Smurfettes alone at home

Christian left for Austria last Wednesday morning, so Leeloo and I have been alone on Pitufa for almost a week. We have been good girls, produced about 20 pearl necklaces during the first days and today we sewed two new covers for the sofa upholstery. Well, to be honest, I did most of the work, but Leeloo supervised and sat on everything that was work in progress ;-)
Another 2 weeks and the smurfy family will be united again!


Sweet dreams

Since we set out we’ve bought new mattresses twice–each a little bit more expensive than the last one, but still not comfortable. Last week we decided to go for high quality and bought two latex matresses.

Our bed in the aft cabin is very oddly shaped so we have to buy 2 queen size mattresses, cut them into shape and resew the cover. What sounds simple in theory turned into a 4 day project…
Cutting the latex was done rather quickly, but the stitched, padded cover proved impossible to work with. The interior seems kept getting undone (despite our efforts to stop the thread and secure it with double seams in the sewing machine), the foot of the sewing machine kept getting tangled in the soft padding and in the glue residues on the inside of the padding and then it refused work altogether. Only a cleaning, grooming and oiling session persuaded our ‘Miss Pfaff’ to continue sewing… After 4 days the interior of the boat was covered in threads, padding and mattress pieces, but we succeeded, filled two rubbish containers and spent the first really comfy night since we moved on the boat :-)


Massive jewellery

Christian got me a chain for my birthday and it’s all shiny and pretty! 70 m of 10 mm chain would be a bit bulky for a necklace, but they suit Pitufa’s bow just fine ;-)

The Maggi chain we bought two years ago started rusting after 6 months and by now it’s already disintegrating, losing material and leaving a rusty mess on deck every time we lift or lower the anchor, so it was really time to get rid of it… We cannot recommend Maggi chains (Italian brand, galvanized aqua 4, grade 40) for other cruisers!


New Photos: Mantas!

Swimming with Manta rays

In June 2017 we repeatedly encountered a group of about 20 mantas in our favorite Tuamotu atoll. We saw them several days in a row in the pass, feeding on tiny copepod crustaceans in the strong outgoing current. They didn't seem to mind our company, so we spent hours watching them.

(23 photos)


New Article in All-at-Sea: Interview with female single hander

A couple of months ago in the Gambier Islands we met the young, French single hander Charlotte Guillemot. As she is the first female single hander we have met in the Pacific, we interviewed her.

Birgit Hackl: Girl Power: Interviewing Charlotte Guillemot, All At Sea Caribbean, June 2017, p. 40–42. Free download from allatsea.net.


Back in Tahiti

Last night we arrived after a pleasant, but rather slow sail at Point Venus in Tahiti. We caught a Wahoo on the last day and the fridge is filled up with filets and steaks :-)
Now we’re getting ready for our yearly provisioning and spare-part marathon.



Yesterday we motored out through the shallow pass of Faaite with the last light and set sail towards Tahiti (240 nm). We set out in calm conditions and the wind has gradually picked up, so that we’re sailing along swiftly, but in still rather calm seas under sunny skies. That kind of start is much more pleasant than swapping from the lagoon to rough ocean conditions (and get seasick immediately…).
During the night a high swell from the Southwest has arrived and now Pitufa is lifted up 2 to 3 metres each time one of these long, azure hills passes under the keel. 150 nm to go!


Stopover in Faaite

We came in to Faaite yesterday afternoon. We took a walk around the lovely little village today (just 400 people live here) and arranged an appointment with the mayor. We asked about the status of Tahanea, found out that the people of Faaite see it rather as a food reserve than a nature reserve and tried to convince the mayor to actively protect the bird motus in the south for future generations.

Now we’re getting Pitufa ready to head out again through the pass later in the afternoon. We’ll set sail towards Tahiti soon!


Leaving Tahanea

This morning we set the alarm clock to 3 and sailed out through the westernmost pass of Tahanea at 4. The night was brightly lit by a still almost full moon, but I was still a bit nervous, because we had not been through that pass before. In the end it was calm and easy to exit and we set sail towards the neighbouring Faaite (40 nm from pass to pass), doing 4 and later 5 knots in a light northeasterly breeze. Not even Leeloo gets seasick on such a smooth ride :-)

We followed the coastline of Tahanea and as soon as the sun came up a large group of Boobies joined us, squawking loudly and fishing with spectacular plungedives all around Pitufa. They were with us for a few hours and we were sad when they finally left us. They can fly back quickly to Tahanea, but we want to return soon as well!



Yesterday we were anchored off ‘smurf island’ in the middle of the lagoon. During the night a northwesterly wind set in (the forecast had nothing but easterlies predicted…) and we got dangerously close to the steep reef off the island. We brought out a second anchor at 1 o’clock in the morning and spent a rather restless night with fortunately not strong, but consistent winds from the north and even northwest. At dawn the wind picked up, we got the dinghy and the kayak up on the already precariously pitching deck, let the line of the stern anchor drift with a buoy attached and started the engine, worrying whether we’d be able to get up both anchors or if they’d be stuck under coral after the windshift. We had to manoeuvre close to the rocks, but fortunately both anchors put up no resistance and we could sail up to a protected anchorage next to the west-pass. All that happened before breakfast…

After lunch we took the dinghy to the pass for a drift snorkel and were amazed to see lots of little black fins sticking out of the water and splashing around–manta rays! A group of about a dozen of these big rays were swimming just under the surface with wide open mouths, filtering out the plankton and splashing the surface with the tips of their large, black wings. We swam with them for an hour, watching them gracefully ‘fly’ in and out of the strong current, while we tried to stay in the shallower water just out of the current. We’ve seen mantas a few times, but never that close and never for so long. An awe-inspiring experience!

Unfortunately we no longer saw the big dog-tooth tuna that had turned into old friends at the west-pass. When we arrived 8 boats were anchored here, maybe some of them had tuna steaks for dinner…


Weather quirks

The French Polynesian Meteo as well as the grib files predicted a disturbance with wind clocking to the north, then west, south and finally southeast. During such episodes the southerly and/or southeasterly winds are usually strong which the Polynesians call ‘Maramu’.

Ideally we would hop from anchorage to anchorage around an atoll to be on the protected side, but in an atoll as big as Tahanea with wind shifts during the night that is just not possible. We therefore did the next best thing and moved to an anchorage behind a reef sticking out from the southern side of the lagoon that offers protection to all sides but the north. We arrived yesterday with light northerly winds and anchored on a leeshore, shortly later we were bouncing in short, steep waves when squalls from the north set in, but fortunately the wind shifted to the northwest during the night and we were fairly well protected behind the reef while the wind was blowing with 25 knots sustained and up to 40 knots during squalls.

This morning dawned rainy and grey, Pitufa’s sitting in calm water in Southwesterly winds and we’ll stay in this anchorage for another day.


Bird islands in peril

Tahanea was the first atoll we ever sailed too. We were enchanted by the bird colonies and healthy reefs and expected other atolls to be just like that. We were disappointed wherever we went. On populated atolls the motus were all burned down (‘cleaned’) at some point and the endemic shrubs replaced by coconut plantations where people make copra that is then turned into palm oil. Here in French Polynesia the price of copra is subsidised, so the locals are encouraged to continue burning down the last remaining motus with natural vegetation–the only places where birds can dwell and nest.

Additionally coconut trees only have shallow roots that cannot resist the assault of the ocean and so erosion starts once the endemic shrubs are gone. There are many uninhabited little atolls in the Tuamotus and we used to think that they were wild, unspoiled places, but we found out that even these were turned into plantations by well meaning organisations in the past. Quite often rats were accidentally introduced during the copra raids and these rodents finish off the eggs and chicks of remaining nests.

Last year a few people from the neighbouring atoll of Faaite moved to Tahanea, which had been uninhabited for an extended period before, and we can already see the effects. We were hoping that they would limit their activities to the large, long motus in the north, east and south of Tahanea that were already cultivated before and feature mainly coconut trees (and rats). But revisiting the 3 motu clusters in the Southwest that used to be bird sanctuaries we see fewer terns (their eggs are considered a delicacy) and yesterday we were shocked to find a copra drying rack, a basic hut and plastic trash on one of the bigger bird motus. In October 2014 we were anchored in front of exactly this motu and wrote a blog post called ‘the sounds of a motu’ describing the cackling, squeaking, chirping and roaring sounds that reminded us of the South American jungle. This morning we listened again, but could only hear a few sporadic calls. The quietness of the motu is a silent cry for help.



It would be hard to find a more perfect spot than beautiful Tahanea for our 6th cruising anniversary. As an anniversary present we got ourselves a phantastic snorkel trip through the pass with white tips, black tips, grey reef sharks and even a lemon shark, and as a special highlight an eagle ray and a turtle passing by to congratulate ;-)


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.


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 ;-)

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