Hard days on the hard

We hauled the boat out on Friday and started work immediately. We want to do a new antifouling as usual, but after more than 10 years the paint on the topsides has started cracking in places and so we have decided to have a professional painter spray it newly to get Pitufa all shiny and pretty again. Of course the old paint has to come off first, the cracks need fairing and so we are sanding and grinding all day long to prepare the hull for the painter. There’s a dozen additional jobs on the list and we’ve taken off the windvane and the swimming ladder, made a new through-hull, etc. etc. The weather has been a bit unstable with tropical downpours in between, despite the claims of meteo.pf that it was ‘cool, breezy and sunny’, so we hope for more settled weather when the paintwork starts.
I’m writing this blog at 6 in the morning, my shoulders and arms hurt from working the orbital sander all day long and the first sounds of workers arriving come up from the yard. It’s gonna be another hard day on the hard ;-)


Arrived in Raiatea

We arrived this afternoon with a squall, but without a fish in Raiatea and are now anchored off the ‘Carenage’ where we will haul out tomorrow. We are quite knackered and it’s grey and cool, so we’ll have a cosy afternoon drinking tea and watching a movie on the sofa.


Sailing to Raiatea

After almost a month of boat projects in Tahiti we’d love to take a few days off, but we have an apointment to haul out in Raiatea on Friday, so we have to set sails towards the Iles sous le vent today. The forecast predicts a stiff breeze, so we count on a rough, but fast ride. Leeloo has already got some seasickness drops and we’re just busy with last preparations. 130 nm to go!



Last Monday we thought it’d be a clever idea to quickly add another battery to have 500 Ah instead of 400. The batteries live under the pilot berth which serves as storage, so all those boxes went into the saloon. It turned out that the additional battery didn’t fit into the plastic box we had intended for it, so Christian decided to custom-make a fiberglass container.

In order to reach the fiberglass kit we had to empty half of the forecabin (our second storage space) into the saloon and he didn’t quite finish the project on Tuesday.

On Wednesday we had a long before reserved rental car, so we went shopping and added a car-load of shopping bags to the saloon chaos.

On Thursday I stowed away the provisioning while Christian wanted to finish the battery project. When he turned on the soldering iron, a crackling sound and smoke announced the death of our inverter (the device that turns 12 V from the batteries into 230 for electric devices). I hitchhiked to town and visited all chandleries searching for a new inverter. I finally found one, but it was too late to do the paperwork in order to get it taxfree (for a yacht in transit), so I was told to ‘simply’ come back the next morning.

On Friday I hitched another ride to town, while Christian got the old inverter out. In order to install the new inverter (under the nav-table, not exactly easy to reach and work there) we had to take out all drawers from the nav-table, so 3 drawers filled up with tools ended in the saloon and we spent the rest of the day fiddling with cables in places that only a midget on a stick could reach.

Today is Saturday and we finished the inverter installation (drawers back in, hurray!), closed up the battery bank (yippieh, two matresses and 10 boxes out of the way), turned the forecabin back into storage space (yeah, there goes the rest of the boxes), vacuum-cleaned and wiped the floors and now we can finally sit down in the saloon again!


No bird protection zone in Tahanea

When we were in Tahanea (atoll in the Tuamotus) we were horrified to see that Copra production had started on some of the few remaining bird motus. Last year we had tried to convince the mayor of Faaite (the neighbouring atoll to which Tahanea belongs) to turn the southwestern motus into a protected zone. No success.
This year we met the family who owns and uses the motus in the South while they were there to collect, open and dry coconuts. We visited them a few times and tried to make friends. We made a list of why protecting the wildlife on their motus would be of advantage for them and how they could make much more money with alternative ideas than the little they get for copra, e.g.
-installing moorings next to the pass and charge for them (we would provide them with material and help with the installation
-organising excursions for tourists to the motus (snorkeling, bird watching)
-organising traditional meals for tourists
-building an eco-lodge sometime in the future
-etc., etc

After some intial hesitation the father and his three sons seemed genouinely interested and they promised to talk with their family once they had returned to Faaite and to contact us.

Last week the phone rang and we were excited–such quick news had to be good ones! Disappointment followed quickly when the father explained that his oldest son (whom we had not met) had decided that our plans and ideas were ‘for women’ while ‘real men make copra’. The destruction of natural vegetation and quiet habitats for many species of birds will go on for a few bucks…


Running and repairing

Ever since we arrived in Tahiti we’ve spent half of the time running around to get things and the other half to install them. Nothing’s ever straightforward, usually some little missing bit comes up during repairs/maintenance/installation and the next day is spent hitch-hiking to machine shops to have something altered or made. We’re making progress though, even though Pitufa keeps looking like a building site. The problem with living on a boat while repairing things is that you constantly live in chaos…


Photos of our 5th Gambier visit

Cyclone season 17/18 in the Gambier archipelago

Even though it was our 5th visit to the Gambier Islands we still found plenty of new things to explore over and under water and had a good time revisiting friends and places.

(48 photos)


Getting started in Tahiti

We arrived last night at Pt. Venus, were invited for pancakes this morning on SY L’avenir (thanks a lot!!), sailed down to Marina Taina at noon, had our new gennaker delivered in the afternoon (incredible, only 4 days after it was sent from Hongkong…), did some provisioning afterwards, organised a propeller repair for next week and reserved a rental car (it took us 1.5 hours to get through the form and payment with our wobbly internet). What a day! Let’s hope things keep going as smoothly ;-)


Steady progress

We are steadily sailing along. Because we’re sailing downwind, Pitufa rolls quite a bit, even though the waves aren’t that high. Still no fish, but we have two lures out. If the conditions remain like this, we should reach Tahiti tomorrow evening. Fortunately the anchorage behind the northern cape of Pt. Venus is wide open, so we don’t have to worry about pass times or arrival in daylight. 136 nm to go.


Yes, no, maybe, why not…

It turned out our decision to stay was a wise one–another boat who did set out had squalls with 40 knots… This morning it was still squally, but according to the forecast we’d have to leave or get fickle winds on Wednesday (which was supposed to be a good day to leave…). We wrangled a bit with the pros and cons, but in the end we motored across the lagoon against a howling squall (poor Leeloo got seasick still in the lagoon), made it through the pass in good conditions and once we were out the sky brightened and we’ve been sailing steadily all day long. Leeloo’s already up and snacking again. Two lures out, still no fish, 260nm (out of 290) to go!


Postponed departure

This morning we were ready to leave, but then we got the latest weather forecast and started to struggle with the decision: instead of steady winds we’d have a squally night followed by light winds for a day… In the end we decided to stay for another two days and set out with hopefully more settled weather on Wednesday. In the meantime we’ve sailed down to the little bird island in the lagoon, where we’re now bouncing in winds from the NE (and not E as predicted). We see it as preparation for the passage ;-)


Good-bye Tahanea

Today we are getting Pitufa into passage-mode–always an tedious job after an extended period in a lagoon. Big jobs like washing and storing the kayak, getting the dinghy on deck and preparing poles for a downwind-course are obvious, but there’s dozens of other tiny chores like declattering cupboards, baking bread, baking cake as a passage-treat, wiping the floors, (we sleep on a mattress on the floor during passages), preparing fishing gear, cleaning the cat’s toilet etc. etc. Additionally Christian’s servicing a genoa winch, to make sure everything will run smoothly.

We are reluctant to leave our favourite atoll, especially as we’ll have to deal with orders, repairs and shopping in Tahiti and then a haul-out in Raiatea. We’ll leave tomorrow morning as the forecast promises steady southeasterlies. 290 nm to go!



We have moved on to the westernmost anchorage on the southside of Tahanea to check out the last of the three bird-motu clusters. Fortunately this spot remains untouched, boobies are circling the two little motus and preparing for the next nesting season. Only few palmtrees grow here, so apparently they weren’t worth making copra here.

A long white sand-bank stretches out from the motu towards the anchorage and we used to collect shells on the snow-white sands. Yesterday we collected 6 buckets of plastic rubbish and burned it. Of course that’s not even a measurable part of the plastic wave that suffocates the Pacific, but that’s all we could do for the moment. If everybody started with themselves and did as much as they can do (even if it’s just a little bit) the world would be a better place.
Another advantage: I have quite sore muscles on my thighs and bum today from all that bending down to pick up rubbish, so protecting the environment’s good for a trim figure!


Destruction of bird motus in Tahanea

Last year we were already worried about the fact that some locals moved over from the neighbouring atoll of Faaite to Tahanea, which had been uninhabited for a while with only some remains of old houses still visible. We could immediately see the difference in wildlife and observed fewer birds on the untouched motus on the Southwestern side.

We were alarmed enough to get an appointment with the mayor of Faaite, tried to convince him to protect these few and tiny motus in the South that were still free of rats, covered in natural shrubs and home for a small colony of extremely rare masked boobies and slightly more brown boobies (both of them groundbreeding and therefore easy prey for humans, rats and dogs). We argued that the commune of Faaite could make money by preserving the motus for future eco-tourists, that it would great to preserve some nature for future generations, that they could install moorings to compensate the families with that income for the loss of some copra money and even offered to donate our chain for that etc. We got nods and smiles, but nothing else.
Then we contacted wildlife protection organisations in Tahiti (Te Mana o te Moana, SOP Manu), but were told that there was nothing they could do.

Just now we have returned to the SW side of Tahanea and found our worst fears come true. We talked to a father with his sons who just arrived with a local boat filled up with gear (camping stuff, copra bags–plenty of hiding spaces for rats…) and who told us that they had just spent one month ‘cleaning’ two of the bigger bird motus (meaning cutting away the shrubs) for copra production. They stay here for a few months, make 5 tons of copra on motus all around the atoll (a huge amount of work) and were proud that they get 140.000 CPF (1.400 dollars) per ton. The southern motus only make up a small percentage of the harvest, but let’s assume that they make 1 ton of copra on the 3 birdmotus in the South. That’s 1.400 Dollars for the destruction of 3 of the few remaining masked booby colonies in French Polynesia.

The mood’s not great on Pitufa. Somewhere between screaming with rage and helpless crying. The fault lies with the subsidized prices the locals get for copra (even though it’s still pathetically cheap for the bonebreaking work of cutting the nuts open, peeling the flesh out and drying it). The missionaries made plantations of palmtrees on a large scale to make the locals produce copra, later on mostly church organisations took locals to uninhabited atolls to ‘clear’ the land, plant coconut trees and return yearly to harvest. They accidentally introduced rats during their raids. Therefore most of the atolls are nowadays covered in palmtrees and provide no breeding grounds for seabirds. Watching the destruction of even more motus is heartbreaking.



The sun’s just rising over the motu next to us, the outlines of a cumulus cloud on the horizon gleam like it was on fire and the silhouettes of some palm trees in the foreground pose for a south-sea paradise poster. The air is filled with a strange roaring and cackling that sounds like deer and monkeys, but of course that’s impossible here in the Tuamotus. The first birds head out towards the sea in pairs or groups and they are the source of these exotic sounds: we’ve found a big colony of red-footed boobies on the northwestern side of Tahanea!
Yesterday we motored 10 nm from the pass towards the NW side of the atoll which we hadn’t visited yet as anchoring there is only possible in very calm conditions. We passed a rock islet in the lagoon on the way (just a big rock with some shrubs on it) and were pleasantly surprised when a flock of 16 brown boobies started from there to check us out. Heading towards the barrier reef we already got our hopes up, as the motus weren’t covered in palm trees, but natural vegetation and really, when we went ashore we found red-footed boobies in all the higher trees. Many are still in their dark youngster plumage and we couldn’t see any chicks in the trees, so it must be right after the end of the nesting season.

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