PS Easter Island to Magellan Strait or Cape Horn

Best time: Tropical storms: Charts:

W'w roi\h:

December to February

BA: 4062

BA: 6, 62 US: 122. 124. 125


Inl, rmtuliuli'



Diminua- 'Mi

Route PS17A PS171 Caste'SW 27"13'S, 109'27'W


45'00'S, 100'00'W

PS173 Pillar 52'40'Sj 74'50'W

PS171 Easter SW


PS174 Chacao 41'40'S, 74C15'W



Route 1'S17C" PS171 Easter SW


50'00'Si 95'00'W

PS176 Horn 56'02'S, 67'15'W


Although the number of boats that make Easter Island the starting point for a voyage to the stormy Southern Ocean is relatively small, the same route is used for much of its length by boats heading for the south of Chile. Just as Cape Horn or the Straits of Magellan are best reached from Easter Island with the help of the prevailing westerly winds of higher latitudes, so is the south of Chile. The main objective after leaving Easter Island is to reach the region of prevailing westerly winds as quickly as possible. By taking advantage of every shift of wind it ought to be possible to make some easting even before the Roaring Forties are reached, from where fair, if strong, winds can be expected. The proportion of gale force winds is highest in the vicinity of the southern tip of the American continent, the worst period being the winter months of June, July, and August and passages during these months should be avoided. The recommended time not only has the benefit of better winds en route, but also ensures arriving in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia at the best time, which is at the height of the southern summer.

Taking WP PS171 as a departure point from Easter Island, the initial course will head in a SSE direction. As so much depends on weather conditions encountered at the time, WP PS172 has been given only as a guideline. Boats bound for the Magellan Strait (route PS17A) should set course for

PS173 as soon as the area of prevailing westerly winds has been reached. Landfall will be made at PS 173 off Cape Pillar. Entering the Strait in heavy weather should be avoided, because strong currents create rough seas at the entrance to the Strait. Those wishing to visit the south of Chile and explore the Chilean channels on their way to the Magellan Strait, should make landfall further north in the approaches to Chacao Channel (route PS17B). The same suggestion applies as above and the latter channel should only be entered in settled weather and with a fair tide. To obtain this information, the Corona Lighthouse should be contacted on VHF channel 16 to request information on the state of the tide.

Boats bound for Cape Horn (route PS17C) will make most of their easting with tl\e prevailing westerly winds, so that latitude 50 °S is only crossed in about longitude 95 °W (WP PS175). The course is then altered for PS176 to pass close to the south of Cape Horn. In recent years, most boats sailing this route have stopped in Tierra del Fuego, either by entering Beagle Channel immediately after having weathered Cape Horn, or by reaching Cape Horn itself through the relatively more sheltered channels to NW of it by choosing one of the landfalls described above.

After rounding Cape Horn, the route can pass either east or west of Staten Island. If the island is passed to seaward, a wide berth should be given to Cape St John, as a dangerous tide rip extends offshore for about six miles making conditions hazardous when the wind blows against the tide. Alternatively, the route can pass through Le Maire Strait, especially if the intention is to pass to

Whether arriving from the north (Hawaii), northeast (California or Panama), east (Galapagos), southeast (Easter or Pitcairn Island), or southwest (New Zealand), one should plan to arrive in French Polynesia not earlier than the beginning of April, when the cyclone season is on the wane and the SE trade wind season is about to begin. Such a timing will ensure several months of carefree cruising before the onset of the next cyclone season. Those with only a limited amount of time can spend about two months in French Polynesia, provided they arrive there in June. If one leaves the Society Islands only after the 14th July celebrations, which is an occasion few wish to miss, the safe cruising season in the rest of the tropics is well advanced and one has to be prepared to push on and probably spend the coming cyclone season in New Zealand, or some other safe place outside the tropics. The other alternative is to remain in the tropics during the summer, by staying close to one of the relatively safe harbours downwind from Tahiti, such as Pago Pago (American Samoa), Vava'u (Tonga), or Suva (Fiji). For those who decide to stay in the Society Islands, there are several harbours, both in the Windward and the Leeward Islands, that are reputed to be safe in a cyclone, although the authorities are increasingly reluctant to allow cruising boats to remain there during the cyclone season. Indeed, many sailors plan to spend the cyclone season there, not heeding the lessons of 1983, when several cyclones swept through French Polynesia. It is true that several years can go by without a cyclone hitting these islands, but when a cyclone comes this way it can wreak havoc. If one is prepared to take the west of the Falkland Islands. Going nojrth through Le Maire Strait it is essential to wait for a fair tide and, if at all possible, a fair wind as well. Further directions for boats heading north into the Atlantic Ocean are given in routes AT26, AT27 a^d AS26 (pages 177,178 and 193).

this risk and stay in French Polynesia between December and March, one should try to be near one of the recommended ports. It must be pointed out,i however, that in recent years the authorities in! Papeete have occasionally forbidden crews to; remain on board their boats during the cyclone sea- i son, although the boats themselves may be left i unattended in a safe place, such as the marina at i Raiatea.

Even without the danger of cyclones, summers ought to be avoided as the weather is much less pleasant than in winter, when from May to October the SE trade winds are normally in full force in these latitudes, although occasionally they can be interrupted by squalls and short periods of light winds and calms. During the summer months, from December to March, winds are less predictable and the weather can be hot and sultry. The Tuamotus should be avoided during the cyclone season as no anchorage can be regarded as really safe. Because of the revolving nature of these storms, even a relatively protected anchorage can quickly turn into a lee shore and the long fetch in most lagoons can create highly dangerous conditions for boats at anchor.

Satellite navigation has undoubtedly played a major part in opening the more remote islands, and especially the Tuamotus, to cruising boats, many of whose owners would not have dared pass through those waters without GPS. Although most of these dangers are now easier to avoid, it must be remembered that most charts of the area were drawn during the last century and many are quite inaccurate. Therefore positions obtained by GPS

FS20 Routes in Eastern Polynesia ps21 Gambier to Marquesas ps22 Marquesas to Tuamotus ps23 Marquesas to Tahiti ps24 Marquesas to Northern Cooks ps25 Tahiti to Austral Islands ps26 Tahiti to Cape Horn or Magellan Strait

PS20 Routes in Eastern Polynesia

will rarely agree completely with those taken off from a chart. This calls for extreme caution when in the vicinity of reefs or when sailing at night or in bad visibility. Nor should the strong currents that sweep through the area be ignored, which makes it essential to update one's position as frequently as possible. As many of the anchorages in the Tuamotus are in large lagoons, the long fetch will cause uncomfortable, and occasionally dangerous, conditions in strong winds. Finally, being so heavily dependent on satellite navigation when navigating in the South Pacific, and particularly in such a difficult area as the Tuamotus, a second backup GPS, possibly portable, would be a wise investment. Just as useful will be tide tables as well as detailed charts. In the case of the Tuamotus, French charts are preferable as they are the most recent and are being updated regularly.

Best time:

Tropical storms:

December to Marcr.



Cruising guides:

Charlie's Charts of Polynesia, Landfalls of Paradise.

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