Crossing to the Marquesas
November is the start of cyclone season in the South Pacific, which means that tropical cyclones must be expected. So it is of course not good to travel by boat in one of the affected regions. The “rear” islands in the Tuamutu archipelago, such as Amanu and Hao, are only hit by cyclones every few decades (for comparison: the Tahiti area on average about every 3 years and Fiji often several times a year), Meteo France also states a “low cyclonic risk” for this year. Nevertheless we don’t want to take any risks and sail to the Marquesas. The Marquesas are considered safe from cyclones.
Still, the crossing from the Tuamotus Islands, in our case Amanu, to the Marquesas is a little challenge because it goes against the prevailing wind and wave direction. However, it is only about 500 nautical miles. This means that you need a weather window of at least 5 days in which an “unusual” wind direction prevails to have a comfortable crossing. We have been observing the weather for almost a month until we found a suitable weather window. Other (bigger and faster) boats may have it a bit easier, because for them a window of 3 to 4 days may be sufficient. It is also the first time on our trip that we sail a time zone “back”. The time difference from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus is half an hour.
On Thursday the 29.10. we left the anchorage on Amanu at about 9.00 am. A short time later we passed through the pass and left the atoll behind us. This time exceptionally with the current and without strong current so that the departure was very relaxed.
We have calculated for the crossing with about 5 days, which is a realistic value, if we can reach our previous average cruising speed of about 5 knots or a good 100 nautical miles a day. We are happy if we are faster, but we have also had days where we have managed considerably fewer nautical miles, which is something you have to reckon with. The first day of the crossing was rather calm sailing with relatively little wind, but already the next day this should change and Maya left at express speed.
On the way we did not see much. We passed the island of Fakahina in some distance (we could see the mobile network, but it wasn’t enough to check the news) and we saw 2 Asian fishing boats, which can be found everywhere in the Pacific.
Apart from that, the crossing was rather uneventful, apart from numerous squalls and waves. Sailing against the wind and waves with a boat speed of 6-7 knots (and more) is sometimes quite exhausting. When we plough through the waves like this we are glad that we have such a stable boat. I can’t imagine how this would feel in some modern lightweight construction. We rewarded ourselves with delicious food and the anticipation of a quick arrival on Hiva Oa, our first stop on the Marquesas. However, on the last day we were surprised by a slight change in the weather. Instead of the announced weather window of more than 6 days with south-east wind it was only 3.5 days and then the wind came rather from north-east (the usual trade wind direction here). That means for us the wind comes from a not so favourable direction for us. So we had to sail the last 50 miles again hard on the wind and even sail up a little bit. The last miles to the islands, especially where the wind was also deflected from the islands, we also used the motor. Luckily we were faster than planned before, otherwise it would have been a lot of work to get here again. Anyway we are very happy to have arrived here and to have enjoyed a good crossing. At first sight the Marquesas are a bit like the Cape Verde Islands (but only at first sight). Huge rocks rise from the ocean. After the rather flat Tuamotus Islands a sight we have to get used to again, but we have time for that now. First of all we want to have MAYA hauled out to do some small repairs at the shipyard here. It is the first time since almost 2 years that our boat comes out of the water. After that we plan to explore the islands and cruise for a few months in the Marquesas…