We already fell in love with la Réunion when we were still in the Maldives. It was incredibly hot and the weather started slowly to change. Winds were getting stronger and there were more squalls with heavy rain fall. For the long dinghy ride to the village to get provisioning from our agent we had to pick the right weather window…
So we were checking our options where to go. There were not many options…. Mauritius was closed, la Réunion was closed, Seychelles were closed and Madagascar as well, all due to Covid 19 lockdown. Our original plan would have been to go to Mauritius then to la Réunion and then to Madagascar. We thought our best chances to be let in would be La Réunion, as it is French territory. After googling around a bit and seeing pictures about the hiking in „Cirque de Mafate“ with stunning mountains and beautiful scenery we were hooked and absolutely determined that this was IT.
We wrote an email to the harbour master in le Port la Réunion explaining our situation and asking for permission for entry in May… no answer… A few days later we saw a catamaran approaching on the outside reef and heard them talking with the coast guard in Addu. It was a French boat on the way to la Réunion, coming from Sri Lanka. They had arranged an emergency stop with the embassy to refuel and provision. They were guided to an anchorage near the village and we contacted them by VHF.
They invited us for dinner and we enjoyed a beautiful evening with Alain and Tycho on TEC’HADENN. Our first social contact after middle of March! There was also a second boat TY BALOO with solo sailor Jacques, but the coast guard did not allow him to leave his boat. Funny enough they did not say anything to us. They must have seen our dinghy too… The next day TEC’HADENN told the coastguard that they had an engine problem and asked for permission to anchor in the same area we were to fix the problem. TY BALOO of course followed as they were sailing together.
Tycho swam over to our boat and invited the girls to do an apple cake on TEC’HADENN and then have lunch all together. Jaël and Amina were excited to go and jumped into the water. I promised to bring a fresh baked bread for lunch and off they swam. In the meantime I resent our message to the harbour Master in la Réunion using the address that Tycho gave me. He had had email contact and the harbour master had confirmed their arrival.
We had a wonderful lunch the three boats together with a lot of laughing and jokes. We all enjoyed the pleasant company in these strange lockdown times. Alain Tycho and Jacques left the next day at first light and we were looking forward to see each other again soon in la Réunion.
The next day we received an answer from the harbour master. Hurray!!! He said that if the lockdown period will not be extended by the French Government we could enter after May 11th. He sent a few forms to fill in and we all sent them back except the health declaration form, which would only make sense to send before leaving. So far so good – we received confirmation including a map, indicating our berth number.
This was good news! We were all excited and happy to have such a wonderful place to go to. We timed our departure for being in La Réunion after the 11th of May and before the 16th of May as we were hoping to spend Amina’s birthday on land. We were really desperate to leave… after 46 days quarantined we were done with snorkeling, spearfishing and collecting garbage on our small remote island and the weather was really getting worse. The forecast looked alright for checking out on May 1st. But as Maldives is an Islamic country not much is happening on a Friday. Check out got delayed but on Saturday May 2nd we could finally leave.
After one day sailing we received an email from the harbour master, telling us that our request for clearing in was rejected from the „préfécture“ and he hoped we had another solution. Well we did not have another solution, as all the other countries were closed and as we had checked out from the Maldives they were closed for as well for us. We explained that and repeated our reasons why la Réunion was our only solution. In addition André contacted the Swiss embassy in Sri Lanka for help. After a few days we got the ok from la Réunion. The passage was not very pleasant. Before we reached the latitude of Chagos the winds were very unsteady changing between heavy squalls and periods of no wind after we had periods with very uncomfortable waves and strong winds and a few days of nice sailing. In the early morning of May 14th we could see the lights of La Réunion.
“Mom, do you know what will be my job, when I’m grown up?” “No, I don’t know Amina, please tell me!”
“I’m gonna save the world! I’m gonna collect all the plastic in the sea….. and maybe I’ll do a little bit of drawing too…”
Amina’s first words after she woke up one morning on the passage from Maldives to La Réunion