After months of unsuccessfully trying to secure a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) space, an Auckland woman has decided to sail home across the Pacific.
She and three other kiwis are on a 40-foot yacht making a 2,200-nautical-mile journey from Tahiti to Opua.
Katrina Hughes was expecting a bumpy ride, but said it would be worth meeting friends and family.
Typically a superyacht boss, she spent two years navigating Covid-19 hotspots around the world before deciding to jump ship in the United States earlier this year and make arrangements to return home.
But after making a series of unsuccessful offers to secure a position at MIQ, he was disappointed.
“I thought ‘fuck I’ll try a third time’ … but you have a better chance of winning the damn lottery than at this MIQ position … and the third time I was 18,000 [in line] so I thought ‘this is a joke, this is not working’.
“And that’s when I found out about this boy who had decided to travel from Australia to New Zealand. Back home. He was a Kiwi boy.
“It ended up sailing back and I thought it was actually a good idea and I’m coming from a sailing experience and I started asking some questions.”
Hughes contacted a New Zealand skipper who had bought a yacht in Tahiti so he could return home and was looking for a New Zealand crew.
“So there are three kiwis, all marine. We all come from different areas. We have a guy working on the fishing boats in Mauritius and we had another flight from the Philippines and the skipper was here a couple of weeks before us catching the boat. and together “.
To comply with Covid-19 maritime border protocols, the yacht was registered in New Zealand and acquired a new name in the process: the SV Kingfisher.
The yacht left Pape’ete on Friday and expected to take 16 days to reach Opua in Northland.
Hughes said it wouldn’t be all easy.
“Sometimes it can be absolutely beautiful, but on the other hand, it can also be incredibly brutal. You will certainly get dizzy.
“There will be times when the weather will hit you for days and days at a time and this is a slightly smaller boat than I’m used to, but we all have the same goal in mind.”
Marooned Seafarers group spokesman Kevin Judkins maintains a database of New Zealand sailors trapped abroad.
He put Hughes in touch with him Kingfisher pattern who asked not to be identified.
“Katrina and her colleagues are in that database and I think one of them is a captain of a passenger ship. He was in Europe and couldn’t get home, so he decided to buy a yacht and man it with diaspora seafarers and navigate back “. to New Zealand to circumvent MIQ requirements. “
Judkins said that, all things being equal, the trip to Opua should be sufficient.
“To get to Tahiti, they would have had to have had a negative Covid-19 test and would likely have been tested immediately prior to their departure from Tahiti, so the 16-day trip counts as a 14-day quarantine period.” .
“Therefore, as long as they present a negative Covid test upon arrival at Opua, they do not have to take the MIQ.”
Hughes still couldn’t believe how much he’d had to get around MIQ’s lobby system.
“It’s absolutely insane. It’s so disheartening when every time you try to get an MIQ position and every time you end up moving further and further down the line you wonder ‘this is real, someone is playing a joke on me right now.’
“It’s horrible. It’s horrible and when you go through it eventually, it just costs you a little bit each time and I thought ‘heck, there has to be another way to get to your own country.’
She is looking forward to spending Christmas with her family.
“Hopefully for Christmas, yeah. I’d be worried if we didn’t do it for Christmas, let’s just say something would have gone really wrong.”
According to the MIQ website, private yachts are not exempt from border closure and the permit is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The captain must obtain clearance before departing for New Zealand.
Upon reaching Opua, the Kingfisher The crew will need to perform a health check, obtain customs clearance and a Covid-19 test.
They will also need the permission of the local health doctor before disembarking.