Goodbye Raivavae

The weather forecast suggested that we should wait another day, but a fresh breeze from the SSE tempted us to leave Raivavae last evening. We set out doing 6 knots in 16-18 knots, yippieh! Two hours later the wind died down to less than 10 knots and we slowed down to 3 knots.
Now the gennaker is flying and we’re waiting for the wind to set in.

It’s the first time that just the two of us are sailing…

410 nm (out of 470) to go to Raiatea!


Translation FAQ

Somehow I assumed that everybody has better internet than we and would have no prob just letting a google translator do the translation of our info sheet for them ;-)
As people have been asking, I’ll simply put the translation of the link below into this blog here:

Don’t you like sailboats?
You’re not alone, many people would like to chase them out of their lagoons.

But why?
Traditionally the reception in French Polynesia was warm and welcoming, but this has changed recently. We think that lack of information and false information are responsible for that.

As cruisers and visitors we would like to present our point of view here:

Why don’t you go back home?
The sailboats are our floating homes. Many cruisers are retired, others want to give their kids a chance to see the worlds, others (like we) simply live and work on their boats.

Why do you stay in French Polynesia?
Because we love Polynesia! The people are friendly, nature’s gorgeous, the culture is really interesting and the climate pleasant.

Why are there more sailboats here now?
Because of Covid most borders are closed and sailboats have nowhere to go.

Is it true that you destroy the coral?
No, that’s not true. We anchor in sand and put floats on our chain to avoid touching coral.

Are you responsible for pollution?
We would never throw rubbish into the sea or on the beaches. We use the sun and the wind as energy sources. We love and protect nature!

Do you bring rats and other pests to the motu?
Sailboats are small and it’s very unlikely that we would not notice such blind passengers. Big freighters and fishing boats carry such pests…

Don’t you pay for your stay here?
We contribute lots of money to the Polynesian economy. We buy spare parts for our boats, we use the haul-out facilities, we provision on a large scale, we rent cars, go to snacks and restaurants and pay for medical expenses.
Different than other tourists we spend money in local mini-markets and buy local fruit, veg, fish, souvenirs, etc.

Do you consume local resources for free?
Many cruisers take nothing from nature. We don’t hunt or fish in lagoons. We only appreciate nature and hunt with our cameras.

Is it true that sailboats bring Covid?
The passage to French Poly from Mexico/Panama/Chile/etc. takes at least 3 weeks, that’s a long quarantine. Most sailboats have been here for a long time. Our life-style means that we are quite often isolated ‘in quarantine’ on our boats, so we are less exposed and less at risk than other people.
When we sail between islands we keep a voluntary quarantine to avoid spreading the virus.

Why are there so many negative news about sailboats on the television/in newspapers/on facebook?
There are influential people in Tahiti who would like to get rid of sailboats to build a hotel complex in the area of the Marina Taina anchorage. They use the media and social networks for their own means. They also turn away attention from their own faults (sewage in the lagoons, no recycling, polluting industries, herbicides and pesticides in the rivers, etc.) by blaming cruisers for everything that goes wrong. It’s unfair and dangerous to incite fears and aggressions against a minority that’s vulnerable, simply because they have a different life-style. We hope that the Polynesians will look through those lies.


Anti-cruiser campaign and our reaction to it

We decided to spend the cyclone season on an quiet, friendly little island to get away from the anti-cruiser hostilities in Tahiti and the Society Islands. Unfortunately it turns out that even here in Raivavae a campaign against cruisers is going on…
Ironically enough it’s the environmental organisation (who should be our friends as fellow protectors of nature) and the protestant priest (who would be supposed to love his fellow humans instead of inciting fears and prejudices) are leading the propaganda which is full of false information and lies.

They claim that sailboats pollute, destroy coral, spread pests and Covid…

In response to this we have composed a little FAQ in French (download pdf) to counter those rumours and to present our point of view. We have put up this sheet at shop windows, talked to the mayor and other influential people.

If you are in a location where cruisers are defamed and attacked you may want to download and spread this info sheet (in French) or write something similar to show your side of the story.


Leeloo 2000–2021

Our little ship’s cat died last week.

I still hear her everywhere and see her everywhere. Our day was so full of cat rituals: sunbathing and petting session in the morning, making sure she ate a few bites every few hours, waking her during the day so she’d be tired at night, sitting out in the cockpit during the evenings to ‘air’ the cat, then down to the saloon for ‘couchtime’–she’d already hop on the sofa and wait for us to get cuddled from both sides while we were watching some telly series. We’ve never been on the boat without her (just a few weekends when we had the boat in Croatia, but we always took her along for sailing holidays) and now Pitufa feels horribly empty without her.

She was right in the centre of our lives for a long time. Keeping the cat safe and happy was a priority for 21 years: our choice of houses/flats in Austria, Sweden and the Uk, the decision to go cruising instead of other forms of travelling, the destinations we could sail to, the fact that we could never leave her alone with the boat, our itinerary to keep her ‘cool’and comfy–it’s become second nature to see the world through her eyes, what she’d like and dislike.

In a house in Europe with a vet to help with her aches, a pet shop to supply her with different brands and flavours every day (even though we brought bags full of expensive food from Austria and ordered a big package from the US last year she just sniffed the cans I still have left, not enough variety on the menu…) and an extra room (preferably sound proof to give us some rest at night) we could probably have nursed her for another year. Or she may have had a stroke next week–we’ll never know.
On the other hand if we had stayed in Europe we would have both worked long hours, she would have spent most of the days alone at home instead of having us constantly around, she would have long starved without me around to coax her into into eating tiny morsels during the day, she might have been run over by a car years ago–who knows what could or would have been.

I just keep telling myself that she got more love and attention over the last 21 years than 99% of all other cats on the globe and probably most children as well (given the fact that kids grow up and move out at some point). She filled our days with joy, love and purrs in return. Brrrreeeow, mrrrrah, meeep, she had a whole array of little sounds and I can’t believe I’ll never hear her again. She turned high maintenance towards the end, but she gave us so much during her long life.

Leeloo leaves a gaping cat-shaped hole in our lives.


Book recommendation ‘Plunge’

Our good friend Liesbet has published a book about her life as a cruiser, nomad and citizen of the earth. Check out her adventures on


South Pacific Convergence Zone Weather

The Austral islands are notorious for unstable, bad weather and during a La Niña phase (as we have this year) it’s supposed to be even cooler and rainier than usually. We therefore had rather low expectations weatherwise when we sailed to Raivavae at the beginning of December. We mainly wanted to keep our elderly cat ‘cool’ (she suffers in hot temperatures) and quietly work most of the time anyway.

We were extremely surprised by the stable, sunny summer weather we got for most of December and all of January. Of course we enjoyed this brilliant summer, but it turned out it was too hot for the sea: due to water temperatures around 30 degrees we noticed some severe bleaching in the few live coral bommies here in the lagoon. Staghorn and elkhorn coral lost their symbiotic algae and turned from a healthy light brown/beige to white and light pastel colours. Marine biologists told us that coral can survive just on what its polyps catch for about 3 weeks, if the symbiotic algae (that produces sugar for the coral) hasn’t come back by then the coral dies…

The weather’s changed now: the SPCZ is hanging across the Pacific and pointing straight towards us, there’s a low moving by right now and another 3 are scheduled according to the weather forecast. If you open e.g. ‘windy.com’ and look at the South Pacific you see a line from Samoa down to the Austral islands without wind – that’s the SPCZ. Whirly lows build up along that instable area and head along it southeastwards. If there’s enough energy in the atmosphere or if a few of them coincide they have potential to form cyclones. That’s the super-simplified explanation–if you’re interested in more info check out Christian’s article about South Pacific weather patterns. There’s a link to the article at https://www.pitufa.at/weather-fp/

We’re in a nice, protected anchorage and prepared for heavy gusts. The dinghy’s in the water (usually we store it hanging alongside the hull overnight, but it could slam against Pitufa during gusts), the outboard engine up on the railing and tied down, just like oars and all other possibly volatile objects. Ideal weather to work on our laptops.

Hopefully the cooler temperatures aren’t coming too late for the coral though. We’ll check when the weather’s settled down again.

PS: Our blog automatically picks a random photo for each entry and for the fb page–don’t assume we’re crazy if it happens to be a sunny one ;-)


Update on the covid situation and travel restrictions in the South Pacific

After an intial lockdown between March and July 2020, French Polynesia opened its borders and Covid arrived here shortly after. Ironically a local Politician brought the Virus back from France–presumably from some conference about avoiding the spreading of Covid… The Polynesians seemed very orderly and determined to hold the virus at bay, but in the end it got out of control with many cases in Tahiti and the Societies and a few on outer islands. Ironically a festivity of the ‘gendarmes’ was the source of the first cluster…

The opening of borders had been mainly due to pressure of the tourism industry: not many tourists arrived, but in the end all other businesses suffered from the measures to limit the consequences of the opening and arrival of the virus (nightly curfew, social distancing, etc.). With the spreading of the new mutations France decided to close the borders of its overseas territories again. Since the beginning of February 2021 flights to and from Fr. Poly are only allowed with ‘compelling reasons’.

The situation of cruisers in the South Pacific remains difficult. Apart from Fiji (entry is possible with a negative test and after quarantine), all countries remain closed. Only citizens of the respective states are allowed to travel home, but still have to undergo a lengthy quarantine (New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, etc.). For us Europeans Fr. Poly represents a little piece of Europe, but our 3 years here expire in October (after 3 years we’d have to import the boat).

We therefore have the choice to either pay import tax here or leave and sail to Fiji. We wanted to visit Fiji anyway, but sitting out a cyclone season there means taking quite severe risk… 2021 is bringing tricky decisions for us.


Article on alternative energy aboard

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Green Cruising with a Mix of alternative energy sources, All At Sea Caribbean, February 2021, p. 42–46. Download the whole magazine for free


Pretty, but tricky!

We consider ourselves quite experienced at navigating lagoons and coral-strewn areas by now, we even enjoy close-hauled zig-zag sailing between bommies in the clear waters of the Tuamotus.

Raivavae’s shallow and murky lagoon is a bit more of a challenge. Distances are tiny, but a 1.5 nm ‘passage’ here needs a perfect weather window with blue skies and the sun high up in the sky. Christian keeps a sharp look-out on the bow while we’re weaving our way through a minefield of coral heads and I have to react quickly on the helm to get Pitufa around pinnacles that only get visible moments before we reach them.

Finding an anchoring spot is often even more difficult than getting to a motu with only small sandy patches between bommies that come up vertically to the surface. Here’s an example of a very pretty, but also very tricky anchorage on the eastern side of the lagoon.


Pitufino–not just another Wi-Fi gateway!

Over the years we acquired a mix of old and new navigation instruments on Pitufa, which used to communicate via NMEA convertors that lack configuration options–never quite the solution we really wanted. Unsatisfied with the situation and unconvinced by existing products, I decided to build an NMEA converter and gateway myself. Later on I started implementing more and more ideas and now my Pitufino replaces four devices we had to run before.

Along the way the project turned from a sheer experiment into a powerful product that may well be interesting for other cruisers. If you’re interested in acquiring a Pitufino, send me an email!

Here’s the product description: read more.


Polynesian languages

Polynesian peoples live all across the Pacific: New Zealand, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cooks Islands, French Polynesia as far up as Hawaii–apparently the ‘Lapita’ culture initally started out from an area around Taiwan and slowly discovered the Pacific islands eastwards.

Once the discoverers settled down on the far stretched island groups they still had trading connections, but over the centuries they lost contact. Nowadays Polynesians from different areas can still communicate, basic words like ‘water’ (vai) have remained the same, but the languages have evolved and diversified. Some areas nowadays have an ‘r’ (but no ‘l’) (NZ, Cooks, French Poly), others have an ‘l’ but no ‘r’ (Hawaii, Samoa), etc.

Even within French Polynesia several languages exist. They were long suppressed by the colonial power–missionaries tried to get rid of the old religion, culture and languages and even in the 1980s speaking Polynesian languages was still forbidden at school… As a linguist I tried to get some insights as we were visiting the different islands and picked up some phrases:

- The language of the Marquesas sounds quite harsh (the greeting is “Ka oha!” and thank you ‘Kou tau’) and thanks to the cultural revival there since the 1980s it is used by most people.
- The Tahitian language (reo Tahiti) is much softer–it has lost its ‘k’ and replaced it with a glottal stop. The outrigger canoe that is pronounced vaka in in the Marquesas (as well as in the Gambier and Cook Islands) becomes a va’a. Listening on the streets of Tahiti, French seems to be the predominant language (often in a mix with reo Tahiti), but with TV programs, radio shows and classes at school reo Tahiti is still quite alive. The greeting is ‘ia orana’ and thank you ‘mauru’uru’ (pronounced maruru).
- The Paumotu of the Tuamotu islands contains a ‘k’ and a soft, nasal ‘ng’ (as can still be seen in island names like Fakarava and Rangiroa), but the young people speak a mix of French and ‘reo Tahiti’–only old people still speak pure Paumotu (and people look at you surprised when you greet them with the traditional “Kura ora!”).
- The Mangarevan language of the Gambier Islands sounds very pretty, but there the active supression of culture was very successful. Only some old people still speak pure Mangarevan, others mix it with French and reo Tahiti and kids seem to speak mainly French. Mangarevan contains a ‘k’ and a soft, nasal ‘ng’ and we were surprised to hear a very similar sounding language in the Cook Islands. The traditional greeting is ‘Ena koe!’ for one person, Ena korua for two and Ena kotou for more and to thank somebody you say maro’i.
- The languages of the Austral Islands are similar to Reo Tahiti, but walking around Raivavae we first thought we hadn’t understood quite right, when people greeted us with ‘Ia ogana’ instead of Ia orana. One person might have a speech impediment, but several? It turns out that here ‘g’ is pronounced whenever an ‘r’ is written in Reo Tahiti. So it’s not just Ia ogana, but maugu’ugu, the main village Rairua is called Gaigua and the island itself is called Gaivavae! A truly funny dialect.
- The remotest island Rapa Iti (or Oparo in the local language) has quite a distinct language that contains ‘k’ as well as ‘ng’. People greet you with ‘aronga’ and ‘tongia’ means thank you.


Spare sails

At the moment we’re having incredibly stable summer weather here in the Australs, hardly a breeze and rather humid. We’ve used the calm conditions to take down the high-cut yankee foresail in order to replace it with the bigger genoa that we’ll be using next. The genoa needs some maintenance first, so the sewing machine projects go on.

Friends just recently mentioned that according to our blog entries it looks like we have really crappy sails, because we’re constantly repairing them. Fact is, the set (main sail and genoa) we bought from Dustom Sails (Croatian company, dustom.com) 11 years ago are still in a very good shape (if you’re cruising in the Med, a great place to buy sails!!). We’re ‘using up’ older sails in the meantime (the set that came with the boat) as it seems pointless to carry around 9(!) sails and that’s why we’re doing all those little repairs.


Article on Green Cruising in Austrian Yachtrevue

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Bewusste Entscheidungen–Green Cruising, Yachtrevue, Jan. 2021, p.42–45.


Cyclone season in Raivavae

Raivavae has never seen so many sailboats at once (15 now) and as they are mainly kiddy boats and kite surfers they’re all hanging out at Motu Vaiamanu (also called ‘Piscine’, swimming pool–perfect for kids to play on the beach and kiters). That’s also the anchorage most locals recommend to sailboats and the owners have a little snack there and organise picnics for tourists (and cruisers). Theoretically a perfect solution, but this year one local has started a campaign against cruisers. Probably influenced by the Tahitian propaganda he came over several times to the motu, told sailboats to leave with the old well-known arguments: we destroy the reef (every single boat in the anchorage lies on a floated chain even though the coral’s dead anyway), we pollute the lagoon (???) and we stay too long. Ironically enough the guy’s the owner of the shop in Vaiuru (magasin Teehu on the S side of Raivavae–avoid!!) and even though he claims to represent the opinion of the local people, everybody else we talked to is wonderfully friendly and not against sailboats… Still rather unpleasant to be harassed for New Year’s, but we wished him ia maita’i i te mau ‘oro’a matahiti ‘api (a happy new year ;-) ) anyway!

Most boats here are waiting for weather windows to head on to the Tuamotus, Gambier or Marquesas anyway, so Mr. Teehu will be happy and proud of himself when the fleet diminishes, but we’ll stay here for the rest of the cyclone season. We have lots of projects on our to-do list and need some quiet time to work productively. Another reason why we don’t sail much this year is our cat–Leeloo’s getting too old for passages and can’t take tropical heat anymore. Thus we’ll just hang out here for a few months, Christian can work on his programming project, I can get some writing done and the sewing machine will remain busy as well as we need a new dinghy cover, have to repair the lazy bag and do some maintenance on our sails.


We wish you all a happier new year!

Most people will agree that 2020 sucked. Seriously. For us it wasn’t just generally the dreadful covid situation with ruined plans, uncertainties and worries about future developments, but the death of my mum. It also seemed that we were unlucky with basically everything we tried, things broke, orders got lost, orders arrived damaged–just annoying.

As we sail into our tenth year aboard Pitufa we wish all those who virtually sail along a much better, healthy, eventful and pleasant year 2021!

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