SV Accomplice Blog week 23 26/3/20 to 1/4/20

Mon 6 Apr 2020 00:29
SV Accomplice Blog week 23 26/3/20 to 1/4/20

With our uncertain future weighing on our minds the beautiful red glow of dawn came up from astern and a black outline of land appeared ahead. Our route took us just to the south of the island of Ua Huka, laying north of the Marquesas Island group, being part of French Polynesia. As the island drew closer hour by hour the blackness turned to a lush green covering a jagged mountain top protruding out of the sea. One or two lights twinkled along the shoreline indicating that it was lived on. As we sailed passed just a couple of miles off shore we could make out a small settlement nestled at the base of the mountainous land. The island together with all the islands in this area are volcanic based and look stunningly dramatic. Wow what a beautiful sight after 24 days at sea. Every time when land is reached, the excitement of seeing it for the first time makes all the hardships of getting there worthwhile and the moments you ask yourself what am I doing alone out here fully justified. You imagine yourself discovering the land for the first time, being one of the first discoverers.

The breeze had filled in now and was constant from the east at about 15 knots. We slipped past Ua Huka and altered course a few degrees and headed direct to our landfall of Nuku Hiva Island, some 35nm ahead but not yet visible.

We were relieved to receive a message from Aurora, a fellow yacht in the rally who had made landfall the day before. It seems that the anchorage had plenty of room and that they had had a warm welcome. It has been put around that we may not be welcomed by the local inhabitants and that the anchorage was overrun with yachts at anchor. These are strange days, things we were taking for granted now are all up for grabs.

Apparently the impact of disease brought to these islands in the days of Captain Cook, which decimated their island population, is still in the psyche of the island inhabitants. So you can see why there may be some resentment at us staying on their islands.

Nuku Hiva gradually emerged out of the mist as we sailed steadily towards it. One of the larger islands with a large safe anchorage in Taiohae Bay with a small settlement at its head.

As we drew nearer to our destination black foreboding clouds gathered up behind us, bands of rain falling from them. The breeze got up and we adjusted sail to make our approach. As soon as we did this a winch gave us a start by bursting unexpectedly into life.......our new fish catching set up was in action, the winch controlling the line which now had an annoyed fish hooked on it. No fish for weeks and on our last day at sea one is hooked as we ready ourselves for landfall.....timing!

We landed a 13 1/2 pound black fin tuna....oh yes it was worth the wait. Shortly after dropping anchor Matthew served tuna sushi....delicious.

As we entered the bay a stunning mountainous panorama opened up, many yachts at anchor but with room for many more. The setting is simply beautiful....the bay is actually the centre of a ancient volcano, the opening being one side that had long collapsed. A circle of ragged peaks with lush greens valleys sloping down to the shore, the occasional waterfall seen cascading down the steep mountain sides. This is paradise but one we are forbidden to explore and savour.

As we came in we received cheering from a fellow rally yacht and a warm welcome over the VHF radio. No sooner had we dropped anchor though we were informed of the restrictions that applied to the bay. Only one person per day allowed ashore at any one time and only for essential provisions or to see a doctor. Alcohol was also banned from sale. No social interaction between boats allowed. We are confined to our boats with no swimming or water sports allowed. When you get ashore you need to complete a form to explain why you need to be ashore . This together with your passport is then checked at various posts in the settlement. This was going to be tough but I guess if it ensures that the virus doesn’t spread in these islands then so be it.

So our time is spent on the boat reading, sleeping, cooking and eating. I have managed to do some jobs around the boat. The boat has had contaminated diesel all the way from the UK and this was a golden opportunity to resolve the problem once and for all. I have managed to drain the fuel from one tank and clean out the tar like gum in the bottom. I am still waiting to finish the job however due to not being able to go ashore again until next week to dispose of the contaminated fuel. Once I can do this then I will be able to get on and do the same with the other tank. Not long after we arrived a new decree was issued that restricted going ashore to one person once per week. This is pretty punitive in that it means that with 3 of us on board each of us gets to walk only once every 3 weeks.

There are about 90 of us yachts now in the bay. So really it’s a community of maybe 150 people living afloat. This community has created a cruisers radio net whereby broadcasts are made daily providing the latest information on world news and local developments. There have been Initiatives setting up trivia quiz nights and a radio programme called Paradise Radio. Janet has volunteered to research and present a news slot and is looking forward to going live on Friday coming. It all helps in finding things to keep occupied.

It is a really extraordinary situation right now, we have been at sea for 24 days and now having arrived we must remain on board until restrictions are able to be relaxed or lifted. I personally have now not stepped a foot on shore for over a month....I hope my legs aren’t too weak to walk!! My day ashore comes up next Tuesday though when I will need to dispose of 60 litres of dirty fuel, dump a weeks rubbish, get a SIM card to use my phone and buy a weeks provisions. Only 2 dinghies are allowed at the dock at any one time, so I will need to be dropped off and will be a very long and tiring day!

From the boat we have been entertained by some marine wildlife. We have seen many manta rays gliding to and fro, a sharks fin and several sea turtles. So not all bad. It is incredibly hot on the boat and would dearly just like to jump in the water to cool down....can’t though it’s forbidden!

All the restrictions are stringently applied, the problem being we are actually refugees who have not yet been accepted into their country. The stick being that if there rules are not respected then every boat could be asked to leave, and as no country is accepting any more arrivals then it would be disastrous for most.

We are presently awaiting authority from the Government to remain here in Nuku Hiva until the restrictions on movement etc are lifted. If granted we plan to then sail down to a southern island in the group called Hiva Oa and have Accomplice lifted ashore which will then enable us all to fly back to the UK. The intention is then to keep her ashore during the hurricane season and return next year to continue with the circumnavigation. I am hoping that the occasion may arise to fly back in between to do maintenance jobs before setting off again.

On the whole the boat has been remarkably free of problems. That has not been the case with some of the other rally yachts, they have had a whole array of issues from the rig, engine, water maker, torn sails, etc

Well there you have it, we have made a long sea passage across the Pacific Ocean which we are proud of achieving but have now been consumed by the long tentacles of the Covid-19 virus.

We are in beautiful surroundings and we keep our spirits high......but this will be an extraordinary test for us all.

Andrew, Matthew and Janet
Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia