Lynn finished her stint on Hurtigruten cruise ship in Antarctica mid February, she joined me in Valdivia where I had been preparing the boat , and after some serious shopping, stocking up for about 8 months, we sailed to Juan Fernandez, also called Robinson Crusoe Island about 500 miles Northwest. After a few days hiking this beautiful volcanic island we pushed off again . Little did we know that our carefully laid plan of sailing to Easter Islands and Pitcairn would be turned into a shamble.
For a start there was no wind this season. We usually do an average of 150 miles a day , but on this crossing 100 miles was a good day and some days we did only 30. For about a week we turned to day sailing only, packing up everything at night and going to bed as if we were anchored in 3000 meters.
We anchored for a few hours in San Ambrosio , a desolate rock in the middle of nowhere occupied by two lonely lobster fishermen.That is where we got an inkling the world was starting to shut down. The fisherman lamented that he could not export his lobsters any more. We traded some meat and beers for lobsters, he and his helper were over the moon!
Then on passage to Easter Island we heard the devastating news that our dear friend, Steve Harris from yacht Solace had died tragically when his boat was rolled at anchor in Easter Island. This was a great shock to us. We had known Steve since we arrived in Patagonia 2 years ago and he had become a close friend. We were in touch with him daily during our passage to Easter Island and were rejoicing to catch up with him as he had left Valdivia ahead of us. But this was not to be. Steve safely weathered a frontal passage on the rugged South Side of the island ( anchored off the Airport) , and as the front subsided in the evening he decided to wait the following morning to move back to the North anchorage ( in front of the main settlement) in daylight. The swell came in throuh the night , Solace was rolled at about 2 am by a massive wave, even though it was anchored in 12 meters. Steve was never seen again, leaving behind a daughter, many brothers and sisters (he was one of 10 ) and some very dear friends.
We were hoping to retrace Steve last moments in Easter Island, but this was not to be either. Easter island closed its borders and no yacht was allowed in anymore.With a heavy heart We passed by 50 miles away without being able to stop and say our goodbye. Heading towards Pitcairn we contacted authorities by email but the tiny island was closed too. However they authorised us to stop in some deserted islands part of their territory. We were able to anchor and step ashore in Henderson island a bird reserve and Oeno island. We were hoping to hideaway from officialdom in Oeno’s lagoon, unfortunately it was too shallow , even for HaiYou’s shallow draft.
Officialdom had become a concern during this trip. As countries were closing their borders one after the other stories started to emerge of yachts being refused entry, and being forced to carry on their journey to their own countries sometime many thousand miles away under very trying conditions. The news from Polynesia was not entirely reassuring either and instruction were given for all yachts to converge towards Papeete so that their crew could be repatriated, but what about the yachts we asked.
We arrived in Rikitea in the Gambier archipelago after 40 days at sea. Incredibly we were initially refused entry even though we had good reason to stop as we were not able to carry on our journey safely with out resupply and repairs and I hold a french passport. We could not believe it. But things settled down and we were able to enjoy this beautiful archipelago, inhabited by 1300 people, 1700 km away form the capital Tahiti.
We are now in Marquesas, enjoying those rugged islands and their hospitable people. We will wait here for New Zealand , Cook island and Tonga to open before moving further west. If this does not happen well before the start of the cyclone season , say by mid September we will have to stay here for the summer months. Marquisa is normally out of the cyclone belt. Not a bad place to be stuck, but we will have to put on hold for now visit to family in China and France .
If the sailing had been slow to Gambiers we had boisterous conditions between Gambiers and Marquisas, 5 days on one tack with tripled reef main and staysail. I loved it. Overall no serious boat issues appart from a broken wind indicator for most of the trip ( a pain during the night when it is squally), and a failing watermaker. It took a few months of correspondence with the manufacturer, Dessalator in France for the truth to emerge. They had a set of substandard pressure regulating valve installed that needed to be replaced. If you are in the market for a water maker don’t get a Dessalator, their after sales service in France is useless. In the end I had to talk to their spanish office to get a proper diagnostic.
In conclusion , for us too, the health crisis was a big challenge and continue to be one. The freedom of travelling we had taken for granted has vanished. Most maritime borders are still closed and flying to see ageing parents is next to impossible. But sailing is still wonderful.