Hyper active sunny days

Sunny days have been rare so far, so whenever the sun comes out we try to use the nice weather as actively as possible.
On Monday we went ashore to see the freighter arrive. It was a big spectacle as it didn’t only bring new provisions, but also the island’s kids who attend school in Tahiti or Tubuai and only come home during the longer holidays, so it was quite an emotional event with all those family reunions. Everybody was wearing beautifully woven flower wreaths on their heads and the arrivals (loaded with bags, christmas presents) were greeted with more wreaths over their shoulders.

For today the weather forecast had predicted sunny skies again, so we started the day at 6, had the washing done by 7, were ashore at 8, up on the summit of Morongo Uta (one of the higher mountains with some remnants of an ancient fortress on top) at 10 and at 11.30 we were back in the village to see the Christmas celebration of the primary school kids who had prepared songs and dances for this event.

I know we’re always praising the friendliness of the Polynesians, but the people of Rapa take this hospitality to yet a new level. It seems everybody we meet gives us fruit, invites us to their homes, offers the use of internet and even washing machines… If it wasn’t for the weather we might easily be tempted to build a mooring here and stay ;-)


Warm-cool Rapa

Rapa Iti is the remotest island of French Polynesia. There is no airport, the cargo ship only comes once a month (sometimes it skips a visit…) and Raivavae, the nearest neighbouring island, lies 290 nm away. The anchorage inside the huge main bay of Rapa is well protected from waves, but gusts howl down from the mountains whenever there are strong winds–and that seems to be most of the time ;-)

The only two villages of the island lie on the sides of the bay and we used a brief break in the rain to visit both of them yesterday. We are anchored next to Area which is just a cluster of houses (a bit more than 100 people live here) and the main village Haurei (about 400 people) is about half a mile away. That’s where the primary school, the medical centre, the townhall and 3 minimarkets are located. We went to check in with the (only) policeman who opened his office on a Saturday for us. He told us that 2017 only 11 sailboats stopped in Rapa Iti (at the moment Pitufa’s the only boat here), so visitors get an extra-warm welcome here, which makes up for the cool climate: in winter the temperature goes down to 10 degrees and even now in summer we’re wearing long sleeves and socks while the cold front that still lingers brings howling winds and heavy rain to the island.

We met a French catamaran in Raivavae who had been in Rapa before and the friendly couple loaded Pitufa with pineapples for their friends here in Rapa. As they all got ripe during the passage we had to deliver them yesterday despite the rainy weather, so we’ve already made friends in both villages and returned to Pitufa loaded with peaches, bananas, fresh bread, popoi (a paste made from taro roots) and guava syrup :-)


Arrived in Rapa Iti

After a boisterous trip, we arrived in Rapa Iti with the last light–fortunately the days are longer down at this latitude or we wouldn’t have made it. The island looks spectacular, despite the fact that it’s covered in thick clouds. The forecast shows a front arriving tonight so we’ll get some rain to wash off the salt and then hopefully some sunny weather to explore the island in the next few days.


On the way to Rapa Iti

We set out from Raivavae yesterday at noon into high winds and waves. We caught a yellow fin tuna just after leaving and cutting and storing that guy took some seasickness medicine… We’re going fast though, so we’re not comfy, but happy to get to Rapa quickly! 177 nm to go (out of 300)


Rain, rain and more rain

The weather’s still nasty, we’ve managed to do a short hike during a sunny spell on Saturday, but apart from that we’ve been at home working on boat projects, while it’s pouring down outside.
Fortunately we’ve already explored the island thoroughly during our first visit here 2 years ago, so we’re not missing out on anything new.


Grey and cold

We arrived at noon and are now anchored off Rairua, the main village of Raivavae. The island’s mountains are hidden behind thick clouds, the sky is grey and it’s surprisingly cool. Last week when we suffered in the humid heat of Tahiti we were joking that soon we’d be complaining about the cold in the Austral Islands ;-)


Leaving the Tropics for a while

The Austral Islands are the southernmost island group of French Polynesia. Raivavae is just below the tropic of Capricorn, Rapa Iti even further down at the latitude of 27°35′. The Southern summer is the most pleasant time to visit these remote islands.


Unpleasant trip

What looked like a swift ride on the weather forecast has turned into an annoying passage. Since last night we’ve been motoring without any wind, managing only to sail for a few hours in a breeze first from the east and then the west which quickly disappeared again. Now we have 8 knots on the nose–fortunately we only have 20 more miles to go. We haven’t caught a fish yet, but something seriously big must have bitten yesterday: we only heard the bungee cord zipping back and the whole gear including our favourite lure, 1 m of metal leader 100 m of strong line and the yoyo disappeared…


Not enough wind

We were planning on riding the tail of a low that moved down Southeast and the forecast predicted a stiff breeze. Unfortunately the wind’s been much lighter and now it looks like we might run out of wind on the last day of the passage… 120nm to go


Sleepless night

After a decent sailing day the wind died down last night to almost nothing. Unfortunately the waves didn’t, so we were hobbling along with banging sails and everything on the boat clanging along. 220 nm to go


Lightwind sailing

Light winds, sunny skies–so far this is an easy passage! 320 nm to go


Sailing towards the Iles Australes

We’re just getting ready to set sails again. Actually we haven’t quite finished all jobs, we’re quite stressed out, but we’re still leaving, because the hot, rainy season is just starting in Tahiti and we don’t want to miss our weather window. 390 nm to Raivavae, or 600 to Rapa–whether we’ll stop in Raivavae will depend on the wind.


Article in All-at-Sea: Eyeglasses for the Solomon Islands

We met Paul and Frances (SY Monkey Fist) in Tahiti and were impressed by their project to bring used glasses to people in remote areas. Check out their homepage www.eyeglassassist.org! Right now they need donations for their next expedition…

Birgit Hackl: Glasses for the Solomon Islands, All At Sea Caribbean, December 2017, p. 36–38. Free download from allatsea.net.


Lots of work

We had to do some repairs on the mast last week, not a big deal, but the mast had to be pulled for that. The preparations alone took two days (getting the sails down, taking the boom off, disconnecting all cables, taking the instruments off the mast, removing the mast collar, etc.).
Everything went well with the repair, but now we’re busy getting everything back in place again. Additionally we got black marks from the bumper tyres in the harbour all over one side of the hull and the fenders, so some cleaning is also needed.

It looks like a weather window towards the Australes might come up at the beginning of next week, so we’re in a hurry to get Pitufa back into sailing mode.


Pics of Toau


In October 2017 we explored Toau in the Tuamotus and were glad to find some areas with unspoiled nature ashore and underwater.

(60 photos)

Older posts «

» Newer posts