Passage and Arrival
Why are we choosing to cross the Pacific during COVID-19? There is a list of reasons the most important being its our only choice. Australia’s restriction of 15 people per flight – and at a cost of $8000 pp and up – has made it impossible to get back without sailing. The world is heading to requiring vaccines to be able to travel which is not available in Mexico for Australians. Combined with the risk of catching Covid in Mexico with our pre-existing conditions, we made the decision to go.
We left Tenacatita, Mexico on April 13th with the prospect of light winds ahead. Why did we leave with that kind of forecast, you may ask? We didn’t have a lot of choice. We obtained our approval to go to French Polynesia back in December and since then the rules have changed considerably to the point that if you don’t make your dates within 7 days you have to reapply. To avoid not being able to go to French Polynesia, we had to go.
This is the one passage we have really not been looking forward to in 11 years, with just the sheer length of what was awaiting ahead. We have successfully managed to find islands to stop at across our other ocean passages so that we had only spent 8 days at sea at a time. Unfortunately, this time the closest island is 2 800 nm away.
The passage was boring and involved constant sail adjustments and/or course adjustments, lots of sail slapping due to the light winds and motoring at very low revs (we used 2.2 litres an hour of fuel we usually motor much faster and use a lot more diesel) As we approached the doldrums there were squalls, rain and lightning. Fun!
We have heard from friends who have done this journey, how great the fishing was, so we had very high expectations. Andrew and Tristan did catch three small tuna, but compared to our Indian Ocean crossing where we caught so many yellow fin tunas it was disappointing. We did see fishing boats and one got quite close, even though we were 9 days into our passage. It looks like the Pacific Ocean has been overfished.
So, what did we do during the passage? Not school. We baked and cooked, everyone participated, and we ate really well, Max managed to gain 3 kg during the passage, but he is so skinny you would never know. I read a lot, the kids watched movies, read, played computer games, and wrote.
The single best entertainment for the kids though was the emails they received on the satellite phone. There was always so much excitement when the phone was checked as to see whom had received emails. Heidi, Lucy, and Sally (Love and Luck) and Riley and Ada (Arena) emailed the kids daily sometimes several times a day sharing what was going on in their lives, providing encouragement and motivation. Likewise, I received many emails from Julie. So, a big thank you Love and Luck and Arena girls for all your emails, we will be there encouraging you guys along next year when you go across the Pacific.
We were travelling with Distance Star during the passage, so for a lot of the trip we were within radio contact and spoke several times a day to discuss weather, our route or just general chit chat. When we didn’t have radio contact, we used the Iridium to message with each other. It was great to have someone so nearby, especially during the doldrums with the squalls.
The most excitement during the passage was when we had a booby sit on the bow of the boat. He stayed with us for a few days and was named Bobby by Ava and Tristan. It would occasionally fly off, I assume to fish, but always came back. Even with rough seas Bobby stayed on. Eventually, by about day 12, Bobby decided to stretch his wings and go. Tristan was very disappointed not to have something to look at during his watches.
We finally got in on the 4th of May into Taiohae just before midnight and there were about 10 mast lights visible, it was a bit of a shock when we woke up to find about 40 boats in the anchorage. I guess not everyone bothers with their lights.
The rule for boats arriving in French Polynesia during COVID-19 is that if there is 5 or more people on board you must quarantine for 14 days or get a COVID-19 test. We had discussed the COVID-19 test option throughout the passage and for us it would cost about $1300 AU so we weren’t sure if we were going to do it or not. As it happened on our first day there were two other boats that had nursing staff coming to their boats for the COVID-19 test and we decided we would do it too. Kevin, from Nuku Hiva Yacht Services, thought we would get the results either on Friday or Monday. The negative results finally came in on Tuesday morning and then it had to go to another government department for approval before we were finally free to leave the boat on Wednesday afternoon after 8 days in quarantine. Was it worth the covid-19 test? Yes, the last 24 hours we were all grumpy and desperate to get off the boat. As I’m writing this on April 19th Distance Star have just finished their 14 days quarantine having missed getting a Covid-19 test by a couple of hours and I know how hard that quarantine was for those guys.
Our first 12 days in Taioa bay involved many sleepless nights, the bay has been rocky like La Cruz in Mexico. Thankfully, the last couple of days the anchorage has been flat, and we have been able to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Our first thought on arriving is ‘green’ after being in Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, for two years in the desert surrounded by brown. It is so nice to see green everywhere.
A huge thank you to Andrew who did a fantastic job ensuring we got there safely. Also to Tristan, Max and Ava who changed the sails, did watches and helped with the cooking. Stay tuned as we explore the Marquesas!