Except for the brief window from June through August when the puddle jumpers come through, French Polynesia is cruised year round almost exclusively by European boats, mostly French. In fact, June – August is the season of mara'amu winds and fronts and so many French boats consider it the crappy season to be cruising, particularly in the Tuamotus and Gambiers. Funny, because of the difficulty of visas and passage windows, that is the only season most of us North American boats ever experience.
As September approaches, there is an increasing awareness among transitory cruisers that we have two months before the South Pacific hurricane season officially kicks off. It seems that majority of boats crossing to NZ this year are converging on their last few countries and starting to think about the passage from the tropics to NZ. As we turned NE to the Tuamotus from Tahiti we left the company of the jumpers who were heading West. When we left Fakarava in late June we were surrounded by North American boats and as we returned to Tikehau in August we find only the stragglers of this year's jumpers. The Tuamotus feel very different. Good news for us, the stragglers have turned out to be an interesting crowd. We've run into SVs Wizard's Eye, Ichiban and Almacantra between Tikehau and Rangiroa. Primarily though, we are meeting and hanging out with the Frenchies again. It's a similar feeling to when we returned to French Polynesia from the Cooks in October last year.
For us, September is the time of impending decisions. We will stay in French Polynesia cruising through the hurricane season, but sometime soon we have to decide where. Where in French Polynesia do we feel comfortable -- e.g., Society Islands and if so which half? Tuamotus? Australs? Gambiers? Marquesas? Will it be a neutral or La Nina ENSO cycle? Will we differentiate between early and late in the hurricane season in choosing our "safe" cruising grounds?
It's interesting to make this decision again, here in the Tuamotus, surrounded by local boats who (in a non-El Nino year) seem to cruise almost anywhere they please in French Polynesia during the hurricane season.