Leaving Rapa Iti

After more than a month we reluctantly leave Rapa Iti and our friends here. Unfortunately the second mooring didn’t work out, but the project goes on and more will hopefully follow! 600 nm to go to the Gambier Islands.


Leaving Rapa Iti

After more than a month we reluctantly leave Rapa Iti and our friends here. Unfortunately the second mooring didn’t work out, but the project goes on and more will hopefully follow! 600 nm to go to the Gambier Islands.


Crappy weather

2019 has started with seriously crappy weather here as the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) is hanging over us and troughs and lows come our way that bring strong winds (the highest we saw was 40 knots) and torrential rainfalls. In the past two weeks we’ve had two sunny days, both of which we used for our mooring project. Apart from those working days we haven’t left the boat much and are desperate to stretch our legs. Wet clothes are accumulating and never get the chance to dry out, the whole interior of the boat feels damp and the cat is seriously bored and cranky. We haven’t experienced such a prolonged spell of nasty weather since Panama (2012).
The masses of rain that are falling are just incredible and the whole bay is murky brown–it’s astounding that coral can survive such conditions with tons of sediment and freshwater.

We are now attached to the new mooring(!!), we hope to set up another one this week and then we’ll hopefully soon find a weather window to sail to the sunny and dry summerweather of the Gambier Islands.


Part 2 of our Anchoring Article in All-at-Sea January 19

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Anchoring Games: Part Two–Techniques for Special Conditions, All At Sea Caribbean, January 2019, p. 36–40. Free download from allatsea.net.


A mooring for Rapa Iti

The main bay of Rapa Iti is infamous for tricky anchoring. Cruising guides mention ‘dead coral rubble’ at the bottom, the bay is very deep (20-30 m) and uneven. Many boats have dragged and fouled their anchors and chains here.
When we got here last year we found that large areas of the bay are indeed covered in live staghorn coral–especially the shallower parts that are inviting for anchoring as recovering fouled gear is easier in less depth.

As we usually try not do damage any coral we were horrified to have our chain grinding down the delicate structures. We thought that a mooring would be the best solution for that problematic situation and presented this idea to the mayor, who immediately agreed and got us in touch with Alexandre, the foreman of the community workers here. After some brainstorming and researching they started constructing a 2.4 ton cement block including rebars. During the holidays work stalled, then they had to order more parts from Tahiti, so the mooring wasn’t finished when we left. Returning this year we found the project still ongoing, but by then all parts had finally arrived and two blocks were ready to go.

The main problem now was how to deploy the heavy blocks as the island doesn’t have a working platform or barge. We built a raft made of 8 gasoline drums (welded together with a frame) and yesterday was the big day: Alexandre brought the blocks and rafts to the big quay with the truck and a nerve-racking experiment started.
After many attempts and near-disasters the block was finally in the shallow water next to the quay and we positioned the raft on top. The excavator lifted the block, we tied everything together and after some readjustments we were excited to see that the float carried the weight–only to watch it slowly tilt into a vertical position. Luckily it did not sink, but remained stable in that awkward position. What to do? In the end we pushed it more than a mile out into the bay with two dinghies (with the help of Mike and Shelly on Avatar–thanks a lot!) all the way worrying that it would sink before we could reach the marked spot.

We made it to the spot, positioned the block and sank the raft together with the whole mooring arrangement. Once it was down we cut the raft free that broached like a metal whale and afterwards we freed the chain, buoys and line–tadah: finished mooring!!

There was lots of working time (thank you, Alexandre!!), expensive material (sponsored by the Commune of Rapa Iti), sweat and adrenaline involved and there were quite a few moments when we nearly gave up.

Now there is a 2.5 ton mooring block with a 16 mm chain, 20 mm shackles and strong line available for sailboats in the bay of Huarei, Rapa Iti, that will prevent fouled chains and save the coral from damage :-)
GPS position: S 27°36.808′ W 144°20.034′

A second mooring will hopefully follow next week–we’ll keep you posted!



We’ve had a busy time here in Rapa Iti. The island community celebrated Christmas and New Years as well as a big wedding together and the cruisers were invited as well. Last year we were the only boat for a month here, but this year we had 5(!) neighbours, so we got our own cruisers’ table at the festivities ;-)

The weather was fine in the beginning and we did a few hikes, but then a series of lows moved over us bringing gusty and rainy weather, so we managed to get some writing done. Apart from that we spent quite some time finishing the mooring project we started last year (but more about that in a separate blog entry).

Today the president of French Polynesia arrives for a two-day visit, so the community has prepared yet another series of events and we’ll try to be there, despite the rain ;-)


New article in Ocean7

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Die kleinen Dinge des Bootslebens, OCEAN7 1 (Jan./Feb.) 2019, p. 48–50


2018–A year full of adventures

For Pitufa and her crew, 2018 was a very exciting year. We visited many new places, some of them were rather off the beaten track and some were real nature paradises. We made several new friends with locals and enjoyed Polynesian hospitality over and over.

We started our tour in January 2018 from Rapa Iti in the Austral Islands and we are back in Rapa again, but we were active in the meantime and sailed about 4.700 nautical miles. First our round trip brought us to the Gambier Islands for the height of the cyclone season and then to our favorite atoll in the Tuamotus before we had busy times with plenty of boat projects in Tahiti and Raiatea.

With a newly painted Pitufa we left French Polynesia in July and sailed north to escape the colder winter months in the Southern Line Islands and in Penrhyn in the Northern Cook Islands, where we found an amazing wildlife. Then southward again to Manue, Aitutaki and Rarotonga in the Southern Cooks. After two months in the Cook Islands we left well provisioned and sailed southeast to the Austral Islands and hence returned to French Polynesia. On our tour through the Australs we only missed Rimatara, but we stopped at all the others: uninhabited seabird sanctuary Maria, geologically fascinating Rurutu, friendly Tubuai, beautiful Raivavae, and remote Rapa Iti with its unique culture and stunning landscapes.

Some destinations were quite adventurous and challenging, but we learned a lot, particularly anchoring on outer reefs. We spent many sleepless or at least uncomfy nights rolling and pitching in open anchorages, but it was definitely worth it: we had incredible wildlife encounters, met wonderful people and enjoyed stunningly beautiful scenery.

We wish all our readers merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and exciting New Year!


Photos of our stop in Tubuai

Tubuai, Austral Islands

In October 2018 we visited Tubuai. We took a while to find a cozy anchorage, but then we enjoyed the hiking and the friendly people.

(24 photos)


Back in Rapa Iti (Oparo)

We arrived in Rapa Iti at 9 in the evening yesterday and were glad that we could follow our GPS track from last year through the outlying reef maze into the big bay. This morning the bay was bathed in sunlight with the high, rugged mountains towering in the background–Rapa Iti (or Opara as the locals say) is a spectacular place.
In Rapa you have to make the most of sunny hours, because you never know how long they will last, so we washed all things that got damp and/or salty during the passage at 7 in the morning and had them dried and safely under deck by 11.

The officials came by at 9, not so much to check paperwork (they didn’t even want to see our papers), but for a coffee and a chat. Alain, the policeman, filled us in on news (not so many) and upcoming events (quite a few during the holidays), so we’re sure we’ll have a busy time here.


Wet mattress

It’s been a grey, windy and rainy passage so far. Usually we have our aft cabin hatch open on passages whenever it’s not extremely rough, but because of the rain it was only a tiny gap open with a rubber mat covering the windward side this morning. Suddenly there was a a crashing sound followed by a loud whoosh–one of those waves that insist on being different than all the others had managed to break over the side, the cockpit was full of water and after mopping that up we found that the tiny gap in the hatch had let in enough water to soak our bed… That’s the first time this has happened in all our time on the boat and we have no idea how we should manage to wash and dry the huge, heavy and wobbly latex mattress…


Difficult to say good-bye

We are getting ready to leave as there’s a weather window for Rapa Iti coming up. Yesterday we went to say good-bye to our local friends, so of course Pitufa got loaded up with fruit and veg… It’s very tempting to stay and spend Christmas here with them, but we should slowly make our way east as the cyclone season has started.


Article on Anchoring in All-at-Sea Magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Anchoring Games: Part One–Material and Basic Maneuvers, All At Sea Caribbean, December 2018, p. 30–34. Free download from allatsea.net.


Having a good time in Raivavae

It’s our third visit to Raivavae, but this year we’re lucky with the weather for the first time–sunny skies make such a difference…
We’ve been dividing our time between writing/boat projects and fun activities with our cruiser friends. Three days ago we hiked up Mt. Hiro, the highest mountain, together: 8 cruisers in a row ;-)
To get to the path we had to cross a private garden. Instead of complaining about us trespassing the friendly local couple had a bag of lychees, a few stacks of bananas and some taro prepared for us when we got back down after a fabulous hike with breathtaking views.

We hear reports from Tahiti and Moorea that thefts and vandalism are becoming more frequent. It seems that some sections of the population are getting fed up with the numerous sailboats.

Here sailboats are still rare and each time we get off the boat we have some pleasant encounter. Yesterday we took the dinghy ashore where our friends from Avatar where just getting ready for a bike tour around the island. They discovered a flat tyre and a local girl who had been watching the scene immediately returned with her bike to lend it to them… Today we went to a little minimarket, asked whether they had bread and were told that they were sold out. We bought a few other items and just as we were leaving the shop the salesgirl handed us a baguette–she had taken one from the family freezer and wouldn’t let us pay for it.

These little, spontaneous gestures make life so pleasant on remote Polynesian islands…


Weather forecasts for cruising in and around French Polynesia

I’ve just put a page on our blog that, on the one hand, summarizes all weather forecasts we’re using on Pitufa. It includes weather bulletins, surface-analysis charts, cyclone warnings, El-Niño discussions, and of course all Saildocs codes. On the other hand, the page also embeds all those current forecasts, so it may be a convenient all-in-one weather site for cruisers in French Polynesia. If you have any recommendations for other forecasts, let me know and might add it to the page.

The link to this site is www.Pitufa.at/weather-fp/.

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