Busy times

We’ve been crazy busy during the past week. We finished the watertank project: cut the aluminium plates for the cover, drilled 140 holes, cut threads for the 140 screws, put it in place, adjusted the height on the wooden board under the sofa and got the saloon back into living-room shape, etc. Other cruisers were willing to take over the house-sitting, so we got garden and house ready, moved out of the house (incredible how much stuff we accumulated during only 2 months) and back on Pitufa.

My mom broke her shoulder, so I’ll fly to Austria for 3 weeks. Arranging the flight from a location without internet or phone connection would have been impossible without the help of my brother and cruiser friends over here in Rikitea. Steve and Lili (SY Liward) are back in Tahiti and will let me spend the night on their boat again (I have one night between the inter-island flight and the international connection). Thanks to everybody who helped out, offered active and moral support!!

Christian and Leeloo stay here in Rikitea. Some boats have already left for the Tuamotus, but new ones will start arriving from Panama soon, so hopefully Christian won’t get too bored ;-)


Windlass repair

When we wanted to head back to Taravai after the festival the windlass quit on us. We’d been carrying around new brushes for it for a month already, but had never got round to installing them between the work on the watertank, the house, the garden and everything around.
Christian had to manually lift the anchor (no fun with 60 metres of chain down in 18 metres depth…) and on Monday we tackled the job.

After opening the windlass twice already in the past year the formerly dreaded job seemed like (almost) routine: emptying the forecabin and forepeak to reach the windlass from underneath, opening the windlass, installing the new brushes (they needed some adjusting and makeshifting) and everything back into place–the job took a whole day, but now the windlass is working again!


Cultural festival in the Gambier

Last weekend the first cultural festival of the Gambier took place, it was a surprisingly big event (given that only about 1400 people live in the Gambier) with exhibitions and info about plants, traditional food, etc. and of course handicraft stalls during the day on Friday and Saturday. In the evenings two phantastic dance events took place, with the groups dancing complicated legends and the story of the first king of Mangareva.
Additionally there were four huge free buffets (lunch and dinner on both days) with traditional food: various dishes with the muscle flesh of the Black-Lip Pearl Oyster (with all the pearl farms here there’s certainly no lack of those), crab meat, fish, meat from the earth oven, various dishes with breadfruit, maniok and bananas, etc.

It was a great festival, the whole town of Rikitea and all cruisers that are around in the Gambier went there (about 15 boats now) and only a handful of tourists from the pensions. Everybody agreed that the ‘mana’ (spirit) was strong, so maybe events like this boost the half-forgotten Mangarevan culture and language!


Article about the Austrian Fleet in the South Pacific

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Die Österreicherflotte in der Südsee, OCEAN7 02 (März/April) 2017, p. 34–37.


Pics of our house-sitting experience

Interlude as landlubbers

During the cyclone season 16/17 in the Gambier Islands we stayed as house-sitters on Taravai. The Polynesian owners Edouard and Denise live in Tahiti and are happy to have somebody looking after house and garden.

(60 photos)



This morning we took out our coffee to the little dock in front of our garden. It was already sunny, but the air was still fresh with dew sparkling on the grass and the flowering shrubs around the house. Behind the house the coconut trees, acacias further up on the slope and pinetrees high up on the steep mountains were gleaming in different shades of green.

The next neighbours live a few kilometres away, there’s no road on Taravai, no boat traffic and the only sounds are the wind in the palm trees, the gentle lapping of waves on the white beach left and right of the house, the occasional crowing of a wild rooster (there aren’t many left, the previous occupants of the house caught and ate most of them…), the raucous calls of some herons (maybe a neighbourly dispute) and of course the purring of our cat who loves to roll around on the dock holding her belly into the morning sun.

Sometimes a little black tip shark swims by, occasionally greater crested terns splash with plunge dives into the sea — otherwise it’s all quiet here in this little paradise. Perfect? Almost, just don’t forget to put on a thick layer of mosquito spray and try not to stand on a road of fire ants ;-) In this place without mobile phone connection, internet or television it’s easy to forget about the crises and problems that go on in the world out there (or at least dispel them for a while)…


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.

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