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By No owner — last modified Apr 28, 2017 12:06 PM

 French Polynesia - Profile

Facts

  • French Polynesia covers an area of the South Pacific Ocean about the size of Europe. It is made up of over 100 islands in five archipelagos: the Society Islands, the Marquesas, Tuamotu, Gambier Islands and Australs, as well as Clipperton atoll, a small French possession off Mexico.
  • In the last few years, the total number of boats cruising in the South Pacific has increased. This is undoubtedly due to the draw of the South Seas, but also in the last couple years because of safety concerns in other parts of the world.
  • From the rugged beauty of the Marquesas to the crystal clear waters of the Tuamotu atolls and the lofty peaks of the Society Islands, the variety in scenery and sailing conditions is unsurpassed anywhere in the South Pacific.
  • Most yachts make their landfall in the Marquesas, which is a perfect introduction to this vast cruising ground. There are few man-made ports here and the swell can tuck into the anchorages, but this is more than made up for by the beauty of these high islands.
  • In complete contrast are the Tuamotu, once called the Dangerous Archipelago on account of its treacherous currents and lurking reefs. Yachts used to avoid this area, but now often stop and visit the low atolls, as the hazards have diminished considerably with the advent of radar and satellite navigation. Negotiating the passes into some of the lagoons can be a difficult operation, mainly because of the strong currents. Generally, the weakest current occurs one hour after low water and one hour after high water. Passes are for the most part well-marked, some even lit at night. However one should still be sure to use careful eyeball navigation, ideally when the sun is overhead and the colour of the water gives a good indication of its depth.
  • Entirely off the usual cruising routes are French Polynesia's other two groups, the Austral and Gambier islands. The latter is best visited if coming from Easter Island or Pitcairn, while the former are only a few days' sail away from Tahiti or make a convenient landfall for yachts heading towards Tahiti from New Zealand.
  • Getting work done: The best facilities are to be found in Papeete (Tahiti) where everything is possible, but expensive; the only other centre with extensive repair facilities is on Raiatea, where two charter companies have their base. Facilities are on a par with Tahiti, or even better, and have the great convenience of being grouped together. There is a resourceful yacht repair business on Nuku Hiva. Yet even in the more remote places it is often possible to find someone who can do welding or repair an outboard engine. Be warned though, prices are high in French Polynesia. A new boatyard opened on Aptaki in the Tuamotus in 2015 and in Hiva Oa in the Marquesas in 2016 - both are reported to be reasonable.
  • Provisioning: Best in Tahiti (Carrefour) and adequate in the other Society Islands. Provisions in the Marquesas are adequate, though very expensive, and it's best to stock-up, particularly in fresh goods, when heading for the Tuamotos.
  • Fuel is available in the main settlements, although it is more difficult to find in the Tuamotus.
  • There are excellent postal services throughout the islands. At its 54 island branches the post office (OPT) provides a wide range of services besides stamps: phone cards, parcel post, placing collect calls, international calling cards (ATT, France Telecom), sending & receiving money orders.

Security

French Polynesia used to be one of the safest cruising grounds in the world, however in recent years the islands around Tahiti have suffered with social and economic problems and consequently petty theft has been on the rise.

Cruisers' reports indicate that care should be taken at night to lock up dinghys, dinghy motors and other loose items on deck whilst at anchor in Moorea and Papeete. With the downturn in the islands hotel trade it is thought there has been an upturn in non-violent crime, confirmed by the Gendarmerie.

In Raiatea at the Uturoa town centre public dock, there continues to be incidents of thefts from boats (both unlocked and locked). It is recommended not to overnight on this dock.

See comments posted at bottom of page concerning security in the islands and reports adjacent.

Last updated January 2017.

Weather

The islands have a tropical climate. November to April is warm and rainy, while May to October is cooler and drier, when the islands are under the influence of the SE trade winds. The cyclone season is November to March. Full cyclones rarely hit anywhere in French Polynesia.

Weather forecasts in French are available from Meteo France, BP 6005 - Faaa Tahiti Airport, 98702 Tahiti, Tel:(689) 36 65 08, Fax:(689) 80 33 09.

Meteo France Outre-mer (in French)

Weather forecasts for the next 24 hours are broadcast every day on VHF channels 27 (Windward Islands) and 26 (Leeward Islands) at 1100, 1200, 2040,2100 local Tahiti time.

A useful guide to South Pacific weather resources complied by a Noonsite contributor, Rory Garland.

For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page

Main Ports

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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Apr 28, 2017 12:06 PM

Hi Sue - I recommend your post your offer on the Women Who Sail Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/groups/WomenWhoSail/. There seem to be quite alot of followers in the Pacific right now actively cruising and I am sure they can guide you accordingly.

BlueWaterSue
BlueWaterSue says:
Apr 27, 2017 07:25 AM

I'll be flying from San Francisco, California into Pape'ete for a short week visit in mid-May and I'm wondering what I could bring to cruisers in the way of useful supplies. I hear things are expensive there, and I know from personal cruising experience that specialty repair items can be hard to source abroad. Any ideas for finding requests?

Pannikin
Pannikin says:
Apr 14, 2017 12:21 AM

Marine Surveyor in Tahiti.
If anyone is looking for a marine surveyor in Tahiti I am happy to relay our experience with Patrice BEUSCHER.
We found Mr Beuscher to be very professional, prompt, reliable and honest. He surveyed out boat for purchase and was meticulous with a keen eye for detail and always replied to any query we had promptly and efficiently.

John Freeland
John Freeland says:
Feb 14, 2017 12:08 AM

Fact or Myth: Food in French Polynesia is exorbitantly expensive

While in Panama several permanent sailing residents repeated the often heard tale of woe about Polynesia. “Why would you go to Polynesia, it so dreadfully expensive?” I would usually say "well when I was in French Polynesia 20 years ago many items were price controlled and very reasonable. If you’re on a tight budget you can eat cheaply if you’re careful."
Currently we found many of the Marquesas and Tuomotus were supplied regularly. Staples are rarely an issue, fresh is often available the day the freighter arrives. Locally sourced foods, like mangoes and grapefruit, are not sold in stores but can be found by a bit of asking around.
But are the prices exorbitantly expensive? In a word – No.
We’re from the UK where food prices are similar to the rest of Europe. There are several comparison websites which use the “shopping basket” comparison to measure cost of living and between city comparisons. Using February 2017 here are average UK prices converted to French Polynesian Francs, compared to the Champion Supermarket in Papeete (which by the way is certainly not the cheapest.)
I have converted the British pounds to French Polynesian francs at the current rate of 140.

UK vs Tahiti Prices - Feb 2017 UK in XPF Papeete
Milk , (1 liter); Papeete presidente whole milk HDT XPF 123 XPF 139
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) Papeete for 2 bagettes XPF 132 XPF 124
Rice (white), (1kg) XPF 168 XPF 97
Eggs (12) XPF 269 XPF 451
Cheese (1kg); Papeete Emmental XPF 783 XPF 995
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg): Papeete frozen XPF 843 XPF 292
Beef Round (1kg) XPF 1,092 XPF 1,395
Apples (1kg) XPF 252 XPF 372
Banana (1kg) XPF 134 XPF 140
Oranges (1kg) XPF 239 XPF 345
Tomato (1kg) XPF 255 XPF 720
Potato (1kg) XPF 167 XPF 167
Onion (1kg) XPF 132 XPF 165
Lettuce (1 head) ;only cleaned bagged Papeete XPF 99 XPF 368
Total basket XPF 4,687 XPF 5,769
Papeete is 23% more expensive than UK.

French Polynesia is arguably one of the most isolated nations on the planet and it would be a surprise if food was cheap. Papeete is an expensive city by third world standards where 2 bedroom flats start at 200,000 euros. Shipping food by freighter in refrigerated containers also raises the prices in the outlying archipelagos. Nevertheless, with some staples price controlled by France, many staples are quite reasonable. Try to get a baguette in London for 44 pence, 54 cents US.
Is food more expensive than Europe or USA? Yes. Is it exorbitantly expensive? I’d answer that question with a resounding – NO.

John Freeland - SY Mary Ann II

stefandec
stefandec says:
Jul 28, 2016 09:24 PM

Nuku Hiva Yacht Services recommedation
I spent a couple of hours with Kevin of NHYS last June 2016 and can recommend him to other cruisers as a friendly, capable, generous and serious person. I recomend them to fellow cruisers, Stefan (Svsanuk.com)

stage2man
stage2man says:
Apr 14, 2016 08:57 PM

In 2015, Customs patrols of Fatu Hiva were not tolerating vessels that had not prior checked in to the country at either Nuka Hiva or Hiva Oa. Additionally for those who had applied for a long stay Visa prior to leaving the USA, the paper work now takes 7 weeks, after submission to Papeete, upon arrival in French Polynesia. Anne-Marie Guiguen(some English), is a delightful official on Nuka Hiva who assisted us with submission to Papeete. Given the now prolonged time to process, I think she may be not be as helpful to future cruisers, and may suggest heading to Papeete early enough to submit the paperwork yourself. We were not allowed to leave the Marquesas until our papers were returned from Papeete to her office.

stage2man
stage2man says:
Apr 14, 2016 08:31 PM

Warning on alcohol reporting to Customs. Customs is back in business utilizing the Navy vessel after losing their's on a reef. When reporting alcohol to the Gendarmes on arrival in the Marquesas, be accurate. Do not under report stores or Customs will assume your intention is to sell the excess alcohol to the local population. You will be fined, and have alcohol confiscated. Note that there is no maximum that one can bring into the country. We know of a vessel that had over 1000 cans of beer on board, yet had no problems because they declared all upon arrival with the Gendarmes. Note that they want the quantity in Liters, not cases or bottles. They told us a case to them is 6 bottles of wine. Hence we had inadvertently under reported as the rest of the world counts 12 bottles in a case. They also check all medication and controlled substances when searching a vessel for patient names on labels.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 09, 2015 12:13 PM

Posted on behalf of Bill, Lara and Isobel Calfee of SV Sunrise:
I thought it would be worth writing about our experience with Tahiti Crew. We picked them up as an agent via the Pacific Puddle Jump.

Tehani is a local woman who owns the company and is the primary contact in Tahiti. She has remote island contacts and I suggest that you deal directly with her by phone, text (689 87 21 59 80 ) or email (tahiticrew@mail.com). She has been wonderfully responsive and has helped us with many things beyond customs and immigration: car rental, tax fee fuel, making medical appointments, importing parts, hiring local contractors, finding places to stay, guided tours of the island (her “auntie” has a pHd in Tahitian Culture and leads tours of the island). We are traveling with our 6 year old daughter and Tehani helped us work our way through the system to put her in the local school!! She also knows the local customs and culture. Tahiti crew does charge fees for many things that can be done on your own… and we feel strongly that Tahiti Crew is a great value.

As a side bar: all Tahitians expect to be treated as friends would treat each other, with kindness and respect. We found people in Tahiti and Moorea to be very kind and generous if you treat them as friends. Of course, the more densely touristed the area, the more you will have to work to become friends. Attempting to speak french will go a long way. And attempting to use a few Tahitian words makes a huge difference as these people are Polynesians, not French!

lifelineexplorers
lifelineexplorers says:
Nov 22, 2015 08:50 AM

For anyone needing assistance with formalities or customs clearance I would highly recommend using Tehani at Tahiti Crew. She helped me clear into Polynesia, dealt with arriving packages being held at Customs, and assisted in acquiring two visa extensions. Her service was beyond was expected and she is extremely professional and pleasant to deal with. She can be contact at yachts@tahiticrew.com

David Johnson
David Johnson says:
Jul 11, 2015 08:33 PM

Couple of recommended services in French Polynesia.
1. PSA (listed under Tahiti marine services) for batteries. Great service, batteries delivered to boat, and good after sales support.
2. Voilerie Aveia (Regine Faux, 68987725112) in Raiatea for sail repairs. We got next day turnaround on 2 separate repairs. Collected and returned sails, nice repairs completed.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jun 11, 2015 11:34 AM

The cruiser who sent us this security report prefers to remain anonymous:

We are currently cruising French Polynesia and have throughly enjoyed every minute. We are passing through Raiatea for the second time.

I want to report three cases of boats being boarded in the last two weeks in Uturoa on the town public dock. We are still cruising here and want to make sure fellow cruisers are aware of petty crime here.

The first incident happened two weeks ago to a friend's boat tied up close to the Shell Gas Station. His boat along with three others were boarded at night and various items were stolen. All three boats were unlocked. The perpetrator was maced and fled leaving various items behind.

We pulled back into the public dock today to re-provision and met two Australian boats that were boarded last night with a Laptop stolen with forceful entry and the perpetrator being chased off a second boat when the owner was awoken.

Local recommendations are NOT to tie up here over night but anchor off the town or pick up a mooring ball over night. Our suggestion is to go to Taha'a and pick up a moring ball by the old yacht club and spend the night there.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Apr 27, 2015 09:40 AM

Posted on Women Who Sail Facebook Group - April 25th, 2015
DINGHY THEFT ALERT.... another dinghy stolen last night in Bora Bora. Boat was at a mooring in front of the gas station, not far from the Mai Kai Marina... there's been a rash of thefts in Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora... as always, LOCK IT OR LOSE IT!

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jul 14, 2014 01:07 PM

It has been reported that the customs boat hit a reef in the Tuamotos - and it may be a while before a new one arrives.

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