The South Pacific trade winds reach all the way across the Pacific

Blog Post 28 by Jon Sanders: The South Pacific trade winds…

The South Pacific trade winds reach all the way across the Pacific. Although, first one has to get into them from Panama, then you have them with maybe a lull here or there. In some years your sails might flop along in a light wind, but alas, the trade wind is there.

Soon after passing Tahiti one passes through the Cook Islands, an archipelago of scattered islands. Holding one’s course, you’re likely to see zero of them.

Seven times I have passed through the Cook Islands and stopped once at Rarotonga, with Nathan (hi Nathan), chief town or capital.

In this region I have always found the trade winds fresh; same again this year. Often 25/30 kts southeast. Broad reach. 2 reefs mainsail and 1/3 my normal small working jib. Nice.

Progress steady and good

In the Indian Ocean, the region of Cocos Islands (Australia) and going west, fresh trade winds are similar, but the sea is quite a bit rougher.

Former refugee boats got into strife because, I suspect, not just Indian Ocean current but the effect of the south exit currents from Lombok and Sunda Strait.

Back here in the South Pacific, as the trade winds take me further west, actually west-southwest (in other words sneaking south all the time).

It’s winter now in the south; very slowly one is sneaking into it.

6pm and it’s dark, and at 6am it is not the full light of day. It is overcast. Clouds seem low and fast moving. Kinda fog clouds.

Yet the wind, sea and swell are mild. Damp, although not the tropical humid yuk damp. More like, just becoming winter like damp.

In about a week I will sail into Noumea, New Caledonia. French of course. This will be my fourth visit by yacht.

From New Caledonia I will steer a course for Bundaberg Queensland Australia; the southern end of the true southeast Trades. Near enough to the south to fetch the long arm of winter depressions.

From Bundaberg, I will go south. Usually transiting the Great Sandy Straits (inside of Fraser Island the world’s biggest sand island). Making for Sydney on the long southern route to Western Australia, dodging winter weather and Equinox gales (when I can) via coastal refuge.

Last night I woke to a strange situation.

It is years and yonks after the same thing happened. If the yacht changes course, it changes motion – normally it will wake me. So what woke me?  I needed a pee… Sorry, but you get that.

I glanced at the B&G, as one does and blimey, I’m going in the wrong way, the opposite direction. (Only for about 10 nautical miles).

To begin, the wind had backed from the southeast (SE) and east (E) to east-northeast (ENE), then slowly continued northeast (NE). Hmmm, I thought something up. My weather AP does not work at sea.

I slowly continued north- northeast (N NE) north-northwest (N NW) to the west-northwest (W NW).

Now I was not laying course proper. I was sailing full and by ‘sheets sprung’ – as I do, i.e.: not properly close hauled.

A new front – change is coming – so 2 reefs in the mainsail and I reduced the jib. A much-reduced sail for the amount of wind: 18/20 kts WNW. A bit bumpy going that way.

I am familiar with fronts, they can be sudden with an initial squall, as Sydney Hobart Yachtsmen will verify. 25, 30, 40, and even 60 kts.

I’m still technically in the tropics. The fronts from way south might only be 12 kts and rain is 15, 20.

While chucking Zzzz, I suppose the front came gently.

My guess west (W) to southwest (SW) to south (S). The wind vane self-steerer kept its set to wind angle. The yacht changed course – with the wind and the ride is getting smoother.

Soon I will be sailing a course to the bottom of Chile, oodles of 1000s of miles away – a good sleeping course.

Just me accidentally sailing to nowhere in particular, probably to a place called Oblivion.

Awake I corrected, just 10 miles there and 10 miles back.

I notice Robin Morritt never puts a full stop after he closes a bracket.

Perhaps he is saving ink.

Kelly Scott, from RPYC, bought my i-pad a year back. It doesn’t need ink. So it’s probably out of date.

Kindest regards to all.


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