More photos: Beveridge Reef

Beveridge Reef

On the way from French Polynesia to Niue we stopped for two nights at Beveridge Reef, a submerged atoll without any motus. Being anchored without land in sight turned out to be a special, but bouncy experience.

(15 photos)


At last some photos again: Maupihaa


In May 2016 we spent 3 weeks in the tiny atoll of Maupihaa (only 4 miles long). People from Maupiti come and live here to collect copra, currently 15 people live on the island. The hospitality of the islanders and the bird colonies of the western and northern motus made our last stop in French Polynesia a special experience.

(60 photos)


Article about anchoring in Ocean7 magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Ankern — Kinderspiel oder Trauerspiel?, OCEAN7 04 (Juli/August) 2016.



We arrived today after another fast and rough passage in Niue. Niue is our first ‘Makatea’, a raised atoll–a flat coral plateau surrounded by cliffs. On our trip over the Pacific we sailed by other Makateas several times, but never stopped: Henderson Island close to Pitcairn, Makatea NE of Tahiti (This one gives it’s name to raised atolls), Rurutu in the Austral Islands, Mangaia, Atiu, Mitiaro, und Mauke in the Southern Cook Islands. The bottom drops steeply all around the coast, so anchoring may be difficult, but fortunately the Niue yachtclub has set out buoys, so we’ll stay and explore a while!


Radio Silence

Our HF antenna tuner drowned in its box under the radar arch on the way to Niue–that means no more blog entries and emails from Pitufa under way or remote places. Even worse, we won’t be able to get weather forecasts for a while, but we’ll try to replace asap. So no worries if you don’t read from us whenever we’re away from civilisation.


Beveridge Reef

Beveridge Reef is a submerged atoll, only a ring of coral in the open ocean. It has a wide pass, which we entered at 16:00 o’clock. We crossed the lagoon and are now anchored on the turquoise shelf with no land in sight–just surrounded by a ring of breaking waves. There are no other atolls around, the nearest land is the raised atoll Niue 149 nm away. As fascinating as this place is, it’s still a solemn reminder that if global warming continues at this pace, the sea will soon claim the palm-fringed atolls of the Pacific with their bird colonies and friendly Polynesian population and turn them into landless reef rings like this one.


800 nm in 6 days

We’ve had a swift passage: 800 nautical miles/1480 km in just 6 days. Pitufa is a heavy boat with a relatively short waterline, so she’s best in strong winds, the 20 to 25 knots (37-46 km/h) we’ve had this week were ideal for a downwind passage. Of course strong winds also mean bumpy seas, which makes the life for the human and feline crew a bit uncomfortable. Leeloo got seasick on the first day, but recovered quickly and when we caught a big fish on the third day (a mahi-mahi/dorade big enough to feed all 3 of us for a week) she was already bold enough to climb up to the cockpit despite the rolling boat and shout for her share as soon as she smelled the fish blood on deck.

On downwind passages we have the genoa (foresail) poled out to keep the sail stable and to gain sail area, but when the wind shifts and sometimes comes from the starboard and then again the portside of the stern the foresail must be adjusted accordingly and it used to be a tedious procedure to roll up the sail, rigg the pole on the other side and let the sail out again–especially at night in rough conditions working on deck is splashy, annoying and risky. On this passage we rigged the two poles we carry on both sides of the mast, so sail changes were much quicker and easier.

Last night the wind died down, so we have to motor the last miles to Beveridge reef. Of course it’s annoying to have the Yanmar droning, but on the other hand it’s ideal to reach Beveridge Reef in calm conditions. Many boats on the way to Niue plan to stop there, but most have to abandon the plan, because of rough weather.



When we set out from Maupihaa the water temperature was still 28 degrees, but now winter is coming and additionally we’re sailing south, so the water’s now down to ‘chilly’ 25 degrees. After a perfect sailing day week (144 nm/267 km each day) the wind is now slowing down. 160 nm to Beveridge!



Pitufa with her high stern is usually a very dry boat when sailing downwind even in high seas. At the moment we have following waves of about 2 m and most of them just rush through under the boat, from time to time one spits up a little bit of spray, but yesterday a bold one managed to break over the stern. Fortunately we had the hatch on the aft deck closed (not tightened), but still some water made it into our bedroom. 300 nm to go to Beveridge!


Change of plans

Yesterday we slowed down in order to reach Aitutaki in the morning, but when we then got a new weatherforecast this morning, we decided to sail on without stopping. We’re now headed to Niue, with a possible stop at Beveridge Reef. 450 nm to Beveridge!


Out again

Yesterday morning the weatherforecast suddenly looked favourable, so we got the boat ready as quickly as possible (still took us 4 hours to clear up) and left Maupihaa at noon. The seas were still a bit rough, but they have calmed down a bit by now. There is more wind than forecasted, so we’ve been doing 6 knots all night long–let’s hope it stays that way! 110 miles done, 240 to go to Aitutaki (Cook Islands).


Pillow fight

The designers of our boat focused on seaworthyness and performance, but didn’t pay too much attention to a comfy sofa–they just built watertanks and then put the cushions on top of them. Sitting on the sofa for a longer time (e.g. an overlenght movie) has always been a real trial for our bottoms. In Tahiti we bought a 5 cm matress which has been waiting in the forecabin for a rainy in-door period. Yesterday we started the project: We cut the thin matress and glued it on top of the old, tough one. The next step was fitting new covers and sewing them together (we still carry a few metres of the fabric we bought in Panama). After two days of fighting with unruly corners and resisting flaps we now have a bum-friendly settee opposite the table in the saloon. As the Pfaff (our trusty sewing machine) was already out to play we manufactured 4 new pillows for our bed and another 4 from the sofa fabric to make the settee even cozier.


The people of Maupihaa

The eastern side of the atoll consists of one long, narrow motu (7km long) and the people of the neighbouring island Maupiti (140 nm away) have divided this land into 75 lots that belong to different families. Most families leave their land unattended, but at the moment 15 people live here. Mostly they stay for a few months, collect as much copra as they can and return to Maupiti (the supply ship only comes twice a year, but some fishing boats bring supplies too and passing sailing boats also get parcels to deliver), but a few live more or less permanently here. Only two houses have solar panels and electricity, most others are very basic, rather open shacks with a cooking place outside, a bucket for a sink and a few matresses.

The people are fabulously friendly and generous. It seems there’s a competition going on who entertains more cruisers (or maybe we are the entertainment for them, as there is no TV, internet or telephone connection here). The first time we went ashore a young guy (Kevin, 26) who lives here alone spontaneously invited us for dinner (it turned out to be a feast with lobster and fish prepared in different varieties), two days later his neighbours (Salome and Ferdinand) invited us over and last weekend the family who lives at the northernmost house (Marcelo, Adrienne and their grown-up kids Hio, Faimano and Buaiti) invited all cruisers (7 boats by now) for a potluck party at their house. The people here spend 6 days a week with hard manual labour (collecting coconuts, cracking them open, pulling the meat out and drying it to produce copra) and Adrienne and her daughters somehow still found the time to collect thousands of shells and make elaborate necklaces which they handed out
to all their guests as welcome gifts. We keep repeating this, but the generosity of the Polynesian people is just amazing.

On Sunday the wind started clocking around (north, then west and back to south) and we moved around the atoll with it, so we got the chance to spend another day at the western motu with its bird colonies and now we’re back in the southeast corner. All boats have flocked to this protected area, because it will blow hard all week. We will do some indoor projects while the cold southeasterly is howling outside, sending best regards from the southern winter.


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.

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