It’s a Long Way to Nuka Hiva

Because of COVID-19, the planned route of the Picton Castle has changed a couple of times over the previous few months. Legs 1 and 2 merged into a combined Leg 1/2, and some destinations were removed from the itinerary after the departure date moved to September.

Even now the route remains subject to change. Still, excitement at the prospect of the impending voyage motivated me to pop some pins in a Google Map to track the significant destinations and plan my own little adventure from there. If nothing else, this gives a sense of the scale of the journey which the Picton Castle will undertake.

The voyage as it now stands is divided into three legs. Departing Lunenburg Nova Scotia, the Picton Castle will journey South through the Panama Canal and out into the South Pacific Ocean, visiting the Pitcairn and Marquesas Islands, before eventually arriving in French Polynesia. It will spend some time delivering its cargo before travelling back up North through the Panama Canal (stopping in Easter Island on the way) and finishing in Lunenburg once more.

In my Google Map I have colour coded the three legs as follows:

  1. Blue for Leg 1/2
  2. Red for Leg 3
  3. Yellow for Leg 4

Officially, it would seem that trainee deckhands joining the ship from Leg 3 onwards may do so in Tahiti. However, there seems to be some lee-way here and my understanding is that it may actually be possible to join in Nuka Hiva. This would mean that a person joining for Leg 3 may also sneak in some of Leg 1/2. I want to experience as much of this voyage as possible and will absolutely be trying to greet the ship in late January on Nuka Hiva should the captain allow it.

The biggest obstacle to this plan will be getting to Nuka Hiva in the first place. Setting aside the fact that COVID-19 makes travel difficult, there are no direct flights from Ireland to Nuka Hiva. And, to be fair, why would there be? Rather, travel between islands in the South Pacific is facilitated by a network of ships and planes connecting the disparate landmasses of the area.

The most sensible way to tackle this problem seems to be to catch a flight to Tahiti and then travel from there to Nuka Hiva. But this is not a cheap journey from Ireland. A quick search with Skyscanner suggests that such a trip would involve flying from Dublin to San Francisco, then to Tahiti and finally Nuka Hiva. A journey of 55 hours costing €1300. Not ideal.

An additional possibility is, of course, that I will not be allowed to join in Nuka Hiva at all. Safety is a concern on the ship, and the captain has stated that he will not leave port until he is confident that all sailors can perform their duties correctly. If I join in Nuka Hiva as a trainee, it may be that my presence delays the ship. This is purely speculation on my part, but I will need to follow up with the Picton Castle team in order to get some clarity.

I am a believer in the idea that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, and I am not ready to disregard Nuka Hiva as impractical just yet. I’ll do a little more research to see if I can determine a somewhat more affordable route. By January I will be between jobs, so if it takes me a week or two to make it to the island, that’s not a big deal, in the sense that I won’t need to request any extra leave. I’ll just have a little pre-adventure while waiting for my flight.

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