Beginning Quarantine In Hiva Oa

It’s a bit of a dream, being stuck in quarantine in the Marquesas. We had just finished a month-long crossing across the Pacific Ocean. Each day after our landing in Hiva-Oa, the news of the Pandemic became more severe. Halfway around the world, Zach and I were strung between the excitement of our crossing into this beautiful part of the world, and the seemingly un-real world crisis.

Thursday came, six days after our arrival. On this day, the United States announced a level–4 travel advisory, urging all citizens to return to the country if they wished to avoid the risk of not being able to enter at a later time.  We spent the day touring the island with Antonia, a friend we had met on our first day, who could both guide us to the various Tikis we were looking for and translate for us. French is still a crippling impediment for us. Antonia, originally from Paris, sailed across to the Marquesas from Panama about year ago and has been living here since. We were particularly interested in finding the “Crowned Tiki”, known to be the most beautiful but also the hardest to find. She assured us that she knew where to find it. We momentarily escaped the world events while sitting behind the crowned Tiki, looking off into the valleys surrounding us, and watching clouds pass over the ocean. We knew things were about to change.  We allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment before facing reality. That afternoon, as we were driving back to town, we caught word that an emergency meeting was called at the Semaphore – a place where cruisers meet, socialize, get access to Wi-Fi, yacht services and where you go to watch boats come in from sea.

The mood was tense that evening. The mayor, police and emergency personnel all lined up in the front of the crowd of cruisers at the top of the hill. We listened for a short time. We were told that all non-citizens must leave, sail out or fly out immediately. People laughed at what they felt was a absurd prospect. There was nowhere to sail to that wouldn’t require crossing an ocean again and the preparations needed to do so were nearly impossible for all of us to complete in time. Officials knew this was not possible, we were told that if we were to stay, we must be quarantined on our vessels for an uncertain amount of time. The meeting continued and as time went on, emotions among the crowd peaked. Zach and I drew back from the masses. Both of us had made our decisions that moment. Zach was certain he wanted to return home and resume our circumnavigation when it was safe to travel again.  I was certain I wanted to stay in Hiva-Oa, and take the chances of the unknown. In that same instant, Antonia, who was faced with either flying home to Paris or finding a place to stay in French Polynesia, asked if there was space aboard J. Henry for the quarantine. When I thought of the prospect of being quarantined alone for a month, it was easy to invite her aboard.

The quarantine officially began on March, 20th , a week after our arrival. Zach left the following day. We celebrated the night before and said our good byes. We did our best to assure each other of the future. Antonia and I saw him off that morning. It was the start of a whole other adventure for him. We made our way back to the boat on the dingy, explaining to other cruisers that we HAD to drop off a crew member. Tensions were high, the community of cruisers were mostly united in an effort to keep a good relationship with the “Gendarmerie” – local police. So began our confinement amongst other cruisers in this far off harbor.

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