Growing like weed

We are still enjoying house-sitting on the southern side of Taravai. Yesterday it was sunny with blue skies and as we’re just in between projects we used the beautiful day to go hiking up the ridge behind our house. The view over Taravai, the other islands, the turquoise gleaming lagoon, the reefs inside the lagoon and the breakers on the outer reef was just breathtaking.

Last night we’ve had quite some rain, because a low is moving by west of us. It brought strong winds to the Tuamotus, but here we only get some squally weather and it should soon settle down again.

With all the rain the veggies in the garden are growing like crazy and we’re daily harvesting Bok Choy and lettuce along with avocados and papayas. Unfortunately the grass and the weed (real weed, not the one for smoking) is growing even faster than the other plants, so we’ll soon have to get out the lawnmower again.


Article about Using Satellite Imagery in All-at-Sea magazine

We are using satellite imagery for reef navigation a lot, so we wrote a short article about that topic a while ago and it got published in the All-at-Sea magazine this February.

Christian Feldbauer, Birgit Hackl: Reef Navigation Using Satellite Images, All At Sea Caribbean, February 2017, p. 36–38. Free download from allatsea.net.


Back from Tahiti

There is no dentist in the Gambier, so after discovering a cavity two weeks ago I got increasingly worried. I didn’t know how serious it was, but in the end I decided to book an (expensive) flight to Tahiti to deal with this problem.
I was lucky: the tooth problem was easily fixed, Adrian (SY Attila) organised everything beforehand for me in Tahiti, SY Liward generously let me sleep on their boat in Marina Taina (they are in the US at the moment), I didn’t spend a Franc on Taxis as I always found friendly locals to give me rides to all the shops I had to tick off my long shopping list and in the end fellow cruisers (the Dutch brigantine Silverland) took me back from Rikitea to Taravai. I spent very busy 4 days in Tahiti and it’s soooo good to be back in the Gambier!



Winged fiends

When you live ashore in the tropics you have to arrange yourself with mosquitoes and lots of other bugs. Around towns authorities spray against bugs in many areas, but here on Taravai everything’s organic and non-toxic, so we have to live with and around the winged fiends. They are worse on rainy days and less on sunny and breezy days, but they’re always around.

The past few days we had lots of rain, so the mosquitoes have bred and are as numerous as it gets. We spend the night under a mosquito net, so in the morning we can hear them start buzzing around the net, desperately searching for a hole to get to the delicious bodies underneath as soon as the sun comes up. Tiger-stripe mosquitoes get up early and now we understand why the locals (who mostly don’t sleep under nets) are up so early as well…

As soon as we slip out from underneath the net we cover up with long trousers and T-Shirts, light up a mosquito-coil and only then start brewing tea. During the day the situation’s not so bad, but at 4 o’clock the tiger-stripes get really aggressive and then it’s best to spray some deet and light coconut-fires (best would be to hide under the net again, but we usually don’t have the time for that). Fortunately they go to sleep early, so around 7 we can sit outside again without constantly slapping ourselves.

There are just very few night-time mosquitoes around, so they are not an issue, but we still close all windows and doors in the evening before we turn on the lights, or otherwise we have clouds of moths and and bugs inside.

Leeloo is lucky, her thick fur seems to be an impregnable armour, so the cat watches our predicament with condescending amusement (but that’s the expression cats usually have when they study human behaviour anyway).


Water tank project

One of our aluminium watertanks (250 litres volume) started leaking a while ago. No big deal as we have a second one and a watertank, but now that we’ve settled into the little house on Taravai we have started the repair project.

The tank is built in underneath the sofa (the rounded wound covers it partly) and the inspection holes we cut into the aluminium after we bought the boat to clean the tank for the first time in 20 years (before that it was completely closed) are not big enough to work through them. Therefore Christian cut open the wood that covers the tank with a jigsaw yesterday and today he starts cutting the aluminium. The next step will be to clean the tank, sand it inside and get the corrosion out of the craters in the material.


Life ashore

Last week we worked every day in the garden, got rid of the metre high weed in the veggie garden behind the house, removed fallen over trees from the garden, mowed the grass on the big property, got rid of old rubbish, etc.

On Sunday we hosted a house-warming party with 25 people (6 boats and some Polynesian neighbours), a BBQ and a big potluck buffet. After all that noisy business was done (power tools as well as party) we moved in with the cat yesterday. Our house is the only one on the Southern side of Taravai, the next neighbour lives across the bay on the little island Agakauitai, so it’s as quiet here as it can get. Our last house-sit where we had no fridge, no bathroom, a privy in the forest, lots of insects inside the house and rats on the roof was a bit hardcore, so having an inside toilet, a tiled shower, running water inside the house, a big freezer and a fridge feels like the height of luxury. The only downside is that we have no mobile phone reception here (and therefore no internet), but we certainly won’t complain about a minor problem like that.


Fruity days

We have 5 lemon trees full of big, juicy fruits in our garden, a mango tree with loaded branches and two papaya trees that we can harvest from every day. Leaving the fruities to rot under the trees doesn’t feel right, so we do our best to make use of them. Today we made 3 litres of papaya-mango sorbet (we have a gigantic freezer in the house) and then Christian spent the afternoon squeezing lemons and we made 2 litres of lemon sirup (with a kilo of sugar ;-) )


A house on Taravai

In Tahanea one of our two water tanks started leaking, so we’ve only been using the other one since October. As we have a watermaker that’s no big deal, but we should still repair it at some point. We’ll have to cut away part of the wood underneath the sofa, cut open the aluminium tank, sand the corrosion craters (one of the previous owners must have used some silver-containing water treatment), and filler the craters with plenty of epoxy. A loud, dirty, smelly and toxic job…

When we heard that the house on the southern side of Taravai needed someone to take care of it and the garden as the owners are in Tahiti, we immediately volunteered. First we have to invest of course some working days into the garden, but as soon as we start the job on the tank on Pitufa we’ll have a place to sleep away from the building site and we can harvest lots of bananas, plantains, papayas, avocados, lemons, pumpkins, breadfruit and even tomatoes, lettuce and bok choy :-)


Kerosene stove

It seems that always when things are just a little bit too perfect, something annoying has to happen. These nuisances usually involve either the engine, the fridge, the watermaker or the kerosene stove–the big 4 that worry us in remote places where there’s no professional help available in case of a problem.

This time it was Bertie’s turn (that’s the name of our malevolent kerosene stove) to quit on us. Yesterday we had a cold dinner and this morning Christian opened up the stove and started searching for Bertie’s ailment. It turned out that several problems had come up at the same time. One burner was blown with several holes in it, but the other two burners were clogged up. We used an airpump to get rid of the clogging (or rather constipation…), installed a new burner, Bertie is happy again and so are we.. Kerosene stoves are oldfashioned and most yachts nowadays use gas stoves instead, but we like the fact that our stove is very efficient. It uses only 2 litres of kerosene a month (even though we bake bread every second day), so the 40 litres we carry in jerry cans last a very long time. At least the climate in the Gambier is so pleasant that such an annoying job (dirty, hard to reach) doesn’t involve too much sweating.


Picture perfect 360 degrees around

Usually life in the Gambier is very quiet, but the past two weeks have been quite eventful. We had a wonderful potluck/BBQ on christmas day with our Polynesian friends on Taravai and got to know 4 other cruising boats who spend the cyclone season here (11 in total). In Rikitea the community set up a party shed on the 30th and there were snacks and music for 3 days (the people usually didn’t arrive beore 1 in the morning, but then the party continued without a break the next morning…). On the first of January we motored back to Taravai (hectically cooking under way) for another lovely BBQ at lunch time.

Yesterday we had breakfast with the view of the pine-forested mountains of Taravai, then we lifted the anchor and only 10 miles further we anchored in front of the kitchy beautiful motu Kouaku, which is just a strip of fine white sand, shrubs on top and lots of nesting birds. This diversity in such a small archipelago makes the Gambier so special for us…

This morning there was almost no wind, the lagoon was mirror-like calm and we had coffee on deck looking out on the incredible panorama all around us: the white sand of the motu gleaming behind us, the turquoise lagoon dotted with large, colourful reefs, the rugged peaks of of the little rock islands Kamaka, Manui and Makaroa in the west, the silhouettes of the mountainous islands of Akamaru, Aukena and Mangareva in the NW and the chain of motus stretching out northwards along the barrier reef–it’s just mindboggingly beautiful here :-)


2016 — A year of passage making

2016 has been a year with plenty of passage making. Much more than originally planned. Starting from the Marquesas where we spent the last cyclone season we sailed westwards via Tahiti and Niue to Tonga. Unlike the majority of the cruising boats crossing the Pacific we did not sail on to Fiji, New Zealand or Australia, but decided to sail back to French Polynesia against the prevailing trade winds.

It was an interesting year with many new places and people. Sailing in the wrong direction turned out to be easier than expected, but we still sailed way too many miles (more than 5,500 nm) for our taste and life style. Only during our first year after leaving Croatia when we were in a hurry to reach the South Seas did we sail more miles (over 6,700 nm). We are happy to be back in the Gambier islands where we started our South Pacific adventure in May 2013.

1220 nm Marquesas, Kauehi, Tahiti, Raiatea, Maupihaa
1290 nm Maupihaa to Beveridge, Niue, Tongatapu
2510 nm sailed westward in 20 days

1850 nm Tongatapu to Niue, Beveridge, Palmerston, Rarotonga, Tahiti
1145 nm Tahiti to Fakarava, Tahanea, Hao, Amanu, Gambier
2995 nm sailed eastward in 28 1/2 days

5505 nm sailed in 2016 (without miles sailed inside lagoons), 48 1/2 days on passage


New article in Ocean7 magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Ausrüstung auf einer Fahrtenyacht — Was hunzt, was funzt?, OCEAN7 01 (Jan./Feb.) 2017, p. 44–49.


Happy Holidays!

Dear readers and virtual travellers,
we wish you all a merry Christmas and a healthy, happy, interesting new year! We hope you’ll keep on travelling along with us on our blog in 2017 :-)


Midnight arrival

Yesterday we had a day with light winds, did hours of sailing, some motorsailing and a few of motoring. We caught a (smallish) yellow-fin tuna, then a torrential rainfall washed down the boat and we finished the usual post-passage cleaning already during the last hours of the trip.

We arrived at 11 pm at the pass and proceeded straight to our favourite bay Onemea. It’s not far from the pass, but there was no moon and the only means of keeping the course in the starlight was to have one eye on the GPS track and the other on the black silhouette of Taravai’s mountainous silhouette–kind of creepy, even though we’ve done the route between the reefs dozens of time in daylight. We celebrated ‘coming home’ with midnight tapas and a few drinks too many… Today it’s pouring down again and we’ve already scrubbed the deck and are now filling up every container we can find on the boat.


Cyclone season in the Gambier Islands

We have returned to the Gambier islands for the fourth time, where we’ll spend the cyclone season 16/17. It’s good to be back in our favourite archipelago after this eventful year.

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