our Sailing Catamaran Consumes

The fuel burn rate of each boat will vary because…well, there are a ton of different variables. Our 2005 Leopard Catamaran has two Yanmar 39 engines. We also have feathering props (because the type of prop can dramatically effect performance too).

Price of Diesel In French Polynesia (2018/2019)

FYI, at some Fuel Stations (like Marina Tiana) they won’t allow us to fill jerry cans with duty free fuel, they want to see the fuel going into the boat. Also, gasoline is not duty free, only diesel.

  • 79 xpf per liter
  • 3.785 liters in a gallon
  • 299.02 xpf per gallon
  • 1 xpf = $0.0095 usd
  • 1 gallon cost $2.84 usd

Our Estimated Fuel Economy

  • ½ gallon per hour per engine
  • Travel at around 6 knots of speed with one engine at 2000 RPM (or 7.5 knots with both engines @ 2000 RPM)
  • Diesel cost us approximately $1.42 used per hour, per engine (here in French Polynesia)

*This is ideal conditions. If our hulls have a lot of bottom growth or we’re fighting a current it all effects our performance and burn rate.

How Much Fuel Do We Carry?

If we know we’re sailing to a location with diesel fuel available, we’ll use our estimated fuel economy numbers along with wind/current predictions to figure out how much fuel we might burn. Diesel fuel goes bad, so we won’t want to end up with too much extra fuel in our tanks just sitting there unused. For long trips we fill up both tanks and all jerry cans.

  • 2 x 180 liter fuel tanks
  • 6 x 20 liter jerry cans
  • 2 x 25 liter jerry cans
how much fuel does a sailing catamaran use

🙏Thank You!

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sunset in tahiti


  • Dates: August 15, 2018
  • Sailed: 35 Nautical Miles
  • Anchorage: Teahupoo, French Polynesia



🎶AWESOME tunes for vids:

  • Artists Used In This Video: Giants and Pilgrims / C3NC