ende

2021
21
Sep

Whales!

From July until November humpback whales migrate up to warm waters, where the females give birth in the protection of lagoons, undisturbed by large predators (and hopefully humans). During those months you can often see groups of whales near outer reefs, sometimes in passes or even anchorages. Due to the lock-down we haven’t moved much this year, so we’ve only had our first whale encounter of the season today. We only saw them from far away, some broad, black backs and then the huge tail fins waving good-bye as they dived down. Hopefully we’ll get lucky and some of those gentle giants will come closer to the boat soon!

2021
11
Sep

Common sense

French Polynesia has been in a lock-down now for 2 weeks. Low vaccination rates led to an explosion in cases after the delta variant arrived and really made this lock-down necessary. We fully agree that measures were needed to limit the spreading of Covid here. Yes, it makes sense to prohibit sports events and group activities where people gather. But why harass surfers and paddlers who are out alone? The police seriously goes out into the lagoon to check whether they have filled out a form and somehow carry it with them (you ARE allowed physical exercise, but only with a form in your pocket). Why limit opening hours of shops? The result is that more people crowd the shops at the same time… The police are stopping cars and pedestrians to check whether they carry their forms and I did not see them disinfecting their hands in between checks. Vaccinations are given without appointments, so unvaccinated people are encouraged to queue in front of the centers…

Some common sense–both from the authorities and from the people–is needed in this situation. Avoiding crowds, wearing a mask and washing hands is not that difficult.
We just try to stay away from it all in the meantime in our autonomous little nutshell…

2021
08
Sep

“On Velvet Paws Towards the Horizon” is now available as an e-book!!

Those of ship’s cat Leeloo’s fans who are roaming remote places can now get the kindle version of her adventurous life. Usually internet is way too pricey here in Fr. Poly to tackle big uploads, but Vini (mobile phone provider) gave out lock-down data presents and I used it all up to create an e-book! Available now on Amazon

2021
05
Sep

Article in Yachtrevue Magazine

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer: Und ewig lockt der Horizont–Zehn Jahre unter Segeln, Yachtrevue, Sep. 2021, see teaser online.

2021
27
Aug

Shark photos

We love sharks :-) Here are some impressions of our encounters and experiences with different species.

We love sharks!

Sharks are relentlessly hunted in many areas for their fins and (cheap) meat. Here in French Polynesia they are protected, but illegal shark fishing boats come into coastal waters anyway, local fishermen kill them as competition and worried parents fear for their children and kill them along beaches. Big species (great whites, tiger sharks) are indeed dangerous for swimmers, but accidents occur seldom. The reef sharks we meet in lagoons are curious and harmless. Bigger species (lemon sharks, hammerheads, pelagic white tips) have become rare here and they are usually only aggressive, when there's blood in the water (when people are spearfishing).

(18 photos)

2021
21
Aug

Lockdown in Tahiti and the Societies

With 2700 cases/100.000 inhabitants, swamped hospitals and full ICU units the government has finally announced a new lockdown for 2 weeks. It’s a bit vague though: people are still allowed to go to work or shopping (necessary things), the international borders remain open, inter-island travel is limited to people with “important reasons” (which is a broad term as any business reason or family reason counts). Tourists are not encouraged to leave the country and still allowed to fly in, but will have to remain in their rooms or their cabins on cruise ships?!
No special restrictions for yachts are mentioned (yet). We hope that fellow cruisers will keep a low profile, respect the restrictions and don’t draw attention to the cruising community here. Otherwise there might be restrictions like during the last lockdown when swimming was forbidden, only one person per boat was allowed briefly ashore to go shopping, etc. Such measures don’t seem to focus on containing the virus, but more on making life miserable. The same goes for the locals of course: going fishing or paddling in a va’a is unlikely to do harm, but still forbidden. Looking out at the usually busy coastal road it seems there’s a little bit less traffic, but still lots of cars on the road…
Cases have been rising explosively over the past few weeks, the lockdown comes very late. We’ll see how things develop.

2021
17
Aug

A book about our ship’s cat!

Our Leeloo was part of Pitufa’s crew from day one of our journey and left a gaping, cat-shaped hole when she died. Now we share our memories of 21 years and lots of cute photos with you! “On Velvet Paws Towards the Horizon” contains many anecdotes and tips for sailing/traveling with cats. It’s available on Amazon!
Because of the colour print it turned out more expensive than we had wished for, but the pictures just needed colour…

2021
14
Aug

4 m swell!

We are anchored on a sandy shelf in a protected part of the lagoon of southern Tahiti. In front of us 4 m swell thunders against the outer reef in crazy avalanche-like looking barrels and behind us the deeper lagoon looks like a fast-flowing mountain river with eddies, whirlpools and standing waves… Pitufa gets swirled around by 3 knots of current, but we’re bouncing only a little bit. We heard from a friend that up in the anchorage off Marina Taina (where the reef offers very little protection) dinghies are getting flipped, boats inside the marina are pushed against the dock and at least one has broken its mooring…
It’s normal to have high swell coming up from the SW in winter, but 4 m is quite extreme.

2021
06
Aug

Covid wave in French Polynesia

489 new cases in the last 24 hours (with a population of only 270.000, 406 cases/100.000 in the last week), 1837 active cases and the ICU unit of the hospital in Papeete is full!

During the first wave last year the numbers were low, then French Polynesia closed its borders and remained almost Covid-free for a long town. Now borders have been open again for flight tourists for two months and even though the safety measures at the airport seemed quite strict, the delta variant has arrived and is spreading quickly.

Unfortunately only about a third of the population is vaccinated so far–after an enthusiastic start people lost interest and only now with the fear of the delta variant spreading vaccination numbers are rising again.

We are the only boat anchored in a quiet corner of Southern Tahiti, but had to go up to Papeete (30 km) yesterday for an appointment. We keep up the same precautions we’ve always used (masks, desinfectant), but still decided to travel by thumb. Motoring up with Pitufa in no wind takes ages, the air condition on the public buses makes sure that you catch at least a severe cold (if not Covid from one of the numerous passengers). Astoundingly enough, hitching rides remains easy and chatting with the drivers we got the impression that people are at least taking the virus more seriously again.

2021
04
Aug

Yeah, photos!

Winter 2021

During the coolest months of the year (July and August) we like to hang out around the big, high islands of the Societies that give shelter from the mara'armu (strong, cold SE wind). We got lots of projects done and enjoyed some snorkeling and hiking breaks.

(40 photos)

2021
30
Jul

Starting our sprayhood garden again!

Usually we have a jungle under the sprayhood, but when we left the boat alone, we had to get rid of the plants. Now I’m replanting and soon we’ll harvest arugula, spring onions, mint, basil and cilantro again! The chilis and bellpeppers will need a few more months though ;-)

2021
26
Jul

Another newspaper article (in German)

This one’s in a small, regional newspaper, but they got all the facts right :-)
Thanks a lot to the Bezirksrundschau

2021
15
Jul

Article in Austrian newspaper

Another article about us was published in an Austrian newspaper today. The “Krone” is Austria’s most read newspaper, but has a reputation for bad research. The numerous errors in the article are not due to faulty answers in the interview from our side ;-)
E.g. our dear princess Leeloo was not a tomcat, but very much of a girly cat.

They advertise our books, but wrongly claim that they are available in bookshops. Sorry, this is not true, they are only available on Amazon
and

https://www.amazon.de/dp/B097KYNMYP/

2021
14
Jul

Exploring Tahiti for the first time

To us Tahiti usually just means repairs, shopping, doctor’s appointments and rushing off again as quickly as possible. This year we have decided to linger a bit longer. It’s winter now anyway, the mara’amu (southeasterly wind) brings cold air and it’s the perfect time of the year to hang out in the Society Islands (too cold for snorkeling in the Tuamotus and waaay too cold to sail to the Australs or Gambier–see our article “Where to go when in French Polynesia” in the “For Cruisers” section).

Once we got away from the crowded area of Papeete, Faaa and Punaauia we found pretty, lonely anchorages in the lagoons. Some passes are tricky (especially with high swell from lows far south), but it’s nice to see more of this spectacularly mountainous island.

2021
14
Jul

Close Call

Wherever the reefs have died around here, the rocks are covered in coarse turbinaria algae. A depressing sight. In such areas large, floating patches of those ugly plants cover the sea. They are a constant nuisance when the outboard sucks them in.

Today they brought Pitufa close to a major catastrophe: We were motoring to a new anchorage inside the lagoon, when Christian noticed that the exhaust quit spitting water–the water-cooled engine was overheating! I checked–the temperature was rising, but still below 90°C, the alarm had not gone off. A quick glance at the depthsounder, 20 m, shallow enough to anchor. Another panicky look at the reef–far enough away. We dropped the anchor immediately and turned off the Yanmar.

As a first step to find the problem we opened the sea strainer–full of leaves. Quickly cleaned. Then we filled a bucket with seawater, put a hose into it, so the engine could either suck from the sea strainer, or if that was still blocked, from the bucket without running dry. We started the engine–some spitting from the exhaust, but not enough and the bucket was empty. Turned off again. Plucked more algae from the strainer, tried the same game again–and this time the engine could suck enough sea water through the strainer. Problem solved. Phew.

The situation could have easily ended in a ruined engine and/or Pitufa on the reef. We got lucky thrice: Christian happened to be sitting on the stern (or he wouldn’t have noticed the smoke and lack of splashing), the lagoon was shallow and we manoeuvred far enough from the reef.

What’s to be learned? We already have a basket-like strainer glued on the hull to keep the watermaker from sucking up stuff (algae, plastic bags, jellyfish, etc.)–next time on the hard we’ll put one over the engine thru hull. Next: keep a safe distance from obstacles while motoring, keep an eye on the engine temperature and be ready to react quickly…

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