South Pacific cyclone season cruising options: The Marquesas

by jasna

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:

As soon as the wind veered, we sailed the first 200 miles to Fakarava

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.

Landfall in Fatu Hiva

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. 

Deserted anchorages

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!

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Lars Buur
8 years ago

I have visited Nuku Hiva, Eiao, Hiva Oa and Tahuata. But I never heard of “Fetua Enana”. Where is it? Thank you for you blog posts. I enjoy reading them from my home in Denmark.

8 years ago
Reply to  Lars Buur

Hi Lars, thank you for reading us!
Fenua Enana is the original name of the Marquesas islands, it means “The land of people”. This name is used by the locals, but very rarely in the guides, that’s why you’ve never heard of it. But if you ever come back, try to use this name instead of the name “Marquesas” and you will be treated like a hero! I learned 5 or 6 sentences in their language and they really loved that!
What about you, are you sailing in Denmark now?

8 years ago

Hi Jasna,
Great post. How did you handle the visa situation? Did you have a 12 month visa in advance of arriving in Fr Poly?

8 years ago
Reply to  David

Thanks! We did not have a visa as we are both EU citizens and do not need one. We are lucky, what can I say. But during the cyclone season we met plenty of sailors on a long term visa. I’ve heard that this can now be done in Papeete as well, but don’t quote me on this. If you are planning of coming this way, it is definitely worth getting one before you leave.

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