We are shipping our ship on a ship shipping ship
26 August 2020 | Taha'a
Russ Whitford | perfect
We have reached a cruising cul-de-sac in the South Pacific. We are in the middle of this vast ocean with no where else to go. The coconut milk run is the typical passage for cruisers circumnavigating. One leaves Panama in the spring when favorable winds and currents make for swift passages to Galapagos and then Marquesas, the first archipelago in French Polynesia. That's exactly what we sailed on Uproar in 2018.
Many cruisers spend only the three months allowed in FP, then sail to Tonga, Fiji and on to New Zealand. NZ is safe during the cyclone season which is from November to April. From NZ, cruisers sail back into the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papa New Guinea, etc. Then on to Australia and perhaps Indonesia and Thailand.
We knew we would love FP enough to stay more than the normal three months allowed. We applied for Carte De Sejours, long term visas at the French Consulate in Panama. It was a lot of paperwork but we achieved a visa that is renewable indefinitely. Essentially, we have permanent residency in FP should we pay the $90 per year to renew.
We now have sailed in FP for over two years....and still love being here. FP covers an area the size of Europe but with only 280,000 people. There are 120 islands or atoll groups. We have sailed to all five archipelagos but not nearly seen it all. While the entire Eastern Caribbean cruising ground fits inside Lake Michigan. We have sailed 1,000 miles between island groups in FP! And again, loved all of it. The Polynesian people are a definite bonus. Just two days ago, Lisa and I were biking in a remote area of Raiatea and passed a group of people having a Sunday BBQ. They readily asked us to "mangez," share their meal. Keep in mind that recently FP has opened up to tourists. Covid has definietly accompanied the tourists. We are white people and look like tourists. Yet, these people welcomed us to join them in a meal. OK, they did keep their distance but engaged us in conversation. We quickly tell them we are not tourists. "Nous habite ici." We live here! That helps break the ice. I'll never forget the 4 year old girl who was enthralled with Lisa. She coyly sneaked behind Lisa and shiffed her pony tail. That girl had the most beautiful, huge eyes and eye lashes that would put a camel to shame!
OK, back to the Coconut Milk run. Fiji is the only island nation west that now accepts cruisers. They require a lot of testing and quarantine. But cruisers who have sailed there have found them most welcoming. Bula! Fiji is unfortunately right in the cyclone path. If you sail to Fiji and can't sail out of there for cyclone season, you are at risk! Fiji does have a boat yard that digs cyclone pits to drop your keel in, support your boat on tires and strap it down hard. This is good protection in case of cyclones. But it costs $4,000 to reserve a pit, whether you use it or not!
New Zealand has proven to be very disappointing. They don't have much Covid and like FP, aim to keep it that way. They will, however accept cruising yachts.....if you have contracts with local boat yards to spend $50,000!!! So it's not as much about Covid as it is money. We have joined OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) who is lobbying heavily to let cruisers enter NZ. But NZ stands firm.....unless you have deep pockets.
That brings me to the cul-de-sac we are in. No where safe to go during cyclone season. Since we have been in FP for more than two years, we don't see that staying here further is of much interest. Also, FP just changed their laws which will mandate that we either leave for six months, when our three years here are up, or pay duty to import our boat! They just changed it to two years but we were here before the change, grandfathered (in more than one way, our second grandchild was born on August 25th, Sylvia Violet Helin).
This is a long way to getting to the ship shipping ship. We have decided to ship Uproar back to the US. Yacht Express is a specifically built vessel to ship yachts. We saw it or a similar ship in Martinique. It sinks down far enough to allow sailboats and powerboats to drive right into the boat. Divers put braces in place to support the hull and keel. Then they close the transom gate and pump the water out. The boats ride dry until the next flooding to load and unload. It is pretty slick. And pretty expensive!!!! We could buy a nice sports car for what it costs to ship our ship.
They will be in Tahiti right after Christmas. We just drive Uproar into the boat and they do the rest. Lisa and I will remove all sails and canvas and stow below. We will take just clothes and valuables and fly back to Milwaukee. Uproar will arrive in Fort Lauderdale mid March. We will be ready to drive Uproar to a local marina and replace sails and canvas.
So what's next for the Uproar cruise? Well, March, April, May and June are great months to cruise the Bahamas. That's where we will go. Hurricane season comes in June so we will sail back to Florida and pull Uproar out of the water. We will return to Milwaukee for a nice summer. In November 2021, we will return to Florida and launch Uproar. From then we will follow cruiser's plans...which are written in sand at low tide. Perhaps 2021 will find us sailing across the Atlantic to the Med?
We don't look upon this as a setback or failure. Sure, there are other places we would have liked to visit in the South Pacific. But after 2 ½ years in FP, we have absorbed a lifetime of adventure and memories. We love the Bahamas and Caribbean. The Med remains a place we have not cruised. Best of all, this tack gives us a chance to spend extended time with family and friends whom we have missed dearly these past five years. We so look forward to reconnecting and whatever cruising adventures await Team Uproar.
I would like to say that for these past five years, we have felt the support and encouragement of our family and friends. We are so fortunate that quite a few have joined us to sail and explore on Uproar. We just could not do it without you. Being closer to home, we hope more will join us. Lisa has rebuild the pump in the guest cabin head so that works better now.