Photos of our trip eastward, part 2

Eastwards, Part 2: Palmerston (Cook Islands)

We stopped for a week at this interesting atoll. Most of the 57 people who live here are descendants of William Marsters and his 3 polynesian wives. Arriving yachts are greeted by a host family and integrated into island life.

(50 photos)


Photos of our trip eastward, part 1

Eastwards, Part 1: Tonga, Niue, Beveridge Reef

In August 2016 we decided to sail from Tonga back to Tahiti. Using shifting winds during passing troughs we sailed in short hops eastwards from island to island.

(20 photos)


Pitufa’s Wind Atlas and Windrose Browser

Check out our Atlas of Prevailing Ocean Winds!

As a convenient alternative to pilot charts, our site provides an interactive wind atlas and windrose browser. Unlike classical pilot charts, this atlas is based on satellite data (uniformly-sampled, unbiased), insofar similar to Jimmy Cornell`s Ocean Atlas (but that one is on paper and pricey…). We visualize world-wide ocean wind data from the SeaWinds scatterometer onboard the QuikSCAT satellite monthly-averaged over ten years. Data taken from Climatology of Global Ocean Winds—COGOW.


Back in Tahiti

Last night we reached Tahiti at 1 o’clock in the morning after a very rough ride with 20 to 30 knots of easterly wind. In the lee of the big island seas and wind calmed down quickly and as it was a moonlit night we decided to sail in through the pass south of Taina Marina. Even with a GPS track and lit markers it’s still a bit exciting to go through a small pass in the reef with noisy breakers left and right… We dropped the hook just next to the pass in the basin south of Marina Taina, quickly tried to desalt at least the cockpit and the aftdeck (Leeloo was of course quicker and happily jogged around the whole deck and jumped up the Bimini before we could stop her), opened a bottle of bubbly and enjoyed the perfectly calm lagoon anchorage. Soooo nice when the boat finally stands still again!


Grey and grisly

It looks like this journey is going to end like it started a bit over a month ago: squally, windy, rainy, grey and nasty. Anyway, in between we were quite lucky, so no need to complain. 97 nm left as the white tern flies! At last we fly as directly as all the before mentioned birds. We made enough easting when we had the chance and now we sail straight up north in the easterly winds.


Quiet again

After almost two days we’re finally sailing again. What a relief to turn off the engine and just listen to the gurgling of the waves along the hull and the soft, well-known creaking sounds of the sheets and blocks. The wind is still just a breeze, the sea’s calm and we enjoy these hours of perfect sailing–soon it’ll pick up and we’ll be pounding into the waves again.

We used the calm conditions of the last two days to run the watermaker, clean up the boat, air the boat (all hatches open), do some maintenance and small repairs (Christian glued the junction box of the solar panel that got smashed by the flogging sheet of the ripped gennaker and as the cartridge was already open I redid the silicone in the bathroom as well–what else to do on passage?). This morning we checked the diesel level in the tank and topped up 50 litres from jerry cans, now it’s more than half full again–just in case.

Leeloo hates the loud engine and spent lots of time in the cockpit. She even wanted to stroll out on deck, but during the first rough days of the passage the deck was almost constantly awash and therefore covered in salt, so no way she could go sunbathing there, but try to explain that to a stubborn, bored cat…
173 nm as the brown booby flies!



We try to avoid motoring whenever possible, as it’s a waste of diesel, the noise downstairs is deafening and the engine heats up the boat. At the moment the wind is very light (about 8 knots), but it would be enough to keep the boat going slowly, so usually we wouldn’t start the engine at that point. However, the grib files show that instead of the predicted Southeasterlies we relied on the wind will set in tomorrow from the East, blow hard from the East on Wednesday and will then even turn Northeast on Thursday. Therefore we must reach Tahiti before that turn and that means we have to put up with the droning Yanmar and keep on motorsailing for a while. 270 nm as the greater crested tern flies!


Lively Ocean

Today we’ve had beautiful light-wind sailing with calm seas, small fishies jumping, big fishies jumping after them and birds hectically catching fish. We also caught a tuna in that bruhaha. Very often we feel like in a lifeless desert out on the ocean, so today was a pleasant experience. Unfortunately our ancient gennacker blew out just a few minutes after we had set it (a long awaited casualty), so we’re going very slowly (3 to 4 knots). The latest grib file threatens with NE wind instead of the promised SE that we need to sail up to Tahiti (yep, that’s NE of us…). We’ve been looking at satellite pictures and cruising guides of the Iles Australes this afternoon–just in case.


Comfy sailing

During the night the wind shifted north and then even to the northwest remaining light, so we had a very quiet, restful night with nothing to do but listening to audio books, munching chocolate pudding and taking a look around every 10 or 20 minutes. Maria, the westernmost Australe Island lies north of our course, so we’re officially back in French Polynesia. 400 nm to go as the Noddy flies!


Fatigue of material

We had good sailing today, finally making miles towards the destination. On this trip material fatigue has started showing. Apart from the crack in the boom yesterday we had smaller things breaking. A shackle that holds down the running backstay snapped, today the sheet of the foresail ripped–nothing spectacular and all things that were quickly repaired, but it shows how hard the past few months have been on Pitufa (and her crew).
460 nm to go as the red-footed booby flies!


Repairs and detours

I was catching up with sleep this morning when a shout had me stumble up on deck in record time: ‘The main boom’s broken!’ We quickly got the sail down and then Christian showed me a long vertical crack in the boom, just above the place where we had repaired it in Panama with an aluminium plate and rivets.

While I still desperately checked on the chart plotter which islands ahead were big enough to probably have a welder (a few small Cook Islands and the westernmost Australes), Christian already had the tools out for a repair. Handy smurf indeed!

Fortunately there wasn’t too much wind so Pitufa wasn’t heeling or bouncing too badly (15 knots) and handling the drill and rivet tool on deck worked out okay. We fixed three metal plates with 5 mm rivets and the boom looks like something from the Mad Max movies now, but stable enough to hold the mainsail again (a must on our course close to the wind). Keep your fingers crossed that it’ll hold out till Tahiti!

The promised wind shift to the NE still hasn’t happened and we’re blown way too far south, gaining only few miles toward Tahiti (550 nm to go as the frigate bird flies). The positive side effect of our detour is that we see islands we never expected to see, right now we’re sailing by Mangaia, one of the raised atolls of the Cook Islands chain.


On the way to Tahiti

This morning we set sail again and this time our course on the chartplotter is set to Tahiti (620 nm as the Tropic Bird flies). We started out with wind still from the East, so for the first time on this trip East we’re tacking up and down which is quite frustrating. During the first 5 hours we sailed 31 nm to the NE, but only 20 of them were actually towards the destination. Now we’re on the tack SE and get pushed even further away from the course line, but the wind should shift more to the north soon, so our course should automatically get better.

We enjoyed both our stops in the Cooks, but the fees for stopping there are quite pricy. The check-in in Palmerston was cheaper than in other ports of the Cooks (80 Euros for the clearance, the mooring theoretically cost 10 dollars per day, but cruisers who donate mooring equipment stay for free), but the harbour fees in the bouncy harbour of Rarotonga (where you have to climb over truck tyres up the wall, no water, no electricity) are rather crazy with 1.70 Euros/metre/day (150 Euros for a week for us) and additionally each person must pay a departure fee of 47 Euros.


Touristic Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands. More than 10.000 people live on 67 km²–most of them in the capital Avarua and around the island on the narrow, coastal plane, the mountainous interior remains untouched.

Today we took a bus (there’s a very convenient regular clockwise and anti-clockwise service), went around the island and stopped in a few places. The high, volcanic island reminds us landscapewise of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, but unfortunately the fringing reef is still close to shore, leaving no space for a navigable lagoon. The only exception is a small pass on the east side that leads into a mini-lagoon with 4 motus. Everybody comes to this ‘lagoon’ for kayaking, snorkeling, etc.
The island seems very touristy compared to the places we’re used to, resorts and guest houses take up most of the shore line. At least there are no big hotels, just low bungalows along the white, fine beach that fringes most of the coast.


Article on the Pearls of the Gambier Islands in Ocean7 Magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Die schwarzen Perlen der Südsee, OCEAN7 05 (Sept./Okt.) 2016, p. 44–48. download PDF (in German only)


Arrived in Rarotonga

This rough and nasty leg of our passage ended quite pleasantly today when the wind finally shifted north and we reached Rarotonga at 3 in the afternoon with light winds. Putting a med mooring (bow anchor and stern line ashore) worked nicely, but the northerly waves make it into Avatiu Harbour, so we’ll spend another night in passage mode (mattress on the floor and sofa in the saloon instead of bed in the aftcabin).

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