Sitting on the balcony of our temporary AirBNB apartment in Tahiti, overlooking the Taina pass, where we entered Tahiti several weeks ago, I write up the last words of our epic journey across the Pacific amidst the Corona pandemic. We have been stranded on Tahiti for almost two months now, and there is hope that we can finally fly back to Macau in a couple of weeks time. Ah Ma is safely berthed in Opua marina, were she is treated for her wounds of crossing to New Zealand. I hope to see her soon.
During our crossing of the Pacific I made notes on my phone using Google docs offline. It seemed to be a perfect way to keep track of what happened day to day. It was also a good way to vent my frustrations to ‘digital paper’. And frustrating it was at times. In hindsight I should have left our delivery skipper in Panama after he lost his temper one night at the Shelter bay marina bar. There he showed his true colours, and they weren’t pretty. But we wrote the episode off to stress and hoped for the best. It would have been easy to pick up some good humoured and competent crew in Panama. Ah well, hindsight is a beautiful thing, we’ll just add this to the tally of ‘lessons learned’.
Once I connected the phone with all the drafts and notes to the internet, all was wiped clean. No way to retrieve them, and no support from Google. You get what you pay for with these ‘cloud’ solutions I guess. Luckily I kept friends and family up to date sending them excerpts of my notes through email. And sure enough there was plenty left in my sent items mailbox to work from. Only the last couple of days were lost to the black hole of the internet. So those I had to rewrite from memory..
Saturday, 11th of April (Day 25)
If you feel these daily reports are getting repetitive, they are. Ritual and repetition dictate the day on the water, Corona and the wind are pretty much the topic of the conversation all day long. Or better, the lack of wind. Although, for a brief couple of minutes just now, the boat roared up to seven knots in a little gust.
Breakfast is just another bowl of overly sweet cereal with pasteurized milk. We make up our haiku for the day, inspired by a big bird circling the boat. It seems like it’s hoping to land on the bimini.
Bird from afar I see
Flying towards the boat like a kamikaze
Please don’t crap on me
We have been 25 days at sea now, at a very moderate 150 miles per day that adds up to 3750 miles travelled. The distance from Galapagos to Tahiti, as the crow flies, is about 3600 miles, so we did quite a bit more than necessary. And there are still about 5 days more to go, maybe less.
In the afternoon I receive a motivational email from my dad. I spent about fifteen minutes downloading the 200kb email. Yay! Satellite internet brings you back in time 25 years, to the days of 9600 boud modems. (Google that young ones..) Once I was finally able to open the email I found a photo of my father, dressed in our boat polo, zipping a nice glass of wine in the garden. Superb! I hope to find some wine on Tahiti, but from what we have heard from our agent, the sale of alcohol has been prohibited due to the Corona madness. Just our luck. But we come prepared, we still have a couple of bottles from Servis Frais down below, so the first couple of days we’re saved.
Lunch is delicious barbecue pork. No, we didn’t bring a pig with us that we butchered on the front deck like in the good old days. Back in Panama we stocked up on some lovely barbecue pork from the Chinese restaurant recommended by our newfound friend May. There were still a few pieces left in the back of the freezer. I brought them back to live on the Magma grill on the back of the boat. Then, a bit charred and thinly sliced over a bowl of rice. Top that of with some home made pickles, a sweet teriyaki style sauce and some seaweed and sesame sprinkle and our meal for the day is served. Twenty-five days, and still not a can used other than to use them as weight to press down the Fajita’s.
We motor sailed or a bit in the afternoon to make up for lost miles. Around sunset the wind picked up a bit, so we turned of the diesel wind, and went back to mother nature’s wind power. Sailing into another dark and cloud filled night. Yes, big red gennaker still flying up front, am I too getting complacent?
Sunday, 12th of April (Day 26)
As said in the introduction, I made all my notes for the blog in Google docs, offline. Once I connected my phone to the internet all off-line content disappeared, so did all my notes and other things that I had prepared for later. Luckily I sent my parents and friends frequent updates via the satellite email. These were essentially copies of the notes for the blog. So I could recover those emails to find texts back. Up until today. There are no notes on paper or digitally for these last couple of days. Only my memory, and some time stamped photos of the events that transpired more than a month ago.
As all the days on the boat turn into ritual, they tend to blend into each other. Today we were becalmed to a point where we decided to lower all sails during the night and just float around hoping for better conditions. The next morning, our track showed that we had moved backwards for quite a few miles, being carried by the currents. Tahiti now seems awfully far away.
Monday, 13th of April (Day 27)
Diesel fuel consumption has been a great concern of our skipper. We did many calculations during the passage to determine how much fuel is in the tank, how much we had used, and how much we used per hour. We made notes in the logbook for every top-up. Linda has been great in rationalizing and calculation every possible scenario thrown at her. I’ve made up a spreadsheet that exactly calculates the usage based upon our recorded numbers. Still our skipper is unsure and concerned about how much diesel we have down below, and if we will make it to Tahiti with it.
So in the afternoon the skipper and first mate go about disassembling the kitchen island to lift up the floorboards over the diesel tank. Some very non-German design down below there in the Bavaria. A small quarter of the kitchen island is sitting on the floor board that covers the Diesel tank. They open up the newly made inspection hatch to investigate the diesel tank. The calculations made from the observations match all the calculations made on paper and in the spreadsheet, surprise surprise. So the hatch can be closed again and the kitchen reassembled. A Mornings of entertainment to satisfy a doubtful mind.
All calculations show that if we have to continue to motor, we will be quite short on fuel when we arrive in Tahiti, with approximately 6 to 10 hours left in the tank. Close, but sufficient to get to the fuel dock and fill her up again.
Tuesday, 14th of April (Day 28)
During the day the Island of Mehetia showed on the horizon. Her 435 metres high volcano showed many miles from our position. The Island was our target for the day, because soon after that we would reach Tahiti. Sure enough, around sunset the heavy clouds above Tahiti were clearly visible. And occasionally her silhouette was revealed behind the cloud cover. We are only a day away from safe harbour now,. It looks like we finally made it. This evening would be our last night watch, tomorrow around this time we will be at anchor or in a marina.
Wednesday, 15th of April (Day 29)
We woke up with the Island of Tahiti on our starboard side. There she was, magnificent lush green mountains sticking out of the deep oceans surrounding her. A haze of spray surrounding the island, indicating where the Pacific Ocean pounds the reefs surrounding the Island making for some of the best surfs in the world.
We try to contact our agent as we sail past the Taina pass, the entrance to the Taina marina. Once we finally get permission to visit the fuel dock we make a 180 degree turn and make pace in a hurry. The fuel dock closes at noon and there is not much time for us to get there. We need just a splash of diesel to run the generator and maybe manoeuvrer around the marina for a bit to find a spot. And according to the calculations of our skipper we are running on fumes.
As we make our way through the pass into the Taina marina lagoon we are welcomed by a school of playful dolphins. What a great way to enter the safety of the lagoon.
At the fuel dock we find an American boat filling up. We make some circles in the anchorage waiting for them to finish up. It is now 5 minutes to noon as we tie up against the fuel dock. But the lady manning the pumps tells us -non-. She is closed for the day and sees no point in fuelling up one or two jerrycans to make our live a bit easier. We try to convince her for a bit, but to no avail. A warm welcome to Tahiti.
Without any diesel, but with two cold kegs of beer in our fridge, we find a mooring ball to hook up on. The anchorage is packed, there are boats everywhere. The marina still has plenty of empty spaces. But at the marina there is ‘Mediterranean style’ mooring and our skipper wanted to avoid this as he finds this too difficult. Mediterranean style mooring is mooring with the back against a sea wall, using an anchor up front. Something that is done all around the Med by hundreds of boats every day. Our skipper is afraid that getting out of the mooring will be troublesome as the anchor might be snagged on a coral head down below. So we hook up to an empty ball that seemed to be unused for quite some time, judging by the amount of growth on the lead and the ball.
We could finally lower the platform, open the beer and have a splash in the ocean. Good times.
Tahiti was on full lock-down, so we were not allowed to get ashore without a consent form. All restaurants are closed, even the McDonald’s near the marina. Supermarkets only allow for a few visitors at the time. We were confined to our boat for one more day until we can get ‘checked in’.
After a couple of beers I dove of the front of the boat for a swim around. The almost 30 days at sea had not been kind to the sparkly clean hull. Around the water line there was a grey/green smudge and a lot of growth of some algae alike thing. The exhaust of the generator showed a trail of black smudge caused by the fumes. I used the time in the water to scrape down the hull best I could whilst our skipper played with his drone.
Thursday, 16th of April (Day 30)
In the morning we dock at the fuel dock again. This time just to drop Linda and me off to set foot ashore to find Tahini, our agent from Tahiti Crew. We need to arrange formalities for the check in. It feels strange to set foot ashore after such a long time on the sea. Especially during this Corona pandemic, as it was not quite clear where we would be allowed to go and how strict the officials where on the lock down. We heard rumours via the email that the situation would be very strict. And the imagination of our crew grew wild over the days on the passage. But it turned out the situation in the marina was very relaxed. People just went about their business, walking about. Sure the shops and restaurants were closed, but other than that it al felt normal.
We met Tahini at the closed restaurant. We filled out some forms and arranged for supplies to be sent to the boat Our skipper and first mate would not check in to Tahiti as they plan to push on to New Zealand as soon as possible. Checking in to Tahiti would mean that they have to go into quarantine in New Zealand upon arrival. Linda and I will leave the boat in their capable hands, as 29 days is more than enough for Linda, about 22 more than initially planned for.
The boat could not stay at the fuel dock and could not return to the mooring ball as it turned out to be a privately owned ball. So we ended up in the Marina after all, back against the wall, anchors out on the front, Mediterranean style.
Later that morning the customs officials and police arrived at the boat to process our arrival. Scared for Corona, they do not leave their car whilst processing the paperwork.
All morning we see a Chinese looking young man roaming around the dock. I wonder if he is the guy from the Chinese consulate. Someone is supposed to meet us at the boat to help us further with the immigration and corona check in process. I try to make contact with him from the boat, but he is not responding to me asking if I can help him with something. Maybe he doesn’t speak English?
After a couple of phone calls from Linda to the consulate, it turns out the young man is indeed for the consulate. Actually, he is the consul himself. He has been hovering around the pier all morning waiting for us, but now we finally made contact.
The consul would bring us to an apartment that we rented on the Island. Here we have to stay until we can leave for Macau, who knows when that will be. We manoeuvrer our suitcases over the makeshift gangplank onto shore and say our goodbyes to the crew.
Our plan was to be back in the morning to see Ah Ma off on it’s continuation to New Zealand. The apartment that we booked through our Tahiti agent should be next or near to the marina and the Carrefour supermarket. Turns out it is indeed near the Carrefour supermarket, but no where near the Marina.
It was a good 10 minute drive to the apartment, where I now sit on the balcony overlooking the empty airport and the lagoon. Writing these last words about our crossing the Pacific. We were not able to see Ah Ma and the crew off to on their long leg to New Zealand. I hope she sails without incident, and I hope the crew will look after her, but I worry….