Threatened paradise Tahanea

We arrived in Tahanea after dark, on a squally night before moonrise, but fortunately we know the atoll and its passes so well that we could still enter without worrying too much. We’re meeting up here with friends and we plan on checking the state of the bird motus in the SW. Over the past three years some people from the neighbouring atoll Faaite have started making copra here, so we hope they have not destroyed the last untouched motus here…


Comfy Ride

After the usual indecisive weather watching and weighing options we decided to catch a weatherwindow westwards. We set out through the pass with the last light in the evening and have had a very stable, comfy ride so far, doing 6 knots average downwind. Even the cat decided to sleep on the couch instead of heading to her sea berth (aka cardboard box on the floor). We should arrive in Tahanea tonight.


Article on Pacific Weather in Cruising World Magazine

This article is on the weather in the tropical South Pacific and we explain the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ).

Christian Feldbauer, Birgit Hackl: Pacific Highs… and Lows, Cruising World, June/July 2019.


A forested motu!

We’ve been in Raroia now for almost a month, it’s a fabulous place and we’re enchanted by the many untouched motus and the large bird colonies.

Now we’re down in the Southeast, which tops it all:

Here the small motus are covered in shrubs, but the biggest motu has a proper forest with different leaf trees–the first remaining forest we’ve found in the Tuamotus–mainly pisonia grandis with stems that are more than a metre thick and growing 20 m high. Underneath there’s of course a layer of humus soil from the fallen trees and many leaves. Incredible, I suppose that’s what the South Pacific atolls looked like when the first Polynesians arrived… We’ve just read books written by travellers in the 19th and early 20th century when it was still common to visit atolls for logging and of course copra plantations were set up everywhere. First thing they did was ‘clearing’ the motus of all endemic plants to set up rows of coconut trees, the result are barren motus with sharp coral gravel and no water for anything but the deep roots of the coconut trees. Sadly this practice still goes on today and is encouraged by the government, as the prices for copra are heavily subsidised..

Up in the trees large numbers of noddies and white terns are nesting right now, red-footed boobies as well. On this and the neighbouring motus we found 6 couples of masked boobies, a very rare species here in the Tuamotus. Two couples are just sitting on eggs, two others have fluffy chicks and two more chicks are already big enough to start flying.
All around the SE motus lots of tiny, chummy Tuamotu sandpipers have followed us around or flown over with their car-alarm-like peep-peep-peep announcement. Fortunately nobody has told these cheerful guys that they’re an endangered species.

We squeezed the talkative shop-owner in the village for info and it seems that the locals are aware of the treasure they have in their motu ‘sauvages’ with all the bird colonies. We heard that they actively want to protect their environment. Very outstanding for a Paumotu community…


Article in ‘Yachtrevue’

We have an article about navigation with the help of satellite pictures in the May edition of the Austrian ‘Yachtrevue’.



While most cruisers hurry through the Tuamotus, we love to stay in one atoll and explore it thoroughly. Raroia is one of the most interesting places we’ve found so far in the Tuamotus with lots of untouched motus. So far we have found a large, racous sooty tern colony, a frigate bird colony and many white terns, noddies, red-footed boobies and even brown boobies. The ‘noddy trees’ are already covered in nests with small cicks, while the red-footed boobies still sing to their mates (at least they seem to think it’s singing, while it sounds like roaring and cackling to the untrained ear) and build nests together. The lagoon itself is full of fish and very nosy reef sharks and nurse sharks.

We are suprised to find so much untouched nature here, even though there’s a village next to the pass. There’s quite some pearl farming going on, so maybe the locals are too busy cultivating pearls to bother making copra (and destroy the natural habitat) or go and collect seabird eggs (which has led to the extinction of sooty terns on most atolls).

Whatever the reason, we enjoy watching the wildlife here! Of course we’re also keeping busy doing maintenance on Pitufa with sewing machine projects, small sail repairs and yesterday Christian started a major winch-modification project. We love our Tuamotu routine where we can work and play according to our own schedule :-)


Pretty Raroia

We’ve been in Raroia now for a week and we love it here. Along the eastern side an endless chain of pretty motus stretches out along a minty shelf, it’s almost too kitchy to be true.
The coral in the shallow water is quite healthy and there’s an amazing number of fish around. They’re not shy, so it seems that not many people go fishing here.
If it wasn’t for the flies that invade the boat each time we anchor, we’d move in ;-)



Yesterday evening we left Nengonengo and are now approaching Raroia in nice conditions. 8 nm to the pass!



We reached Rekareka this morning and have managed to anchor despite 15-20 knots of wind, about 2 m windseas from the E and a 2m swell from the S. It’s suprisingly calm (but still rolly) at the western side of this tiny motu and we have a beautiful view of lush motus with many palmtrees, but also lots of shrubs and leaf trees. Different kinds of terns and boobies have flown by to check us out, but unfortunately we won’t be able to go ashore–just impossible with the high swell breaking on the outer reef…
We’ll stay for the day and do some snorkeling before we head on to Raroia in the evening.


Great forecast

We left Nengonengo this morning with what with thought perfect timing in the pass (and got crazy high standing waves) in perfectly stable weather conditions (no cloud in the sky, great forecast)–since noon we’ve had one squall per hour. Good sailing, too much wind, reefing down, rain, wind gone and the same again and again.


Nature paradise Nengonengo

There’s a warning for high swell and therefore strong currents in passes, so we still haven’t left Nengonengo. Instead we did a snorkel in the pass yesterday, were sucked out high speed with the current, marveled at fat grey reef sharks, a big nurse shark, numerous white and blacktip reef sharks, napoleons and swarm fishies in incredible numbers–absolutely fabulous. We just had to be careful to hop back into the dinghy before we drifted into the area at the exit of the pass where the standing waves started (wind against a strong current makes for impressively high waves…). We did this trip a few times as it’s a short pass.

Today we took the opportunity to explore the northwestern and western motus by dinghy. After a one mile ride across the rough lagoon we walked a few kilometres down the western motus and were positively surprised to find large nesting colonies of frigate birds, many red-footed boobies who are just courting (they don’t dance like their cousins the blue-footed boobies, but ‘sing’ instead, or rather roar ;-) )

Nengonengo has turned out to be the nature paradise we hoped it would be…


Tropic Birds

Once we were anchored down we met the caretaker of the island, who lives alone here. His job is to guard the atoll, which turns out is private and belongs to the Wan family. They had a pearlfarm here which was closed 20 years ago, but the buildings still stand and the airport is also still in use (mainly for stop-overs of private jets on the way to Marutea or the Gambier).

Usually sailboats are not allowed here, but as we arrived just before heavy weather we were told we could stay. In the meantime we managed to get a special permission to check out the remote, little motus in the south searching for rare birds.

We took Pitufa to those southern motus just after the mara’amu stopped and spent two days in calm weather exploring there. Most of the atolls in the Tuamotus were turned into coconut plantations by the villagers who live there at some point. The remote, uninhabited ones that one would suspect to be untouched belong mostly to the church and workers are taken there regularly to collect copra.
Copraproduction still goes on and by now even the tiniest motus have mainly been deforested and replanted with coconut palms, rendering them worthless as eco-systems and lifeless.

As Nengonengo was left deserted after the pearlfarm was closed and ‘forgotten’ for twenty years, nature had time to reclaim the atoll. There are palmtrees on the northern motus and the caretaker makes some copra there, but the southern motus are mainly clad in endemic trees. Much to our amazement we found a large colony of red-tailed tropic birds–a species which used to be abundant in the Tuamtous (atoll names like ‘Nukutavake’, ‘gathering of tropic birds’ tell us that much), but has disappeared by now from here. Birds who nest on the ground and can’t walk on their webbed paddling feet were easy prey for the locals…

We also hoped to find boobies there, as we’ve seen them flying around, but their nesting season has not started yet, so it’s hard to tell how many actually live here. Apart from that we saw white terns, noddies and a few couples of frigate birds (they already sit on fluffy chicks :-) ).


Safely anchored

We made it safely into the atoll despite rough conditions in the pass and are anchored down for the nasty weather that is predicted. Just now a big black cloud approaches and announces the storm to come.


Fish jars

Last night we were still slowly bouncing along, with flogging sails, but at least sailing. Just before sunrise this morning the long awaited wind finally set in, the skies cleared up and we were sailing briskly with 6 knots when a 1.5 m mahi-mahi bit the lure… We hardly managed to get the big guy up on our high aft deck. We always use small lures and wish for medium-sized fish because such a big animal is hard to kill, hard to cut into pieces and takes ages to process into fish preserves.
Anyway, after a few hours hard work the pressure cooker is on the stove (a few more fillings will be needed) and we’ll have jars for the next few weeks (or months). Of course the fridge is also full with as much as we three can mangage within a week.

The chartplotter estimates that we’ll reach Nengonengo at 2 o’clock in the morning, so we’ll see if we can anchor for a few hours off a little motu that we’ll reach in the afternoon. First it would be good to kill a few hours and second it looks like an interesting place, no village, just a few motus with coconut plantations (the grid is clearly visible on sat pics) and the rest could be bird motus.
If we can manage to anchor there we’ll set out again in the evening for a nightsail to Nengonengo, if not we’ll reef down and slowly sail on in order to arrive with first light.

Tomorrow morning the real adventure will begin: anchoring off the pass, sounding out the uncharted pass and hopefully getting Pitufa in. Keep your fingers crossed for us!



People usually ask us if we’re scared of storms, but our main worry when setting out on a passage is usually that there won’t be enough wind. ‘Being becalmed’ sounds serene and in the Med we had indeed such days when the boat was just sitting on a perfectly flat sea. That’s like being at anchor, you can do whatever jobs are on the list, have a swim in between and enjoy life.
An ocean is hardly ever calm. Even if you’re sitting without a huff of a breeze there’s always wind blowing somewhere that sends waves over large distances. This morning we ran completely out of breeze after a night of flogging sails going downwind in a light breeze. We let the boat drift, rocking and rolling with the stern splashing into the waves and whenever we were turned sideways to the waves we’d roll abominably. We tried to make the best of it, dipped into the Pacific from the swimming ladder and took the cat out on deck for a little stroll.

On the weather forecast the convergence zone looked very slim, we counted on running out of wind for a few hours in between Northwesterlies and Southeasterlies, but the squally zone with rain, turning winds and windsucker clouds goes on and on. Whenever there’s a little breeze we adjust the sails and think we’re finally off again, but after half an hour it starts raining again and the wind dies down. By now we know that we won’t make it to Nengonengo before dark tomorrow, so we’re no longer in hurry. We’ll try to get there Saturday morning (150 nm to go).

Once we’ve reached the atoll we hope that it’ll be calm enough to anchor on the outer reef, get the dinghy into the water and check out an uncharted pass on the NW side that looks doable on satellite pictures. We’ll take a portable depthsounder, GPS and snorkelgear. If it’s deep enough, we’ll try to get Pitufa into the lagoon and then we still have half a day to find a nice anchorage before a strong mara’amu (Southeasterly wind) is predicted to set in and last for a week.

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