The sail from Tahiti to California isn"t straightforward one. It"s against prevailing wind patterns, the cross the doldrums, and also is rather long. The rhumb line street is nearly 3,600 miles, yet odds room high you won"t have the ability to sail ~ above the rhumb line.

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If you deserve to make six knots progress on the rhumb line, it will take around twenty-five job of sailing. In reality, prevailing winds and also weather will certainly make this expedition much much longer in time and also mileage. Plenty of sailors select an alternate route to do their way back come California.

But you deserve to use the table listed below to acquire an approximate rhumb heat passage time.

A rhumb line is a straight line from point A come B on a map, and is provided for navigation. Fun fact: if you"d walk any type of rhumb line, you"d go in a circle, because of the reality that Mercator projections are flat layouts the a spherical thing (Earth).

Average sailing time in between Tahiti and also CaliforniaAverage boat SpeedApproximate Days come Sail
4 Knots38 Days
5 Knots30 Days
6 Knots25 Days
7 Knots22 Days
8 Knots19 Days
10 Knots15 Days
15 Knots10 Days

These numbers are estimates of the right line distance from Tahiti to mountain Diego. If you shot to sail this course, you"ll find out why most sailors coming back from the southern Pacific take a various route. For an easier lesson, read on for a discussion on getting back to phibìc America from the southern Pacific.

In this article:

Prevailing Winds, Currents and also Weather

The crucial understanding you need for cruising the Pacific is the wind and also weather patterns. The equator lies across the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), recognized casually to seafarers as "The Doldrums." The doldrums run about five degrees of latitude on each side the the equator and are identified by light and also variable winds and calms. That is size deserve to vary from virtually nothing to five or 6 hundred mile of light air sailing or motoring.

Outside the ITCZ, the Trade Winds overcome the wind patterns until about 30° indigenous the equator. These room consistent, solid breezes native the east. In the northern hemisphere, they operation from the northeast, in the southern hemisphere they room southeasterly. Due to the fact that of its reliability, this band of wind was crucial to trade routes in the period of sail, thus the name.

Sailing from Tahiti to phibìc America, that’s a band of Northeasterly wind about 1,500 mile in latitude, but you"ll it is in sailing throughout it diagonally so it’s longer. That"s a an excellent downwind run from mountain Diego come Tahiti, however a long and also unpleasant slog ago upwind in the various other direction. You deserve to do it, but we know it to it is in a slow, grueling trip when you acquire into the northeast trades previous the equator.

Longer courses vs. Less complicated Sailing

There might be compelling factors to do the lengthy upwind trip straight to California. On paper, a directly line IS the fastest means between two points. However it"s not always the easiest when you"re sailing offshore.

Most cruisers are racing versus some time constraint, yet it"s typically weather and also seasons, not various other boats. Timing weather and seasons enables you to sail around unpleasant and complicated areas, and see part cool points along the way. Therefore if girlfriend don"t have actually a fall dead day to get earlier to California, plan an alternate route will be safer and also much nicer.


The Hawaii Route

Sailing to Hawaii native French Polynesia is a more common route from the south Pacific. Rather of sailing straight right into the trades, friend sail much more across them. You"ll also find stopping areas along this path to break the pilgrimage up. These are pretty remote; you must bring the provisions and also fuel you require for the entire trip.

From Hawaii come California has a different challenge, v the North Pacific High sitting in between Hawaii and also the mainland. With light and also contrary winds in the center of this irreversible high-pressure zone, sailors sail phibìc to stop it then skirt the edges, speak the favorable west winds i m sorry rotate about the high in a clockwise direction. Comes from California, they will skirt the high come the southern to catch favorable easterlies.

The phibìc Pacific high deserve to run from 32° north in the winter come as much as 40° in the summer months. Mountain Francisco lies about 38° north, for this reason a run earlier in the summer will certainly land girlfriend in north California uneven you work-related south again past the high.

If compelled to sail come 40°, many cruisers will certainly opt to proceed north come the Pacific Northwest to make landfall, and also spend the remainder of the summer in the islands and archipelagos the Puget Sound. It"s longer, but it have the right to make because that a far better sail.

Get all the details on sailing this route

Sailing indigenous Tahiti come Hawaii bring its very own challenges. I"ve looked into it for my own passage planning.Read every on cruising from Tahiti come Hawaii

Leaving from the Marquesas

When handling northeasterly winds, heading part ways east (or North) will readjust your sailing angle to the wind and give you better conditions. The Marquesas lie around 700 miles northeast of Tahiti, but you"re sailing there in the southeasterly trades for this reason it"s not a difficult sail. And it gives a hard 500 miles of progression to the east.

As a result, leaving the Marquesas for Hawaii makes for an much easier passage, and it would certainly shorten the trip to California. Top top the rhumb heat route, the Marquesas are only a quick diversion and also can be a far better place to uncover your weather home window and make a much shorter sail since you"ve put that 700 miles under her belt before you leave.

Pros & defect of Sailing directly to California

The chief advantage to cruising straight indigenous Tahiti come California is on paper - it must be the shortest and also most straight trip. If friend get good conditions and weather and have a bit of luck, it can be short. In theory.

But that"s the just real advantage.

Disadvantages include:

The sailing is mostly upwind once you leave the doldrums, and that"s a lot of upwind.There aren"t any good stopping areas once you gain past the doldrums, unequal the Hawaii option.It"s longer, so you need to carry more food, fuel, and water.With every the upwind sailing, you can expect 20% or much more extra mile to sail.Upwind sailing on lengthy passages is more tiring, and also takes consistent adjustments to sails and also the helm, and many autopilots execute not carry out it well.

Preparing for a lengthy Upwind

As an American cruiser sit a long means downwind native the U.S. And looking to gain back, I"ve spent a most time poring end weather charts, setravel notes, and also plans. The idea that a lengthy upwind back to the U.S. Isn"t appealing, but there space a few things you have the right to do to setup for it.

Plan to gain east. This way leaving from the Marquesas if you can instead that Tahiti, for much better angles.Alternatively, you can head due north first to counter the trades, however that will certainly take girlfriend halfway to Hawaii prior to it renders a difference.Bring extra fuel and water. by the rhumb line, it"s 3,500 nautical miles, but you can have to sail close to a thousands extra miles tacking throughout the wind.- Prep for discomfort. cruising upwind in an around-the-cans race or even a weekend trip isn"t a big deal. Spending work on days at a fifteen or twenty levels of hoe get"s old fast, and also it"s exhausting. Everything from cooking to making use of the head to resting is much more difficult.Consider a smaller headsail. A vast headsail is nice in light air, but when you"re walk upwind you will have actually a lot much more apparent wind. A smaller jib can help you save pointing, but additionally stop friend from gift overpowered and also on her ear every the time.


If you should do this pilgrimage this way, or if this write-up has persuaded you to seek a gentler route, there"s plenty more information the end there ~ above how best to do this passage. This article is the very basics, and a deep dive into planning for the weather and also your course is an essential before you set sail.

Everyone that aspires to overcome an s should have Jimmy Cornell"s world Cruising routes (check at Amazon) at your fingertips. Familiarize ourselves with the ways to get about in the world, and closely. Read the chapters on southern Pacific wind and also weather patterns. While friend will find details on a California to Tahiti route, over there is no detail on the reverse due to the fact that it isn"t a typical trip come make.

The most comprehensive source for seafarers on entry requirements, border procedures, and also other details relevant to worldwide cruising is Consult that early and often, and save appropriate pages for the countries in your route to your computer locally, uneven you have really good satellite data.

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Consult Pilot Charts for sailing conditions by month together compiled from decades of compiled weather and climate information. They deserve to be downloaded because that free, and also will give you one idea the what you can probably mean as the seasons change.