Team Giddyup Presents “Random Thoughts on French Polynesia”

Purpose: These are links relevant to being in French Polynesia although some will be useful further down the road. They are not by any means comprehensive. If you want a full list of weather links for hurricane season in the South Pacific, you‘ll have to go elsewhere or create one. When you do, send us the link please! 
    • We have only spent two seasons in French Polynesia. One of the two of us is a native French speaker and the other has become conversational.
    • The best thing you can do to find out more about French Polynesia is to talk to the French boats you will see when you arrive. Many of them have been cruising this country for years. Many of them speak English and many more will be patient with your attempts at French.
    • Internet is expensive and slow in French Polynesia. If you have access to cheap internet before you jump, it is a good idea to take advantage of it. With that being said, don’t worry too much. If you forget something, you’ll survive and the odds are you can trade files with someone who has what you are looking for.
    • Considering making a small donation to the people who created the free information you are enjoying. At least visit their sponsors via their ads and if you see them in person, invite them for a cocktail or coffee.
Finally, make sure that you can print from a webpage to a .pdf. Your browser might have the option to print to a .pdf or you can download cutepdf for free. This is what I use. Once you have installed it you can print from any program to PDF, just choose cutepdf as your printer when the printer dialogue comes up.

Official info: Download the Yachtsman Guide to French Polynesia. Make sure you have the most recent version which was the 2011/2012 version the last time I checked.

Weather etc:
    • Start practicing your French weather terms! Go to Meteo France’s site for French Polynesia.
    • Download the map of weather zones to keep on your hard drive.
    • Familiarize yourself with the two weather bulletins that you will be downloading regularly through saildocs. They are the bulletin marine (underneath the zone map you just downloaded) and the more flowery and effusive previsions courte echance.
    • Be aware that you will hear VHF weather in most of the Society Islands, but not the Marquesas and Tuamotus. The VHF weather will be announced on Channel 16 and move to either 22 or 23 depending on your area. This VHF 16 announcement will often cause panic in the non-French speaking pack the first few times because they worry that it is a special emergency bulletin. The marine emergency unit usually has Anglophones working but if not there is usually someone bilingual on the radio.
    • Download the Tuamotus Current Guestimatorand if download the Rangiroa tide information from NOAA. In the upper right of this page you can download the year‘s data in various formats. I recommend downloading the text version. You will need to rename the file .txt or just open it with a text editor and resave it. From there you can cut and paste it into the Tuamotus Guestimator as per their directions.
    • Download tracks for the areas you will visit. Some sources: world index, and Hacking Family.
Guidebook type electronic resources:
    • Start by going to noonsite and go through the time consuming process of printing the entire region to .PDF for your hard drive. Better yet, get together with a bunch of cruisers and divvy up the work and share the files between you.
    • Next, go to Soggy Paws and download all of the compendiums. Then download anything else on that page that seems interesting - great bunch of information. Open the French Polynesia compendiums (Marquesas, Tuamotus, Societies) and peruse the weather information.
    • Want better info than the terribly photocopy of what was a bad chart to start with? Go to Google Maps, switch to satellite view, find an atoll, locate the passes noted in the guidebooks and zoom in. Print a visual of the pass to .PDF. While you don’t always get a clear view, in concert with our charts, we found this often very helpful.
Paper books with reviews:
    • If you do a good job with electronic resources you can get away with just Bonnette. The problem with Bonnette is that it is out of print in English and so can be extremely expensive. You can buy a copy in FrenchTahiti for $60 but by then you are about to leave the country. Search for a used one.
    • If you can't buy Bonnette you will probably need Charlie’s Charts of Polynesia. I am hesitant about recommending this book because it is out of date and the included chartlets are often useless. We bought the 7th edition after being told by one of the new owners that it was new and updated and paid full list price. After perusing the book and an old copy floating around electronically I can confidently state that the 7th edition is very out of date as well. Still…it is somewhere to start and for that reason we carry a copy. If I could do it again, I would buy an older edition inexpensively.
    • If I were buying a second book, and the Marquesas sounded exciting to me, I would buy a copy of Exploring the Marquesas Islands by Joe Russell. It is out of date but has a lot of fun anchorages in it and gives a lot more info on the area than Charlie’s Charts.
    • We had old copies of South Pacific Anchorages and Landfalls of Paradise given to us. Because we were interested in some off the beaten path options we found these fun to have aboard and have kept them and continue to use them. They are not necessary by any means but if you have access to an inexpensive copy, or a lot of cash, they are worth the shelf space just for background information on countries.
    • I’ve put direct links to each of the preceding books, plus guides in other regions we've traveled in, and other books and video we've loved in an Amazon store.
Current information:
    • Your best sources of current anecdotal information are blogs. See “Off the beaten path below”.
    • The PPJ yahoo group (not run by the PPJ) is searchable and has a section of downloadable documents. 
    • The PPJ main site has news articles and current information of interest.
Miscl: If you are a HAM and plan to check in on the SSB to the Pacific Seafarer's Net, fill out their safety survey before leaving so you don’t have to do it underway and print out their guidelines for joining the roll call and how to check in.

Do you want to go off the beaten path?
    • The answer isn‘t necessarily yes. If you go off the beaten path you take more risks and you can expect the social aspect of cruising that many people cherish to change. You will meet and hang out with fewer boats than if you take the main path. If you think you might, here is my advice.
    • Pick a few places that have tickled your imagination. If that stumps you, go to a blog of someone who has recently crossed and who visited some places that sounded cool to you that you haven’t heard about. Now, sit down for a couple of hours with your favorite search engine and read the blogs of people who have visited there, printing anything useful to .PDF to keep. Also, use google maps satellite view to check out the passes they used and anchorages and again print anything useful. Save everything in folders and forget about it until you arrive. Don’t talk about your list with anyone.
    • We try to remember what we call the “one off” rule. All you have to do is go one island or one season off the beaten path to greatly reduce the crowd. 
    • Finally, if you are in the main cruising season, don’t talk about where you are going with anyone - not on the radio, not in person. If you do, expect part of the herd to follow you.


  1. Many thanks for the link to world index - it is producing "customers"

  2. Thank YOU John. I found your site very useful when we were getting ready to head to the South Pacific last year and I plan to use it in the future when we move on!

  3. We crossed last year. Great info/ advice here. Like your comment about getting off the beaten path. Not hard to do as you will hear where most are going easily enough.

    Take care anchoring in shallow water behind the reef at Moorea if a front/ weather event comes through as coarse coral sand is not good holding. Lots of yachts dragging!

    We had to replace our gear box in Papetee. It was sent from across the USA in 3 days via DHL express. They're the only shipment option to get parts quickly. We had an agent of course that cleared it for us via PPJ.




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