There is a lot we need to do before we vamoose from French Polynesia and head to Fiji. This will be the longest passage Matt and I do solo together. We sailed 18 days with 2 other people which split the shifts up nicely. We sailed 11 days with just the two of us (from Easter Island to Gambier), but this passage will be between 13-16 days.
So, you might think…what do you do to prepare to be at seas for up to 16 consecutive days in a row? Drink heavily? No, well, not really. There is lots of paperwork to do to clear out of French Polynesia and to clear into Fiji. We also have to prepare meals, return items, and ready the boat to vamoose.
Sugar Shack, Matt and I have to legally “clear out” of French Polynesia prior to vamoosing. We cleared into the country 11 April 2019 (over 3 years ago). Can you believe we have been here for that long? We certainly did not anticipate staying here this long, but it has been a wonderful adventure!
Requesting Permission to Enter Fiji
Before we can depart French Polynesia, we have to receive approval to go to Fiji. Easy enough for us as we hired a local agent to help us with the clearance process. We technically did not have to hire an agent but since we had engaged with one prior to the “hiring of an agent requirement” was lifted we decided to continue to use her services.
It seems like we have to jump through hoops, but in reality, it is no different than any other country. We submitted:
- Copies of passports (all crew)
- Vaccination cards (all crew)
- Arrival health declaration form (each crew to complete)
- Photo of Sugar Shack
- Arrival Immigration Statement
- C2C Form (which is 18 pages!)
The clearance approval usually takes 3 days, but since we have an agent it only took 3 hours! We have friends who did not use an agent and they waited weeks for their approval. So worth the $350 to use an agent!
We remain in contact with our agent and tell her when we depart. Then again, we alert her of our impending arrival 72 hours in advance. She then arranges for all completed paperwork to be sent to the local authorities as we are not clearing in at Denerau where she is located. We are clearing in at Savusavu on a different island. Let’s hope that process goes smoothly too.
Clearing out of French Polynesia
Technically, we have to vamoose immediately after we get approval to leave. The hiccup lies in the weather. We want to leave on a “good weather window” not because we are being asked to leave the country. It takes 3 days to clear out, so we take our chances and start the paperwork.
Most boats clear out of Tahiti as that is where the main customs, immigration, and Douane offices are located. But since covid restrictions have been lifted we can now clear out of Raiatea, Huahine, and Bora Bora. We decided to clear out of Raiatea.
Documents to Clear Out:
- Entry paperwork (original clearance documentation)
- Boat registration
- Passports for all crew
- Vaccination for all crew
- Extension letter (we got a 3-month extension to do some work on Sugar Shack)
We arrive at the gendarmerie, perform some hand signals to tell them what we want and are handed 5 more documents to complete. 30-minutes later we hand in all the paperwork and are told to come back in a few days.
Two days later we inquire about our status and are faced with several confused faces. Oh dear. The Gendarmerie search and search and low and behold they finally find our approval email and are able to stamp our passports and documents.
They hand us one document that has to be mailed to Papeete and one document to hand to Fijian officials. Then they tell us to vamoose quickly. We are officially a boat without a country!
Now that the paperwork has been submitted, we start working on other preparations. We anticipate bad weather and prepare accordingly. In bad weather, it makes it challenging to cook. So, we, well really Matt, prepares a lot of meals and freezes them.
Matt has precooked 2 meals for 2 people of the following dishes:
- Butter chicken with bow tie pasta
- Chicken Rotti
- Pulled Port
- Tuscany Chicken
Plus we have pork chops and loads of sausage and pasta we can easily prepare.
I made an army of gingerbread men (thanx to my grandma’s recipe) to take care of me and help prevent sea sickness.
We fueled up the boat with diesel and gasoline. Got to make sure we have fuel in case the wind dies. We hand off our Polynesian propane tank to our friend Eve on “Auntie.” Sugar Shack have two American tanks which will keep us going until we get to Fiji and can purchase another local tank.
We have a local Vini (cell phone company) contract with a small router that we purchased 3 years ago. But in order to cancel the contract to get our deposit we have to live without internet. Normally not a big deal, but we want to stay connected before departure in case there are any issues with our clearance paperwork. So, it looks like we will walk away from our $100 deposit (suckage).
The cases of beer come in a plastic 20-bottle case. There is a deposit on the bottles and case of about $40. We turn in our last 2 cases to get that deposit back and are able to apply that credit to our provisions! Sweet
Fiji does not allow a lot of items into the country. For example, all meats, cheeses, dairy, fresh produce (fruit and veg), seeds (including popcorn), and honey are forbidden. So, we have to eat all of this prior to arrival.
In addition, they do not allow sea shells, wood, feathers, and sand/soil. You probably think that these are not a big deal, but I live on a boat and have collected these items for the past 12 years! We have sea shells (found on the beach) from the Caribbean, Bonaire, Galapagos, Easter island, and of course French Polynesia. I have a small feather head band from a Marquesan Heiva, a sand and soil art piece created just for me and lots of wood décor. Oh dear!
I did manage to bring an entire bag of sea shells to my sister (thank you Kimberly). I do not plan to take any of these remaining items off my boat. Some of these items are stuck to the boat so they don’t fall over while underway. Those items that are double sticky taped are still out in the open – too hard to remove them and I am hoping they see they are truly décor with no living creatures. I then did the unthinkable…I hid a few items. We are talking about carved oyster shells, carved drift wood that have been painted and shellacked, and other items that clearly have no critters. Fingers crossed 🙂
The last thing that we do is prepare the boat for a long passage. We install jack lines which are a strong tether that goes from the stern of the boat to the bow. If we have to go to the bow while we are underway, we tether ourselves to this line so we don’t fall over and get lost at sea (slightly important).
We take out our ditch bag and first aid kit. These items have emergency items (flashlights, water, some food, batteries, water bottle, mirror, etc…) We also set out our foul weather gear and PFDs (personal floatation devices). Everything has to be easily accessible.
We stow any and all items that have the potential to fall or break. Secure all cabins, cabinets, and closets. Create a snack basket that is easy to access during night passages. Check all EPIRBS, put in fresh batteries in them and the hand held GPS. We double check our Iridium and sent out texts, emails and a phone call.
Check, Check, Check. Now we just need a weather window!
Stay tuned for passage details coming up next..
Do you remember Marvin Gaye’s album cover “Sugar Shack?” It sold for close to $15 million!
Did you read our post on the Liward islands? Be sure to check it out as we say goodbyes before we vamoose! This blog occurred in late May. Our blog runs 10-12 weeks behind actual events.