ende

Jun
09

Lagoon sailing

It’s a pleasure to sail across a calm lagoon on a sunny day, but yesterday’s trip from the northernmost point to the pass area was quite exciting. Sailing close-hauled in quite some wind (around 20 knots) we were dodging bommies and of course a fish decided to bite just as the wind was gusting up a bit. Now we’re anchored next to the northernmost pass, the fridge is full of fish and we’re looking forward to do some snorkeling in the 3 passes over the next few days.

Jun
08

Around the atoll

We’re enjoying our time in Tahanea, moving around the atoll according to the wind and spending the days with a nice balance between boat projects and fun like snorkeling, kayaking and long walks along the motus.
At this time of the year a big fleet of yachts passes through the Tuamotus. We see some of them on the AIS, hear them talking on the VHF and on the SSB net we’re on (PolyMagNet 8173 kHz at 18:00 and 4:00 UTC), but most of them spend only a few days here and never explore beyond the pass area and the popular SE anchorage, so we still have our favourite places just for ourselves ;-)

May
27

Repairs

The downwind passage from the Gambier to Tahanea with quite a windy start put lots of strain on the material. We bent a stanchion and one of the genoa poles actually ripped the pole track out of the mast (a 15 cm long bit, we could still use the other pole). Christian has already cut out the bent bit and will move the remaining piece up to get it fully functional again.
The garden under the sprayhood also suffered some damage. For the first time ever we got some salty spray in and both the thai basil and the basil died from ‘salt burn’. The bok choy has fully recovered from the 3 m plunge dive into the galley though ;-)
In the evening we had a beach BBQ with old friends (Ednbal and Raynad) and the other 3 boats that have anchored here in the SE corner to sit out a maramu (SE wind). It’s amazing how busy the Tuamotus are at this time of the year when the fleet sailboats rushes through French Polynesia on the way across
the Pacific towards New Zealand.
The downwind passage from the Gambier to Tahanea with quite a windy start put lots of strain on the material. We bent a stanchion and one of the genoa poles actually ripped the pole track out of the mast (a 15 cm long bit, we could still use the other pole). Christian has already cut out the bent bit and will move the remaining piece up to get it fully functional again.
The garden under the sprayhood also suffered some damage. For the first time ever we got some salty spray in and both the thai basil and the basil died from ‘salt burn’. The bok choy has fully recovered from the 3 m plunge dive into the galley though ;-)
In the evening we had a beach BBQ with old friends (Ednbal and Raynad) and the other 3 boats that have anchored here in the SE corner to sit out a maramu (SE wind). It’s amazing how busy the Tuamotus are at this time of the year when the fleet sailboats rushes through French Polynesia on the way across
the Pacific towards New Zealand.

:de_start “Reparaturen”

Der Vorwindtörn von den Gambier nach Tahanea mit einem recht windigen Start hat das Material ziemlich beansprucht. Wir haben eine Relingstütze verbogen und einer der Genuabäume hat tatsächlich die Schiene für den Baum aus dem Mast gerissen (ein 15 cm langes Stück, wir konnten den anderen Baum nach wie vor verwenden). Christian hat das verbogene Stück bereits herausgeschnitten, wird die Schiene versetzen, sodass sie wieder voll einsatzbereit ist.
Der Garten unter der Sprayhood hat auch gelitten. Zum insgesamt ersten Mal ist etwas Gischt so weit gekommen und hat das Thai Basilikum und das Basilikum ‘verbrannt’. Der Bok Choy

May
26

Good sailing

This morning we arrived at the pass of Tahanea after a very slow nightsail (we didn’t want to get there during the night). At 8 the pass still looked quite impressive with high standing waves (wind against an outgoing current), so we sailed up and down with 3 lures out hoping to finally catch a fish. After 2 hours the pass calmed down, so we went in–unfortunately without the tuna we had hoped for…

May
23

Good sailing

The wind is still holding out, we did a daily run of 150 nm–a fabulous speed for Pitufa (downwind isn’t usually her thing) and were still comfy enough (despite waves of still about 3m) to bake bread. 210 out of 660 left!

May
22

Better conditions

Yesterday the sun came out and we were happy to be able to dry out our damp foul weather gear, the wind got lighter and we optimistically rolled out the genoa, but then it died down completely and we started the engine to stop Pitufa from rolling in the still high and confused seas. While sailing we use the windvane to steer Pitufa, but when motoring we turn on the electric autopilot. This time it went beep, beep, beep and refused to steer… I grudgingly started handsteering, while Christian started to search for the problem. Luckily it was quickly found: the remote control in the cockpit had drowned in its locker.
As soon as the autopilot worked again the wind came back, first from the NE, then the SW and finally it backed to the SE again and we’ve been swiftly sailing all night long.

May
21

Miserable passage

It’s been squally with winds around 35 knots gusting 45 since yesterday, torrential rainfalls add to the general misery on Pitufa. A shitty trip so far.

May
20

Sailing again!

After 5 months in the lagoon it took us two full days to get Pitufa back into passage mode. In our case that doesn’t just mean clearing and organising, but also repotting and securing the garden. It seems we didn’t do such a good job, because the Pok Choy did a plungedive through the companionway and into the kitchen leaving an epic mess just when we were sailing through a squally area with gusts over 35 knots. Happy cleaning with the help of seasickness meds followed.
Now it’s morning, the wind has settled down to about 15 knots and we’re nicely sailing along.

May
16

Better late than never: pics of the Gambier festival

Te Matapukarega festival in the Gambier

In February 2017 the first cultural festival of the Gambier Islands took place. Almost the whole population of the Gambier and all the cruisers in the anchor field attended this fabulous two-day event.

(19 photos)

May
13

Anchoring around Coral

Each year sailboats cruising in the Tuamotus get into trouble at anchor: they get trapped on lee shores after a shift in the wind direction, foul their anchor and/or chain in coral and the results are stressful manoeuvres to get the anchor back up, bent bow rollers and ruined or even ripped out windlasses. Of course the fragile coral structures get badly damaged with each of these messed up manoeuvres. Isn’t an anchorage with colourful coral and fishies much nicer than a dead rubble field?

It is easy to avoid damage to the coral and your boat if you

  • anchor in conditions with good visibility (don’t drop your anchor blindly)
  • anchor in shallow water: 1. you can see the bottom, 2. there are usually fewer coral heads on the sandy shelves and 3. you require less chain
  • try to find a big, sandy spot to drop your hook
  • float the chain so that the boat can swing around in shifting winds without getting the chain caught in coral heads
  • keep an eye on the weather forecast and move to a safe anchorage before the wind shifts

Floating the chain is a simple procedure. You just need

  • 2 medium sized fenders or pearl-farm buoys
  • 2 carabiners that fit into your chain
  1. Drop the anchor in the middle of the biggest sandy spot you can find
  2. Pay out chain while reversing gently
  3. Look around at the surrounding coral heads to estimate the swinging radius and hook in the first fender before the chain could touch any of them.
  4. Pay out some more chain and set the anchor gently pulling in reverse.
  5. If the scope is still not sufficient, a second fender can be added followed by more chain.

Some additional notes:

Anchors: On Pitufa we use a German Bügelanker (similar to Rocna) as our main anchor. We love it as it sets very quickly, even with little scope. We lose only 20-50cm until it’s dug in. We observed other cruisers struggling badly when anchoring around coral because their anchors (mainly CQRs, also Delta at one or two occasions) need to plow quite far until they’re finally set. By then the end of the sandy patch might have been reached… So, take your anchor’s properties/requirements into consideration (e.g. start the anchoring process further windward on the sandy patch). Or even better: don’t set out with a bad anchor right from the start.

Depth: Many cruisers are afraid of anchoring in shallow areas (particularly when the area is uncharted). Also Pitufa’s crew preferred to anchor with plenty of water under the keel before gaining experience in the Tuamotus. On sandy shelves we love to anchor in 2.5-4 meters (often those areas are free of coral heads). When there are no such shelves we anchor in 4-8 meters and float the chain (25-30 meters) with 1 or 2 floats. In deeper water (10 meters or more) the floating procedure becomes much trickier: 1. placing the anchor properly on the sandy patch as well as deciding when to start buoying becomes a game of chance, 2. the weight of longer chain is too much for the floats (you need bigger ones or more).

Enjoy the Tuamotus!

The principle of a buoyed chain (click for larger image)

Approaching the next anchorage. Two fenders with carabiners are ready on deck. (click for larger image)

Hooking in the 2nd fender (click for larger image)

Floating chain (click for larger image)

May
11

Tour de Motu

We didn’t really have the time to explore around the motus on the barrier reef during this cyclone season. First we were busy with the house and then I spent some time in Austria. Now we’ve been doing a tour along the barrier reef for a week. We started with southeasterly winds anchored off the bird motu Tauna, then we spent a phase of northerlies at the pretty northern motu Puaumu and now we’re at Tarauru Roa where we visited Eric’s pearl farm today. We are taking it easy, did some snorkeling, but we’re also preparing Pitufa for the passage to the Tuamotus (we changed the sail on the furler, cleaned the hull, inspected the rigg, etc.).

May
02

Winter is coming

The day I left Austria it was snowing, during the day in Tahiti I was sweating and suffering in the humid and hot climate, but arriving in the Gambier I already felt the change in the seasons. The days are still warm and out of the wind in the sun it’s even hot, but at night it gets chilly and the water temperature is also noticeably cooling down. Leeloo is growing a thicker fur and insists on sleeping under the blanket (instead of on top of it) and we are slowly preparing to head further north towards the Tuamotus.

May
02

Boatgarden Article in Ocean7 Magazine


Birgit Hackl: Mein kleiner Garten an Bord, OCEAN7 03 (Mai/Juni) 2017, p. 28–31. download PDF (in German only)

Apr
24

Back home!

The flight back was fortunately quite eventless, apart from minor nuisances like a bunch of schoolkids who chatted relentlessly all night, a polynesian woman who fell asleep over her own seat, the empty one next to her and half of mine and a french woman who refused to pull down the blinds next to her and had shouting arguments over it with the flight personnel. The whole procedure of flying with waiting times, followed by sprints across the airport to catch connections and security rituals in between is annoying and thinking of the fuel a plane consumes and on top of all the crazy amount of rubbish only one flight produces (food trays, a new plastic cup for a sip of water…) is simply depressing.

Anyway, now I’m back home on Pitufa and deliriously happy :-)
Yesterday we anchored off the gorgeous little bird-motu Tauna and planned on having a lazy day. As Christian was out of bread (he claims his attempts all ended rock-hard) my lazy day started at 6 with making dough ;-) After breakfast with warm, crispy bread we took the dinghy out to the motu and walked around marveling at the nesting terns and noddies and right afterwards we snorkeled around the bommies off the island (and as we were already in the water scraped algae off the bottom of Pitufa). Then we had a lazy afternoon (except that the watermaker made funny noises, so we disconnected the broken booster pump and as the bilge was already open we decided to clean it ;-) )

Home sweet home :-)

Apr
11

Location Report WordPress Plugin

Several fellow cruisers asked me whether I can recommend a WordPress plugin for position reporting, that is, a plugin to show the latest position of your vessel on a map and normally also to show the route traveled so far. The truth is I cannot really recommend one. But what do you use on Pitufa.at? On Pitufa.at I use Geo Mashup, or rather a highly customized, old version of it. Why highly customized? Because it couldn’t do all the things I wanted. And now I can no longer update it…

Geo Mashup is a powerful and extensive plugin. It has one feature very important for sailors: you can report a position using a shortcode. Why is that important? Because in this way you can report your position by e-mail! We often post blog entries from underway or remote anchorages by e-mail via our SSB radio and when we include such a shortcode in the post, our position gets updated automatically. There are many other map and travel-route plugins available for WordPress, but I haven’t seen one that provides such a shortcode. Instead, those plugins extend the WordPress post editor or add administrative pages to your Dashboard, but that all is of no use when you don’t have Internet out there…

Some good plugins became orphans, that is, nobody maintains and updates the source code anymore. Sometimes the reason for that is simply because the plugin got too complex and had too many dependencies. For example, Google frequently changes its Google Maps JavaScript API, and each time the plugin needs a major rewrite…

To summarize, I cannot really recommend a position-reporting plugin because they either lack a position-update shortcode, are too complex and prone to run into updating difficulties or are orphaned already. For that reason I wrote a simple and modular plugin myself, called Location Report.

Location Report is purely and simply a position-reporting module, not a map plugin. It is used to record the location of only a single object, normally you (or your vehicle/vessel), so it’s tailor-made for travel blogs. It provides the shortcode that lets you update your current location. It generates two kml files (Google Earth files). The first has a placemark of your current location and the second one shows the route along all your location reports. Those kml files can be displayed by one of the many available map plugins (e.g., OpenStreetMap or Flexible Map) in your WordPress blog.

I expect Location Report to be robust and long-living because of its small code with minimal dependencies. It does not have any administrative pages or GUIs and does not store anything in your WordPress database. The locations are only recorded in kml files, so your data is easily available and portable. Kml files are human-readable text files, so it’s even easy to manually edit them.

The Location Report plugin is and remains free and can be downloaded/installed from the official WordPress plugin repository.

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