Puerto Ayroa to Nuku Hiva during the Pandemic
31 March 2020 | Baie Taiohae, NuKu Hiva, French Polynesia
Capt Tim Bittel | tropical
On March 4 ,2020, as part of the World Arc, I joined a Halberg Rassy 48 for a planned transit from the Galapagos to Hiva Oa, French Polynesia. Ordinarily this leg has Rhum Line of approximately 3,000 NM and is the longest single leg of a classic trade winds circumnavigation.
In general, the sailing was good and as predicted by the pilot charts. This meant light winds leaving the Galapagos and requiring either slow sailing or motor/motor sail to approx 4 degrees south. Once the Trade-winds were established sailing became steady with light to moderate winds from East to Southeast for essentially the whole journey. We encountered only a few squalls, all of which were brief and under 30 Knots.
We completed the passage in 20 days, which was consistent with my predeparture estimate of 150/day average . We had a favorable west setting current ranging from .5-1.5 knots. The ‘at sea ’ aspects of the trip were very good. Fair winds, Fair currents, and a 35 pound tuna- to eat and freeze.
Because of the quarantine restrictions, it was a major disappointment to see these beautiful islands from anchor and be unable to go ashore, explore and interact with the local people.
The real challenge to the trip came from the rapid spread of the Covid 19 virus. Starting about day 10 out of the Galapagos, daily emails would arrive via SSB announcing various directives and prohibitions and then the next day different and new contradictory directives and prohibitions all imposed by French Polynesia government attempting to prevent the virus spread among the various islands.This continued daily until we dropped anchor in Nuku Hiva and new directives continued after arrival in Nuku Hiva.
In general, the directives sought to assemble the cruising boats in Papette and then have the crews leave French Polynesia. The United States Consul began issuing notices advising that those not citizens of French Polynesia should leave the country immediately and further advised, in the event of illness, non-citizens should not expect health care because it is reserved for the local populace.
Prior to commencing the voyage, many crew had planned to disembark at either Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva to fly home to Europe or the USA via Air Tahiti commuter flights to Papette. These plans were impacted first by directives to not land at Hiva Oa, then to not land at Nuku Hiva and then to proceed directly to Papette - bringing the total trip close to 4,000 if the Tuamotos where to be passed to the North. Each day the directives changed and as a result we were allowed to land at at Nuku Hiva on March 24, two days ahead of my rescheduled March 26 Air Tahiti flight for connection to the USA. However while in route to Nuku Hiva the government suspended all inter-island flights after March 21. So when I landed hope for repatriation were bleak.
On March 25 the VHF brought a notice that the family of another sailor had worked with the US Consul and French Polynesian government to allow an Air Tahiti charter to create a flight to Papette and then a connection to the USA ( literally the last plane out). So at 1000, 28 March I climbed up the ladder at the dingy dock of Baie Taiohae and 32 hours was in Salt Lake City airport.
In summary the sailing event was great, the world events caused by Covid-19 created stress which the entire world is feeling.
Diving Belize Blue Hole
24 January 2020 | Belize -Blue Hole
Capt Tim | Tropical
The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole near Lighthouse Reef and approximately 45 NM Southeast of our location on Ambergris Key, Belize. It is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve and has been regularly rated as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was explored by Jacques Cousteau.
So we can't be in Belize without diving the Blue Hole. From past experiences with deep dives we expected this to be short and dark. Our expectations were met.
Frankly it is much more spectacular from the air. The Blue Hole was formed several million years ago as a fresh water formation -which created the usual underwater stalactites and stalagmites. We post the view from the air because underwater shots from the deep dive ( 143' for Tim and 140' for Pattie) are underwhelming. Yes- we did slightly exceed recreational dive limits.
The visit to the Red Footed Boobie and Frigate Bird sanctuary on Half Moon Caye was outstanding
07 December 2019 | Rodney Bay St. Lucia
Timothy Bittel | Tropical. Warm part sun and humid
Surprisingly good second leg. On second leg excellent leg, never even hit by a squall but did dodge many. Used boom to pole out downwind rig do do crew mishap at Mindelo start. 14 days from Mindelo is respectable time and likely would have been 12 or 13 with better sail set.