Northern Marianas - Profile
- The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas in the Western Pacific has the special status of a US Commonwealth. The American influence is strong, although the legacy of Spanish colonial rule can also be seen. Of the 14 volcanic islands that stretch north to south in almost a straight line, the southernmost three, Saipan, Rota and Tinian, are the main islands. Guam is geographically part of the Marianas, but politically separate.
- The islands were military-dominated for many years and access was forbidden, but that is no longer the case and now the islands attract a few cruising yachts every year. Most of these come from Guam, where there is a Northern Marianas representative who can issue the necessary permit to visit the islands.
- The southern islands are the more developed, while some of the northern islands are wildlife reserves and cannot be visited.
- Most facilities are in Saipan, which is the most developed island and attracts most tourists. Tinian is less developed than Saipan, but as it has a large farming community, fresh produce is easily available and of good quality. Provisions in the outer islands are scarce and one should not expect to be able to buy more than the absolute minimum.
- The entire group is subject to typhoons for most of the year, another reason why cruising boats rarely sail there.
The islands lie in the typhoon zone and typhoons can occur all year round, but are more frequent between July and November. Semi-tropical warm climate. The NE trade winds blow from January to April. As the Marianas appear to be hit by typhoons every year, extreme caution must be exercised when cruising this area. One of the safest months is February, which has the lowest incidence of typhoons. A recommended hurricane hole is in Tanapag's inner harbour, also called Smiley's lagoon, where shelter is reputed to be good from every direction. It is advisable to check in advance before depending on it for safe harbour.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.
Rota and Tinian can only be used as ports of entry by yachts who have these ports specified on their cruising permit.
* indicates port of entry