As you all know and feel, the world has changed dramatically in the past month. I hope you are all healthy and safe and act responsibly in these trying times.
After two weeks complete solitude in Tahanea, 3 sailboats arrived and anchored right close to me. To my initial surprise, they turned out to be a nice and fun bunch and I enjoyed snorkeling with them, nightwalking and a wonderful braai (bbq) the eve before I left for Fakarava. As a single-hander I am used to and enjoy days by myself but after a while the social being comes out and I miss people, just a little….
I had a lovely day-night sail to the North of Fakarava, sailed in at first light at slack tide and picked up a mooring-ball in front of the town of Rotoava. After a quick nap, I paddled ashore, walked to the bakery, where I was greeted with the usual hugs and kisses from people I know – it’s a small village after all and I met lots of people in the past years. Baguettes were already sold out but they unpacked some goodies from the Cobia, a ship that supplies Fakarava every Wednesday. Then i was off to the post office and the shop at the petrol station, which has normally the best supplies of fresh fruit and veg, but not much was delivered and lots already sold, but hey, the odd cabbage, onions and carrots came along. I had my usual chat with Toko and friends, he lives near where I leave my kayak and I often find him sitting under the big tree waiting.
Back on the boat, I checked the tide and weather again and decided to leave that afternoon for Apataki.
What a different ride…I managed to sail out the pass and head for Toau as the clouds came in, which is normal here and I reef down anyway for the night. My first nap was already cut short with wind suddenly picking up and rain pummeling down. Not much sleep and later the whole sky was full of lightning which I find very very frightening on a boat and the thunder not so distant. It is a big squall and the wind turns from South-East to North and I have to tack away from Toau and had back for awhile as it was too violent and the sea was now very uncomfortable with waves against the wind. It lasts for about 2 hours, then the wind dies, figures…and leaves me bobbing around in a confused sea drifting slowly towards Apataki.
I had different information on the slacktide and approached the Southern Pass at around 7 In the morning, realizing the water was already coming out, which is fine as you have better steerage if not too strong. I switched on the motor and slowly went in, but where the pass narrows, the tide was so strong, I hardly made any progress with the water streaming fast past me. I just concentrated keeping the bow into the stream and eventually I was in the lagoon. People ashore and fisherman all waved and i waved back frantically quite relieved.
I kept on motoring to the motu (little islands in the atolls) Rua Vahine as it was straight into the wind and lots of pearl farms around, sun glaring against me and coral heads lurking. I went slowly, standing on the bow, going back to check charts and Ovitalmaps, where I downloaded Google-Earth and Bing images (you pick up most bigger bommies but have to zoom in quite far to pick up the little shallow ones and sometimes the images are full of clouds or waves but generally it works great but nothing beats a good viz on a sunny day).
From there, I had a good angle to sail with a fairly tight Genoa to the boatyard in the South-East corner of Apataki where I anchored close to the jetty in my old spot, lifting the chain with fenders to clear from the many bommies around.
Later, I paddled to shore, other cruisers were there I met before and the owner of the yard and his family remembered me and we greeted each other heartily – with hugs and kisses. I saw Annie, a South African lady, who bought a catamaran here last year and left it on the hard – she just returned from South Africa and brought my driver’s licence along. I had decided to spend some time here to get to some boatjobs and help a little when the forecast was again for Northerly wind, which makes it uncomfortable if not dangerous in this corner. So I said goodbye and sailed North and returned a few days later anchoring now amongst more yachts and went straight to shore….my luck.
I was asked if I spend any time with any cruiser or locals, which I didn’t and was still allowed ashore. Signs were erected that no one is allowed ashore anymore and all newcomers were asked to leave. One other boat was allowed to stay for now but no contact with each other and they had to stay aboard. No one was sure what we were supposed to do and the rules changed from day to day. We all now kept a good distance from one each other, no more hugs and kisses.
Tony, the boatyard owner, got told that all anchored boats must leave but then phoned the police and mayor of the town and got permission for us two to stay as we had been there already and were here as long as the others that arrived by ship or plane to get back to their boats in the yard. Sailors in other places were not so lucky, had to leave for Tahiti and it was not sure what will happen then. You could not really continue sailing as most island states further West closed their borders as French Polynesia now did. A lot of people were able to fly out, for all others it is lock-down on the boats. I believe you are allowed ashore for some shopping in some places but here we haven’t had a supply ship now for over 3 weeks and it is only scheduled for the 15th of April. Our little community of about 14 cruisers and 7 locals has been together now for 3 weeks and is quite relaxed, we help each other out where we can, and fish, clams, coconuts and the odd shrubs can be hunted/gathered so no one is suffering.
The weather has been very kind to us since then, I am sitting in a nice breeze near the boatyard and can finally get to some of those boatjobs that keep on popping up.
There are now close to 40 people infected with Covit in French Polynesia, mostly in Tahiti. The government is trying to isolate everyone as much as possible and seems to have the situation under good control, which is easier here with the many islands as in the densely populated areas of other countries. Being French, the hardest thing seems to be to refrain from the usual greetings of hugging and kissing on both cheeks.
Internet is very slow here but I am happy I can use it to keep in contact with family and friends abroad. I realize I am very lucky to be here and am worried about the others. I hope that this time will not encourage xenophobia or greedy actions but instead caring and helping each other and not worrying about all those material things, your health and safety are so much more important.
I send you virtual hugs and kisses from Apataki in the Tuamotus, French Polynesia