position 12°48′ sud 138°56′ ovest
22 March 2020
change of destination from Hiva Oa, then Nuku Hiva and now forced by Covid direct to Papeete
3140 miles traveled up to now, 700 missing in Papeete
At sea from 4 March, now close to landing on the Marquesas Islands, which we continue to imagine from the photos that other navigators of the past have handed down to us, we are informed by the ARC organization not only that the regatta is definitively closed, not only that our position will no longer be recorded, but also that the Polynesian authorities have adopted very strict measures on the protection from corona virus, mindful of an ancient past of two centuries, when the colonizers by sea from Europe brought diseases unknown to them, causing a decimation of the population , to the point that today, in 2020, every tourist is repatriated, the hotels and resorts closed, and even we sailors, although virus free, are treated as plagued and induced to a forced return, even if we still do not know how.
The news bounces from e-mail to e-mail, even with threatening tones, to the point that the morning echo in the chat with ssb radio we hear all the crews worried and dismayed by the uncertainty of tomorrow. We chose to continue to Papeete because we learned of the internal flight block from Italy and not from the organization, which vice versa had guaranteed the air transport of two people from Hiva Oa to Papeete, at the same time that the total blocking of internal and intercontinental flights two days later. A forced choice to guarantee at least to board the scheduled flight of 28 March, actually already canceled, but with the guarantee of the Polynesian government to repatriate as many tourists as possible as soon as possible, all potentially carrying the virus. There is no escape, even we sailors have been hit,now outcast, albeit healthy, but potentially infected as soon as we hit the ground in Papeete.
In practical terms, this change of course increases the crossing by 1000 miles, and we will total about 4000 miles of sea non-stop; but not all sail on Ariel, in complete autonomy even for as many miles, many are in fact running out of diesel fuel and without the possibility of making water, in the sense that not all of them have a desalinator; one boat has broken the autopilot and they are forced to take turns at the helm, others have or are running out of food, in short, a difficult situation, which will force 16 crews to stop in Nuku Hiva. Today yet another e-mail from the organization decreed that the authorities will be very strict with them; once anchored in Nuku Hiva, they will only be able to leave the island by plane, and will have to leave their boat, which is their home, at anchor for no one knows how many months; the theater of the absurd.
In Papeete, about 700 miles we will arrive on Thursday, in the meantime we will cross the Tuamotu archipelago, the first true paradise of the southern seas, with pristine atolls, so in everyone’s imagination, white beaches, palm trees and turquoise water. However, the Pacific Ocean also reserves a leaden, agitated sea, with a sky rich in a variety of clouds that makes an impression, from the black anvils heralding torrential rains, to the light gray carpets, sweet and foamy, to loaves of lead that stretch out and they fray on the horizon and finally also small white wads with blue triangles. A night of wind and rain without particular wounds, well covered without suffering, we ran in the blackest black of a new moon, while when we woke up the sun illuminated a screen where gray was dominant, with yellowish, shy shades,but without strength.
The force, on the other hand, was shown by the ocean, which from agitated became violent and we entered a Gale, an Anglo-Saxon term that means storm, up to force 9, with a wind that from 25 knots exceeded 45 for a time that I would not know say, maybe two hours, while the flood engulfed us and Ariel flew safely at 10 knots with proportionate and respectful sail of the sea that welcomes her. In all this, once we had settled down we had breakfast, all together, because the topic of the day was not the storm, but how to get out of this tunnel imposed by the coronavirus. The violence of the sea instead gave us energy and strength, the rain washed away all impurities and in the afternoon the sun managed to pierce the mantle to make way for a black night, but of stars,with the southern cross that we are finally able to see and the wind that has turned into a warm and dry breeze. Despite this dramatic, global, pandemic event trying in every way to trample dreams and make them vanish, he can’t do it, this immense nature still wins, and our morale remains high.
The day after tomorrow we will cross the Tuamotu, unfortunately we are not allowed to stop, but we will try to fill our eyes and hearts.
See you soon from Ariel