ende

2020
19
Nov

Back again in Tahiti

We arrived in Tahiti last night after the breeze had died down–we had to motor the last few miles. It looks like we may get a weather window for the Austral Islands next week, so we’ll try to get all our chores done quickly before that. I have to visit my dentist, we have to repair our foresail and of course we’ll think of a few bits and pieces that we have to buy in Papeete, but we’ll try to get away as quickly as possible again.

2020
18
Nov

Gennaker

This morning the wind dropped to 5 to 9 knots and Pitufa was stumbling along goose-winged. We got out the gennaker–it took us about an hour until we had everything sorted out, quite a cumbersome procedure. Now Pitufa’s flying along under that huge blue-yellow lightwind sail and it’s so calm that Leeloo came up to check whether we’re already at anchor. Pitufa’s companionway ladder is 6 feet high and almost vertical–quite a climb for a 20 year old cat ;-)
66 nm to go!

2020
18
Nov

Almost like at anchor

We’re having a slow, but comfy ride. A bit rolly sometimes, but mostly like being at anchor. I’ve written two articles in two days and now I’m working on a ‘through the tuamotus’ gallery for our blog. Christian’s proof-reading my book and programming. Very different from our recent trips (climbing along walls, extreme cooking with ballistic ingredients, but mostly seasickish lying around, trying to hold on to the sofa ;-) ). 140 nm to go!

2020
17
Nov

Comfy sailing

We’re having a smooth down-wind sail in light winds. We’re not doing much more than 4 knots, but it’s really comfy. Just now we’re passing through a little squall, it’s sunny despite the downpour and we’re sailing through a rainbow gate :-) 175 nm to go!

2020
16
Nov

Underway to Tahiti

Cruiser’s plans are always written in the sand and the weather as well as outer circumstances dictate our itineraries. We set out from Tahanea this morning planning to sail straight down to Tubuai (Austral Islands). When we rolled out the foresail we saw that the leech line had ripped open the top half of the sail–sailing close-hauled the sail wouldn’t have its proper shape and we would cause further damage. We have therefore changed course and are headed for Tahiti. I’ll see a dentist there (a loose filling needs attention), we’ll get out the sewing machine and repair the sail and then we’ll be hopefully soon be able to continue to the Australs. We won’t go ashore more than necessary–Covid numbers are soaring in Papeete. 255 nm to go!

2020
16
Nov

Our new Rutland wind generator!

Our old Rutland wind generator died after 11 years of faithful service in the Gambier last April when we didn’t tie it down during a 60 knot squall (our own fault, but the weather forecast had predicted nothing that violent, it was in the middle of the night and when we finally got up to save it during rain and storm, it was too late…).

We liked the Rutland a lot, because it’s small and very quiet–nothing worse than those howling banshees some cruisers have sitting on their sterns. Even though it doesn’t produce lots of energy it constantly contributes during the night and it’s definitely great on grey and windy days. We therefore ordered the newer version of our old one again (Rutland 914i), got it last week and now it’s already humming happily up on the radar arch!

2020
15
Nov

Riding Squalls to Tahanea

In Tahiti the Covid situation is similarly serious as in Europe–the people put lots of effort into precautions in the beginning, but international flights brought in too many cases (interestingly enough mainly politicians and administrative staff, not tourists as expected). There’s a curfew now in Tahiti and Moorea, but inter-island traffic goes on and so more and more cases are reported from remote islands… Very worrying.

We left (slightly touristy) Fakarava yesterday and the 50 nm to Tahanea turned out to be longer (we had to tack 6 times) and rougher than expected. We were riding one squall after the other and reached Tahanea at midnight. Steering through the pass in a moonless night with 3 knots of ingoing current was a bit exciting…

It was worth it though: snorkeling the pass yesterday we met 3 big manta rays :-)

2020
08
Nov

My historical novel

I’ve just finished writing a historical novel about the Tahitian women who were abducted by the mutineers of the Bounty when they set out to find a hiding place in the Pacific. The topic is of course well-known, but presented from a completely new angle with a modern, perky narrating voice.
Writing the book was the easy part (just 120 000 words and two years of work ;-) ), now comes the tricky one–finding a publisher. If you’re a publisher or literary agent or you know one–give me a shout :-)

2020
05
Nov

Hunting and fishing

In some remote places of French Polynesia there is still an abundancy of fish and clams on the reefs and coconut crabs hide on motus. The resources of such tiny eco-systems are very limited though and overhunting and overfishing is always a problem when locals do raids without much thought of sustainability.

Cruisers sometimes go along with this ‘living off the land’ mentality and get carried away, filling their freezers with luxury food for free, because ‘there were so many’. Even if you take only one–imagine what happens when 100s of yachts stop per year and each one of them takes just one grouper, one coconut crab and one lobster… It’s so much nicer to go snorkeling on a reef where fish are not terrified of divers…

Polynesians are wonderfully generous, but it is still advisable to politely refuse when offered female lobsters or tiny coconut crabs.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and give those sailing in your wake the chance to still experience wildlife.

Coconut crab

2020
05
Nov

Protecting birds

We are very worried about shrinking bird populations in French Polynesia. Locals burn down motus for more palm tree plantations, but also cruisers unthinkingly disturb the few remaining ‘wild’ little islands.

If you get lucky and find one of those motus with shrubs, high, deciduous trees and circling birds explore with care: you might see red-footed boobies nesting in trees, frigate birds, noddies and white terns next to them. If tiny, sparrow-like creatures follow you around, you’ve encountered endangered endemic Tuamotu sandpipers (‘Titi’ in Polynesia)! Brown boobies, masked boobies and tropic birds nest on beaches, are therefore most vulnerable and have already become extinct in most places. Only tiny colonies of crested terns and sooty terns (they nest on rocky islands) remain.

When you anchor off a motu with birds be careful not to disturb those last refuges and observe from the distance:
- don’t light fires
- don’t have beachparties
- don’t walk dogs
- don’t go kitesurfing in the vicinity

Even a harmless beach walk can shy parents away long enough to end lethal for a small chick…

Young boobies are very curious and will plunge-dive relentlessly on a trolled lure. It’s best to roll in the fishing line, whenever they are around!

Find more info about the birds of French Polynesia on the webpage of the ornithologist society www.manu.pf

Brown Booby

2020
04
Nov

Good infrastructure in Fakarava

We usually don’t stay too long in Fakarava, because it’s one of the bigger atolls (a long way to a protected anchorages when the wind shifts) and a bit too busy for our taste (dive tourists, charter cats), but we have to admit that it’s certainly a very convenient place to be: the supply ship comes every Wednesday and the supermarkets are really well stocked, a local farm sells super-high quality veg, free internet at the yachtservices and full cell phone connection all over the atoll…
Today’s supply ship will hopefully bring our new dinghy, a wind generator, foam for our couch, fabric for upholstery and catfood for Leeloo!

2020
25
Oct

Cat worries

We were worried sick when Leeloo suddenly had a haemorrhage in the vitrious body of her left eye five weeks ago–just after we had arrived in the Tuamotus… We tried to get a long distance diagnosis from different vets and ordered drops to lower the eye pressure from Tahiti. After a dozen phone calls to different vets, pharmacies, a money transfer via the post office and a day of waiting at the airport we had the meds, but would they work? A few more bleedings followed, the eye went blind, but Leeloo recovered. It’s quite stressful having a geriatric crew member, but fortunately she’s a tough old girl…

2020
19
Oct

Back at the village

On our second visit to the village we already have the feeling that we know most of the faces here (no wonder, only 65 people live on the atoll) and we were greeted like returning friends. We talked with the mayor and the policeman again, praising their efforts to protect the untouched motus, trying to emphasize how precious and rare such wilderness is.
Then we did a little presentation at the school about the local species and the fragility of such a little eco-system as an atoll. The kids were super-interested and cute (one class with kids between 5 and 10 years), aahing and ooohing the pics of their birds here–they only know the most common species (like noddies, white terns and frigate birds). We cobbled together the French, Tahitian and Paumotu names for rarer species as well and then we went on to the role of trees on a coral atoll. Fortunately there are still quite a few motus here that have not been burned down and turned into copra plantations. No trees means no compost and no space for nesting birds, no birds mean not enough nutrients (guano) for the motus and the coral, no coral means no fish and no fish means nothing to eat. I think I made my (very simplified but still valuable) point ;-)

2020
17
Oct

Mixed feelings

We’ve now spent three weeks here and our experiences are a bit mixed. We were very happy to find about 50 nesting couples of brown boobies (more than anywhere else in the Tuamotus, which is a sad fact by itself) and a few endemic sandpipers. Most of the little motus in the biosphere only have shrubs and some trees, but on a few coconut trees were planted at some point and we found some signs of people doing copra there: some burnt patches and plastic rubbish left behind…

During our visit to the village we got a wonderfully hospitable reception and we had the feeling that the people were on a very friendly basis with the local wildlife: a tame turtle approached us in the small-boat harbour, two nurse-sharks begged for food together with her and crested terns hopped around us, also expecting some fish bits. However, when we snorkeled the pass, we were first enchanted by the healthy coral, but then we found turtles and reef sharks in the fish traps the locals have set up on both sides of the pass. Fish traps are never great for an eco-system, because the fish are speared out of there in big numbers (usually to export them to Tahiti) and it seems doubtful whether that’s sustainable. The locals assured us that turtles and sharks are just bycatch and get released, but then, why would they build the traps with such wide entrances in the first?

2020
03
Oct

Brewing aboard

I’m sure we’ve mentioned our bubbly experiments a few times already, but as there have been questions recently and an article from us about that topic in Cruising World I thought it was time to write a new blog entry.

Alcohol is horribly expensive here in the South Pacific, so many locals brew their own ‘komo’ (fermented sugarwater with yeast, that’s how we got started years ago…). They use baker’s yeast and the results are strong, but have a distinct scent–like old socks or smelly shoes. The solution for this problem is using proper wine yeast (available at online shops, e.g. brouwland.be, or holzeis.at, etc.)
For us it’s not just a matter of saving money, but also storage: we love hanging out in remote areas without beach bars or supermarkets, but we still enjoy our sundowners, so brewing aboard is the perfect solution for us.

Fermenting fruit juices is easiest:
Fill one liter of 100% apple or raisin juice (or whatever, make sure it does not contain artificial sweeteners!) into a container, add 1 liter of water, 1 cup of sugar and ½ tsp of champagne or wine yeast (available at home-brew stores) and shake well. Leave standing with an airlock on top (or the lid half closed) for some days and keep tasting—when the sugar’s gone it’s ready. Sterilize 6 ½ l pressure bottles, put 1 tsp of sugar into each bottle and pour in the bubbly (leaving the yeasty goo in the container). Wait for 1-2 weeks and enjoy a light, bubbly ‘champagne-like’ drink!

Christian loves his beer, but starting from scratch is too complicated, so we buy ‘beer kits’ that contain a syrup and yeast.
To start brewing beer you’ll need:
1 beer kit (e.g. Munton’s Export Pilsener) of 1.8 kg
1 big container (23 litres)
23 l bottles or 46 1/2 l bottles (we use coke bottles, the only reason we buy coca cola occasionally)
1 air lock (to put on the big container)
disinfectant to prepare the gear (baby-bottle disinfectant from the pharmacy or special disinfectant from the home-brew shop)
enough patience to make it over 3 weeks of waiting time

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