While we wait for approval from New Zealand, we explore the Society’s Leeward islands. As time passes, we also make a plan B. Which plan will it be?

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Tahiti – Maupiti (PYF)

For many cruisers French Polynesia is a dream destination. It’s easy to understand why: the islands are fabulously beautiful, the people are friendly, and life follows a relaxed pace. Some sailors can’t get enough of it and spend years cruising here. We too enjoy the islands, yet also feel a desire to move on to continue our search for inspiring solutions that can bring an ecologically sound and socially just society closer. In addition, we realize that we have been sailing for over four years and our around-the-world trip is not even half-way, geographically speaking. We do miss our family and friends in Europe, so we would like to keep moving in that direction. But with so many borders closed due to covid, the question is: are we even allowed to continue our journey?

What Are Our Options?

After months of waiting for spare boat parts, we finally receive them in Tahiti in October. It means that we can lift our anchor and set sail again, but where to? All countries west of Tahiti, such as the Cook Islands, Samoa, and Tonga do not allow yachts to enter. At the same time, hurricane season in the South Pacific is approaching, with December often cited as its official start. A nagging voice in our head asks: “What’s the plan?”. Still hopeful that we will be admitted there, we decide that sailing to New Zealand is Plan A. “We will need to do a lot of maintenance on Lucipara 2 there, which contributes to the Kiwi economy” Ivar assesses. “That might get us accepted.”

But what if our application is rejected, or we don’t hear anything at all? After weighing our options we decide that Plan B is to stay in French Polynesia for another season. As we have not explored the Marquesas archipelago yet and no hurricane has ever been recorded there, that’s where we would spend the next season. The one question that remains is: how long do we wait before we choose Plan B?

On Mother Earth’s Lap

“Still no news from Wellington”, Floris sighs after checking our inbox. Although we are disappointed, we are not ready to give up hope up, so decide to sail to the Society’s Leeward Islands and wait for New Zealand’s decision there “It’s in the right direction”, Floris jokes. Ivar puts it into perspective: “That’s true for Plan A, but it’s in the opposite direction for Plan B!”

We bid farewell to our friends in Tahiti and head out to sea. It takes only a day and night to reach the next island, where we anchor in a lagoon with calm, bright blue water, surrounded by a coral reef. Lush mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. “Welcome to Huahine!” Helen of SY WOW shouts as she rows over in her dinghy. “Do you see the contours of the mountains there? With some imagination they are shaped like a woman lying on her back. ” According to Polynesian mythology, it is Fiti, a deity we would call Mother Earth. This island is said to have formed when she lay down here.

For the seafaring Polynesians who arrived here, the Pacific islands must have been a great source of life amidst an immense and hostile ocean. Oases with fresh water and fertile soil, where they could harvest fruits and seafood. “The Polynesians’ dependence on these ecosystems must have influenced their spiritual way of thinking” Ivar assesses. “By worshiping Mother Earth, they put nature at the core of their belief system. She had to be cherished and preserved and then passed to future generations” he adds. “What a shame that the colonists and missionaries destroyed Polynesians’ culture and forced them to convert”, he finishes gloomily. “It’s high time to bring those original values back to life!”

Waiting Room in Paradise

On a long hike along the coconut tree-lined shore and through dense woods, we visit archaeological excavations and visit ceremonial platforms with amazing views. It makes us realize that Huahine is a sizeable island. “Let’s rent bicycles”, Floris suggests, and so the next day, we get up early and go on a bicycle hunt. In a small shop with homemade clothing, colourful facemasks, and fresh fruit, we also find some brand new, bright-red rental bicycles. Not much later we zoom over a well-maintained asphalt road. “Okay, they are not of the quality that we are used to in the Netherlands”, Ivar grumbles when the brakes almost jam and the saddle rod bends. Nevertheless, we enjoy the ride, even when we have to climb steep slopes on foot, in the sweltering heat. The impressive landscape and views are our rewards.

After a week at the same anchorage, it’s time to move to a bay a few miles down the coast. Our friends Niels and Linette from SY Stormalong join us. Just as we tie up to one of the mooring buoys, a man comes alongside in a sleek va’a – a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe. He introduces himself as Siki and explains that all mooring buoys are free of charge. “Will you help me bake coconut bread on the beach?” he asks. “Of course!” we reply in unison. A little later, we paddle over to his beach. Siki is a true entertainer, so we only have to listen and follow his lead. Siki tells us extensively about his life on the island and in France. He likes to keep the old Polynesian traditions alive and shows us how to make things with nature’s ingredients. While he teaches Linette to weave baskets of palm leaves and make bracelets of shells, he encourages us to paddle a few rounds around the moored boats in his va’a. And we all have to help with the coconut bread. We grate coconut, make a cloth from the coconut skin, squeeze out coconut milk and knead dough to form buns. Wrapped in green leaves, the buns go on the hot charcoal. When they are done moments later, it’s a feast. “I don’t mind waiting at all in this paradise”, Ivar jokes.

Energy Recovery

In the event that we need to cross an ocean soon, we need to prepare our boat. Thanks to the postal packages we received in Tahiti, we have new blades for our wind generator. “The question is, how do we change them” Ivar asks. As the wind generator is mounted on top of the mizzen mast, it has to be taken down. Niels disagrees: “I can do that from my mast!”, he says with confidence. He manages to convince us that it can be done, so we moor Lucipara 2 and Stormalong side by side, put thick fenders between the hulls and pull the masts together with the halyards. “Look at our boats, so closely embraced”, Linette shouts from the dinghy while taking pictures.

We hoist up Niels to the second spreader of Stormalong’s mast. Like a tightrope walker he walks over the spreader to the top of our mizzen mast. Now he can remove the worn blades and put the new ones on. From down below, he looks like a professional, undisturbed even by the gusts that come from the island. Not much later, our wind generator turns smoothly again, for the first time in 10 months. We release the boats from their embrace and return to our own mooring, thankful to Niels that a significant part of our renewable energy supply has been restored.

Time is Running Out

We next explore the islands of Taha’a and Raiatea. In addition to Niels and Linette, our friends Fred and Chris of SY SeaJay join. Time flies thanks to stunning hikes and snorkelling sessions, but it remains quiet from Wellington. Should we give up Plan A and head for the Marquesas instead? It’s almost November and the hurricane season is just around the corner. “Those Kiwis make it exciting” Ivar grinds his teeth. We learn that superyachts with millions in maintenance schedules have already received approval, as has a New Zealand family with a Dutch mother. That doesn’t surprise us. The question is whether they will also make an exception for us. Due to the lack of news, slowly we’re getting used to switching to Plan B.

At the very end of October, we hear that a bump in the New Zealand assessment process has been resolved. And then it goes fast. We receive an email from the Ministry of Health, with the decision on our application attached. The slow internet connection makes opening the document excruciatingly exciting! Yes!!! Lucipara 2 has been approved! Thrilled with joy, we complete paperwork for the visas, and ten days later they are granted as well. We finally have all the necessary paperwork from New Zealand!

Checking Out

We immediately sail to Bora-Bora and check out of French Polynesia at the local gendarmerie. The most famous island of the group is full of resorts. From a mountaintop with breath-taking views we see countless huts with palm leaf roofs. Yet our attention is elsewhere. Floris points to the sea on the western horizon: “That’s where our next destination is!” We have another goal and after one last visit to the local fruit stands and a quick stopover in neighbouring island Maupiti, we leave for a non-stop journey of 2,500 miles. So it will be Plan A after all: doing boat maintenance, experiencing new adventures and finding inspiring sustainable examples in New Zealand!

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