Coronavirus: Sailors around the world adjust to a new reality.

The 2020 Pacific cruising season has been highly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. With most islands prohibiting movements of boats, sailors have had to adapt quickly and stay confined on their boat wherever they are.

The Coronavirus restrictions were put in place as many yachts had already left Panama to reach the Galapagos and French Polynesia.

In a normal cruising year, the region sees over 700 international boats arriving between April and October, the majority early in the season.  Most sailors spend a couple of months enjoying French Polynesia before continuing west, and a smaller portion enjoy the 36 months cruising permit and stay longer.  However 2020 is tuning into a vastly different year as the Coronavirus changes the face of cruising.  Across the Pacific, land based populations are also experiencing confinement and sailing is being restricted.

Marine Traffic Pleasure Craft Movement in the South Pacific – 1 April 2020

Pink = pleasure craft – most sailing from Panama towards French Polynesia, up to date as at 12:00, 1 April 2020

So what does this mean for cruisers heading to French Polynesia?

The French Polynesian Maritime Affairs have made an official communication to sailors detailing the regulations to be applied.  These are pretty straight forward:

Boats already moored in French Polynesia are authorised to stay, however all sailing is fobidden.

The confinement rules as specified for the land based population also applies to people living on boats.

Boats currently sailing are allowed to dock in PAPEETE only, unless specific autorisation is given.

For any boats needing to stopover outside of Papeete or wanting to sail between islands or to leave French Polynesia, authorisation should be obtained using the request form.

Pierre Yves Aubron – professional skipper alone abord in Taiohae, Marquise Islands. “Things could be worse.  Reading, strength training, and meals … that’s it for 85% of my time.  And sleeping of course ;-)”

How are sailors adapting to their confinement?

We talked with our friends and colleagues in the nautical industry to see how they are managing these extreme times.

Nuku Hiva, Kevin Ellis Nuku Hiva Yacht Service

“All boats arriving in French Polynesia are to proceed directly to Tahiti.  Stops at other islands are strictly not allowed.  Should boats stop in Nuku Hiva for fuel and re-provisioning, they must contact the JRCC at not less than 48 hours prior to arriving. 

In general everything here is fine.  We do have some problems with several French Boats who are not following the confinement rules.   I can tell that the rest of the Yachts here are working to keep to the confinement as much as possible.

 The stores are maintaining their stocks and we have ample fuel, we are limited on Gaz however”

Tikehau, Aline and Adrian from Tuamotus Kite School on their catamaran

“There are 10 sailboats in the lagoon at Tikehau, sailors who have been here for weeks already are allowed to go ashore to go food shopping or to the dispensaire with verbal permission from the police or mayors house (phone call). I don’t know about the general atmosphere because I haven’t been on shore or in contact with other boats for about two weeks already. We provisioned with HM coursier who sent us a huge supply of food from tahiti a few weeks ago before the quarantine started.

So we are staying far from the village and other boats at anchor and are very happy to have this time together and to work on boat projects, however we can not teach kite or go kitesurfing ourselves, and we don’t know when we will be able to work again. I hope you and your family are well. I understand it’s not an easy time for your business too. Bon courage”

Kite Tuamotu
Kite Tuamotu

Aline and Adrian run the Tuamou Kite School and are normally based in Fakarava South.  During the rainy season they explore the atolls and found themselves in Tikehau at the time of the lockdown.

Maupiti, Guy French sailor on his catamaran

“Confined for about 10 days now in the lagoon at Maupiti Atoll.  This morning a little boat from the village came over with a family on board.  They tied up and after about 3 mintutes of introductions whilst keeping their distance…. they offered me a box of fresh fruit and vegetables!

I’ve become part of the community now.  It just takes a little time to be accepted and the spontaneous generosity, warm welcome and hospitality of the polynesian people comes through.

In these times when there is so much to worry about, this kind of interaction warms the heart.  Thank-you to the family and to all the village.

Rangiroa, Eva and husband from Austria on their catamaran

We were in a lucky spot when it hit us, Rangiroa.  The anchorage is very nice and there are just 3 boats here. The police have been very polite and friendly. We are able to go to the supermarket (although w’ve only been once as we have enough food in storage on board).  We do chat to the other boats sometimes, but everybody pretty much keeps to himself.

The water is nice and clean, for a dip, but we don’t swim around.  We’re not as active as in the past as we’re both retired, 66 and 74 years! We make the breakfast and especially the dinner an occasion.  Nicely served, a glass of wine,… this keeps the satisfaction for the body 🙂

Otherwise there is always something to do on a boat . Inventory of the pharmacy, clean out of some cabinets,… But in general we read and play on the ipad.  We have quite good internet on board , but we only us it for email, not for surfing on the web. This keeps your head free from panic!

Moorea, Ryan and Nicole from Two Afloat Sailing

“Hi David! Sorry, I should have replied when I first got your request… Yesterday I called around. Reported 7-8 boats on the reef at Maharepa. 4-6 inside the bay at Cooks (including 2 super yachts). 12 at Opunohu.

Moorea cruisers have settled into confinement without much struggle. There is an efficient and friendly radio net every day at 0900 and 1200 on VHF 77 in French and English led by SV Ubi. They all worked together with each other and authorities to arrange set days to handle garbage and for a few boats with broken watermakers to have their tanks filled from shore. There has been plenty of food at Super U. It is peaceful here without the usual jet skis and boat traffic.

There have been some firsthand reports of a few locals expressing vocal hostility when cruisers go ashore but fortunately that is the exception. Aside from the big Coronavirus crisis so far all is well here far on the north side of Mo’orea and we hope the same is true for everyone else in the fleet.”

Moorea, Yann Maude and family on their catamaran

“We’re among the privileged! … as soon as the schools closed we left the marina to drop our anchor just a little further out in the lagoon.  3 days later the police came past and told us we had to stay where we were… 

So life at anchor.  We go ashore once a day to get some bread etc and to take the rubbish, do some washing and get water (we have a little pressure problem in our water maker).  We also give the little one time to run, climb in the trees and do some cycling!

As everyone is doing, we live from day to day … despite the restrictions that are more or less onerous … in Moorea, children have been fined because they were swimming in front of their houses!!! … maybe they were with other children but all the same…

For us, loads of board games, lots of good food, lagoon cleaning (we collect rubbish as it comes past in a little net), a little bit of cayak for our older son but discretely.”

Tahiti airport anchorage, Vincent Leslie and family on their catamaran

“We’re at the airport anchorage, and we’re enjoying the rays and turtles that come past daily.  It’s actually nicer now that there are no more air traffic!  We’re going to wait for the end of the confinement, most likely in a month or 2.   In any case there is not much we can do about it other than not move around.”

Ryan and Nicole from Two Afloat Sailing

Ryan and Nicole …. before confinement!!

Raiatea, Sami and Meira Tabell from Finland on the hard on their monohull

“Bonjour, Ia Orana! How are you all doing, have you been doing well?  We have a week full of bans and a tightening of quarantine!

Our deck renovation was in good shape and progressing rapidly last week, despite the quarantine, as the dock continued to operate behind closed gates. But things have tightened up and the yard was forced to close its gates …. leaving us high and dry!!  So we’re in the yard with about a dozen people other people in the same situation. 

 The spirit of togetherness has remained good and there has been no conflict between us all, people are helping each other where possible. We all have one toilet / shower cabin and can move freely inside the yard gates.  We’re waiting paitiently for the restrictions to lift …. “

Meira Tabell, ex professional hair dresser and dressmaker on her boat in Raiatea Carenage. “I redid the sofas by hand as we don’t have a machine yet… but it’s been ok as I’ve had the time 🙂 “ | +689 87 24 28 75 or +689 87 32 88 45