French Polynesia is a vast area, with five major island groups: The Marquesas, Tuamotus, Gambier, Austral, and Society Islands. We are traveling west with the winds after crossing from Panama and landing in the magical Marquesas islands. After a few weeks or months in The Marquesas, the next island group is usually the Tuamotus. Cruising the Tuamotus is like nothing we’ve experienced, and a great reason to get the long stay visa. We can’t believe we almost raced through all of these islands, a necessity with the standard French Polynesian three month visa.
Introduction to The Tuamotus
Motu in Tahitian means a small islet of coral reef, an atoll. The Tuamotus is a chain of 70+ of these small islets, many sparsely inhabited.
To sail from The Marquesas to anywhere in The Tuamotus takes 3-4 days, depending on departure and arrival points, and, of course, the wind. Once you’re in the chain, you can do short day or overnight hops to get from one motu to the next.
The archipelagos’ total population is only about 15,000 people. That’s right, across almost 80 islands. The main industries include pearl farming, copra cultivation (coconut oil), and a small amount of tourism in a few places.
The Marquesas are beautiful and fun to explore. Located in one of the most remote regions on earth, tourists are uncommon and supplies are thin. In contrast, the land and seascapes are stunning! Read about cruising in the Marquesas, with some tips for first-timers.
About The Marquesas
The Marquesas archipelago is in the northeasternmost part of French Polynesia. This location makes it a common first stop for sailors crossing the Pacific. Other than sailors, not a lot of tourists visit this part of the world. Which means a lot of unspoiled beauty and some difficulty accessing basic goods.
The Marquesas consists of six occupied islands and we have been to five. Mountainous and green, the land provides ample fruit for its residents and visitors. So much fruit that Marquesan citrus is exported to Tahiti and beyond. The hard part of cruising in the Marquesas is finding internet, fresh veggies, and propane, and if you can get that all in one anchorage with clear water, don’t ever leave!
Sailing in The Marquesas
Sailing between islands in The Marquesas is good in that distances usually allow for daytime trips from one island to another. Here’s an idea of distances between islands (obviously differs depending on departure and arrival bay), from northeast to southwest (our route):
Nuku Hiva to Ua Pou: approximately 22nm
Ua Pou to Tahuata: approximately 60nm
Tahuata to Hiva Oa: around 20nm
Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva: about 45nm
The island we didn’t visit – yet – is Ua Huka, 30 miles from Nuku Hiva, so would take 6 hours.
It’s nice to have the luxury of jumping between islands without overnight trips, and each island is unique and worth visiting! Sometimes we have to motor sail, or just motor, especially when travelling between Tahuata and Hiva Oa.
Sailing in Colombia is different from the ideal conditions in the Eastern Caribbean: trips are a lot longer and other cruiser boats not as common. Conditions can be rough, with strong winds, and navigating is challenging with incomplete charts. Because of these difficulties, some cruisers don’t stop here at all on the way to Panama, and others only visit one port: Santa Marta or Cartagena. As longtime fans of Colombia, we spent extended time in both! Here’s what our experience has been sailing in Colombia.
All information in this post is based on our experiences sailing the Caribbean coast of mainland Colombia. The country is vast, with Pacific coastline and occupied islands alongside Central America, which are not discussed here.
Welcome to Colombia
Arriving in Colombia on our boat was different from other sailing destinations. Colombia is so big that we saw the country a full day before we could enter a port. And the conditions are rough. Santa Marta, Colombia is infamous for heavy winds and rough seas, so much so that many sailors coming from the ABC Islands or further choose to skip the port entirely and head straight to Cartagena.
Brian and I made our first crossing a year ago and have made mistakes, many mistakes. For those interested in exploring a life on board a boat, this post is for you. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert here, in fact, I started out as a complete novice. Maybe you can avoid our mistakes through my cruiser dos and don’ts to hopefully help you slide into this lifestyle with ease!
Boat Ownership Dos and Don’ts
Do Like To Fix Things
If Brian wasn’t so handy, and didn’t enjoy fixing things and working with his hands, we wouldn’t be here. If you already like to fix things, you are golden, but if you don’t, or don’t know how, take a class in mechanics or something before you buy the boat.
The sea finds out everything you did wrong.
Boats are more likely to break when and where no one else is around, so you will have to fix it or at least stop it from getting worse. I am not handy at all and even I am getting better at that stuff. In my opinion, people who can’t or don’t want to fix things won’t be happy in this life.
Do Lock Up Your Valuables
If it’s something you need, lock it up. Dinghies get stolen all the time, and we even had our gas tank stolen out of our dinghy in Martinique. It sucks, but people need money (or gas, when there was a strike in the French islands) and if you make it easy for them to steal, they just might.
We’re looking back as our time in Grenada ends. Three months have flown by, as we’ve kept busy with cruiser activities, guests and boat projects. As we say goodbye to a wonderful place to spend hurricane season, we’re ranking Grenada anchorages.
The majority of cruisers park their boats on the southern shore of the island. Each bay has its pluses and minuses: some are more comfortable, others more convenient. All of the bays are busy this time of year, since we’re all here for hurricane season but different cruisers have different priorities and comfort levels. As a result, these observations and rankings are ours alone and you should bop around the bays yourself and make your own decisions.
In my descriptions below, I move around the Grenada bays from northwest to southeast. These are not all the places to anchor in Grenada, simply the most popular as well as those we have personally tried. Now, on to ranking Grenada anchorages.
Please note that some of this has changed due to Covid and time, so always check with the relevant authorities before entering a new country.