There are only a few other boats at the quarantine dock and we are the only newcomers. In the course of the morning, three customs and immigration officials pay us a visit. That is to say they stay on the pier and, armed with face masks and latex gloves, politely ask us questions while we fill in arrival forms. They don’t even come on board to look for forbidden items, like fresh fruit and vegetables. Instead, they ask us to put everything in a garbage bag. The risk of spreading the corona virus clearly outweighs any biohazards. We oblige and hand over three onions and two garlic cloves that survived the Pacific passage, as well the recycling and general waste that we had kept separated during our trip. It all disappears into one big plastic bag.
“How long were you guys at sea?” one of the officials asks. “Thirty days, non-stop,” we reply. “Oh wow, that’s a long time. Welcome to New Zealand!” he says while stamping our passports. It feels like a reward after more than an hour of answering questions and filling in forms. We have officially entered New Zealand and can stay for six months.
Under New Zealand’s strict border rules, new arrivals in the country must quarantine for fourteen days. Fortunately, our time at sea counts as quarantine-days, so we don’t have to go to a “managed isolation facility”, meaning a well-guarded hotel, at our own expense. Instead, all we have to do is a corona test. A testing station has been set up, so the officials take us to shore. For the trip of less than a hundred metres we have to wear life jackets, gloves, and face masks. A fourth customs officer keeps curious passers-by at a distance when we enter the testing area: a portable cabin that has been transformed into a field hospital with two plastic chairs outside under a gazebo. After a brief explanation of the procedure, a kind nurse in protective gear sticks a long swab up our noses. Although it’s not a pleasant sensation, we gladly undergo the procedure. It does help us get into the country, after all.
We are swiftly taken back to Lucipara 2. A customs official reminds us that we are absolutely not allowed to disembark until the results of our corona tests are back. She hands us a big banner to attach to the railing, which reads: “Do not approach – vessel and crew in isolation.” We oblige and take a selfie as a testament to the extraordinary circumstances we are in. We feel completely healthy, and have just become the centre of attraction for all passing boats. As they pass by our boat on the way in and out of the marina, many wave friendly or shout “Welcome to New Zealand!”. The sign doesn’t deter Margrit and Ernst, Swiss friends we met in Patagonia, from placing a large bag with fresh food on the dock for us. “Oranges, bananas, apples, lettuce, carrots, eggs, white wine, cheese, they really spoiled us”, Ivar says with a big smile on his face. “And all local and organic, what a treat!”