Everyone has a COVID Story
We were in New Zealand. Gadabout’s partial refit was nearly complete – new rigging, new running gear, new lifelines, new canvas, hatches resealed, sails inspected and repaired – and she was almost ready to cross oceans again. A friend joining us for our leg to Fiji had his plane ticket in hand. Another friend was just days from heading from the US to NZ for a visit and we planned to road-trip with her to the South Island. Then… COVID. South Island plans were put on hold. Travel came to a screeching halt. Plane tickets were canceled. Everything shut down. Seven weeks later, lockdown restrictions eased enough for us to finish Gaddy’s refit but nothing else. All the islands throughout the South Pacific were CLOSED. We would be sailing nowhere this season. We figured this pandemic would be short-lived, like the other pandemics in our lifetime, so we decided to head home to the US and enjoy the Pacific NW summer. We stayed in New Zealand until June 2020, then put Gadabout to bed and promised her we’d be back as soon as possible.
A full year passed and New Zealand still hadn’t opened its borders for us to reenter. It wasn’t cheap keeping Gaddy in the boatyard, and not being able to use her made it even harder to stomach. We were at a decision point. We could wait until New Zealand reopened, sell Gadabout in New Zealand, or have her delivered to our side of the Pacific.
Option 1: Wait. We had no idea when New Zealand would open its borders, but it was painfully apparent that it wouldn’t be any time soon. And once it did open, there was no guarantee that the many small island nations we were planning to visit on our route through the Pacific would be open. Many are very vulnerable with limited healthcare to handle the COVID pandemic.
Option 2: Sell. Selling Gadabout in New Zealand was never an option we seriously considered. Aside from the challenge of finding a buyer and the significant hit we would take on import duty, the logistics of getting all our stuff off her was enough to dissuade us.
Option 3: Deliver. Have her shipped back across the Pacific. We could hire a delivery captain (who would need to be in New Zealand already) to sail her across but this would be a lot of wear and tear on her. Or, we could hire a yacht transport service.
After much discussion about life plans, next chapters and, of course, finances, we decided to ship her. In August 2021, we signed a contract with DYT Yacht Transport to add Gaddy to the party of boats that would be crossing the Pacific on the MV Yacht Express. Then the logistics fun began.
Because Gadabout was on the hard in the boatyard in Opua, in the Northland region of New Zealand, we needed to arrange for her to be refloated, have all her systems checked, be sailed down to Auckland, and be loaded onto the transport ship. This required an army of helpers and everyone did a fabulous job making it happen.
In January 2022, Gaddy was loaded onto the transport ship for her journey. Here’s a quick recap of how it works:
DYT Yacht Transport is a company that specializes in transporting yachts around the world. This is a regular occurrence for mega yachts but the pandemic brought it into play for us cruisers who couldn’t get back to our boats. There are two types of yacht transport ships: one uses a (very) large crane to lift yachts and place them on the deck of the ship; the other floods its deck, allowing yachts to drive onto the ship, then utilizes underwater divers to weld customized cradles in place for each yacht to hold it in place for transport. Once the yachts are secured, the water is pumped out and they are high and dry for the journey. MV Yacht Express, Gaddy’s taxi, uses the latter method.
Obviously, we weren’t able to be there to load Gaddy onto the ship but we were excited to be a part of the offload process. She traveled first to Brisbane, Australia to pick up more boat buddies, then it was a straight 20-day shot to Ensenada, Mexico where we reunited with her in February.
It’s pretty crazy seeing a ship pulling into port with so many boats on it, including yours. When MV Yacht Express arrived in Ensenada and it was time to offload, we boarded the ship, walked along the deck, climbed the ladder to board Gaddy, and settled in.
Then the whole process reversed. It took about two hours for the deck to be flooded, then divers removed the cradles from underneath.
We waited our turn – there were six boats that offloaded before us – then we handed the lines to the ship’s crew standing by and we simply drove off. It was way cooler than it sounds. We made our way to Marina Coral and immediately began assessing boat projects.
It’s been bittersweet as we are disappointed that we weren’t able to finish our South Pacific cruising the way we planned, but we are glad to have Gaddy back. We’ve spent the last four months in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, revisiting places we’ve been and exploring new ones.
Note: THANK YOU to Mike (Total Yacht Care) for watching Gaddy in our absence and splashing her; Mike (Seapower) for making sure her systems were ready to get underway; Nico and Craig (Yacht Delivery Solutions) for ensuring her safe delivery to Auckland and loading her onto the transport ship; and to Ana (DYT Yacht Transport) for making the whole process a little less painful by answering all our questions and keeping us well-informed of the process and timeline. If you ever have a need or opportunity to work with any of these people, we highly recommend it.