Arriving into Nuku Hiva after the circumnavigations longest scheduled passage we were welcomed by a Navy ship guarding the bay as we joined the 70 or so other yachts that had arrived from the islands, USA and Central Americas over the
Very quickly the situation around the world in regard to Covid-19 and the reality of countries closing their borders to protect their communities became very evident. Through our very limited communications while at sea we had already
confirmed to Rally Control our wish to be repatriated as the situation had developed and knew that we needed to get to Papeete. Over the next few days more of the WARC fleet were welcomed into the bay by their friends and a now extended fleet, where a
camaraderie had developed from our collective confinement. Among the arrivals was SeaLover, who in true rally spirit kindly agreed to take us onward to Papeete, despite having 5 on board already.
On day 6 of our passage south to Tahiti, the day before we were due to arrive, we had word that there may be a flight leaving for Europe on Tuesday the 7th April and that our names had been put forward to the High Commission to be on it.
Suddenly it seemed possible that we might be heading home. But, the flight would be leaving at 13:30 and we would have to be at the airport by 10:00 to have a chance of getting on. Still best part of a day away, we couldn’t get to Tahiti by nightfall that
same day and we couldn’t enter the reef at night so our arrival was going to have to be at sunrise Tuesday morning, leaving us to get moored, checked in and in a taxi before 10:00, which seemed like a tall order!
The Captain had us duly waiting outside Papeete at first light and had permission to enter the reef granted at 6:30. Tying up on the dock around 8:00, Milanto moored up next to us with Jan on board, also racing for the repatriation flight.
Laurent, the agent, arrived promptly to complete the paperwork while we pulled out our bags and got final belongings packed up. Just enough time for our last Mexican breakfast and goodbyes before immigration arrived back with Laurent at 9:30 as he had promised.
Immigration was completed in record time, and our taxi was already waiting to take us and Jan to the airport. Arriving at the airport by 10:00 we joined the end of the long queue to have our names checked off.
We quickly learnt that we were not on the first, confirmed list for the flight and were guided to a waiting area with around a dozen other anxious looking passengers. After an hour a second, reserve list was produced, which we were not
on either. In total there were 8 of us left, all from World ARC, comprising of people from Mola, Hanna, Milanto and us. We had already seen crew from Starling and Marja check in and we were assured by the representative that although the flight was full she
was 90% certain we would all get on. Mola negotiated to get us all in the queue to pay for tickets although still unconfirmed as to whether there were actually seats. 12:50 and all 8 of us had tickets and we could then check in before being the last people
through security. With the plane boarding we had just enough time to send word to home that we were on our way before taking our seats and breathing a small sigh of relief.
For a 16 hour non-stop flight it went very quickly and we soon landed in Paris. Although not home yet and still the logistics of getting back to the UK with only one train or flight a day it felt a lot closer. We managed to get an AirFrance
flight into London two days later, getting back to our home Dorset soil Thursday night and suddenly our surreal journey was over.
A huge thank you to SeaLover (the Mexicans!) for their generosity and sailing opportunity, all of the World ARC participants and the World ARC team for their continued support and assistance with getting us home safely. We also acknowledge
there are many additional logistics for others still to work out and hope everyone manages to complete their individual tasks with similar success. A year for all of us to remember for sure, not just for the sailing!
Martin and Helen