One of the main problems while sailing in the South Pacific is what to do in the cyclone season. Sailors don’t have many options. The safest option is not to be in the cyclone zone from November to April, what basically means sailing either north (Kiribati, Marshall Islands…), west (to Australia or New Zealand) or northwest (back to the Marquesas), which is what we did in 2014. After losing two great friends in the Cyclone Odile we decided not to take the risk and did the effort of sailing almost 1000 miles upwind, but it was totally worth it!
This was our tactic:
Fakarava is a wonderful place to wait for a good weather window, but if the weather cooperates, I would suggest sailing to Makemo and/or Raroia and gain some more easting. If you leave yourself enough time, you have a good chance that some SE or NW will come to your help. We left on the back of a big low and had 5 days of NW. We had to dodge a few squalls, but managed to reach Fatu Hiva in one tack. It took us seven days.
After that week of bashing, we had 6 months of lovely easy sailing between islands without worrying about cyclones.
While Tahiti and all the Society Islands had lots of bad weather, we had a total of about 10 days of rain in 6 months. Being in the Marquesas was like standing in the sunshine on the top of a high mountain and looking down at the rainy clouds in the valley. (Discalaimer: Apparently we were lucky and not every season is as sunny as 2014/2015, but there is always less rain than further south).
The weather was lovely, so we kept sailing around the islands and made many good friends.
Watching the World Cup with the locals
Christmas Brunch in Tahuata
New Year’s party in Nuku Hiva
We fell in love with the Marquesans and it was very hard to leave them when the trade winds returned.
So for anyone thinking about staying in French Polynesia for more than one season, I would highly recommend spending the summer in Fenua Enata – The Islands of the People.
Fair winds everyone!