We Return to Wings 2020
09 July 2020 | Anchorage, AK
William Ennis | Finally sunny
As I sit here at home in Alaska with fog softening every view, I look back on a year that never appeared in my wildest dreams: a global pandemic. Regardless of what you might think of the handling of the US situation, and I'm not a fan, we are now poised on 130,000 American deaths. As a 71-year-old male, I am a prime candidate for dying of this disease and am aware of the risks of the transportation to French Polynesia. Note that I say, "transportation to" rather than, "stay in". French Polynesia effectively handled their few cases and implemented what some might say were draconian methods of reducing their population's risk. They closed their borders, stopped both flights and vessel traffic among their many islands, and expelled all non-residents until 15 July. We depart on 17 July. If we make it through the flights, we're much safer in French Polynesia than here. Entry to French Polynesia requires a negative CoVid test within 72 hours of a flight.
Another issue, although a much more pleasant one, is our new suite of instruments. As an employee (part time but for many years) of West Marine, I was eligible for a discount from B&G, a manufacturer of marine electronics that focus on sailors' special needs. We purchased a new chart plotter (Zeus3-9"), new radar (HALO 20+), depth sounder (DST800L), GPS antenna with compass, wireless wind instrument (not yet arrived), and a Triton2 digital display. In May, we discovered that we could use the Navico program and, fearful that the program would be eliminated before our purchase, we jumped into action. Be aware that we had no thought to buy new instruments so I had made no measurements, taken no photos, nor arranged in any way to acquire the information that I would have collected had this purchase been planned.
The new instruments use a different and newer protocol, NMEA2000. It's faster and considerably more robust than our current network, but requires considerable thought about installation. Additionally, the old instruments are from Raymarine, so use their proprietary protocols and hardware. All of that will be removed except the autopilot. It works and the B&G version is very expensive, so I've worked on a solution for adding the old Raymarine autopilot to our new system. Will it work? I hope so.
To prepare for buying network parts, I found a "floor plan" for Passport 40s and was able to make careful measurements of those plan dimensions. Then, I used proportion to find dimensions of our boat, and that allowed me to plan for the number and location of new cabling. Will it work? I hope so.
With new instruments to be installed and old ones to be discarded, I've had to design and fabricate several pieces: a helm-display box to hold the new instruments, various brackets to the boxes, and many small but important pieces of metal and plastic.
So, we're committed to this season in FP. Hopefully, we won't have as huge a task as our engine replacement last year, but anything is possible. As usual, I must take every single part with me since there are no sources whatsoever on Raiatea, our "home island". We've traveled by air in the US, both of us taking all precautions, so we feel that we'll survive the possible Coronavirus contacts during the flight, and French Polynesia (FP) is CoVid free at this point. Interestingly, we cannot board the flight from LAX to Papeete, FP without a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours. Recognizing that time difficulty, Tahiti Air has partnered with a local clinic and that clinic offers 24/7 testing and promises results within the prescribed times. We will arrive in LAX in the evening, pack our stuff into a local airport hotel, then traipse off to a 0100 hours appointment for our CoVid tests. Afterward, we return to the hotel for three days until we (hopefully!) receive our negative test results, clearing us for the next day's flight to Papeete. We'll stay sequestered in the hotel room since we can't afford to catch CoVid in Los Angeles. We're both sad that we can't make use of the cultural events and locations in LA, but many are closed or cancelled, and we can't afford the chance, anyway. We're unsure of how or where we'll eat, but we'll just do the best that we can to preserve our health.
This is a much later departure in the season, of course, so we'll delay our return to the US until late September. With any luck, we'll have installed all of the electronics, worked on the multiple other tasks that we had identified last season, and had a few weeks of sailing together.
As always, wish us luck.