Relaxed flying

Today my Mom had to start her return-journey to Austria. We anchored Pitufa just in front of the airport, took the dinghy into the little airport harbour, checked in the luggage, went all back to the boat, had lunch, went for a swim and only returned to the airport once the plane had landed. Security consists of a friendly lady asking the passenger whether they’ve packed something dangerous and there isn’t even a fence around the runway. If all airports were like this traveling by plane would be quite enjoyable ;-)

Unfortunately only the first leg to Tahiti was that relaxed, tomorrow she’ll start the 26 hour marathon via LA and Paris to Vienna…


Art gallery

Other mom’s may enjoy white, sandy beaches of the lagoon-side of motus, mine prefers the rough outer side facing the ocean. Yesterday we took a walk along eastern side of Puaumu (the motu in the north of the Gambier where we’re anchored now) where the ocean waves crash against the outer reef, which is strawn with big pieces of coral that were broken off and tossed up the shore during past storms. I felt like walking through an art gallery, with my mom marvelling at every single naturally formed sculpture (we didn’t make it far, but we enjoyed each metre ;-) .

Every piece of staghorn, table or brain coral has indeed its unique beauty and walking on the small fringe of land between the protected lagoon and the mighty ocean is a humbling experience. The amount of plastic trash that ends washed up on the reef is a bitter reminder of how little we humans cherish mother nature.


Mom’s visiting

I took the plane to Tahiti two weeks ago to pick up my Mom at the airport. After three days of intensive shopping (I hitched 10 rides in 3 days) we flew together back to the Gambier. After getting over the jetlag (a heat wave here in the Gambier didn’t exactly help with adjusting to the climate) my Mom has nicely settled in and enjoys the diverse nature of the Gambier. She spends half the day swimming in the turquoise lagoon, but somehow we can’t persuade her to stick her head under water and join the fishies snorkeling ;-)


Article about our passage from Tonga to Tahiti in Ocean7 magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Ostwärts über den Pazifik, OCEAN7 02 (März/April) 2018, p. 24–28


Gorgeous summer weather

In the past two weeks the weather has shown once more that the Gambier are just the most pleasant place during the cyclone season. A convergence zone has been sitting west of us, bringing lows with nasty weather to the Cooks, the Societies, the Australs and even the Tuamotus. While the poor people there sit in strong winds and pouring rain we’ve had perfect summer weather here.

We’ve used this calm period with blue skies, light breezes and almost no swell to explore a corner of the Gambier archipelago that we’ve never managed to visit before: the islets Kamaka, Makaroa and Manui in the southern part of the lagoon. As the barrier reef is submerged in the South the swell that comes up from the South each time a low passes by in the roaring 40s and screaming 50s makes it almost unhindered into the lagoon. Therefore landing on these black, volcanic islets is only possible during really calm periods.

On the way South we anchored off Makaroa and went diving on the pristine reef in crystal clear waters. Later on we spent two days anchored in front of the only sandy beach in the area on the biggest of the islets, Kamaka, and took the dinghy over to Manui for another beautiful dive. Our friends on SY Pakia Tea are marine biologists and dive masters, so it was great to go diving together with them and hear their opinion of the coral here, that seem to be weakened by recent El Nino periods, but still in comparatively good shape.

All three islets are uninhabited (the owner of Kamaka, who lived there has died recently and the other two islets are too rugged to attract settlers) and there have recently been efforts to get rid of rats and goats to make them more attractive as nesting colonies again. We were really happy to see white terns, noddies, tropic birds, frigate birds, herons, but also red-footed and even brown boobies roosting on the rocks and shrubs. In the evenings when the birds come home and settle down for the night the jungle sounds of so many species sounded over to the anchorage. It’s simply wonderful to find such a wilderness just a few miles from the main town Rikitea :-)


New article in Ocean7 magazine

Birgit Hackl: Brillen für die Salomonen, OCEAN7 01 (Jänner/Februar) 2018, p. 40–43


Article on Fishing in All-at-Sea magazine

Birgit Hackl: Simple Fishing and Canning Tips, All At Sea Caribbean, January 2018, p. 28–32. Free download from allatsea.net.


Searching for the leak

When we were just outside the southern barrier reef outside the Gambier archipelago yesterday (all sails up, going 6 knots, 2 fishing lures out), suddenly the water alarm in the bilge went off. Rip out the floorboards–stick a finger in the brew–taste–freshwater–ooofff. So no immediate danger, but still not great to have the bilge full of water. We sailed up through the Southeastern barrier reef and almost without changing course straight to the beautiful motu Tauna on the eastern barrier reef.

On top of the usual clean-up (store sails away, desalt the boat, etc.) we had to empty the bilge before we could open a bottle of bubbly and have some celebration tapas.

This morning the search for the leak in our freshwater system continued. We cleaned the whole bilge thoroughly, looking at dry and wet chambers, trying to figure out where the culprit was. First we suspected the watermaker, but then it became clear that the area of the aluminium tank (yep, the one we spent a few weeks repairing last year) was wetter than the rest. We considered taking the saloon bench out and opening the water tank, but fortunately it ocurred to us first, to check the vent line that comes up from the tank. It ends in a storage locker and behold–some things in there were wet. Our main storage compartment (filled up with a cubic metre of cans) is underneath that locker, so we emptied this one as well and dried everything in there. Now we keep checking for drops and hope that we’ve found the leak… What a way to spend the first day in a pretty, turquoise new anchorage ;-)



The day before yesterday the northwesterly died down and then the wind set in again from the east instead of the promised southeast, so we’ve been fighting as close-hauled as it gets to hold our course to the Gambier. A rough end to a pleasant passage–we should arrive early afternoon.



Usually we dread too little wind on passages, because that means rolling in confused seas and flapping seas. This time though, wind and seas gradually calmed down together, so this morning Pitufa is gliding over flat seas in only 8 knots of breeze. It’s sunny, no clouds in the sky and the sea has this peculiar shade of blue that is so dark it almost looks purple (for some reason we only see that colour south of 20 degrees S).

Yesterday we were slowly sailing under similar conditions when we caught an 1.5 m male Mahi-Mahi: 5 o’clock in the afternoon with a boat speed of only 3.5 knots–so much for the often claimed theory that fish bite at dusk or dawn when the lure is trolled fast.
It took us an hour to butcher the poor guy on the aft deck (we needed a hammer to get the knife through the backbone, yuck) and today I’ll spend some more hours of processing the steaks into boneless, skinless chunks that last about 1 week in the fridge (covered in soy sauce). We might manage to eat about half of the fish during the next week and the with the other half we’ll make glass preserves in the pressure cooker tonight.


Northwesterly breeze

The northwesterly breeze keeps blowing us steadily on a comfy course towards the Gambier. Sunny skies, calm seas–we haven’t caught a fish yet, but apart from that this passage has been really perfect so far.


Comfy sailing

The wind has calmed down a bit, but we’re still sailing along with 4 knots, so we’re not complaining! 388 nm to go


Steady sailing

The wind is blowing steadily from the North, because a small low moves by west of us and has shifted the wind conveniently for us. 500 nm to go!


Leaving Rapa Iti

A weather window to sail to the Gambier has come up and we leave lovely Rapa Iti tonight. We are a bit sad, because we had such a great time here, but it’ll also be nice to sail towards warmer weather. 570 nm to go!


Photos of Rapa Iti

Rapa Iti, Austral Islands

We spent Christmas 2017 and January 2018 in Rapa Iti and fell in love with this remote gem and its lovely people. Apart from its rough weather, Rapa is a perfect cruising destination and a hikers' paradise.

(53 photos)

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