Bird island

Yesterday there was almost no wind (despite the weatherforecast that claimed it would blow 14 knots from the SE) and we used the calm weather to take Pitufa across the small lagoon to the only motu in the west. We had seen from afar that this motu isn’t cultivated (endemic shrubs and trees instead of coconut palm plantations) and there we found the wildlife we had hoped for in this remote place: hundreds of birds were circling over the motu and walking on the beach we saw nesting redfooted boobies in the trees, brown boobies sitting on their nests made of branches on the ground, some white terns, greater crested terns and sooty terns and (much to our suprise) lots of red-tailed tropic birds–a species we didn’t encounter in the Tuamotus.

So many hard-fishing sea birds also attract frigate birds who have specialised in attacking other birds in the air and steal the fish they are trying to take home to their nests.

After our walk we motored over to the NE side of the atoll (just 3 nm) to spend the night in the shelter of the coast–a good decision as it turned squally during the night and now it’s blowing 15 knots from the SE.


Maupihaa (aka Mopelia)

We reached the tiny, westernmost inhabited atoll of French Polynesia late this morning, somewhat hesitant as it has a bad reputation. This is what ‘South Pacific Anchorages’ says: A number who have visited the atoll consider that there was not sufficient compensation for the trauma of entry and exit…

Approaching we compared Garmin charts and satellite pictures, the chart is about 15 m off which doesn’t sound a lot but makes all the difference in a pass that is just 20 m wide…
The entrance was frighteningly narrow, but clearly visible (it’s deep and the reef next to it very shallow) and marked with 2 white stakes. South Pacific Anchorages claims: Breaking seas on the weather side cause a continuous, generally strong outflow regardsless of the tide.
We therefore expected a countercurrent, but saw that there were no eddies outside, but some chop inside the lagoon and indeed we had 1 kn ingoing current (15 kn wind against current).

Here’s some info for the brave among you who want to try that pass as well: we entered at 11:30 (Tahiti local time, 1:40h before high tide in Papeete). General conditions: swell 1 m SSW (1.5 m the day before), wind 15 kn ESE (several days), 2 days after full moon (spring tide). All markers that are mentioned in the chart towards the lagoon side (2 red ones to mark a reef at the inner end of the pass, a green and a red one to mark the deeper channel at the exit into the lagoon) are missing, so it would be dangerous to attempt entering in bad visibility (we had sunny skies at noon). We just kept to the right as soon as the pass got shallow to avoid the reef in the middle and had never less than 3 m depth.

We had heard that there were just a few people left on Maupihaa and were suprised to see several woodfires ashore. We are now anchored on a sandy patch in the Southeast corner of the lagoon in 3 m of gleaming minty water surrounded by coral heads that come up almost to the surface. There’s a little hut ashore with a boat anchored off the beach and a car(!) parked next to it. Tomorrow we’ll go exploring, say hello there and check whether there’s actually a road for the shiny vehicle (it can’t be longer than 4 miles anyway, because that’s the length of the long motu that stretches along the eastern coast of the atoll–there are no motus in the south and just a little one in the west.


On the way to Maupihaa

This month we have to leave beautiful French Polynesia after 3 wonderful years, firstly because import tax on the boat would be due now and secondly because there are many more interesting islands further out in the Western Pacific.
The next island group west of Fr. Polyn. are the Cook Islands that are spread wide from north to south, but they don’t have many anchorages where a keel boat like Pitufa can enter and the fees are very high, so we decided to skip them generally. Further west lies Niue (1100 nm from Tahiti), a raised atoll also called ‘The Rock of Polynesia’ and the smallest independent nation of the world. It has no pass and no anchorages, but a few moorings off the main town where yachts can stay–given the weather situation is stable. 100 nm east of Niue lies Beveridge Reef–a reef surrounding a lagoon that has a pass, but no land at all.

Each morning of the past week we got up at 6 o’clock, got all available weather forecasts and considered our options. Would the wind stay stable all the way to Beveridge reef and then calm down enough for us to have a good time there (it shouldn’t be too rough or the waves make it over the reef)? Or should we just sail to the westernmost island of French Polynesia, the tiny atoll Maupihaa, also known as Mopelia (entry only in calm conditions possible)?
Yesterday morning we were ready to set out for Maupihaa, but then the sea seemed too rough for our arrival a day later and we chickened out and only sailed the 25 nm over to Bora Bora, where we planned to spend the afternoon relaxing and swimming in the turquoise lagoon. Instead we discovered that the seams of the lazybag were falling apart, took off the mainsail and the lazybag (the bag where the mainsail falls into when lowered and where it stays covered and protected from UV light in anchorages) and spent 5 hours on the sewing machine repairing it.

This morning we considered all options again, but the weather situation looks too insecure to head to Beveridge Reef or Niue, so we got on the way to Maupihaa instead where we’ll arrive some time tomorrow, the wind is more fickle than exprcted. Yesterday a 2 m high swell from the Southwest still thundered against the outer reef of Bora Bora, today it’s going down, so tomorrow morning it should be calm enough to attempt the pass into Maupihaa which is only 20 metres(!) wide and is notorious for very strong currents.


Back in the water

We find people who do extreme sports to see their limits and push their bodies beyond those slightly amusing. Why join costly competitions when you can also spend a few days in a boat yard?
12-hour shifts of doing hard work you’re not used to (sanding and painting overhead), in cool gear (overalls with hoods, Darth Vader respirator mask and constantly fogging goggles), in combination with time pressure (just 2 days before the next heavy rainfall is predicted) and the thrill of adrenaline bursts (oh no, it’s drizzling again, get the paint can under cover!!) are just as exciting as a sports event.

We hauled-out and cleaned the hull on Monday, sanded the bootstripe and the hull, painted the bootstripe (decorative stripe along the waterline) and put on a first coat of antifouling on Tuesday while a mechanic changed the cutless bearing on the propeller shaft before it started raining in the evening. On Wednesday we managed to splash on another 3 coats of antifouling wading through the swamp underneath our boat and finished just before torrential downpours started that kept on until Thursday afternoon when we used a break in the weather to have the boat moved a bit in order to paint the bits that had been hidden under the supporting stanchions. Today the travellift put us back into the water during a squall with strong gusts and horizontal rain–we were soaking wet and shivering by the time we reached the anchorage, but just as proud as if we’d won a gold medal :-)


Hard times on the hard

This morning we had an appointment for a haul-out at the Carenage in Raiatea and of course it was squally and gusting up to 30 knots when the office called us to come in. The approach went well despite the nasty weather and now Pitufa’s parked in a cradle waiting for a belly-rub and a few layers of antifouling paint. The weather forecast threatens with clouds and frequent showers, but it’s sunny outside now and we hope that the weather will hold out so that we can finish work quickly. Two years ago when we were here in July the place was a swamp swarming with mosquitoes and we both caught dengue fever…


On our way to Raiatea

We don’t see much sun today, but have a fast downwind ride.


Pitufa’s atlas of prevailing ocean winds

New Zealand’s Weather Guru, Bob McDavitt, has stumbled over Pitufa’s blog and mentioned our interactive atlas of monthly-averaged ocean winds in last Sunday’s weathergram. Check out Bob’s blog for a weekly analysis of weather patterns and advice for route planning in the South Pacific.


Leaving Tahiti

We spent the last month shopping for the coming sailing and cyclone season, using Tahiti’s big stores and good infrastructure to prepare for a year in remoter areas. Today we’ll head out towards Raiatea where we have an appointment to haul-out the boat (at the Carenage) for a new anti-fouling, so we hope for good weather.


Another article of our cruising series in Ocean7 magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Autark Cruisen, OCEAN7 03 (Mai/Juni) 2016, p. 36–40.


Busy program in Tahiti

Leeloo was a bit sickish in the Marquesas, she suffered from stomach aches and seemed generally unwell and because of her age we were worried about the condition of her kidneys and liver. In Tahiti we took her to an animal clinic for a check-up and the vet declared her in excellent condition for a 16 year old cat–we’ll just have to be extra careful with her food.

Hitchhiking to the vet with a howling cat didn’t seem like a great idea, so we decided to get a rental car (Eco Car has excellent deals!) and that proved of course also handy for a shopping marathon (6 dinghy loads of provisioning) and a program of health check-ups for the human crew as well.

The weather situation’s unfortunately a bit too interesting for our taste at the moment. A convergence zone sits between Samoa and Tahiti, the grib files and meteo keep predicting depressions for our area, but they keep shifting/postponing/weakening/strenghtening again, so nobody really knows what to make of that weather. Our anchorage is well protected, but we’ve still brought out two anchors and hope for the cyclone season to finally cool down.


Kauehi photos

Kauehi, Tuamotus

In April 2016 we made a short stopover in Kauehi on the way back from the Marquesas to Tahiti.

(22 photos)


Finally, some Marquesas photos!

Our internet connection is good enough for uploading photos again!

Cyclone season 2015/16: Northern Marquesas

We spent this El Niño cyclone season in the Marquesas. We really enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of the Marquesans, but 5 months in the open and rolly bays were quite a long time. Here are a few impressions of the northern group: Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou and Ua Huka.

(50 photos)

Cyclone season 2015/16: Southern Marquesas

We spent this El Niño cyclone season in the Marquesas. We briefly visited Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa and stayed long at our favourite island Tahuata.

(50 photos)


Article on Green Cruising

Birgit Hackl: Green Cruising, All At Sea Caribbean, April 2016, p. 56–58. Free download from allatsea.net.


Arrived in Tahiti!

The slowest (daily runs of 85 nm) and comfiest (all hatches open…) passages we’ve had in the Pacific so far ended today with Pitufa rushing along with 6 knots under a steady breeze to hold the gennaker up. We anchored just behind Point Venus in Matavai bay (famous for Ct. Cook’s first landfall in 1769 and infamous for Pitufa’s first landfall without a usable engine in 2014…). We’ll stay here for a day of relaxing and swimming before heading a few miles down to Arue.


Slow going

Yesterday we had very light winds from the NE, we tried poling out the genoa left and right, put up the gennaker left and right, but for all that effort we just gained a few miles, but at least we managed to avoid motoring. During the night the wind picked up a bit again, but it’s still 100 nm to Tahiti.

Older posts «