Migratory Fleet, and the Odd Ones that Stay

The Tuamotus Diaries #24, Day 49 – July 16th 2016


There is kind of a natural script underlying the cruising route that starts off the west coast of the Americas onwards to the South Pacific, and it is defined by these milestones:

  • The South Pacific also has hurricanes. Well, to be picky, they are called “Cyclones”, but – semantics apart – they are the same as their brethren of the northern hemisphere in genesis, morphology and behavior. The only difference is that their season occurs between December and March (coinciding with the Southern Hemisphere’s summer). They also spin to the other side, but that, again, is beyond the point.
  • The North Pacific hurricane season – often spanning from June to October.
  • The length of time of the standard tourist visa granted to non-EU cruisers in French Polynesia, which is often 3 months (unless an application is made beforehand for a long-stay visa).


The Script, therefore, consists generally of the following:

  1. Depart North or Central America no sooner than February (to avoid catching a Cyclone S of the Equator) and no later than May (likewise for Hurricanes)
  2. Cruise through French Polynesia (normally Marquesas, Tuamotus and Societies) within 3 months
  3. Proceed West looking for a suitable Cyclone Shelter for the season. Some boats even seek to exit the Cyclone belt altogether, normally by sailing all the way to Australia or New Zealand within one single season.


Whereas this is NOT the only way to cruise the South Pacific, this has been how the majority of boats we have met with seem to be cruising this season.

In our case, last year when we made the decision to come this way, our immediate first concrete action was to start applying for a long term visa, our strategy being to have Pesto secured for the hurricane season in Raiatea or Tahiti, and then deciding what else to do for the 2017 season (more to this on a different story – we haven’t decided yet).

So, while most of our friends are now thrusting West, gaining miles and visiting new places, we are keeping it slow, having the rest of this cruising season – until November, that is – to cruise the Tuamotus and Societies. And we are taking the Slow-ness very seriously, having stayed for nearly two months in one single anchorage in Makemo !!!

But the intent of this story isn’t to compare one way of cruising to the other – both have their merits and suit the individual needs of each one. We are indeed happy with our decision. There is, however, a certain melancholy associated with seeing our dear friends sailing away, each day further West of us. There is also a small degree of uneasiness to seeing our lovely anchorage in Makemo being less and less visited. When we got here in the beginning of June, there were always a number of yachts anchored here. Some would leave, and be very quickly replaced by new ones. In fact, for the first 5 or 6 weeks we have never managed to stay here one single night without sharing the anchorage with at least one other boat. But the numbers have dwindled. In the first weeks it was 5, 7 boats. Then it fell to an average of 2 or 3 boats, until finally being just us here, after our dear friends of sv Sangvind left en route to Tahiti.

It has been over four days now that we haven’t seen or heard any sign of civilization – no yachts, no chatter on the radio, not even airplanes in the sky. And, with the majority of the cruising fleet now well to the West, I guess there will be quite a few more days like this as we continue cruising the Tuamotus.

sv Sangvind leaving Makemo on a hazy morning. After them, it was just us there for the time we had left
sv Sangvind leaving Makemo on a hazy morning. After them, it was just us there for the time we had left