Article on Watermaker installation in All-at-Sea magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Watermaker on a small boat: It can’t be modular enough!, All At Sea Caribbean, November 2017, p. 36–38. Free download from allatsea.net.


New article in Ocean7 magazine

Christian Feldbauer, Birgit Hackl: Navigation in Korallenatollen, OCEAN7 06 (November/Dezember) 2017, p. 28–33



Yesterday we left the lovely lagoon of Toau and sailed over to the neighbouring atoll Fakarava. We had a nice breeze, calm seas and only took 3 hours for the 13 nm ‘passage’. Unfortunately we weren’t lucky fishing this time, but Fakarava has one of the bigger villages in the Tuamotus (also quite some tourism) and so we stocked up on luxuries like tomatoes, eggplants and even courgettes/zucchini :-)


Beautiful Toau

Looking at a chart of the Tuamotus you’d think that many of the atolls (especially those without passes) would be uninhabited wilderness. Unfortunately almost all of them have at some point been ‘cleaned’ (the shrubs burnt down) and the natural vegetation was replaced with coconut plantations. Therefore it’s rare to find motus with bird colonies and we’ve been disappointed in many places.
In Toau we’ve finally found an atoll we like again. There are a few houses around the atoll and the big motus are all cultivated, but we’ve found a few little motus in the south and inside the lagoon where red-footed and even brown boobies are nesting. The underwater world is also pretty with live coral in many places, big fish and curious reef sharks.


Atoll hopping

Yesterday we made another small hop from the false pass on the Northern side of Toau down to the SE side where there’s a pass into the lagoon. The day started squally with sporty tacking up and down in shifting winds (the atoll kept jumping into our way, so we had to dodge it twice), but then we were sailing close-hauled along the edge of the outer reef in one tack and reached at pass at noon. Now we’re anchored in the pretty, turquoise lagoon and will start exploring today.


Sprayhood made by Dustom

The sprayhood we bought in Croatia 8 years ago is still in good shape, the sunbrella and the ‘windows’ (I don’t know what material) are keeping up nicely, so we can only recommend the canvas work done by Dustom (check out www.dustomcovers.com).

The threads were giving up after long years of exposure to UV light, so we spent 3 days restitching all seams and as we were at it, we added a chafe-protection patch along the forward support hose (another 4D project…). Yesterday we had our first day off in more than a week and spent it walking the motu and snorkeling along the outer reef.



After a few grey days with lots of squalls, yesterday morning it was sunny again and the wind was blowing from the NE. Despite contradicting weather forecasts we couldn’t resist the opportunity and set out towards the neighbouring atoll Toau. I mean, what can go wrong on a passage that’s only 30 nm?
We sailed across the lagoon, out of the pass at the wrong time (4 knots of ingoing current against 15 knots of wind meant high standing waves…) and then we set out doing 6 knots in northeasterlies of 15-18 knots. Perfect sailing! One hour later the wind started getting less and less, then it died down and when it set in again, it was blowing 30 knots, but out of the southeast–exactly on the nose. We ended up motoring 7 miles against heavy rain and steep waves. Fortunately Toau has a ‘false pass’ (an opening in the barrier reef that does not go all the way into the lagoon) where you can enter and exit at any time.


4D Bimini

The bimini’s a sun shade/rain cover that is kept over the cockpit by 4 tubes. As we like being dry and shaded off during passages as well and never take our bimini down (some sailors do so regularly), it gets some wear and tear over the year. It got chafed through at the aft edge and we knew we’d have to repair that damage before it could get more serious.

Anyone who has ever tried to fit a new layer of fabric over a rounded, bent shape in 3D (on the bimini) and then transform that shape into 2D (in the sewing machine) knows that this is not a simple endeavour. On the second day a fourth dimension got into our way–the banana dimension.
When after fitting the bimini for the umptieth time in between and during squalls the shape still doesn’t fit, the original sunbrellas tears when opening the seam, the sewing machine blocks for the 100th time while sewing on the repair patch, because the new (and apparently indestructible) teflon thread gets twisted in the machine and the fabric has to be stuffed into the machine yet again the seamstress goes bananas–thus adding a new dimension to the whole job.

Now, at the end of a second entire working day, the bimini is finished and up again. Not quite perfect, with a few crinkles and crooked seams, but we’re still satisfied with it, as we know it’s in 4D ;-)


Mending, sewing, repairing

We have been in Apataki now for a few days, but we haven’t seen much of the atoll. We visited Sonja, Tom and Keanu (SY Pakia Tea) who have their catamaran here out on the hard, in the only (but somewhat improvised) out-haul facility in the Tuamotus. Apart from that we’ve stayed on board and did sewing-machine jobs.

First came a sail repair, as the leech line of the foresail had chafed through the dacron during the last rough passage. Stuffing the big sail first into the saloon and then into our household sewing machine wasn’t easy, but fortunately we only had to mend about 1.5 m.

After putting the foresail back up on its furler we started repairing the hatch cover of the forward cabin that also got chafed through in a corner. Christian proved his perfectionism by fabricating 3D paper models of the corners, before the impatient seamstress could get working. The edge protection turned out fabulously pretty ;-)

Yesterday we started repairing the bimini, a tricky, fidgety job that will keep us busy for another day.



When the stream of water from the tap no longer hits the sink, but swerves beyond the rim, you know you’re heeling too much… This passage was only 220 nm as the frigate bird flies, but we tacked up and down and the mixture of too much wind (30+ knots) and not enough wind (less than 10 knots) was rather tiring. Initially we had planned to sail to Tahanea, but in this easterly wind we would have had to tack another day or two, so we ended up in Apataki instead, which lay conveniently on our course (although we had to tack around its annoying neighbouring atoll that kept jumping into our way…).

We arrived at 1.30 at the height of the outgoing tide, but didn’t want to waste daylight to cross the lagoon and search for an anchorage, so we entered against 5 knots of outgoing current. The pass looked like a mountain stream, but Pitufa’s strong engine helped us through and the (weak-kneed) helmswoman held a steady course ;-)

We anchored on the southern side of the atoll behind a little motu and after 2 hours of cleaning we’re now settling down with a sundowner. Manuia (cheers)!



After a bouncy and splashy day (things that have never before moved, managed to jump headfirst into the cabin–we’ll see if the printer survived…) we’re now sailing along nicely in about 15 knots from the east. The Tuamotus are spreadout east of Tahiti, so we’re tacking and trying to figure out which atoll we can reach this way.


Towards the Tuamotus

Yesterday we set out from Moorea towards the Tuamotus, first too much wind, then not enough, now too much again–sailing’s not always easy…


New Tattoo

Wherever you go in French Polynesia, almost everybody has tattoos. Their traditional symbols are deeply embedded in the Polynesian culture. I got a small manta tattooed two years ago and this year I could not resist and got him a bigger brother.

My new tattoo

My new tattoo. (click for larger photo)


Hiker’s paradise Moorea

At the moment there’s a strong Maraamu (southeasterly wind) blowing that brings cool air to French Polynesia, but we’re nicely protected from the wind here in Cook’s Bay on the northern side of Moorea. Moorea is a spectacular little island with steep mountains, calderas and lush valleys and the breezy weather’s perfect to explore the numerous hiking tracks that crisscross the island. During our last visit all signs on the hiking trails were missing and we continously got lost. In the meantime the signs have been reinstalled, so some of the adventure thrill’s gone, but hiking’s definitely easier ;-)
In Tahiti we were so busy with boat projects that we neglected our fitness completely, the virus we battled for two weeks slowed us down even more. Now we’re slowly building up some fitness again, alternating between hiking days and project days on the boat.


From Tahiti to Moorea

I’ve just checked our emails and realised that we haven’t posted a blog in two weeks. The reason isn’t that there was nothing going on, but just on the contary there was indeed too much to do on Pitufa to keep up with the blog.

We had a rental car for 24 hours (afternoon to afternoon, very convenient for shopping), bought 2 car loads (4 full dinghy loads) of provisioning and actually managed to store all that stuff in Pitufa’s lockers. In between we worked on rubber mounts to calm down the noisy watermaker pumps, filled Pitufa up with diesel, had some doctor’s appointments and Christian got a new tattoo :-)

Marina Taina’s a swimming town where we caught up with some old acquaintances and made new ones resulting in an succession of invitations and reinvitations for drinks and dinners and of course dinghies stopping by at all times during the day (which is nice, but doesn’t accelerate progress on projects).

Yesterday we cleared up the boat and finally set out on the ocean again. It looked like rough weather on the forecast, so we all 3 took some seasickness meds in preparation after so many weeks inside the lagoon. Our first passage only took us about 15 nm over the channel to the neighbouring island Moorea, but hey, at least we made it out again! Instead of the expected southeasterly wind we had to motor most of the distance in the wind shade of Tahiti, but the waves and swell were high and confused, so it was good that we had braced ourselves with Stugeron drops. Once we got close to Moorea the wind set in with 20 to 30 knots and we sailed the last miles to Cooks Bay on the northern side of Moorea.

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