Where We Explore: Pacific Ocean
The enduring appeal of the South Pacific is among the trends that have surfaced in the latest global survey.
This vast and much ballyhooed cruising region of the world is where the numbers hint at significant change. The total number of boats cruising in the South Pacific has increased, and one reason may be the lasting attraction of the much-fantasized South Seas as well as, in the last couple years, safety concerns about other parts of the world.
Also, compared to the past, when many boats in the South Pacific continued on a circumnavigation, close to half of the North American boats and others now appear to view the Pacific as the destination, and therefore take time to explore the islands.
The Panama Canal continues to be a valuable indicator of yacht movement both between the Atlantic and Pacific, and on a global level. The peak transit time for yachts is in February and March, when waiting time on the Caribbean side can be two weeks or longer unless expedited by boat owners using local agents.
The number of transits shows an increase compared to 2000, with a total of 1,177 in 2010 compared to 790 a decade earlier. The proportion between the two directions has remained unchanged at an approximate ratio of 2 to 1, with 771 boats bound for the Pacific and 406 for the Caribbean in 2010 compared to 532 and 258, respectively, in 2000. About two thirds of the westbound boats turn north, toward the west coast of Central and North America, and the rest turn left for the South Pacific.
The restrictions applied to visiting yachts in the Galápagos Islands are still in force but since the use of a local agent has become compulsory, entry formalities have been streamlined. Visiting yachts are now granted stays of up to 20 days by the port captains in the two official ports of entry: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (formerly known as Wreck Bay) on Isla San Cristóbal, and Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay), on Isla Santa Cruz. Compared to 180 yachts in 2000 and 120 in 2006, the number of cruising yachts has seen an unprecedented increase with a total of 395 boats having called at the Galápagos Islands in 2010. March continues to be the most popular arrival time.
While the majority of yachts continue from Galápagos along the classic trade-wind route to the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti in French Polynesia, every year a few boats make a detour to Easter Island and continue from there via Pitcairn Island to French Polynesia. They made up just over half of the 44 boats that called at Easter Island in 2010, the rest being boats en route to the Chilean canals and South Atlantic Ocean. Most boats sailing west from Easter Island stop at Pitcairn, which had 12 visitors in 2010 and 20 by August 2011.