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South Pacific Cyclone Season in the tropics: Calculated risks

By Ocean Navigator - Livia Gilstrap — last modified Aug 10, 2018 03:01 PM
Despite the obvious danger, the idea of spending the South Pacific cyclone season in the tropics is tempting. Many of us who cruise in the tropics have a difficult time giving up the barefoot-and-bikini lifestyle to hole up in a sub-tropical region for six months and await our chance to return to tropical paradise.

Published: 2015-06-15 23:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information , Weather
Countries: Cook Islands , Fiji , French Polynesia , New Caledonia , Samoa , Tonga

South Pacific Cyclone Season in the tropics: Calculated risks

The frequency of cyclones in the South Pacific based on Australian Bureau of Meteorology data. Copyright

Every year, hundreds of boats transit the South Pacific, leaving from ports in North or Central America. By the end of the cruising season, each boat has to decide where they feel safe to weather out the South Pacific cyclone season. The most common strategy is to reach New Zealand or Australia by the end of October or early November.

While sailors from some countries, notably the French, have been staying year-round in the South Pacific for decades, the idea is catching on with a growing minority of cruisers from other countries.

In general these boats take one of three strategies:

1) stay inside the hurricane-affected zone, either moored or cruising near a hurricane hole;

2) take the boat north outside of the cyclone zone; or

3) take the boat east outside of the cyclone-affected zone.

Livia L. Gilstrap is a live-aboard voyager with her partner Carol Dupuis aboard their 35-foot Wauquiez Pretorien, Estrellita 5.10b. They have spent two seasons in the South Pacific without leaving the tropics, and while researching our options we came across a great deal of seemingly contradictory and misleading information from fellow cruisers, experts and cruising guides. The question of “what is safe enough” is something that must be answered individually.

Read Livia's analysis at Ocean Navigator Magazine.

Their blog is

John Freeland
John Freeland says:
May 23, 2016 02:04 PM

It would have been intering to extend your analysis around 170 E to include New Zealand as so many cruisers see it as a safe haven. Your 5 degrees cells just north of NZ appear higher than nearly all cell east of 165w? Any thoughts?

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