26 April 2020
I'm having to force myself to write this blog. Quarantine has been a difficult time for all and continues to be.
Everyone's situation is different so I'll tell about quarantine life in French Polynesia. There are only 57 confirmed cases so far in FP, no one has died and only a few have been hospitalized. As of April 26, quarantine has been about 5 weeks. Covid 19 cases are only in Tahiti and nearby Moorea. French Polynesia is a huge area, about the size of Europe, with hundreds of islands and only 280,000 people. But the quarantine regulations are being strictly carried out throughout the area.
Cruisers in FP can apply for an indefinitely renewable visa which we have. We are essentially permanent residents as long as we pay $90/year. We have been here two years and have renewed for a third, not knowing when we can head west toward Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. We are especially visible as we sail into an anchorage. Local people are beyond welcoming and readily share whatever they are growing in their gardens. Several times we were given fish by local fishermen.
Being visible is not a good thing during quarantine. Since we can move about, and since we resemble the missionaries who brought plagues to these people 150 years ago, we are under extra scrutiny. Cruisers were told to stay in place wherever they are anchored or sent to Tahiti. Some villages would not initially let cruisers come ashore. But regulations were put in place that allow cruisers to go ashore with a form filled out specifically for that day, time and destination. I was stopped by a police boat once to check the form. We are in a visible anchorage near the airport with 40 other boats. Police boats have visited us all to check our paperwork and discuss regulations. We are fortunate that we are allowed to swim around our boats. In Nuku Hiva and other places, cruisers are prohibited from swimming. There is a ban on boating and swimming and it was thought that cruisers swimming would be unfair to those on land. Fortunately not the case for us.
Our anchorage has been dubbed “Hotel California.” We have a radio network every morning at 9:00 (started by Uproar). We have trivia at 5:00 and a cooking show and other broadcasts. This has been a lot of fun and helped us stay connected. We have visited other boats, staying in our dinghy and are fortunate that Kaia from 2K has done a lot of canvas projects to give us more shade and other beautification projects. I fortunately stocked up on Mahogany for the baby dinghy/cradle project. This has kept me very busy for most of the past month.
Tahiti is not our favorite spot in FP but we do like it. Hotel California is a beautiful anchorage with sandy bottom and clear water. We see Eagle Rays, Stingrays, turtles and a variety of fish clearly from the boat. We do snorkel around the boat and enjoy the critters. The local grocery store is first class which is a rarity in FP. We get ashore about twice a week for shopping and sometimes just using that as an excuse to go for a walk. The sunsets over Moorea are priceless. Yes, this is paradise and a beautiful place of confinement.
We hear that quarantine will be eased shortly. We are hoping we will be able to sail to the Leeward Islands, 100 miles away, Huanine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. The OCC, Ocean Cruising Club is petitioning New Zealand and Australia to allow cruising boats to enter their countries. We are on the list for New Zealand and hope to be able to sail there in October. If these places don't open up, we may stay in FP another year. There is certainly a lot more to explore here. But will it remain the FP we know and love?
The real heartbreak of quarantine is the effect on the friendly Polynesians (named the Society Islands due to their friendliness). The first few weeks, smiles changed to fear. We were always greeted prior to Covid19. Now there is little eye contact. We haven't interacted with children in over a month. I was able to give Uproar airplanes to three small children but did not stop and assemble them as we normally do. We have not petted a dog in 40 days. These people depend on tourism for most of their income. This has come to a standstill and will only come back in a dribble when restrictions are lifted. These people's fragile economy will suffer.
It has been at least 40 days since I have kissed a stranger on both cheeks. I wonder if I ever will again.