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The Cooks Bay Breeze

By Captain John Beebe-Center

March 20th, 2014

Cruising through French Polynesia has been wonderful for viewing and experiencing of flora and fauna, amazing geographic formations and beautiful scenery. It has shown us crystal clear waters, excellent fishing and some great coral.

Cooks Bay had its own wonders in store for us. Besides the rough-hewn peaks and lush greenery and the sleepy little village of PaoPao, Cooks Bay had wind. And not just a little wind – we’re talking gusty wind to get the attention of even a seasoned mariner, or air traffic controller for that matter.

The geography for helping to generate these breezes is perfect in that Cooks Bay has a fjord-like shape to it, long and narrow and oriented North to South. With the seasonal winds having a Northerly cast this sets up a compression/funneling situation that can seriously accelerate the breeze. This would be in the nature of a “williwaw” or katabatic wind. On the first night of our visit around 2230 we started to hear the moaning of an approaching gust of wind. This moaning continued to get louder and we could actually see the wind line approaching on the water several hundred yards away. Clearly this was going to be interesting and I was able to consider the wisdom which had inspired putting out our large 1500 pound anchor and 3 ½ shots (or about 315 ft) of chain.

The gust that hit was estimated by myself and watch officer Sam as being in the mid 50 knot range. It came with rain and pushed Picton Castle over several degrees. The squall let up after a few minutes and we were able to see up to windward an approaching series of wind lines on the water stretching away towards the mouth of the Bay. Each one represented another gust of wind – not quite so “interesting” as the first but each strong and loud and worthy of a look on deck to make certain all was well. While the rain component of the first gust stopped the gusts themselves did not. They diminished in the afternoons but were generally with us throughout our visit. We made friends with our neighbors, the Ketch rig Sinbad, who had been in port for months. They told us that their wind gauge had registered 82 knots as their maximum gust that season. After a few days of this it was pleasant to recover our anchor this morning (which had been driven waaay into the mud) and to make our way to sea again en route to Huahine. So, Cooks Bay, a beautiful place and worth a visit. Put out your best ground tackle…

Cheers,
Captain John

Captain John leads a workshop

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