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2021
13
May

Richtung Horizont–E-Book Version Available Now!

Now also the e-book version is available on Amazon.
You can order it here.

2021
09
May

Travelling in times of Covid

French Polynesia’s borders were closed for a while, now they have opened up, but only for American tourists – funny, as the US handling of the Covid situation did not seem exactly like a success story, maybe the colour of the dollar gives heightened immunity?
All other travellers must still apply for a special permission to travel and present important motives. Christian’s passport expires in May, we could not manage to get a new one remotely, so we had to tackle tons of paperwork and applications to get to Austria before the expiry date… The permission of the Haute Commisariat to fly, Covid tests, forms for each transit country–quite nerve wrecking to be standing in queue after queue, each time hoping that the person behind the counter will accept the pile of paperwork.
We flew with Air France via Vancouver, Paris and Munich (our flight was cancelled, rebooked and changed 6 times…) and it was quite full–surprising when you consider the complications involved…

Anyway, we made it safe and sound to Austria and are now enjoying a couple of weeks with friends and family. Austria in springtime is lovely with fresh greens and blossoms everywhere, but still waaaay too cold for our delicate tropical bodies ;-)

2021
06
May

Richtung Horizont–our book

We’ve just published a little account of our travels on Pitufa (in German) that’s now available on Amazon!
Available at Amazon (Paperback and e-book)

2021
30
Apr

Protection is needed now or it’s too late

Yesterday I had some appointments in town and did my runs between different locations by thumb – hitchhiking works really well in French Polynesia, especially when you hold up a sign where you want to go.
I got chatting with a very nice Polynesian woman who picked me up, we talked about the Tuamotus, how we cruisers are blamed for pollution, harming nature and then I mentioned how few motu with endemic vegetation and birds are left and what a pity it is that the locals just burn the motu down for copra.

There were a few moments of silence and then she said: “I’ve just come back from Rangiroa and that’s what we did there for a week. With the raising of the subsidies for copra the families are fighting who gets to work which motu…”

She agreed that it would be good and important to protect a few little spots of nature, but the money’s just too good. The government claims that raising the prices for copra is a measure to help people during the covid crisis, but why don’t they give out funding for other projects? If the speed of destruction picks up there will be no nature left in French Polynesia within a short period of time.

It’s not even an argument to protect wild nature for the sake of tourism, because tourists expect coral rubble and rows of palmtrees. That’s the image of the South Sea that we have and not fertile islands with trees and soil…

2021
27
Apr

Article on Whisker Pole Handling in All-at-Sea Magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Pole Position! The advantages of having two whisker poles, All At Sea Caribbean, May 2021, p. 54–56. Download the whole magazine for free

2021
20
Apr

Keeping up precautions and social distancing

French Polynesia is doing a good job to prevent Covid-19 from spreading. People generally still wear masks in shops and public places and remain cautious. Vaccinations are going on rapidly, in many places everybody 18+ can get an appointment for a shot.

However, we have noticed that some cruisers think that as soon as they have their two shots they can drop all precautions, they are already kissing again and going back to business as usual. Vaccinations only give a partial protection from experiencing severe symptoms, they are NOT a 100 % protection!

It’s really not so hard to wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and wave a friendly hello instead of kissing cheeks…

2021
14
Apr

Squally passage

When trying to sail eastwards we usually wait for some disturbance to unsettle the usual prevailing wind (a little trough, a low), because then the wind shifts from the easterly direction to the north. A good opportunity to make easy miles to the east, but quite often not exactly fine-weather sailing.

Yesterday we set out with sunny skies, but shortly after we sailed towards squall clouds (still good sailing), but we knew we had an uncomfy night ahead of us. When I took over my watch at 8 p.m. I could see lighting all around and during the following hours we passed through a series of thunderstorms. Strong rain, gusts, unpredicted strange wind directions and spots with no wind at all follow those clouds. We call them ‘windsuckers’…

Early in the morning a steady breeze from the North was back and we arrived in the anchorage of Marina Taina at noon.

We saw a little water spout just south of Huahine:

2021
12
Apr

Magical morning

Raiatea in the morning is quite often simply magical: the lagoon is glassy calm, the island is mirrored on the surface of the sea and soft, white clouds sit on the soaring peaks. The landbreeze that gently blows down from those mountains is incredibly fragrant–a mixture of flowers and pine scent. We usually use this cool morning air to do exercises on deck before it gets too hot. Today we got the dinghy up on deck, unpacked the sails and prepared the boat for a passage. We’d love to stay, there are still many quiet corners left we’d love to explore, but we have to sail to Tahiti! A steady northeasterly is predicted for the next day and we’ll use it to sail the 110 nm there.

2021
08
Apr

New photo album: Raivavae

Cyclone season 2020/2021 in Raivavae

We wanted to spend a few quiet months in Raivavae to work on projects and to go easy on our elderly ship's cat. We enjoyed a gorgeous summer, had fun with cruiser friends and local friends and found unexpected nature gems. An anti-cruiser campaign led by the protestant priest gave our summer a bit of a bitter after-taste. Not many sailboats make it to Raivavae so his claims they were polluting and destroying the lagoon seemed extreme. We tried our best to explain and improve relationships...

(44 photos)

2021
04
Apr

Around Raiatea and Tahaa

We’ve been hanging out around Raiatea and Tahaa (the two islands share one, big lagoon) for two weeks now. The infrastructure around these islands is very convenient: 4G internet, little supermarkets everywhere that get stuff from the supply ships several times a week, but sell also local produce. The nicest way to get locally grown fruit and veg is to walk down the coastal roads: whenever somebody has too many bananas/pamplemousse/rambutan/avocados/… they just set up a table in front of their property–great to get fresh things and to have a chat.

We’ve anchored in various spots and most locals who go by with their boats give us a friendly wave. Only the NW side of Raiatea (Pr. Mirimiri) is ‘famous’ for disliking cruisers. In the muddy bay there we got chased away a few years ago ‘because we destroy the coral there’ (in mud??) and this year a boat came by out on the shelf to tell us that we were disturbing their spearfishing area (by parking there?). Two years ago a local cut the anchor chain of a cruising boat and according to the verdict of this February he was found guilty and got a fine of 50.000 CPF (approx 500 USD), because he had ‘an understandable reason’…

It’s a hot autumn here, so we’ve spent quite some time in the water. Many reefs are dead and overgrown with algae, but some coral in the shallow areas is in surprisingly good shape, despite temperatures above 30°C. There are not many fish around and the ones we see are small and skittish–there’s too much spearfishing going on. At least we’ve seen a few turtles, and they were rather relaxed, so they don’t seem to get hunted here anymore.

2021
24
Mar

Hypocritical people everywhere

We quite often criticise how little untouched wilderness remains here in French Polynesia and the lack of efforts by the government and other organisations to protect the environment. We complain about locals who still hunt turtles and collect sea bird eggs and blame a lack of education and awareness.

Yesterday we read on the Austrian News that the fishermen and fisherwomen there have finally managed to get the right to shoot cormorants as they do damage to the fishery… We hypocritical Europeans are so good at knowing what other countries have to preserve: there’s a public outcry when the Indians shoot their last tigers or the Brazilians log their rainforests. But beware if a single bear sticks his furry snout over the Austrian border, or if a swan poops in a lake, or the aforementioned cormorants dare to eat fish–they immediately get the death penalty.
What are they supposed to do instead? Order a burger (from a cow that used up incredible resources being fed under quite often horrible circumstances, transported around half the world, etc.) at MacKing?
Wouldn’t it make much more sense to be happy about every wild animal that has somehow managed to adapt to the environment we have made?

The problem with humanity is that we assume that we own the planet and all other creatures are only tolerated if they are of use to us. Why don’t people grasp that we are just one of many species who are supposed to share this beautiful planet in a sustainable way?

2021
18
Mar

Arriving at night

We always tell newby cruisers that it’s not a good idea to arrive at night, much wiser to time pass entries with good light.
But quite often (like yesterday) it becomes clear over the course of the day that we won’t make landfall in daylight–an arrival-bubbly and the thought of a whole night spent in a calm, comfy bed are hard to resist though…

If we know a place and have GPS tracks we usually go for creature comforts and enter at night. Last night we could have sailed all the way up to the main pass of Raiatea and follow our tracks into the lagoon and to an anchor bay from there. That would have meant several miles and hours detour though.
Instead we headed to the closest pass: charted, wide, deep and marked–piece of cake. It turned out though that those markers are not lit at night and pointing Pitufa’s bow in the pitch-black dark night towards the sound of breaking waves, just relying on the chart plotter felt a bit eery.

We made it into the lagoon without a problem (the chart info for passes and channels in the Societies is very reliable) and then slowly motored northwards with Christian on the bow with a torch, to check for buoys and other obstacles along the way. Entering the bay we saw just one anchor light, but shapes of several unlit boats all around. We carefully picked a spot, dropped the hook and by midnight we were sitting in the cockpit with a bottle of home-made bubbly and some snacks :-)

This morning we were quite surprised to see 10 other boats in the bay—-not exactly great seamanship to forget the anchor light in an area with quite some traffic… For the past two months we were just 2 sailboats in the lagoon of Raivavae–now we’ll have to adjust to the fleets here in the Societies again.

2021
17
Mar

Wrong wind forecasts

The day before yesterday we were supposed to have whopping 20 knots for great sailing–and got thunderstorms and fluky winds. Yesterday we were supposed to have about 15 knots and got several hours of 30+ knots instead. Today the grib threatened with no wind and we had 15 knots all morning and still 10-12 now in the afternoon…
We can already see the silhouette of Raiatea ahead, 36 nm to go!

2021
16
Mar

Annoying weather

We got a mixed bag of thunderstorm, no wind and lots of wind. 194 to go

2021
15
Mar

Fast sailing

The wind set in with a squall last afternoon and we got the gennaker down just in time. Now we’re steadily sailing along in 15 to 20 knots from the SE and a few squalls around. 320 to go!

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