8 August 2017
After more than 2 days traveling west, I arrived on August 6 in Auckland (New Zealand). A 2-hour drive brought me to Port Whangarei and the welcoming sight of Tara’s orange tipped masts. After a first good night’s sleep, my 5th mission on board began. I met up with many former traveling companions: Nicolas de la Brosse, first mate, François Aurat, deck officer, Samuel Audrain, outgoing captain, Marion Lauters, outgoing cook and Daniel Cron, chief engineer. My sailing family is brought together once again for 3 and a half months, up to Papua New Guinea. Together, we’re going to write a new page of these 10 years of expeditions and passion that I’ve had the chance to experience, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Reunion of the new on board correspondent Vincent Hilaire with the crew at Whangarei. © Charlène Gicquel / Tara Expéditions Foundation
Everything started well when I left home. The taxi driver was on time and we soon arrived at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport terminal 2A. “New Zealand, it’s not next door!” he said before we chatted about French news.
At 8.30am, there was already a big queue for checking-in. After half an hour, I reached a counter and began the classic routine of ID presentation for these 3 flights about to take me to the southern hemisphere, at the other end of the world. My luggage was being registered when a pop-up appeared on the screen in front of the Air Tahiti Nui stewardess. “I can’t complete your check-in. The computer is blocked because you don’t have a return ticket”.
I explained that it was normal since I was on my way to join a ship. After my mission, I would disembark at another location. Despite my explanation, the pop-up persisted.
So I had to interrupt the formalities before completion, even though my boarding passes were duly issued. Now I had to plead my case. I produced the Tara Pacific expedition’s presentation file and my contract letter to a first supervisor.
But the pop-up was still resisting, imposing its hegemony.
Three quarters of an hour after my arrival, I was still at the same terminal in front of the main supervisor. A new ordeal where I needed to be on my toes: presentation file, explanation of the mission and the inapplicability of a return ticket, etc. “We can’t let you go without a ticket back, Sir. I have to call immigration services in New Zealand to inform them and they will decide. They will need a local address.” Despite my experience in these situations with 2 hours before take-off, my departure was not certain.
The address given, the head supervisor came back a quarter of an hour later, on the phone with Auckland. In Shakespeare’s language, I had to explain once again the reasons for my one-way ticket. Fortunately, my interrogator was friendly and supportive. Having detailed a bit more about our mission and reassured her of my customs clearance papers, I then explained to her that Tara was actually Peter Blake’s ship, the former Seamaster. All of a sudden, the pop-up was disappeared: Sir Peter Blake’s aura had defeated it.
I checked my baggage, passed security and finally embarked.
Paris-Los Angeles was an 11-hour flight, followed by a first 10-hour transit. Unfortunately, I was about to discover that the pop-up had a cousin in the USA!
An hour before boarding my second plane to fly Los Angeles-Papeete, a loudspeaker message invited me to go to the nearest terminal counter.
“Hello Sir, why don’t you have a return ticket?” Since I wasn’t afraid of the pop-up anymore, my arguments were now well organized for battle: “Sir, I was asked the same question in Paris. Despite this, the New Zealand border police have given their consent to my entry, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to board the plane in France. In addition, I already have the customs clearance to go to Australia, our next stopover”.
“Ok Sir, I’ll check with my boss.”
The pop-up’s American cousin and partners never re-appeared.
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