I flew home for Christmas, and stayed for the pandemic.
Next up — I’ll find my way back to my beloved South Pacific and spend the remaining part of the summer aboard Akela making the long journey home.
I had left Akela in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands with my friend Nico late last December, expecting to see him again when I return in March. Nico took off for a new adventure in February, leaving Akela anchored all alone in the bay. I was in the San Francisco Airport on March 15, expecting to board Flight 710 to Tahiti when they announced that all flights from Europe to US were cancelled. Flight 710 was coming from Paris. I downed a shot of tequila at the airport bar, rented a car, and drove 850 miles to Tucson where I have enjoyed three months of quality time with Laura (which has been f-awesome!) and socially distancing from my friends (which sucks).
While the world fears covid death or boredom from Netflix, Akela sits alone at anchor in French Polynesia. Taiohae Bay is well protected, storms are rare, and I have a friend checking up on her, so Akela is fine. I’m not fine. I worry about the boat, the chafe of the rigging, the wear of the anchor chain, the rusting of the engine, the worn seal around the prop shaft, the clogged bilge pumps, the leaking deck, the batteries sulfating, the rum evaporating out of my kegs, the likelihood of colliding with other abandoned boats, and the possibility of drifting onto the rocks or out to sea. I sit here powerless to do anything.
Every day I check on the numbers of sick people in Arizona and Pima County. I update my spreadsheets and make plots and predictions. And I check on the status in French Polynesia. They have had only a handful of cases, but they take this stuff seriously. Only a few generations ago, these people were nearly wiped out by diseases brought to them from a world that didn’t give a shit. Polynesians are hearty, big-hearted people who have shown me their strength, and have shared their secrets to a happy life — to love what is near to you, and to laugh. A lot! I cherish every little bit of the island spirit that has rubbed off on me.
French Polynesia has been not only closed off to international flights, but travel from island to island has been forbidden as well. This is a country with extended families spread out over 118 islands. They take this stuff seriously.
As I update this on June 23, Tahiti has been COVID free for many weeks, so now they are opening back up! I changed my flight to Tahiti to July 15, the first available. I will have to test negative to get on the plane, followed up with a negative test a few days later in Tahiti to avoid an extended quarantine. Then I’ll travel 850 miles to the island of Nuku Hiva, where I’ll make my way to Taiohae and step aboard the boat that I had rowed away from almost 8 months previous. It seems like it was a lifetime ago. Or only yesterday. I’m not sure which. Last time I flew to Nuku Hiva, Max met me at the beach with a cold Hinano beer. We were so glad to see each other. We caught up on his adventures in the Marquesas, and we made cruising plans for the coming year. I keep imagining that we’ll meet up in Taiohae again. I can’t wait to share stories of my adventures over the past year.
In Nuku Hiva, I’ll meet my crew and get Akela fixed up and stocked for a blue water passage. We’ll sail 2000 miles NNW nonstop to Hawaii, which will take 2 – 3 weeks. Other than the squalls of the ITCZ (InterTropical Convergence Zone) this should be sweet sailing — a beam reach in the warm trade winds that blow regularly from east to west. In Hawaii, I’ll change crew, reprovision, and get ready for the next leg — to San Diego.
To sail back to California, we need to go due north from Hawaii for over 1000 miles, leaving the nice tropics with those warm steady winds that go the wrong way to get into the “roaring forties” with cool and variable westerly winds (meaning from the west). It will be colder and stormier than the happy South Pacific that I’ve become used to. But don’t worry. I’ll have warm clothing, a well-found little ship, and experienced crew. We’ll arrive in San Diego in mid-September. I’ll leave Akela on a mooring in San Diego Bay next to the airport, right where she was when we started this adventure on January 1, 2018. What a trip!
(Updated 6/23/2020 to provide current plans. )