R C C P I L O TA G E F O U N D AT I O N
PA C I F I C
CROSSING GUIDE 3rd edition
Kitty van Hagen
R C C P I L O TA G E F O U N D AT I O N
LON DON • OX F O R D • N E W YO R K • N E W D E L H I • SY DN EY
CAUTION Adlard Coles Nautical An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square 1385 Broadway London New York WC1B 3DP NY 10018 UK USA www.bloomsbury.com www.adlardcoles.com ADLARD COLES, ADLARD COLES NAUTICAL and the Buoy logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc Third edition first published 2016 Copyright © RCC Pilotage Foundation 1997, 2003, 2016 First edition 1997 Second edition 2003 Reprinted with amendments 2011 Third edition 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organisation acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication data has been applied for.
ISBN: HB: 978-1-4729-3534-2 ePDF: 978-1-4729-3536-6 ePub: 978-1-4729-3535-9 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
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Whilst the RCC Pilotage Foundation, the author and the publishers have used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy of the content of this book, it contains selected information and thus is not definitive. It does not contain all known information on the subject in hand and should not be relied on alone for navigational use: it should only be used in conjunction with official hydrographical data. This is particularly relevant to the plans, which should not be used for navigation. The RCC Pilotage Foundation, the authors and the publishers believe that the information that they have included is a useful aid to prudent navigation. But the safety of a vessel depends ultimately on the judgement of the skipper, who should assess all information, published or unpublished. The information provided in this publication may be out of date and may be changed or updated without notice. The RCC Pilotage Foundation cannot accept any liability for any error, omission or failure to update such information. To the extent permitted by law the RCC Pilotage Foundation, the author and the publishers do not accept liability for any loss and/or damage howsoever caused that may arise from reliance on information contained in this publication.
Find out more For a wealth of further information, including updates and correctional supplements, passage planning guides and cruising logs for this area visit the RCC Pilotage Foundation website at www.rccpf.org.uk. Feedback The RCC Pilotage Foundation is a voluntary, charitable organisation. We welcome all feedback. If you notice any errors or omissions, or wish to send us some completely new information, please let us know via email@example.com.
The RCC Pilotage Foundation is very grateful to Navionics for allowing use of their images for many of the port and harbour plans. These images are intended only as illustrations and are not to be used for navigation. Navionics images are © Navionics
Plans and diagrams have been based with permission on British Admiralty Charts and Publications and where foreign information has been used, permission was sought from the Hydrographic offices of Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Fiji, France and the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, US Defense Mapping Agency and USA National Ocean Service. Unless otherwise stated, all photographs © Simon and Kitty van Hagen Illustrations on pages 7 and 97 by Dave Saunders
CONTENTS Foreword to the third edition
The RCC Pilotage Foundation
Map of routes
Index of plans
• The magnet of the Pacific
• Short-range communications • Long-range communications at sea • Mobile phones and internet access • Traditional ‘snail mail’
Part 1 PREPARATIONS 1 Casting off
• Work as a team to fulfil the dream • Taking children • Family and friends left behind • Joining a rally 2 The Pacific Ocean
• Ring of Fire • The formation of atolls • Human colonisation • Ethnic groups • European exploration and trade • Culture and festivals • Citizen science 3 Preparing the boat
• The perfect cruising yacht? • Monohull or multihull? • Sail management • Downwind rigs • Storm sails • Wear on sails • Mast and spars • Standing rigging • Running rigging • Steering systems • Self-steering: autopilot vs windvane • Ground tackle • The main engine • Fuel tanks • Bilge pumps • Water management • Cooking fuel • Fridges and freezers • Temperature regulation • Toilets and holding tanks • Dinghies • Outboard engines 4 Staying safe
• Preventing water ingress • Alarms • Sprayhoods and biminis • Handholds and jack lines • Man overboard (MOB) • Getting the casualty back on board • PLB • AIS/MOB • Lightning strike • Fire • Abandoning ship • EPIRB • Flares • Life raft • Grab bag • Mind your head • Security 5 Navigation and charting
• The basics of navigation • Integrated or stand-alone electronics? • Electronic charting • When the electronics fail • Using satellite imagery as a navigational tool • AIS • Radar • Ship’s log • Watch keeping • Eyeball navigation
on coral atolls
7 The balance of power
• General electrical setup: the basics • Power storage • Power generation • Alternative power generation • Power draw and calculation of usage • AC power • Shore power • Inverters 8 Routine maintenance and spares
• Corrosion • Managing your maintenance • Backups and spare parts • Suggested spares • Tools • Manuals and parts lists
9 Provisioning and store keeping
• Stores and storage • Fresh food • Dried food • Making bread • Passage food • Galley hints • Water • BBQs • Fishing • Waste disposal • Hygiene and pests • Trade and barter 10 Common health problems while cruising
• Injuries • Burns • Sunburn and skin cancer • Ears • Diarrhoea • Seasickness • Common parasites • Biting flies • Malaria • Dengue fever • Dangers in the sea • Ciguatera • Health and illness in toddlers and babies • Women’s health • Common fears • Basic medical kit 11 Managing the paperwork
• Finance • Passports and visas • Ship’s papers • Formalities • Courtesy flags • Insurance • Recruiting crew • Pets on board 12 Cyclone season and laying up
• Leaving the cyclone belt • Staying inside the cyclone belt • Cyclone shelters – useful contacts • Laying up • Shipping home
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
Part 2 PASSAGE PLANNING
19 Routes to and from Tasmania and the east coast of Australia
13 Pacific weather and weather forecasts 91
• Vanuatu or New Caledonia to Australia • Australia to New Caledonia or Vanuatu • Australia • 24 Bundaberg, Queensland • Bundaberg to Brisbane • 25 Brisbane, Queensland • Brisbane to Sydney • 26 Coffs Harbour, New South Wales • 27 Sydney, New South Wales • Sydney to Hobart • 28 Hobart, Tasmania • Passages between Tasmania and New Zealand • Passages northwards up the New South Wales coast • Inside the Great Barrier Reef • 29 Cairns, Queensland
• The origin of Pacific wind systems • South Pacific wind zones • North Pacific wind zones • Tropical revolving storms • Pacific Ocean currents • El Niño • La Niña • Madden-Julian Oscillation • Weather forecasts Ports and harbours
14 Routes to the Marquesas
• North American west coast to Marquesas • 1 San Diego • 2 Puerto Vallarta • Panama to Galapagos • 3 Balboa • Galapagos Islands • 4 Wreck Bay • 5 Academy Bay • Galapagos to Marquesas 15 French Polynesia (the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands)
20 Routes to and from Hawaii in the East Pacific
• Panama to Hawaii via Galapagos • Hawaii • 30 Honolulu, Oahu • Hawaii to Canada or south-east Alaska • Cape Spencer to Vancouver • 31 Victoria, British Columbia • Canada or California to Hawaii • 32 San Francisco, California
21 Routes south and west from Hawaii 202
• The Marquesas • 6 Atuona, Hiva Oa • 7 Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva • The Tuamotu Archipelago • The Society Islands • 8 Papeete, Tahiti • 9 Maeva Beach, Tahiti • 10 Moorea • 11 Raiatea • 12 Bora Bora
• Routes south from Hawaii • Fast track to New Zealand • South among the islands • The Line Islands, Kiribati • Hawaii to Samoa • Samoan Islands • 33 Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa • 34 Apia, Upolu Island, Samoa • Hawaii to Australia via the Gilbert Islands and Solomon Islands • 35 Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati • Solomon Islands • 36 Honiara, Guadalcanal • Routes west from Hawaii • The Marshall Islands • 37 Majuro • The Caroline Islands • 38 Pohnpei • Guam • 39 Apra
16 Southern routes via Easter Island or direct
• Galapagos to Easter Island • Chile to Easter Island • 13 Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui • Easter Island to Pitcairn • Pitcairn to the Gambiers and Tuamotus • Eastwards from New Zealand to Chile via the Australs • 14 Raivavae, Austral Islands • New Zealand to Chile via the Southern Ocean • Chile • 15 Puerto Montt, Chile 17 Bora Bora to Tonga and Samoa via the Cook Islands
• The Cook Islands • 16 Avatiu, Raratonga • Niue • Kingdom of Tonga • 17 Neiafu, Vava’u Group • The Ha’apai Islands • 18 Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu
22 Routes north from New Zealand to Japan and Alaska
• North via Tahiti and Hawaii • The direct route north • New Zealand to the Aleutians via Japan • Japan • 40 Fukuoka (Hakata), Kyushu • Japan to the Aleutian Islands • The Aleutians • 41 Dutch Harbor, Unalaska • Mainland Alaska • 42 Kodiak • Hawaii to Kodiak Appendices 232 Appendix A: When all else has failed
Appendix B: Suggested further reading
• Tonga to Fiji • Tonga to New Zealand • New Zealand • 19 Opua, Bay of Islands, North Island • Cruising New Zealand • 20 Auckland, North Island • New Zealand to ‘the Islands’ • Republic of Fiji • 21 Suva, Viti Levu • Fiji to Vanuatu • Vanuatu • 22 Port Vila, Efate Island • Vanuatu to New Caledonia • New Caledonia • 23 Nouméa, New Caledonia
Appendix C: Great Circle distance table
18 Routes between ‘the Islands’ and New Zealand
Appendix D: Glossary of British and American terms 240 Appendix E: Metric conversions
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T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
When I sailed across the Pacific Ocean in 1997 with my husband we had no idea that we were doing so during one of the strongest El Niño years on record. Winds and currents, and even the fish and the coral, were not behaving quite as we had expected. We muddled through, happily sharing the experience with fellow cruisers. If we caught no fish, had counter currents working against us, and sometimes head winds where we thought we should have trade winds, at least we were all in it together. And the island landfalls were still magical in a multitude of ways. The friendships we made, the passages, the islands, and the people of the islands, settled into our souls and became a part of who we are. Sailing across the Pacific weaves its spell on those who venture there. During that same year the first edition of The Pacific Crossing Guide was published. If we had been armed with a copy we would certainly have had a much better understanding of what we were witnessing. I hope that this third edition will guide you on your own voyage and help you to make the most of all that the Pacific has to offer. The Pacific Crossing Guide has always been a collaborative work. A huge number of Pacific cruisers have contributed to its pages over the years, first as a joint Royal Cruising Club (RCC) and Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) project under the inspiration of Mike Pocock and then through ongoing collaboration expertly edited by Ros Hogbin. Mike Pocock has been described as one of the unsung pioneers of the sailing world. Sadly Mike has not lived to see this third edition come to fruition, but it is a
part of his valued legacy. The RCC Pilotage Foundation remains profoundly grateful to both Mike and Ros for the foundations they laid. The teamwork necessary to produce a book with such vast coverage has continued and the RCC Pilotage Foundation would like to thank all the recent and current Pacific cruisers who have been generous with their time, thoughts, writing and photographs. Most thanks of all is due to Kitty van Hagen and her husband, Simon, who have ventured further in the Pacific than most and who have brought all of their experience to these pages. It has been an enjoyable voyage of its own to work with Kitty to create this fully revised and restructured 3rd edition. On behalf of everyone at the Pilotage Foundation I would like to thank Lance Godefroy at Navionics for his enthusiasm and support with the plans. Most of all we are grateful to Janet Murphy, Clara Jump and the rest of the team at Bloomsbury for working with us so painstakingly to present all the text, photographs and illustrations in such an attractive book. A book such as this is a complicated jigsaw and they have done a great job. The RCC Pilotage Foundation publications rely on feedback from cruising yachtsmen and women; we always welcome any comments or information sent in to info@ rccpf.org.uk. Our website at www.rccpf.org.uk has a wealth of supporting information relevant to our range of titles, including free downloads and useful links. Jane Russell Editor in Chief RCC Pilotage Foundation
FOREWORD TO THE THIRD EDITION
Foreword to the third edition
RCC Pilotage Foundation The RCC Pilotage Foundation was formed as an independent charity in 1976 supported by a gift and permanent endowment made to the Royal Cruising Club by Dr Fred Ellis. The Foundation’s charitable objective is ‘to advance the education of the public in the science and practice of navigation’. The Foundation is privileged to have been given the copyrights to books written by a number of distinguished authors and yachtsmen. These are kept as up to date as possible. New publications are also produced by the Foundation to cover a range of cruising areas. This is made possible only through the dedicated work of our authors and editors, all of whom are experienced sailors, who depend on a valuable supply of information from around the world by generous-minded yachtsmen and women. Most of the management of the Foundation is done on a voluntary basis. In line with its charitable status, the Foundation distributes no profits.
Any surpluses are used to finance new publications and to subsidise the cost of the less commercial publications which cover some of the more remote areas of the world. The Foundation works in close collaboration with three publishers – Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson, Bloomsbury (Adlard Coles Nautical) and On Board Publications. The Foundation itself also publishes guides and pilots, including web downloads, for areas where limited demand does not justify large print runs. Several books have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian and German and some books are now available in e-versions. For further details about the RCC Pilotage Foundation and its publications visit: www.rccpf.org.uk.
R C C P I L O TA G E F O U N D AT I O N
THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN
MAP OF ROUTES
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
R U S S I
A s n d I s l a
A l e u t i a n
C H I N A N
HA I S WA LA I I N AN DS
Tropic of Cancer
M I C R O N
E Gilbert Islands Phoenix Islands
SOLOMON IS Honiara
Santa Cruz Is
Tropic of Capricorn
TUVALU Wallis Is
30° S G r e a t A u s t r a l i a n B i g h t
TA S M A N S E A
Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17 Ch 18
Wellington Chatham Is
PLAN Main routes detailedIsland in Part 2.Groups Colours indicate chapter coverage. Plan11 ThePacific Pacific Ocean
A U S T R A L I A
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
I N D O N E S I A
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
M E L A N E S
T H E PA C I F I C THE EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN
MAP OF ROUTES
C A N A D A
U N I T E D
S T A T E S
A M E R I C A
San Diego 30° N
Tropic of Cancer
Honolulu Puerto Vallarta
Revilla Gigedo Islands
I lan ds
N Tuamo tu E Ar So ch S I ciet y Islan ip ds Austral Mururoa Islands Tahiti
A go la
Tropic of Capricorn Pitcairn Island Easter Island
Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17 Ch 18
Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch 21 Ch 22 150°
S O U T H E R N
O C E A N
INDEX OF PLANS
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E Plan 40 Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Index of plans Plan 1
Chapter coverage of routes
Plan 41 Routes and distances between
‘the Islands’ and New Zealand
Plan 42 New Zealand
Plan 43 Opua
Plan 44 Auckland, New Zealand
Plan 45 Fiji
Plan 46 Suva, Fiji
Plan 47 Vanuatu and New Caledonia
The Pacific Ocean currents
Plan 48 Port Vila, Vanuatu
Ports and anchorages listed
Plan 49 Nouméa
Routes and distances to the Marquesas
Plan 50 East coast of Australia
The Pacific coast of the USA and Mexico
Plan 51 Burnett Heads and Bundaberg Port Marina 183
San Diego, California, USA
Plan 52 Bundaberg
Plan 53 Brisbane
Plan 54 Rivergate, Brisbane
Plan 55 Coffs Harbour
Plan 12 Puerto Vallarta
Plan 56 Sydney, Australia
Plan 13 Puerto Nuevo Vallarta
Plan 57 Approach to Hobart
Plan 14 Balboa
Plan 58 Hobart, Tasmania
Plan 15 The Galapagos Islands
Plan 59 Cairns Harbour
Plan 16 Wreck Bay
Plan 60 Cairns
Plan 17 Academy Bay
Plan 61 Routes and distances to and from
Plan 18 Marquesas Islands
Hawaii in the East Pacific
Plan 19 Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
Plan 62 The Hawaiian Islands
Plan 20 Nuku Hiva
Plan 63 Honululu
Plan 64 Approach to Victoria, British Columbia
Plan 65 Victoria
Plan 66 San Francisco
Plan 2 The Pacific Ocean pressure and
wind patterns for January
Plan 3 The Pacific Ocean pressure and
wind patterns for July
Plan 4 Tropical revolving storms, areas and
Plan 10 Shelter Island Yacht Basin Plan 11 Bahia de Banderas approaches to Puerto
Vallarta, and Puerto Nuevo Vallarta
Plan 21 The Tuamotu Archipelago Plan 22 Kauehi atoll, situated to the north-east of
Fakarava, is a relatively straightforward entry 128
Plan 23 The Society Islands
Plan 24 Papeete and the channel to Maeva Beach
Plan 25 Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands
Plan 68 Pago Pago and its approaches
Plan 26 Marina Taina, Puna’auia, Tahiti
Plan 69 Apia, Samoa
Plan 70 The Gilbert, Marshall and Caroline Islands
Plan 27 Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay, Moorea,
Plan 67 Routes and distances south and west
Plan 71 Betio, on the south-west corner of
Plan 28 Raiatea and Taha’a
Plan 29 Close-up of Marina Raiatea
Plan 72 Solomon Islands
Plan 30 Bora Bora, Society Islands
Plan 73 Honiara
Plan 74 Majuro, Marshall Islands
Plan 31 Southern routes and distances from
Central and South America to New Zealand 138
Plan 75 Pohnpei, Caroline Islands
Plan 32 Rapa Nui
Plan 76 Apra
Plan 33 The pass into Raivavae
Plan 77 Routes and distances north from
Plan 34 Raivavae
Plan 35 Puerto Montt, Chile
Plan 78 Japan
Plan 36 Society Islands to Tonga
Plan 79 Fukuoka
Plan 37 Avatiu
Plan 80 Aleutian Islands, Alaska and Canada
Plan 38 Tonga
Plan 81 Dutch Harbor
Plan 82 Kodiak
Plan 39 Neiafu, Vava’u Group, Tonga
New Zealand to Japan and Alaska
The magnet of the Pacific The Pacific Ocean is more than twice the size of the Atlantic and at 165 million sq km (64 million sq miles) its area is greater than that of all the Earthâ€™s land masses combined. Seen from space, it is a brilliant blue orb of water covering one third of our planet. Scattered across its expanses, as though a mythical mermaid has sprinkled pearls across the waves, are some twenty thousand islands â€“ some of the most magical and remarkable places and people on Earth. A Pacific crossing is a long-held ambition for many of us and will be the apogee of our cruising lives. If you are planning to set off on your first ocean passage from the west coast of America, or are heading out to the islands from Asia or Australasia, the Pacific will be your first experience of blue water cruising and the realisation of your dreams is just beginning. If you are continuing or completing a circumnavigation, you will already be experienced ocean sailors. Either way, to set sail into the Pacific is to sail into another world.
Google Earth image of the Pacific Ocean showing its vast expanse.
Male spear throwers taking aim at the Heiva Festival in Papeete, Tahiti. tom partridge 1
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
The author with the day’s catch of Red Snapper.
The Pacific was the last colonised place on Earth and when the first European explorers discovered it, they felt they had discovered Paradise. Tales of exotic beauties and an uninhibited lifestyle filtered back and the Pacific has held a romantic fascination for the rest of the world ever since. Even today, sailors return from a Pacific crossing with stars in their eyes as they recount to family and friends endless tales of fabulous destinations and remote anchorages untouched by the ubiquitous cruise ship; of smiling people welcoming you into their communities; of lives imbued with music and dance; of natural wonders and encounters with all kinds of wildlife; of a newly gained confidence in a forgotten lifestyle of self-sufficiency and the immediacy of catching a fish for supper. The attractions are limitless – but the dream of many becomes a reality for relatively few. The key is thorough preparation. The hope is that this guide will help you to plan and prepare effectively so you are able to share in the wonders of crossing this ‘Big Blue’.
An idyllic anchorage in the Tuamotus is a dream come true.
A NOTE ABOUT WEBSITES Most readers will be familiar with the internet and should find many of the website links useful. Some of the websites may not remain live for the lifetime of this edition. In most cases it should be possible to use a search engine to find the current address for a particular website.
PRE PARAT I ONS
Work as a team to fulfil the dream The initial casting off from land is always the hardest part of any voyage and most of us focus on the practical and technical aspects of all the preparations. But it is often the human side of the equation that is most difficult to resolve. The prospect of heading off into the sunset with no time restrictions may be your idea of heaven: fair winds and a following sea, turquoise lagoons, coconut groves, and all kinds of romantic connotations. For others, perhaps your intended co-skipper or crew, it may seem like a version of hell; there may be fundamental doubts about being so far from land for so many days at a time or about having sufficient experience. Worries about seasickness are very common. Leaving the modern world of apparently reliable and immediate interconnectedness may create a sense of vulnerability and loss. There are the concerns of leaving elderly or frail parents or precious grandchildren. These, and more, are all real concerns and must be addressed before casting off. It is not unusual to find couples or crews breaking up at the end of an ocean passage. The problems tend to arise when the adventure is driven by only one personâ€™s dream and when planning and preparation are not undertaken together as a team; but the cruising lifestyle has much to offer and confident skippers should encourage their less confident crew to be more actively involved. Boost their boat-handling skills by giving them the helm and allowing them to learn, and let them be proactive in the passage planning â€“ even for those who are not so focused on the sailing itself, the passage planning becomes part of the narrative of the journey and navigational skills will be learned along the way. Apart from the safety factor, working together as a team often results in a deepening and enrichment of relationships as dreams are realised together. This is an important factor in the longterm enjoyment of cruising. For the experienced and
inexperienced alike, confidence in each other will grow in the shared experiences that last a lifetime. Casting off into the Pacific Ocean may be a new beginning in unexpected ways.
Taking children Families with young children usually have a wonderful time and there is an increasing number of families who make the decision to go cruising together. The number one priority is safety. On-board safety rules must be made clear and should be reinforced, as appropriate to the age group, so that children know the boundaries. Consult your family doctor before departure to make sure your children have all the necessary immunisations and that you have the right medical supplies for both children and adults on board (see Chapter 10). Living with children on board any vessel has its own challenges â€“ but it is also very rewarding. Children open many doors and form amazing friendships with both local and sailing families, making them more aware of different cultures around the world. Older children in their teens may find it harder to leave their friends at home, but modern technology allows them to maintain connections and helps them to develop their communication skills. There is a wealth of information about schooling available on the internet. Every country has different criteria. The key decision will be whether to follow a specific curriculum or whether to home educate, tailoring learning with the countries and places you visit. Children are learning every day, watching and absorbing everything around them. If you allow it, life on board gives them the time to absorb and process at their own pace rather than at the rate dictated by a school curriculum. This can be a real advantage. As well as academic knowledge they will develop great life skills that will help them to grow into confident adults. 3
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
WEBSITES For more information about home schooling and an insight into cruising and living with small children on a boat, follow the links from Karen Taylor’s blog on: homeschoolingonboard.blogspot.co.nz Jill Dickin Schinas has raised and schooled three children on board. Her blog and further links and books provide a wealth of information. Start at: www.yachtmollymawk.com/category/education
Children enjoy life on board and have time to absorb and process what they learn. karen taylor
Joining a rally For those who prefer to sail in company and like to feel part of a community, there are plenty of rallies that cross the Pacific. There are pros and cons to joining a rally and whether or not it is the right choice is down to you. Joining a rally will force you into setting a departure date and will thereafter dictate the pace of your cruising. You may feel that you need this motivation to help with casting off. But if you want to travel at your own speed and go where the winds blow you, a rally is probably not for you. A rally group certainly ensures sociability and this may be the biggest draw, but most cruisers are pleased to meet one another in shared anchorages so non-rally yachts on the main routes are unlikely to feel isolated for very long. Regular radio ‘skeds’ or nets are common to all cohorts of passaging yachts. A rally can create a sense of security and give much needed confidence. However, whether or not you are on the same itinerary as other yachts, you should never assume that rescue will be on hand. Thorough self-reliance, based on thinking through and planning for a variety of worst-case scenarios, is the most important criterion for successful long-distance cruising. To find out more about some of the rallies and less formal gatherings, look up the following:
The Californian Baja ‘Ha-Ha’
Family and friends left behind A Pacific crossing is not infinite, but it may seem like it to those who remain on shore and worry about the dangers at sea. However, communication has never been easier. The internet has shrunk the world. Long gone are the days of unreliable poste restante and the frustration of never getting mail from home. Family and friends still appreciate a postcard from exotic places, but it is also increasingly possible to make phone calls and internet video calls and to email on a regular basis (see Chapter 6, page 53). Keeping a regular blog is a great way of keeping everyone at home in touch with your adventures. However, upsets do arise when those back home come to expect regular contact. There are a number of reasons you might not be able to call at a particular time or on a particular day. It is much better to cultivate the approach that no news is good news and that it may be several days or even weeks before you are able to next make contact.
The annual Californian Baja ‘Ha-Ha’ is very popular and could provide a good confidence boost before heading off from the west coast. The majority of cruisers from Canada and the west coast of the USA join this friendly two-week rally, which departs in late October/early November from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. The sail down from San Diego is about 950 miles (1,530km) and makes for a good shake-down sail. Yachts then tend to congregate for the winter in Mexico, where they meet up with fellow sailors who are preparing for the ‘Puddle Jump’. www.baja-haha.com
The Puddle Jump The Puddle Jump is sponsored by the sailing magazine Latitude 38 and connects informal groups of cruisers who leave from San Francisco or San Diego, but mostly from Mexico, to cross the Pacific. It is not really a rally, but prior to departure there are talks and discussions and much shared information. It is worthwhile subscribing to their email list. www.pacificpuddlejump.com
World ARC World ARC is a 15-month, 26,000nm westabout Trade-wind circumnavigation from the Caribbean or Australia with UK rally organisers World Cruising. The Pacific leg starts from 4
P R E PA R AT I O N S Saint Lucia in the Caribbean in January each year and transits the Panama Canal before heading to Polynesia. Based on the format of the long-running ARC rally, World ARC is a mix of cruising in company and free time to explore along the way, either as a full circumnavigation or half a rally to Australia, with the added option of a visit to New Zealand. www.worldcruising.com/worldarc
New Zealand: Island Cruising Association Rallies From April to May, yachties from all over New Zealand gather in Opua for the annual exodus to ‘the Islands’. Some choose to join one of the Island Cruising Association rallies. The biennial ‘Pacific Circuit’ rally is their flagship event; it starts in Opua and goes to the Ha’apai Group in Tonga, the Lau Group in Fiji, Vanuatu and the French Loyalty Islands before heading to Australia or back to New Zealand. www.islandcruising.co.nz
The World Arc fleet in Tahiti. warc
The World Arc fleet anchored in Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu. warc 5
PREPARING THE BOAT The perfect cruising yacht? Is there such a thing as a quintessential ocean cruising yacht? This is a much debated subject, but by the time you have crossed the Pacific you will have encountered everything from fully crewed super-yachts to small singlehanders. Despite their many differences, they all have one thing in common â€“ they have succeeded in crossing the largest ocean in the world. The key to such success is in knowing what sort of boat is right for you. If your dream is to slow down and escape as far as possible from the life you have had on land, your choice of boat and equipment may differ markedly from someone who wants to move fast and with all modern conveniences on board. The average size of cruising yachts has increased significantly over the past 20 years. There is a tendency to think that bigger must be better, but if you are a cruising couple you need to consider how comfortably you will be able to manage a big boat. As size increases above
40 feet, the sails, running rigging and anchors quickly become too big to manhandle routinely and you have to commit to electric winches and other powered devices. Your available budget will dictate some of your decisions and should be thought through for each phase: buying the boat and equipment, ongoing running costs, your daily needs and extras like inland travel and emergency situations. A low budget will tend to necessitate simplicity, but this may reward you with the riches of real freedom â€“ of not being tied down by concerns about power provision or complex maintenance. The time you have available for your cruising will also dictate your choices. If you are on a tight schedule, you will need to focus more on performance under both sail and engine. One of the most important characteristics of any longdistance cruising boat is that it should be set up such that all of the crew are able to have sufficient rest in a secure and dry berth. Lack of sleep diminishes crew capability. Protection in the cockpit is also vital. A well-fitted spray hood that keeps you protected and dry will enable you to stay alert and comfortable on watch. This is just as important for fully crewed boats as it is for the shorthanded (see more in Chapter 4 under Sprayhoods and biminis, page 37). Whatever the budget or time frame, the ideal cruising yacht will always prove to be the one that the skipper and crew know thoroughly from stem to stern. Get to know your boat before departure; understand how it is built and how all the systems are set up. Know its strengths and weaknesses. Satisfy yourself that everything is in good enough condition to look after you through many months of voyaging without the availability of skilled boatyard support (see also Chapter 8, page 63). This will enable you to risk-assess effectively and will build confidence in yourselves and in the boat.
The perfect yacht can come in many shapes and sizes. This junk-rigged dory is a Pacific veteran.
There are a number of online magazines and forums where a variety of topics are discussed that may help you in your decisions about your boat and its equipment. Try: Sail at: www.sailmagazine.com SailNet at: www.sailnet.com Blue Water Sailing at: www.bwsailing.com www.cruisingadvice.net
P R E P A R I N G T H E B O AT
Sunstone has also proven herself trans-Pacific multiple times.
Monohull or multihull? Monohull Modern monohulls with a moderate fin and skeg configuration are more manoeuvrable under engine than traditional designs with full, long keels and they are a popular choice. But in an ocean-going yacht the ability to hold a steady track is a vital quality because it reduces the work of the self-steering systems. There are many miles between landfalls across the Pacific and a boat that tracks well will have a less tired, happier crew. The longer the keel, the better the ability of the boat to track in a straight line. A full or semi skeg will support and protect the rudder. Traditional wine-glass-shaped designs are likely to be more sea kindly than a lightweight yacht with a U-shaped hull. A critical consideration in any monohull is stability and keel integrity. A design that has been categorised as suitable for offshore sailing may, nonetheless, not be designed with an adequate margin of safety to withstand the constant wear and tear of long passages across an ocean. A keel that is encapsulated in the hull is a stronger construction than a bolted-on keel. Most modern monohull yachts have bolted-on keels, but if you are planning to head offshore you need to be absolutely certain of the strength and integrity of the hull construction, keel plate and bolts. Be aware that a fin keel is vulnerable to any underwater collision, after which the structural matrix around the keel plate can become weakened. This is often difficult to detect and may deteriorate over time. Keel bolts do corrode and may fatigue. Once one keel bolt or a part of
the surrounding matrix begins to fail, the remaining parts are placed under increased stress and catastrophic failure is therefore more likely. Tell-tale signs may include cracking, either inside or out, around the back of the fin where it joins the hull and/or matrix, and weeping of water from (or opening of ) the hull-to-keel joint when hanging in slings. If in doubt, seek expert advice from a qualified surveyor.
WEBSITE See Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the Cheeki Rafiki keel loss and US Coast Guard photo at: www.gov.uk/maib-reports/keel-detatchment-andcapsize-of-sailing-yacht-cheeki-rafiki-with-loss-of4-lives
The tragic result of keel loss mid-ocean. united states coast guard 15
P R E P A R I N G T H E B O AT
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E Centreboard and lifting keel yacht designs are now well established and the best examples provide an alternative solution to the compromises between stability, draught, manoeuvrability and speed. Consider the design of the board or keel, its case and the raising and lowering mechanism. How accessible are they for inspection and maintenance? Think through the worst-case scenarios â€“ of a capsize with the board or keel up and with the board or keel down; of a jammed or broken lifting or lowering mechanism mid-passage. Will the yacht remain stable and seaworthy in such situations?
Multihull Worldwide, the majority of modern cruising boats are monohulls, but there is a growing enthusiasm for multihulls, predominantly catamarans. Many would argue that multihulls were born in the Pacific and that this is their ancestral home. A major advantage of them is more space for a given length. However, you should resist the temptation to fill that space. The forces on the rig of a multihull are potentially much greater than on a monohull rig because the multihull does not heel to the wind. Instead, multihulls need to be able to accelerate, so they are built light and should remain as light as possible.
The lighter the build, the more vulnerable they are in a collision and the less able to withstand the vigour of longterm cruising. The relatively greater speed of a multihull may appeal. However, if you are cruising as a couple you may sometimes need to restrict that speed. Very fast sailing can be exhausting and dangerous. The inherently buoyant characteristic of a multihull is a positive safety factor. Concern used to focus on the fact that a capsized multihull will not re-right. However, cruising multihull capsizes now happen much less frequently than monohulls losing their bolt-on keels. Even upside down, a properly designed and built cruising multihull remains a life-preserving raft; its watertight bulkheads and lack of ballast mean that even if it is badly holed, it should not sink.
WEBSITE Woods Designs advice on multihulls at: www.sailingcatamarans.com/index.php/articles/29general/197-why-sail-a-catamaran
Modern multihulls are an increasingly popular choice for Pacific voyaging. mike tyldesley 16
P R E PA R AT I O N S P R E P A R I N G T H E B O AT
Sail management Your sails are your driving force and should be a main focus of your attention, both in preparation and ongoing maintenance. On an ocean passage, you will need to trim and adjust your sails regularly at all times of day and night and in all conditions, so you need to feel confident that the crew will be able to cope with handling the sails. If you imagine the worst of conditions and plan for these, you should end up with a sail plan that is comfortable to manage day to day and possible to manage when the weather gets tough. A cutter rig or sloop rig with two headsails is the most versatile configuration for modern yachts. Headsail furling systems are well proven and make sail changing much easier. Most cruising yachts now have them fitted as standard. All furling systems require careful handling of the gear to keep a smooth furl. There is always a risk that furling gear can jam. Make sure you understand your reefing system and maintain it appropriately to minimise this risk. If a jam does happen with the headsail partially reefed, there are two possible solutions: motoring in circles if conditions allow, passing the sheets around the sail on each circle; or using a spare halyard to frap around the loose sail.
Colour coded reefing lines help to make slab reefing a straightforward routine.
Mainsail furling systems The shape of a furling mainsail will never be as good as a slab-reefed sail. However, in-boom or in-mast furling systems are increasingly popular, notably on the bigger yachts whose large sail area becomes too heavy to manhandle. But if the mainsail furling system fails, it can be a major problem. You will need to think through what action to take if the system fails. Assume that this will be in high winds and a rough sea (see Storm sails, page 20).
Slab reefing Traditional slab-reefing mainsails are still popular, particularly with those who hope to optimise their yacht’s performance. It is certainly the most reliable system. On many modern designs, reefing lines are led aft to the cockpit. However, there are some benefits to stowing lines at the foot of the mast. As well as reducing any confusion of lines in the cockpit, the normal routine of going forward to the mast means that you feel more confident about being on deck and you are more likely to notice chafe or other problems forward on the boat. On a modern yacht, it is easy to become cocooned in the cockpit.
Reefing off the wind Learning how to reef your boat off the wind (120–150°), rather than having to come right up into the wind, is a valuable skill. On a Trade-wind passage it means you are not trying to turn up into 15–20 knots of breeze and into
Decent lazy jacks, perhaps integral with a ‘stack pack’ sail cover, can help to control the mainsail when slab reefing. 17
N A V I G AT I O N A N D C H A R T I N G
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E calculation for any specific atoll with local knowledge whenever possible (see details in Part 2, page 91).
Anchoring inside atolls Do not underestimate the dangers of being caught on a lee shore inside an atoll, should the wind shift round. Fronts do pass through and can bring a sudden change in wind direction and strength. In this situation, if coral heads (â€˜bommiesâ€™) lie nearby, getting the anchor chain wrapped around them is almost a certainty. In past years it has been reported that a number of yachts have broken their stem head rollers due to the heavy snatching that ensues. A nylon snubber of at least 10 metres (33 feet) should always be set. Use a length of reinforced plastic hose to cover the snubber where it will chafe over the bow stem roller. (See also the Bahamian moor, page 28.) It is sensible to continue to monitor the available forecasts for any changes in the weather patterns and to prepare a plan of escape. Try to avoid anchoring in water deeper than 10 metres (33 feet). Ideally, at least one member of the crew will be able to free-dive to 5 or more metres. In 10 metres or less, they can snorkel down the chain to see where and how it is lying. To untangle the chain from around bommies, it is easiest if someone is in the water and can see the direction of wrap. They can then direct the person on the helm as to which way to manoeuvre to unwrap the chain. If the anchor chain is very badly wrapped, it may need a diver with an air tank. Mini tanks, which give a limited supply of air and use a simple mouthpiece at the top of the tank, are ideal in this scenario.
Anchor chains inevitably get wrapped around any nearby coral heads. alan brook
Moving inside the lagoon Do not be afraid of moving about in a lagoon if the wind direction changes and the light is right. With the sun high in the sky and not directly in front of you, the coral heads stand out clearly. It is much less dangerous to move over to the windward side of the lagoon and reduce the fetch than to stay near a known village but on a lee shore.
Coral bommies can be picked out by their characteristic colours. 52
This chapter is thanks to Clark Straw and Tom Partridge. Clark was licensed as a pre-teen ham radio operator in Texas in 1960. His first call sign was K5ETA. In 1975 he upgraded to US Extra Class and was assigned the new call sign N5XX. In 1962 he made a Morse code radio contact with British sailor Danny Weil, aboard S/V Yasme, after he arrived in Nuku Hiva. Since then he has made thousands of contacts, including over ten thousand contacts during a 2001–2008 crossing from San Diego to Australia. Tom Partridge and his partner, Susie Plume, spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons sailing in the South Pacific on their Hylas 46, Adina, which is fitted with an iCom HF Marine IC-M802 SSB radio with modem and an Iridium GO! satellite unit. Communications at sea have evolved considerably since the days when pigeons, guns, flags and mirrors were the only methods of communication between ships or to the shore – how else could commanders control their fleets? Modern technology has changed the world, but it still feels surreal to be anchored in a remote Pacific anchorage and be able to make a voice call to home.
Short-range communications VHF VHF radio, with its line-of-sight communication range, is useful for speaking to other yachts or ships in your vicinity or getting in contact with officials onshore. Cruising the Pacific, you are more likely to end up using it to contact other cruising yachts when at anchor, in a marina or sitting on a mooring buoy; in popular cruising hubs, there is usually a daily VHF radio net for sharing a variety of local information. DSC radios allow you to call someone direct using their Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number on a predefined channel. This avoids clogging up Channel 16 and gives a level of privacy to the conversation. Keep a list of stored MMSI numbers within your VHF radio. Remember that your portable VHF radio is something that should go with you in a waterproof grab bag in case of an emergency. Note that many countries have strict regulations about which VHF channels are available for recreational use.
Long-range communications at sea For many cruisers, one of the joys of being at sea or cruising in remote locations is the ability to get away from the hubbub of modern life. That said, most still enjoy having contact with friends or family back home and all will need some form of weather forecast. For long -ange communications, the choice of equipment boils down to: Marine HF (often called Marine SSB), or amateur ‘ham’ radio, both of which are Single Side Band (SSB); either can be combined with a modem. Satellite phone (satphone). Satellite broadband internet.
• • •
Those with a bigger budget may opt for a combination of the three. The decision on which is the right equipment for you is not an easy one and the best way to approach it is to consider your primary communication requirements and then your budget. Listen and talk: Do you want to join in with cruisers’ radio skeds, talk to other yachts and have the ability to listen to weather broadcasts as well as world radio such as the BBC World Service or Voice of America? For this, you will need to have an HF radio transceiver (no modem needed). Email and weather data: Do you require the ability to download weather data, send and receive simple email and report your position automatically? If so, your choice is either a satphone or an HF radio with an appropriate modem. Phone calls: Do you want to be able to make and receive phone calls? If so, you will need a satphone. (HF radio will allow you to be ‘patched’ through, but this is a less reliable process than phoning direct.) Full internet access: Do you need full internet access or require the ability to run an office? For this, you will need marine-style broadband in the form of an Iridium Pilot or Inmarsat FleetBroadband.
• • •
With satphones coming down in price, many cruisers now opt to have an HF radio to join in popular radio groups and a satphone for more reliable and faster data access for email, weather and for emergency use. 53
PROVISIONING AND STOREKEEPING
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
Landing the fish can be the hardest part and is often a two-person operation. alan brook Secure the remainder of the line to a cleat or stanchion base, clear of windvanes or dinghies. Attach a clothes peg to a short length of bungee tied forward to a mid-ship stanchion or up over the guardrail. Clip the peg to the line so that when a fish strikes, the clothes peg is released. This helps to buffer the line from the initial force of the strike and the clatter of the dropped peg alerts the crew. Landing the fish can be the hardest part. A gaff through the gills will help to get it on board. A glass of cheap alcohol to the gills is reported to knock a fish out, though it may be quicker and kinder to use a donger (priest), particularly if the fish is thrashing about. Tuna must be bled. Put a loop around the tail and hang the fish upside down over the side (above the water). Stick a knife in the gills so that the blood drains away. Leave the fish for about an hour, by which time it will be much easier to fillet. There is no need to gut a big fish. It is a simple job to fillet it and dispose of the rest straight back into the ocean. Having filleted your fish, cut the fillets into serving-sized portions and pack these in ziplock bags to store in your freezer or fridge. If there are only two people on board, fishing for big fish is a waste without a fridge, unless you are able to pickle in large quantities. But if you are making landfall, the locals may appreciate a big fresh fish head! Local restaurants may want to buy a whole fish. Some yachts use much smaller, ‘sacrificial’ line and hooks, with the philosophy that anything too big will snap the line and get away. But it takes patience, practice and a lot of lost hooks and lures to perfect this balance.
FURTHER READING The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot
Ciguatera This is serious toxin and is dealt with in Chapter 10 (see page 79). Ciguatera is not a problem with pelagic (deepwater) fish caught on passage. Note that barracuda are not pelagic and can be a problem.
Waste disposal Conserve and recycle Reducing your waste, by recycling and reusing whatever you can, is the touchstone of being a greener consumer. Most cruising yachtsmen are no strangers to this concept, living in a restricted space as close to the environment as we do. Even with a watermaker, cruisers don’t have gallons of water to waste, so it becomes second nature not to be extravagant users. The amount of plastics acquired on a supermarket trip never fails to annoy. Plastic bags can be reused for any number of purposes, but dispose of all pointless packaging before leaving major provisioning centres. Most supermarkets sell reusable shopping bags that are a godsend to cruisers and last for at least a year of hard use.
P R E PA R AT I O N S
WEBSITES www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org www.greenboatstuff.com
International Maritime Organization (IMO) pages on prevention of pollution by garbage from ships: www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Environment/ PollutionPrevention/Garbage/Pages/Default.aspx
Garbage disposal This is bound to be controversial, but following the marine waste guidelines can’t be wrong. Out in deep water, glass bottles and tins can be safely sunk. Biodegradable matter, teabags, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings can be disposed of overboard at sea, but not in a crowded or enclosed anchorage. The perennial problem is what to do with plastic waste, Tetra Paks and aluminium foil. For those with young children, think hard about what nappies to use aboard. Modern ‘disposables’ create an enormous rubbish burden. Taking rubbish ashore on a Pacific island, even a large one, is not the answer; there is no way of knowing that it is going to end up in proper landfill. More than likely, it will be raided by the local dogs and gulls and end up chucked into an open landfill or over a convenient cliff. It is quite common to find a group of cruisers on a small deserted island, or one well away from habitation,
cleaning up the beach and having a fire on which to burn their own rubbish as well. Make sure the remains of the fire are buried to ensure that no spark can reignite and start a bush fire. A good idea when visiting islands with pigs running around is to take your degradable waste, such as fruit and veg peelings, ashore to feed to the pigs!
WEBSITE An interesting website to look at is: sustainable coastlines.org
PROVISIONING AND STOREKEEPING
There are various good websites to explore for those who try to do their bit to keep the planet cleaner.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch The very light winds and slowly converging currents of the vast North Pacific Gyre have pulled together a shocking collection of man-made debris or litter now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex. The patch is actually two distinct zones of debris, one in the west of the North Pacific and one in the east. These zones are mostly a thick ‘soup’ of plastics in varying degrees of degradation with ‘croutons’ of larger items such as bottles, shoes and nets. Marine animals are frequently caught in the larger debris, where they drown or starve and die. But much of the plastic material is now in the form of microplastics and other plastic breakdown products. These are invisible to the naked eye but are absorbed by microorganisms, either killing them directly or being fed up the food chain. Even the plant life is struggling
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. noaa 73
C Y C L O N E S E A S O N A N D L AY I N G U P
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
Shipping home Time constraints and the recent unrest in the Middle East have found a growing number of skippers preferring to have their yachts shipped to the Mediterranean from Australia, New Zealand or Thailand. A number of American yachts also make the decision to ship their yachts home to the States. While this is a big expense, it may bring a greater peace of mind. Skippers will have to weigh up the costs of transportation against arranging a trustworthy crew to deliver the yacht home. Take into account the wear and tear on yacht and equipment.
If you do decide to ship the yacht home, you should decommission as advised above. The yacht is likely to spend many weeks exposed to sun and wind and spray on the deck of the transport ship.
WEBSITE Sevenstar Yacht Transport is one of the well-known companies that have proved to be reliable: www.sevenstar-yacht-transport.com
Shipping the yacht home is an option, albeit an expensive one.
PAS S AGE PL ANNI N G
PACIFIC WEATHER AND WEATHER FORECASTS
The origin of Pacific wind systems The Pacific Ocean as a whole is vast, and subject to tremendous variations in wind and weather. It encompasses a multitude of different wind systems and weather patterns. In simple terms, the energy for our weather comes from sunlight shining on the sea. Surface water is heated and evaporates. Evaporation occurs to a greater extent at the Equator than at the Poles. This warm, wet air rises over the equatorial oceans, and moves out towards the Poles in both hemispheres, creating a band of low air pressure at the Equator. The high altitude air then cools and falls, creating zones of subtropical high pressure at about 30°N and 30°S. Finally, the air flows back towards the Equator, completing a vertical circular motion. The Earth’s rotation deflects this motion, resulting in a clockwise surface airflow in the North Pacific and an anticlockwise surface airflow in the South Pacific. This creates the familiar easterly Trade winds in the tropics and westerlies at the higher latitudes. The direction of a Pacific crossing is determined by these prevailing seasonal winds – crossings in the tropics and subtropics take place from east to west, whereas the higher latitudes facilitate passages from west to east. There are two areas of high pressure at the Poles, and where the polar easterlies meet the temperate westerlies (at about 60°N and 60°S), bands of low pressure form. The distinct areas of high and low pressure are fairly well defined in the Pacific as a whole, since the bulk of the ocean is relatively free of large land masses, which tend to modify such systems. There is a seasonal shift in the latitude zones of the pressure systems: northwards during the northern hemisphere summer, and southwards during the southern hemisphere summer. The complex interaction of factors influencing winds and currents over the whole of the Pacific is difficult to predict year on year. The wind systems described below
Simplified wind circulation around the Earth.
and shown in Plan 2 and Plan 3 are given as a guide only, and not a guarantee. They are an indication of the general trends. The reality in a specific area in any given season may be quite different, particularly during El Niño periods (see page 100).
South Pacific wind zones Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) – the Doldrums The journey from Panama at 9°N to the Galapagos at the Equator is likely to be affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), known historically as the Doldrums. On this leg, surface currents may matter more than the wind flow. The ITCZ is a region of high temperature and low pressure along the Equator. Its width can range from 50 miles to 300 miles or even more in an El Niño year. East of longitude 160°W, it lies in the northern hemisphere 91
FRENCH POLYNESIA (the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands) French Polynesia is the central hub of the South Pacific. The three main archipelagos in the northern area epitomise the complete range of oceanic volcanic islands – the Marquesas are mostly steep-to, high volcanic mountains; the Tuamotus are atolls, the original volcanoes now completely submerged; the Society Islands are at the phase in between, with high volcanic mountains ringed by shallow lagoons within a fringing reef (see Chapter 2, page 6). The distances between the archipelagos require a shift back into passage mode on board, but all the varied landfalls provide an extensive and rewarding cruising region. Slipping through the top of the Tuamotus, the passage direct from the Marquesas to Tahiti is about 700nm. From Tahiti on to Bora Bora is another 150nm, with the option to cruise the other Society Islands on the way. Most people will want to time their passages so as not to miss out on all the festivals in Tahiti, but it would be a pity to cut short the time spent cruising the Marquesas. There are some
wonderful anchorages and islands to explore, walks to be had, and the local artisan carvers of wood and bone are some of the best in the Pacific. But then neither do cruisers want to miss out on what is one of the highlights of South Pacific cruising – the atolls in the archipelago of the Tuamotus. This will probably be the only time you will get the chance to cruise this area, so it would be a pity to miss them.
Weather French Polynesia is usually under the influence of the southeast Trades. May–November, when it is generally cooler and dryer, is the usual sailing season. November–April, the cyclone season, is hotter and wetter and, certainly west of Tahiti, there is a greater likelihood of winds associated with low pressure systems. Much depends on the various weather patterns, but French Polynesia rarely suffers from full cyclones. See Chapter 13 for more details.
Keep a good eye on the weather patterns, even when you are anchored in a paradise like Kauehi, Tuamotus. tom partridge 118
PA S S AG E P L A N N I N G
The Météo France Polynésie Française website is very useful: www.meteo.pf
The IALA A system is used ONLY at the entrance channels. Once inside any lagoon in the French Polynesian Leeward Islands, the red buoys mark the landward side of the pass, green buoys the reef side.
Weather forecasts for the next 24 hours are broadcast every day on VHF Channels 27 (Windward Islands) and 26 (Leeward Islands) at 1100, 1200, 2040, 2100 local Tahiti time.
F R E N C H P O LY N E S I A
Above and below: Some pass entries like these ones are well marked, but many are not. top photo alan brook
Customs and immigration Yachts may clear in to French Polynesia in the Marquesas or somewhere else in French Polynesia where there is a Gendarmerie. The French officials are very understanding of distances between islands as well as sailing conditions, so Customs may allow yachts to report inwards and outwards from outer islands. In previous years they have been lenient about this, but more recently it appears
that they are less so. Again, check the latest requirements before you arrive and listen to the radio skeds to hear the up-to-date news. All the paperwork is sent on to Papeete. It is mandatory that all yachts go to Papeete to complete all clearance formalities. Fly the yellow ‘Q’ flag on arrival. Visit the Harbour Master and then Customs.
F R E N C H P O LY N E S I A
T H E PA C I F I C C R O S S I N G G U I D E
Polynesian Tiki – some of these squat stone carvings are at least 1,000 years old. tom partridge
When clearing out of French Polynesia in Bora Bora, you must report your intentions to the Gendarmerie if you wish to make a short stop at the small islands. It is possible to top up your tanks with duty-free fuel at one of the marinas when leaving French Polynesia.
If you wish to stay less than three months, you may be asked to show proof of funds – the rules about having a return air ticket, or posting a bond of an equivalent value, appear to be fairly relaxed, but do be prepared. A refundable ticket, which can be cancelled at a later date, would be the best option if it becomes necessary. If you wish to stay longer than three months, you must contact a French Consulate five months before arrival. Obtain a ‘Carte de Séjour’ (temporary resident card). You will be required to show proof of sufficient funds for your stay and to give the reasons you want to stay for longer. The consulate will then pass on your request to the High Commissioner in Papeete. The procedure is time-consuming, but the majority of requests are granted.
Cruising permit and visa The regulations do change, so it is advisable to check up on the latest requirements before arriving in French Polynesia. Go to www.lonelyplanet.com/tahiti-and-frenchpolynesia/visas or www.noonsite.com for updated information.
EU citizens You do not require a visa or a bond to stay for less than three months. If you wish to stay longer (up to a maximum of 18 months’ total accumulated time in French Polynesia), you are required to prove that you have sufficient funds and medical insurance. Proof of funds: Each crew member will be required to post a bond equivalent to an open one-way ticket to their home country. If repeat visits accumulate to more than 18 months, you will become liable for taxes and duties on the boat. The yacht itself may remain in French Polynesia for up to 36 months without the need to pay import tax.
Communications Papeete Airport is a major crossroad for international connections. Ferries and air services are possible between many of the islands. There is good mobile phone coverage, but it is worth considering purchasing a local SIM card if planning to stay any length of time in French Polynesia, as that may be cheaper than roaming charges. The Society Islands are covered by Ioranet.
PA S S AG E P L A N N I N G
Charlieâ€™s Charts of Polynesia by Charles and Margo Wood. Revised by Holly Scott and Jo Russell: www.charliescharts.com/charlies-charts-polynesia.html Landfalls of Paradise: Cruising Guide to the Pacific Islands by Earl R Hinz and Jim Howard
F R E N C H P O LY N E S I A
CRUISING GUIDES AND USEFUL WEBSITES
The Marquesas UTC -9Â˝ Springs: 1.1m Neaps: 0.8m Currency: Pacific francs (CFP)
The Tuamotus Compendium (free download): www.svsoggypaws.com/files/ TheTuamotusCompendium v0.3.pdf The Moorings Guide to French Polynesia (free download): www.moorings.com/files/ASSETS/Base_Guide/Tahiti_ GuideGB.pdf The Sunsail Guide (free download): www.sunsail.co.uk/destinations/south-pacific/tahitiand-french-polynesia/essential-information Noonsite: www.noonsite.com/Countries/FrenchPolynesia/ ?rc=GeneralInfo Cruiserswiki: www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/French_Polynesia Lonely Planet South Pacific Travel Guide and more information at: www.lonelyplanet.com/tahiti-and-french-polynesia
The Marquesas are some of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth. This is probably best understood by those who have arrived at the end of the long passage from the Galapagos or west coast of the Americas. The cloud cushions that emerge on the horizon, followed by the peaked outline of the islands beneath, are a very welcome sight for the passage-weary. Arriving in the Marquesas is a celebratory time. A feeling of shared adventure creates instant links between the cruisers who meet one another in the anchorages around the islands. If you have time to cruise the islands, and the authorities allow it, it makes sense to make landfall at Fatu Hiva and then cruise downwind to Nuku Hiva, stopping in at Tahuata and Hiva Oa en route. Check in with
The dramatic sky line of Ua Pou, Marquesas. tom partridge 121
Published on Oct 14, 2016
The Pacific Crossing Guide is a complete reference for anyone contemplating sailing the Pacific in their own boat. From ideal timing, suitab...