WELLINGTON, New Zealand
A New Zealand honeymoon couple stranded on the Falkland Islands (the Falkland Islands for the English) in March due to the coronavirus were finally able to return home after a random journey of 5,000 nautical miles (9,200 kilometers) by sea on a ship that I was fishing in Antarctica.
Feeonaa Clifton said she had never spent a night on a boat when she and her husband Neville began a month-long tour of some of the world’s most choppy water. After several weeks of watching albatrosses and learning to use life-saving gear, they set foot on land again on Tuesday.
Their adventure began on February 29, when they were married at their Auckland home. They had been together for 25 years and had three children, but Feeonaa, a 48-year-old artist, said she did not believe in the concept of marriage.
“The day came when we realized that we always celebrate being together, perhaps not in front of family and friends,” he said. “And we decided to take the step. At that time we thought it was right. “
The idea was to spend a two-week honeymoon in the Falklands, where Neville, a 59-year-old communications engineer who left the islands as a child, was born. Then they planned to tour South America for a month.
They arrived in the Falklands on March 7, when the pandemic was already wreaking havoc. Their flight to Brazil was canceled and they ended up staying 12 weeks at the home of an elderly Neville aunt.
Las Malvinas has about 3,000 inhabitants and is 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Argentina in the South Atlantic. Thirteen cases of coronavirus were reported and all those infected recovered.
With little to do, the newlyweds took long walks, climbed every hill they found, and admired the rugged, almost treeless terrain. Contact with other people was minimal and at times they felt that they lived an alternative reality.
There were not many realistic options to return to New Zealand. The only flights were on very complicated routes through Britain or Africa, with the danger of having to endure long quarantines along the way.
Until they found out that there was a boat preparing to take the catches and the crew of another fishing boat that had spent a month in neighboring waters.
His captain Shane Cottle said he was not too convinced at first by the idea of taking the couple along with 14 crew members on their 38-meter (125-foot) San Aotea II boat.
“I didn’t know if they would endure that trip,” Cottle said. “We headed south, rounding Cape Horn and partly crossing the ocean we call the Center of the Earth. There is nothing there and it is impossible to get medical attention. ”
Cottle said the couple turned out to be charming and that, after a couple of days of nausea, they were perfect sailors. She added that the trip went smoothly, without encountering major storms or icebergs, as is often the case.
Clifton said the sea seemed endless and they were often not allowed to go on deck because it was too dangerous.
“Our main objective was to walk a little without hurting ourselves,” he said.
Little by little the couple established a routine. They exercised every day taking advantage of the weight of their bodies in tight spaces. They worked a little. They played cards. They watched movies using shared hard drives and chatted with the crew. They tried to help in any way they could and tried not to disturb.
They saw dolphins, albatrosses that followed them and say that some crew members claimed to have seen whales in the distance. They ate generous portions of lamb, pork, and beef along with the crew, and Clifton said he was pleased when they gave him fresh fruit, New Zealand bread, and Marmite spreadable pasta.
He added that they slept in bunk beds, not in romantic hammocks.
“They were surprisingly comfortable,” he said. “I’m going to miss that feeling of being in the middle of the ocean, of falling asleep with the lullaby of the sea, like babies.”
The honeymoon was not what they expected, but it was beautiful in many ways anyway.
“We spend an amount of time together,” he said. “The restrictions were frustrating at times, but they also opened new possibilities in our lives.”
They arrived at the Timaru port and said it will take a few days to return to Auckland. Clifton said the first thing she will do is hug her children and have a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate the return home.