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Old 17-01-2022, 14:55   #1
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Cruising Risks

Since Covid rose its ugly head two years ago weíve become aware of significant additional risks whilst cruising. Risks of old have always been cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons/polar storms (depending on what you call such tempests where you live). Most have read the utterances of many authors about the common risks: storms, whale attacks, catastrophic gear failure, medical emergencies and the like. Occasionally weíre reminded that there are still pirates working their tyrannical trade.

But to return to Covid. The consequences have seen some cruisers stranded in countries/places that theyíd really rather not be, sometimes for months, some since the seeds of the pandemic took root. Here in New Zealand, where I am, there remain hundreds of overseas cruisers essentially stuck because of the pandemic. An alternative problem are the owners that havenít been able to get to their boats. For various reasons, before the pandemic began people stored there boats whilst they returned perhaps to their homeland for holidays, work etc, and found that their boat was beyond their reach due to border closures. As countries have slowly opened up vaccinations have morphed the issue further (for a safer or not so safer world depending upon ones philosophy). And itís my hope that this thread wonít get caught up with the vaccination issue, thatís not my intent.

But weíve been reminded of a new threat: volcanoes. Three days ago (as I write this) as the sun was waxing in the sky of the tiny Kingdom of Tonga, it was the centre of a massive volcano. It jettisoned a massive ash cloud, and convulsed tsunamis across the Pacific. But the consequences for the Tongan people will be huge for years to come. A poor but proud country, Tonga is very reliant on its agriculture, but itís family centred, not industrialised farming. Garden plots growing food are seen all over the little country. Water too is a precious commodity in Tonga.

Many of you wonít be aware, but Tongaís borders were still tightly closed to all but a very few repatriation flights. In fact several countries in the South Pacificís borders are still closed.

But here we are 2022, enjoying life in our modern societies and yet Tonga is all but black to the World. The earthquake damaged a submarine cable, and so the entire little countries communications, and phone and internet are cut off. It will remain like that for weeks to come. The only communications are by long range radio ie, SSB/Ham and satellite phones. Even the airport is so badly covered in ash and debris that the NZ and Oz military planes canít land to provide aid. So currently the only real help can come by sea.

Although itís difficult to ascertain what the reception might be if little yachts from say Sea Mercy etc arrived with supplies to help. The border is shut, will it be opened for the obvious help that will be required? Tonga certainly isnít a hermit state like North Korea. But with communications virtually cut off who knows.

For those that have been there Iím hope youíll have found it a very welcoming place. Wonderful cruising through the much of the country, and Aitutaki in the north is astonishingly beautiful. The typical Customs entry is through Big Mamas cafe and bar that sits on a little island in the middle of the capitalís harbour. With good holding, and sheltered from most winds the bar has been a meeting point for cruisers from all over the world for many many years, even if the fresh water always tastes a bit salty the beer is cold and the ham burgersí huge and tasty. Iíll never forget the first time I visited Big Mamas and I was served rum in coconuts, wonderful!

But itís not my intent to make this narrative about myself. I do though think that I should add my thinking to the question that Iíll soon ask of you. So please allow me to give a short back story on my aspirations to cruise internationally.

Three years ago I finally found myself in the financial position to actually buy one of those oft described ocean going blue water yachts, and with only a couple of years to go before I could set forth and voyage Iíd have time to Ďlearn the boatí. After much searching I ultimately bought my bought in Fiji (hey itís only a cheap flight up from here). But I found myself stuck in Fiji and not able to get home to NZ except by sailing . So I accepted a position as crew in this, well, what looked like a lovely yacht, but turned out to be an absolutely pig with a great deal of lipstick. She leaked, the motor failed, the navigation gear failed, itís a long list. As the seas got bigger towards NZ the failures became more dangerous and it was so bad we had no choice but to return to the calm winds and waters of Fiji.

As an aside itís been interesting to read the comments of professional delivery skippers in other threads about checking boats, and sorting out the issues before departure. For most deliveries Iíve heard or been involved with theyíve been sailors like myself, complete amateur affairs and weíve minimal expertise in boat surveys, and so reliant of the professionals (as I was in that case). I will just add though that the passage to/from New Zealand canít be a very taxing one. Whilst I had some misgivings, I was desperate to get home, and the owner (stuck in USA) was desperate to get his boat out of Fiji.

Eventually I was able to fly home but now I canít get back to my boat in Fiji. Shut borders are so difficult, (I guess Novak Djokovic would agree). And along with border closures, and covid restrictions, there are far far less international flights available and travel costs higher.

But hereís the questions I pose to you all.
Has international cruising become less attractive to you because of these risks?
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Old 17-01-2022, 15:15   #2
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Re: Cruising Risks

Quote:
Has international cruising become less attractive to you because of these risks?


Border closures make it difficult, vey difficult. I sailed up from San Francisco to Vancouver Island in 2016, and enjoyed short jaunts over to the San Juans in 2017-2019.



With Covid closures, I would not have been able to move my boat from California to BC. While not "stressed" about my inability to travel to see friends only 50 kilometers away, it is disappointing. Now that the border is "open" the proof (test) to get back into Canada makes it not only less appealing but hazardous, because the only places to get the tests are in Port Townsend or Bellingham, much longer jaunts than just across Haro Strait. Townsend is across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and through Admiralty Inlet (which I've never done) and Bellingham's a lot further away, too. Makes going a royal PITA.


I'm sure others have much more travail than my issue, but it's just an example. Others, like Mike, who can't get to their boats and homes have it a lot worse.


Good post, thx.
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Old 17-01-2022, 15:31   #3
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Re: Cruising Risks

COVID-19 RISK

Tonga's deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu'ihalangingie, said Tonga was concerned about the risk of aid deliveries spreading COVID-19 to the island, which is COVID-free.

"We don't want to bring in another wave - a tsunami of COVID-19," Tu'ihalangingie told Reuters by telephone, urging the public to wait until a disaster relief fund was announced.

Any aid sent to Tonga would need to be quarantined, and it was likely no foreign personnel would be allowed to disembark aircraft, he said

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...canic-eruption
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Old 17-01-2022, 15:37   #4
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Re: Cruising Risks

Don’t know what to say about covid and Tonga.

Covid rocked our boat. So far we have made the most of it and have not been greatly in inconvenienced. But that is a matter of personal luck.

My PLAN (yeah..ha,ha,ho,ho) is to return to cruising by April 1.

We will see how that goes.
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Old 17-01-2022, 16:24   #5
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Re: Cruising Risks

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Originally Posted by Montanan View Post
COVID-19 RISK

Tonga's deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu'ihalangingie, said Tonga was concerned about the risk of aid deliveries spreading COVID-19 to the island, which is COVID-free.

"We don't want to bring in another wave - a tsunami of COVID-19," Tu'ihalangingie told Reuters by telephone, urging the public to wait until a disaster relief fund was announced.

Any aid sent to Tonga would need to be quarantined, and it was likely no foreign personnel would be allowed to disembark aircraft, he said

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/ar...canic-eruption
I hadn't seen this announcement, thanks for posting Montanan. Going to make delivering aid to Tonga very very difficult.
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Old 18-01-2022, 02:51   #6
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Re: Cruising Risks

To the OP:

Aitutaki is in the Cook Islands, NOT Tonga.
Re amateur sailors doing deliveries on dodgy yachts: There are heaps of yachts I wouldn't even get on to sail across Tasman Bay here in the Top of the South Island NZ. If you don't have the experience and skills to properly appraise a yacht's off-shore capabilities, then IMHO you shouldn't be venturing off-shore, but then "Fools Rush In...".
The OP states "I will just add though that the passage to/from New Zealand can’t be a very taxing one." This demonstrates that the OP doesn't know what he's talking about (obviously he never heard of the Queen's Birthday Storm). Maybe he should stick to drinking rum out of coconuts in the "calm waters and winds of Fiji" (NOT during cyclone season).
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Old 18-01-2022, 03:22   #7
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Re: Cruising Risks

Thanks, for a great post, Grant.

Some lovely images, of "Big Mama’s", Pangaimotu, Tongatapu, Tonga:
https://www.google.ca/search?source=...&bih=643&dpr=1

I'm fairly certain that Grant meant to say: "passage to/from NZ can be a very taxing one".
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Old 18-01-2022, 03:38   #8
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Re: Cruising Risks

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Originally Posted by grantmc View Post

But I found myself stuck in Fiji and not able to get home to NZ except by sailing . So I accepted a position as crew in this, well, what looked like a lovely yacht, but turned out to be an absolutely pig with a great deal of lipstick. She leaked, the motor failed, the navigation gear failed, it’s a long list. As the seas got bigger towards NZ the failures became more dangerous and it was so bad we had no choice but to return to the calm winds and waters of Fiji.

As an aside it’s been interesting to read the comments of professional delivery skippers in other threads about checking boats, and sorting out the issues before departure. For most deliveries I’ve heard or been involved with they’ve been sailors like myself, complete amateur affairs and we’ve minimal expertise in boat surveys, and so reliant of the professionals (as I was in that case). I will just add though that the passage to/from New Zealand can’t be a very taxing one. Whilst I had some misgivings, I was desperate to get home, and the owner (stuck in USA) was desperate to get his boat out of Fiji.

Eventually I was able to fly home but now I can’t get back to my boat in Fiji. Shut borders are so difficult, (I guess Novak Djokovic would agree). And along with border closures, and covid restrictions, there are far far less international flights available and travel costs higher.

But here’s the questions I pose to you all.
Has international cruising become less attractive to you because of these risks?
Great post. You bring up some relevant concerns, particularly for older boats which require periodic attention in order not to fall into disrepair. Attention that it may be hard to give when travel is limited due to pandemic.

Long-distance ownership must be a bear these days.
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Old 18-01-2022, 17:32   #9
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Re: Cruising Risks

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Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Thanks, for a great post, Grant.

Some lovely images, of "Big Mamaís", Pangaimotu, Tongatapu, Tonga:
https://www.google.ca/search?source=...&bih=643&dpr=1

I'm fairly certain that Grant meant to say: "passage to/from NZ can be a very taxing one".
Thanks Gordy that's exactly what I intended to say.
Also I meant to write Vavaíu Islands rather than Aitutaki, but brain and fingers didn't work together.

I also do maintain my position that most deliveries are made by amateurs. Often a bunch of mates on a bit of an adventure, but more often than not casuals. I mean look at the adverts on this web site as an example of people searching for crew.
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Old 18-01-2022, 18:13   #10
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Re: Cruising Risks

I try to be very through and professional and yet I don’t raise to the bar required of some authorities. I find the bar to be rather arbitrary and not well differentiated. So I attempt to concentrate my the risks for MY own cruising and sailing style.

Simply having additional crew is not a guarantee of added safety. In my very limited experience extra crew can be a mixed blessing if not a negative.

This is an interesting discussion. What I find difficult is when authorities try to legislate safety measures. That is hard to do and I expect even harder to find competent observers to evaluate and enforce in an intelligent manner using due discretion.

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Old 18-01-2022, 20:59   #11
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Re: Cruising Risks

If the OP succeeds in getting his boat back to NZ, if he is an NZ citizen and the boat is NZ registered, he is going to have to conform to NZ's offshore qualifications if he wants to take it out of there. It is a tedious, extensive, thorough, very expensive process, involving classes and trainings and boat modifications.

My personal opinion is that it is over the top, way too nanny. But they get to say what their rules are, for their citizens only.

Safety is almost impossible to legislate, because people mostly just do as they wish, and they have figured out a way to get 100% compliance for ever stricter laws, from their own people.

You could ask nuku 34 what he thinks about it all. We've only been in and out of NZ 3 times (6 passages in and out), all without much of what they require; he has more experience there than we.

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Old 22-01-2022, 18:29   #12
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Re: Cruising Risks

Has international cruising become less attractive to you because of these risks?

Good question! After thinking about it my answer is no.

The risks of sailing (or traveling) internationally today are quite similar to those of the past 10-20 years. The risks of an accident or system failure on board or external damage to the boat are likely identical or nearly so (perhaps there are more shipping containers floating around). All risks require mitigation to the point where they become acceptable to those facing them. Your recently abandoned attempt to sail to NZ on somebody else's boat demonstrates clearly what can happen on a boat that is not well prepared. Preparation for an offshore cruise is an exercise in risk mitigation.

Risks associated with natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes have not changed. Sometimes they are a surprise (I lived in Christchurch, NZ when the city was largely destroyed by earthquakes associated with a previously unknown faulty in 2010/11) and sometimes volcanic eruptions at least provide some advance warning. Sailors can avoid them whereas unfortunately residents cannot easily protect their property and/or livelihoods.

Risks associated with major weather events seem to be increasing but so is our awareness of the onset of many of these events. Hurricane frequency and intensity is reported to be increasing my several meteorological and other government agencies (e.g. https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/) and the seasonal hurricane season is being extended (ibid). Forecast capability is such that we can avoid risky areas during risky parts of the season, to a certain extent. And, we can in some instances at least, avoid them.

Risks associated with war and insurrection can be problematic in terms of their predictability and more importantly their outcomes if you get stuck in one. Many years ago friends arrived in Fiji only a few weeks before a coup (2006), which was fortunately not marked by violence as opposed to the 2000 coup which did experience rioting.

If we define risk as the possibility of something bad happening, then uncertainty is a kind of risk, and uncertainty around pandemic caused border opening and closing is now, at least IMHO, a significant risk. And likely one that will be with us for a yet to be specified period of time. We have just returned from our boat which has been stuck in Papeete since 2019. Our future sailing plans will now be informed by the evolution of the pandemic and all of the other risks that we normally consider before a passage.
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Old 24-01-2022, 12:51   #13
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Re: Cruising Risks

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
If the OP succeeds in getting his boat back to NZ, ...

Ann
Just to reiterate the original post. The boat was not mine. The boat was US registered and the US owner wanted her delivered to NZ to sell. The NZ border was closed to all but NZ citizens (due to Covid).

Also all maintenance and care of the vessel was managed by a local Fijian boat agent. They surveyed the vessel for the voyage to Fiji, giving the boat a pass on what I was led to believe was equivalent to the NZ Cat 1 level. This was all organised between the owner and the agent. I had no input, also, not all facts were disclosed to us; for example upon our arrival back in Fiji, to the surprise of crew, Police and Customs, hidden weapons were found on board (and so undeclared). So jail time and a serious legal bill for self. The owner just washed his hands of that, and refused all further communication.

What I would add, with the benefit of hindsight:
There are hundreds of boats being 'stored' for absentee owners in the tropics due to covid. Stored on land these vessels are all subject to weather/heat, thieves, lizards, insects and vermin. Ants and cockroaches were a particular menace for the vessel we voyaged in. Pressure on the hull too from standing on the hard or in cyclone pits for so long. And so as the journey went on the boat developed a leak, that became more and more serious. In fact it turned out to have several leaks.

And everything continues to age, and time is detrimental to things like batteries, sails, running rigging, paint and the myriad of other gear. And per Neil Young: rust never sleeps.

Walking around Vuda Point Marina I recognise a boat graveyard rather than a hard stand. Once very very expensive yachts all decaying in the tropical weather. A sight of broken dreams and despondency. I've seen pictures of the results of hurricanes devastating yachts in the Caribbean. The damage is obvious and confronting, but deterioration caused by time is far more subtle.

Sure they can all be brought back to good condition, but it requires fixing up in a remote third world country, and so the economics need serious consideration.

What does concern me is that as borders open owners may attempt to kick start their refits in New Zealand where facilities, parts and skills are more available. And so attempt to sail their compromised vessel across that barren ocean. Or worse commission crew to either help them sail or do the delivery for them. And in my experience, many of the 'sailor's doing the NZ/islands run are more than often hitch hikers/back packers with limited experience.
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Old 24-01-2022, 19:31   #14
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Re: Cruising Risks

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Insightful thoughts and remarks.

Unattended vessels and vehicles do tend to degrade considerably.
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Old 24-01-2022, 19:42   #15
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Re: Cruising Risks

Like my boat laying in Newfoundland for 2 years now!
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