Cruising The Tuamotus

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.

beach in Makemo Tuamotus
We had this beach to ourselves for days in Makemo

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.

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A Week in Ua Pou Marquesas

As often happens in our sailing lives, plans changed when we visited our second Marquesan island. We thought we’d stay for a few days but we were having so much fun we spent a week in Ua Pou!

About Ua Pou

Ua Pou (pronounced Wah Poe) is another mountainous Marquesan island. We were told the name means “two pillars” for the twin peaks rising above the other mountains, dominating the island’s landscape. Located south of Nuku Hiva in the northern Marquesas, we made it our second stop in French Polynesia.

Week in Ua Pou map Marquesas
Ua Pou and The Marquesas Islands map

The third largest Marquesan island with 5 towns and over 2,000 people, Ua Pou covers over 40 square miles.

The defining pillars of Oa Pou
The defining pillars of Oa Pou

We happily anchored in the main port of Hakahau, with stunning views of the mountains and near the conveniences of town.


One of the highlights of our week in Ua Pou was culture day. The islanders took advantage of shutdowns for a Catholic holiday and had a big cultural celebration.

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Prepping for Our Pacific Crossing

We have a big trip ahead of us from Panama to French Polynesia (FP). The sail of over 3000 miles will take us around a month. Can I repeat that? Since we’re not going to The Galapagos, our sail will take about a month. Which is why we’ve spent most of our time prepping for our Pacific crossing. We want to do this right.

I had numerous checklists (I am that type) and our preparations fall into a few categories: making Sava ship-shape, getting everything we need for the passage, and mentally readying ourselves for the longest trip of our lives.

We are leaving today, so we’re done prepping for our Pacific crossing. We’ll see in a few weeks what we did right.

Getting Sava Ship-Shape

We’ve been pretty good about keeping Sava up-to-date, including our most recent lithium battery upgrade. But boats are like houses: something always breaks. Before we set sail, we want to make sure everything is in working shape, and that we have backups of our backups. It’s an important part of prepping for our Pacific crossing.

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Bocas del Toro Boat Life

We’re in our second month in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Time is flying! We’re keeping busy, seeing the sights, and spending time with fellow cruisers. Here’s an overview of Bocas del Toro boat life.

About Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro (or Bocas, familiarly) is a province on the Caribbean side of Panama. Part of it is located on the mainland, but the important part is the chain of islands. Bocas del Toro means Mouth of the Bull, and the island chain has 3 big islands and many smaller islets and atolls.

Bocas del Toro on a map
Map of Bocas del Toro Panama

Bocas del Toro is a popular tourist destination, and the site of many banana plantations. It has an airport, with several daily flights from Panama City, and multiple water ferries and taxis from the mainland.

There are three big islands in Bocas del Toro, where most of the activity happens and the majority of people live and work.

Bocas del Toro map mural
Bocas del Toro map mural
Isla Colon

Isla Colon is the main island, with the airport and main town, called Bocas Town. That’s where the stores are and lots of hotels and resorts. It’s the “big island” where we go to provision at the supermarkets.

Isla Carenero

Right across from Isla Colon, Carenero has a small marina, and many resorts, beaches, and restaurants.

Marina on Isla Carenero
Marina on Isla Carenero
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Planning for Hurricane Season During a Pandemic

Brian and I keep telling each other we are glad the pandemic didn’t happen in our first season living on the boat. This is because we are more comfortable and knowledgeable, Sava is in better shape, and we are used to the fluidity of cruiser life. Especially the last because this season it is very interesting planning for hurricane season in a pandemic.

Planning for Hurricane Season from Antigua

As you know, we waited out the worst of the lockdown in Antigua and it worked well. We had a solid group in isolation and were sheltered in a beautiful bay. All of the necessities were available or sourced easily by someone in our group.

Planning for Hurricane Season during a pandemic
Sava and some of her buddy boats at Great Bird Island, Antigua

But we can’t stay here forever, and as hurricane season approaches, borders are slowly opening, with restrictions.

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