Provisioning for a remote area is always tricky and we tend to focus so much on special goodies, that we usually forget to buy something basic like sugar (last time in Tahanea), salt (Maupihaa) and this time it’s black tea. Apart from that we’re doing fine. 12 days after our last visit to a supermarket we still have apples, a mango, half a stack of bananas, lemons, carrots, radishes, courgettes, broccholi, cucumbers and 2 pumpkins as a last reserve. The garden’s also doing well with basil, parsley, thai basil, cilantro, spinach and 3 tiny tomato plants and apart from that we have bags of mung beans and lentils to sprout.

On the bottom of the fridge sits a large box filled up with cheese and sausages to last us for a few months. Yesterday we ate the last of the tuna we caught on the way, so we’ll start trolling when we sail in the lagoon next time (no ciguatera here).


Kerosene fountain

This morning we thought we’d have a lazy day, just a bit of snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing between the incredibly vibrant shades of azure, turquoise and mint here on the southern side of the lagoon. But when breakfast bread had been on the stove for about twenty minutes, the flame suddenly started shrinking and soon after went out. A clogged up line? Out of kerosene? No, the pressure gauge showed 0 bar and the handle of the air pump was pushed up: the valve of the air pump had started leaking. Damn. We quickly pumped up the pressure again, put the bread back on the flame and then took turns pumping for 10 minutes until the loaf was done.

After breakfast Christian took the kerosene tank out of its compartment, took out the air pump and tried to disassemble it. While trying to get the lower bit out it cracked open a bit and voila, suddenly the valve worked again. Of course we wanted to try out immediately if it would actually keep the pressure, so I put my little finger on the kerosene hose (the one that usually leads to the stove), Christian started pumping and we were thrilled to see that the needle of the pressure gauge remained stable. Hurray, without thinking I took my little finger that had started cramping from the hose and immediately a kerosene fountain shot out, drenching us and the cockpit until I got my finger back in place. How stupid can you get? I paid for my lack of intelligence with a cockpit cleaning marathon… Even the bimini had got a stain, so we took off the rain collection canvas that sits on top to keep it from contamination. As it was already off we got the sewing machine out after the
cleaning frenzy and I restitched the seams that had started to come undone.

When we had finished it was already 5 in the afternoon–not exactly a relaxing program…


Gorgeous Tahanea

Tahanea was the first atoll we ever visited two years ago. Back then we loved the serenity of this uninhabited atoll, the bird colonies, the colourful underwater life and the motus with their white beaches so much that we stayed 8 weeks. You may think that we were only so impressed because it was our first experience of an atoll, but in the meantime we have seen quite a few other atolls and motus and we’re just as awed by this fabulous place as we were the first time round. Pitufa back in paradise :-)


Sailing to Tahanea

We only stayed for 2 days in Fakarava and did some fabulous snorkeling in the pass amidst dozens of Grey Reef Sharks. But then a weather window with NE winds came up (the only one within the next week it seems), we couldn’t resist and now we’er approaching Tahanea after a very slow night sail.


A gluten-free boat

When the doctors in Tonga couldn’t find a reason for Christian’s weight loss we started reading all kinds of medical articles online. Gluten intolerance was among the topics we found, so we decided to give a gluten-free diet a try. Before that we had laughed about the media induced hype for gluten-, dairy-, and everything-free overpriced special diet food, but we were desperate to try out anything. Of course there are no gluten-free corners in the supermarkets in Tonga, but tapioca and rice flour are available in all minimarkets, so we stocked up on these flours and rice crackers and set out towards Tahiti. Christian soon found that he was feeling better and in Tahiti we were astounded to find that he had already gained 4 kg again (despite the passage).

It seemed we had already found a diagnosis ourselves, but we still made appointments for check-ups with specialists in Tahiti. The health service in Tahiti is fabulous. The doctors all have studied at European universities, the equipment in the hospital in Pirae as well as in the private clinics is up to European standards as well, but there are almost no waiting times for appointments and the fees are much lower than in Europe (health service for residents is free). We arrived on Thursday, got the first appointment with an ear-nose-throat specialist on Friday, were referred to a gastro-intestine specialist (appointment on Saturday) who ordered a blood analysis (Monday) and a further endoscopy (two weeks later, Christian had to eat gluten in the meantime to make a diagnosis easier). The blood analysis showed no antibodies that would indicate a gluten allergy, the biopsy also looked okay, but the doctor still thinks that a gluten intolerance is very likely. Why an apparently l
atent problem suddenly turned acute still puzzles us…

We therefore stocked up with gluten-free pasta, crackers and cookies and a 6-month supply of buckwheat, tapioca and rice flour and are prepared to enjoy some gluten-free (and hopefully carefree) cruising in the remote areas we love so much :-)


English Weather…

Yesterday at 2:00 in the afternoon we entered the South pass of Fakarava at high tide in super-calm conditions. Today it’s grey and drizzling so we have postponed our excursions.


Article on Communication at Sea in new Ocean7 Magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Kommunikation auf Langfahrt, OCEAN7 06 (Nov./Dez.) 2016, p. 40–43.



In the end we have decided to head for Fakarava (South Pass), as we can reach the pass around high tide early afternoon. We haven’t visited this atoll yet, so we’re curious, especially as it’s famous for the masses of grey reef sharks in the pass.


Super-simple gluten-free bread a la Pitufa

When I started searching for recipes for gluten-free bread the results were disheartening. Too complicated, too many ingredients I wouldn’t be able to find in the South Pacific. Some recipes for tapioca-bread included eggs and massive amounts of oil (not very healthy…) and others claimed that I wouldn’t be able to produce non-crumbly bread without adding xanthan gum. My first experiments with tapioca and rice flour (the only available gluten-free flours in Tonga) turned out flat, crispy when warm, but rockhard when cold. As soon as we found buckwheat flour in a supermarket in the Cook Islands, making bread suddenly became easy. Here’s Pitufa’s super-simple recipe for gluten-free bread:

Mix the following dry ingredients in a bowl:

1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of apple cider (just for the flavour)
some bread spices (coriander, caraway, etc.)

Add 1 cup of warm water and stir the mixture thoroughly. Pour the dough into a greased pan, you can put sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. as a topping, let it rise for about 20 min., put on the stove and bake for 20 min on a medium flame with the lid closed, flip the bread and leave it another 15 min on medium heat with a gap between pan and lid.


Like at anchor

We’re wobbling along with only 3 knots, the wind shifts around cloudy areas so that on top of that we’re going zigzag. We still don’t know to which of the Tuamotus we’ll make it this way–we’ll see. At least it’s very comfy sailing, with the boat hardly moving at all you barely notice that we’re on passage and even Leeloo is out and about.


Sailing towards the Tuamotus

We couldn’t resist the weather window (first southwesterly, than southerly and later southeasterly winds are predicted), so we quickly finished all business in Tahiti, got the boat into sailing mode (always a major event that includes obvious tasks like storing away gear, but also baking bread, renewing the kitty litter, etc. etc.) and set out yesterday afternoon towards the Tuamotus.

Stomping out into 25 knots of headwinds from Marina Taina on the westside (the wind gets accelerated along the coast) seemed unnecessarily masochistic, so we opted for a gentle start instead, sailed up north and around Tahiti. Of course that meant fickle, shifting winds in the shade of the big island, so we got pushed up north, but in the early morning we finally got out of Tahiti’s influence and are now sailing southeast. Due to the curve we sailed Tahiti’s impressive silhouette is still visible on our starboard side.


Sailing with Cats–a Summary after 5 years of Cruising

When we set out from Europe 5 years ago we were slightly worried how our cat, Leeloo, would cope with long passages, whether we’d have problems when clearing into countries with her, if we’d be able to find cat food in remote places, etc.
Despite the fact that Leeloo was already 11 years old when we moved to the boat she adapted quite quickly to our new life-style. Having a ship’s cat makes cruising a bit more complicated as leaving the boat to travel inland or fly home is impossible (unless you find a cat-sitter), but the company of a furry crew member compensates for these inconviences. Most countries don’t make a fuss as long as the pet stays on board, only some few destinations have such complicated regulations that we rather leave them off our itinerary (New Zealand, Australia, etc.).

Here’s a summary of our experiences with our ship’s cat:


Recently we’ve read a few articles online that recommend drastic measures like throwing your cats into the sea on a regular basis to train them how to climb back up or even giving them swimming lessons with a life-vest on. These activities might be fun for a hyper-active young tomcat, but they certainly should not be given as general recommendations for all ship’s cats. A sensitive cat may easily be traumatised, lose all trust in her family when they throw her into the water and become scared of being on deck in general. Cats tend to kidney problems anyway and swallowing large amounts of seawater when being ducked (or when cleaning themselves afterwards) is certainly not healthy. In many atolls in the South Pacific reef sharks circle the boat regularly, so a swimming little furball may even end up as shark bait.

We put netting all around the boat before we even brought the cat on board to keep her from slipping and sliding over the toe-rail, showed her the nasty, wet water all around the boat and Leeloo hasn’t fallen or jumped into the water a single time in 5 years. Cats can instinctively swim in emergency situations so it’s not necessary to teach them the breaststroke or swim the crawl. If you don’t have a swimming ladder or your pet isn’t good at climbing ladders it certainly makes sense to have a thick rope hanging down to the surface as an emergency exit. Letting the cat climb up from the dinghy should suffice as training.

We bought a harness and a lead for Leeloo before we set out, but fortunately she is cautious enough not to venture out on deck during passages, so we’ve never had to lock her downstairs or stuff her into a harness with a lead. We tried taking her ashore on a lead a few times, but these excursions were too stressful for her and she insisted on heading back to Pitufa by jumping back into the dinghy and howling out loud. More adventurous cats might enjoy strolls on the beach so it makes sense to bring a harness with a lead.

We always pack a grab-bag before we go on passage and we put a drybag next to it into which we could stuff the cat in the worst case scenario of leaving the sinking boat.

A cat-friendly boat

You don’t have to spend much money to make your boat feline-friendly, a few simple things make life more comfortable and pleasant for a cat.

- We put a catflap into the companionway, so Leeloo can go outside when we’re ashore and doesn’t have to stay inside the stuffy, hot interior.
- Cats love to curl up in a secure place (especially when the boat is rolling or pitching on passage or in an open anchorage) so we have several cardboard boxes around the boat that serve as sea berths for Leeloo.
- Under the sprayhood we have a pot with grass to help Leeloo’s digestion. In the beginning we bought special cat grass, but Leeloo didn’t like the coarse texture, it regularly died after a few weeks and had to be resown. In the end we simply cut a patch of ordinary grass out of a lawn in the Marquesas that still thrives after three years on the boat.
- Leeloo loves to stretch and scratch, so we have two wooden boards on deck where she can work out. Thanks to these boards she leaves the furniture in peace and we don’t have to clip her claws–she rasps them down herself on the wood.
- Pitufa has a steep ladder down the companion-way with 7 steps. Climbing up is easy, but on the way down Leeloo jumps the last few steps so we put a soft rug underneath to go easy on her elderly intervertebral discs.


Cruising around Europe there are vets in every town, even in South and Central America we still found a vet whenever we needed one (Leeloo got vaccinations in Suriname and Panama), but once in the South Pacific vets are rare. There are many vets and animal clinics in Tahiti, and a few in Raiatea and Huahine, but none in the Gambier, Marquesas or Tuamotus. Tonga has occasional visits from New Zealand based vets and there should be one in Fiji (we haven’t been there yet). It therefore makes sense to bring antibiotics, painkillers, etc. on the boat and it’s important to have the contact details of a vet you know and trust so that you can ask about possible medication and dosages for symptoms you describe. Many meds for humans work for cats (e.g. our cat gets Stugeron against seasickness and Metoclopramide when her stomach is upset), but you should never use these meds without consulting an expert first, because some of them are harmful or lethal for pets.


Some minimarkets even in remote areas have one brand of usually cheap catfood, but if your cat is as fussy as ours it makes sense to stock up on high quality food whenever you find it. Our cat loves fish, so when we’re lucky enough to catch a tuna, mahi-mahi, etc. she’s on a fish diet for a few days.


As long as we were in EU waters the cat wasn’t an issue, but as soon as we got to South America, the Caribbean and Central America we started declaring her on entry forms, always mentioned that she would stay on board and never had any problems with the officials (Suriname, Tobago, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao, Colombia, Panama). In 2012 officials on the Galapagos islands (Isabela) made no fuss (that might have changed with the stricter regulations now) and French Polynesia is very relaxed about rules in general. After 6 months of quarantine (time at sea counts), importing a pet is just a formality that involves some fees and paperwork, if the cat remains on board no paperwork is necessary. In the Cook Islands (officials come on board) we were simply told to keep the cat on the boat just like on Niue (you meet the officials on land, no checks on the boat). We read the same about Tonga, but when we cleared in in Nuku Alofa the quarantine lady made a fuss about the cat, threatened
that we would have to keep her in a cage under deck with a vet checking her every few days (they don’t even have a vet there…), but in the end she calmed down and we simply kept the cat on the boat without further ado.

Sailing with our Cat

Leeloo has been cruising with us right from the start. Here are some snapshots we took over the past 5 years.

(30 photos)

Our Articles about Cruising with Cats published in Magazines:

Birgit Hackl: Cruising with Cats, All At Sea Caribbean, December 2013, p. 42–44. Free download from allatsea.net.

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Mit Leeloo um die Welt, OCEAN7 06 (November/Dezember) 2012, p. 62–64. download PDF (in German only)

Birgit Hackl: Kleine Mieze auf großer Fahrt, Geliebte Katze 02 (Februar) 2016, p. 74–77.


Pitufa.at is more mobile-friendly now!

Pitufa.at wasn’t very usable on tiny screens such as smart phones. But now, after introducing some screen-width-responsive changes in the style, you should be able to browse our blog wherever you are. Finally, Pitufa.at has gone mobile-friendly!


Photos of our trip eastward, part 3

Eastwards, Part 3: Rarotonga (Cook Islands)

The last stop on our passage eastward was Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands. The island has a fringing reef, but the narrow lagoon is too shallow for sailboats. We stayed 1 week in Avatiu harbour.

(35 photos)


Sailing eastward from Tonga to Tahiti: summary

Whenever other cruisers heard/read of our journey from Tonga to Tahiti eastwards, the reaction ranged from horror to awe. ‘You’re going in the wrong direction!’ In times when sailing ships were the only means to transport people and goods across the oceans they went all directions during all seasons, but it seems that during the past few decades a consensus has been laid down that cruising yachts can never travel against the trade winds (maybe due to bibles like Jimmy Cornell’s ‘World sailing routes’ and seminars for Puddle Jumpers). People were picturing us tacking up and down, beating against the trades all the time. Yes, we did sail close-hauled most of the time, but we found life on a heeling boat with constant sail pressure more agreeable than the constant rolling on a downwind course.
Mostly we tried to make easting during northerly or southerly winds. That happens whenever a trough moves by and with the South Pacific Convergence Zone sitting over the area such wind shifts occur during the Southern winter about once a week.

Our system was simple: we set out as soon as the wind started clocking around and tried to reach the shelter of an island before the easterly trade winds set in again. There are numerous islands stretched out between Tonga and Tahiti, most of them only have open anchorages on the west side, so it’s ideal to spend time there during easterly winds.

Tongatapu to Niue:
On August 10 we started the first leg from Tonga in rough weather with SSE wind of 25 to 30 knots, the next two days the wind shifted to the SE still blowing 20+, Pitufa did daily runs of 120 nm and we reached Niue in 2.5 days. We spent 5 days in Niue exploring parts of the island we hadn’t seen the first time around. (320 nm rhumb line, 322 nm sailed miles).

Niue to Beveridge Reef:
On August 16 the wind turned to the ENE (the buoy field in Niue gets uncomfortable with northerly wind) and we set out again, tacked once, then the wind shifted to the NE so we sailed E and reached Beveridge reef with the last breeze before a calm period of 2 days. Perfect! (135 nm rhumb line, 155 nm sailed)

Beveridge Reef to Palmerston:
On August 20 the wind shifted to SW so we headed out again on a SE course. The next day the wind turned to the SE and we sailed E. We had not decided which of the Cook Islands would be our next stop, but they are so conveniently spread out that we were sure we’d make it to one of them–in the end Palmerston lay directly on our course and we stayed there for a week (285 nm rhumb line, 305 nm sailed).

Palmerston to Rarotonga:
On August 30 the grib files suggested a wind shift to the NE, but the wind remained E for a day (sometimes even ESE), so we were pushed too far south, the next day the shift finally came and we reached Rarotonga after 3 days. We stayed 1 week in the capitol of the Cooks (rhumb line 270 nm, 281 nm sailed).

Rarotonga to Tahiti:
This fifth and last leg should have been easy, we wanted to set out in NE winds on September 8, make easting and then ride the SE trade up to Tahiti. Unfortunately the wind stayed NE (sometimes ENE) for 2 days (we tacked once), turned north and died down, so we had to motor for 2 days. We made enough miles east, so that we were able to sail straight N up to Tahiti when the wind set in from E. With a stop in the Austral Islands (we passed by Maria and Rimatara) we could have avoided those two days of motoring… (7 days sailing, rhumb line 620 nm, 780 nm sailed).

In the end the dreaded passage in the ‘wrong direction’ took us 5 weeks, but 3 of these we spent in anchorages/buoy fields exploring lovely islands. We added approximately 340 nm to the rhumb line of 1500 nm (Tongatapu straight to Tahiti). We tacked only twice, the rest of the time the wind shifted conveniently to take us to the next destination. We had winds of more than 20 knots on 5 days and less than 10 knots on 4 days (that’s when we motorsailed for 48 hours), the rest of the time Pitufa sailed in comfy 10 to 20 knots doing average daily runs of 120 nm. We are lucky to have a boat that sails very well windwards, but towards the end of the journey wear and tear on the material started showing (chafe on sheets, etc.).

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