It’s over three months since I last made a blog post. I have previously on several occasions mentioned that time flies, so I will not repeat it…but it does fly, and when I think back, there isn’t really that much of interest to mention.
I ordered some odd little things for the boat. Some new zincs, impellers for the raw water pump and perhaps most important, a new charge controller for the solar panels. As usual, it took longer than expected for them to arrive and by the time it was installed, and we had replenished our supplies onboard,we were already late October, or even a few days into November. Officially the cyclone season starts here at Nov 1. Very strong El Niño year announced so a real risk of cyclones affecting French Polynesia. The plan was to sail to the Marquesas to spend the season there but just before deciding to go, we came across a book written about the history of cyclones in FrPol. The worst year, 1982-83, in modern times, no less than 6 cyclones hit Polynesia, and those who were around will never forget. The Tuamotus got badly hit, so did the Societies and the Australs. Marquesas, we always heard, never historically got hit. But, and it’s a big BUT, they do develop around the Marquesas, which means that tropical depressions, and tropical storms does occur in strong El Niño years even there. Most of our friends on boats around here who are mobile( harder for those who work, have children at school and so on) already had left by then.
We reconsidered, and decided to spend the season here in Port Phaeton, rather than in marginal anchorages in the Marquesas. After all Port Phaeton is the best protected spot in all FrPol, so even if we will get hit by one, chances are better here to come out without serious damage. Time will tell, there is a slight flavor of Russian roulette over all this, but we can also take some comfort in that the area of FrPolynesia is as big as Europe, and cyclones are in fact quite small, rarely more than 350 NM across. Being some 100-150 miles from the eye, can make all the difference. As 30-35 knots of wind instead of 65+.
Until now the season has been surprisingly tranquil. TC Ula touched the northern Vavau group in The Kingdom of Tonga a few days ago before turning SW passing south of Fiji where it has become more or less stationary and is expected to dissipate. Over here, days and even weeks of fine, sunny weather, followed by squally periods with heavy rainfall.
Latest update on El Niño-related info, suggests that this event already peaked, but the risk is still high at least another couple of months, and particularly the coming two weeks or so in our area. Daily check on several weather sites each morning is the routine by now. Internet feels like an ultimate luxury after our 8-9 months in the ‘wilderness’ from Feb last year even if it is chronically slow.
Apart from that, we’ve enjoyed seeing some old friends, and new ones too, in this our Polynesian Home Base. Boat projects are never absent, but the humid conditions this time of year makes it a slow process. If I can find a little corner of a roofed place, I consider building a new dinghy, in foam sandwich/epoxi using our current one as a mould, another possible idea would be a hard dodger/sprayhood, we’ll see how things unfold. I have constructed a hopefully hurricane proof mooring on and off the last few weeks, hoping to have it ready before needed. Otherwise, my preferred tactic, if a cyclone heads this way, is to go to sea 2-3 days before it’s arrival. Enough to get away200-300 NM from the eye. Problem is, the met office people say that the trajectory can be forecasted with an accuracy(statistically) of about 50 miles per day so it could be a close call in case the storm change course a couple of days away from here.
This option is obviously not possible for all the people living on land, where the worst impact always comes from the heavy rainfall, causing landslides and inundations.
Hopefully a (highly) possible cyclone will stay at sea and track between the island groups. The Tuamotus being low atolls, are of course most vulnerable even though they have shelters nowadays on the bigger ones built out of concrete.
Between all this we do some lagoon navigation for a day or two at a time so life is all good, albeit it with a ‘dark cloud’ at the horizon…