French Polynesia: If you have an alternative – don’t come

That’s the message coming out of French Polynesia as the Islands cope with increasing cases of COVID-19 and the on-going influx of yachts. Kevin from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva and Olivier from AVP have shared some answers to popular questions they are being asked at this time by boats on passage across the Pacific and by yacht skippers considering putting to sea for the Pacific Islands. The clear message is Tahiti is the only available destination port in French Polynesia, and even then you may not be allowed to stay.

Published 4 years ago

Baie de Taiohae – French Polynesia (c) Maria Wadsworth

As of 21 March, all boats who are on their way to French Polynesia are directed to go directly to Tahiti.

The French Polynesia Government are not allowing boats to come to Nuku Hiva for tourism at this time. All yachts are required to go directly to Tahiti and not stop anywhere else in Polynesia. 

Emergency Stop in Nuku Hiva:
Details from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva

Should yachts be forced to stop prior to Tahiti for fuel, food, water or repairs, it is possible to come to Nuku Hiva, but only for as long as it takes to re-supply/effect repairs and then vessels must continue on to Tahiti.

Yachts will not be permitted to stop in Nuku Hiva or Tahiti without first notifying the JRCC not less than 48 hours before arrival with the information below (arrival in French Polynesia).

This week saw the first cases of boats being denied entry to Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, by the Maritime Affairs who are charged by the High Commissioners office to manage pleasure yachts. Yachts were turned away and told to head straight to Tahiti. There are over 90 boats in Taiohae Bay at the moment, that number changes daily with boats leaving and new boats arriving to provision.

Provisions and fuel on Nuku Hiva are adequate to meet the current needs. Water, however, is not potable, so it is not possible to have water directly delivered to the boat.

Options in Tahiti:
Details from AVP

Once in Tahiti, the official regulations say that Maritime Affairs will have the option to:

  • Ask any yacht to leave French Polynesia;
  • Permit yachts to stay and tell them where they can moor; or
  • Permit the yacht to stay and the crew to leave by plane.

Kevin confirms that so far he has not heard of anyone asking to leave, be it by boat or by plane.

Consequently, most boats are in Tahiti either on anchor in the Taina area, or in front of the airport which is getting more and more crowded. As of yesterday (9 April) there was still space in Tahiti Marina (and only there). 

The current official line is that if boats have spent more than 2 weeks at sea since their last stop, they do not have to quarantine further. However going on land is strictly regulated, the same way as it is for locals.

There are no boatyards in Papeete that will haul out for storage. There is one in the South of Tahiti, but getting there would require special approval from the maritime authority. The other haul out facilities are off-limits (Raiatea, Apataki, Hiva Oa).


Kevin gives a warning to those on short-term visas: “A recent conversation I had with a senior official at the High Commission indicates that FP is considering to ask short-term visa holders to leave… possibly by boat, despite the fact no country will accept them down the road. All short term visa holders MUST register at the High Commission as soon as possible with their name, photo of passport (including the visa page), date of entry, expiry date of visa, reason for requesting the extension and current location.

“France has set up a 10 daily flight to evacuate the last non-residents who got stuck on land. It is assumed it may also be a way out for crews that wish to leave, but I have not been able to ascertain that. This flight goes via Fort de France to Paris. No flights to the US or anywhere else.”

French Polynesia in Lock Down:

Everyone in the country is restricted from leaving their homes for anything but the bare necessities, that means boats too (only essential reasons as in emergency food supply, medical reason or approved professional reason) and requires the same personal certification. Police checks are numerous and fines heavy. All the marinas are closed as are all of the beaches. All water sports, of any kind, are banned until further notice (no swimming).

A curfew is in effect and it is now illegal to leave your home/boat between 2000 and 0500 daily. The curfew/lock down was in effect until April 15th, but has just been extended to April 29th as the number of COVID-19 cases in French Polynesia continues to rise.

Arriving in French Polynesia:
Details from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva

For yachts currently on passage to French Polynesia, regardless of where you make your landfall, all vessels are required to contact the JRCC at [email protected] between 24 and 48 hours in advance of arrival. The following information must be provided:

  • Name of the boat
  • Last port
  • Departure date
  • Nationality of the vessel
  • Destination port
  • Estimated arrival date
  • List of all persons aboard the vessel including:
    Passport number
    Health condition

Recommendations from the AVP:

1) Any boat that has not left for French Polynesia should stay where they are.

2) Any boat under way that has a chance NOT to come to French Polynesia should change their plans. US flagged boats (and crew) may want to consider re-directing for Hawaii. NZ flagged boats (and crew) may consider heading straight to NZ.

3) The lock down and curfew was extended by another 14 days to April 29th just yesterday. The flux in local policy is real, and the territory is concerned that if the epidemic were to become worse (there are 51 cases officially to date) the system may not be able to cope, so the less people overall the better.

4) Long term visa holders come under French law, and it is confirmed their visa is extended automatically by 90 days. Short term visa holders, however, come under local law, and indications from the High Commission are not reassuring.


Our thanks to Yacht Services Nuku Hiva and the Association des Voiliers en Polynesie (AVP) for providing the information for this report.

Yacht Services Nuku Hiva
301 Taiohae, 98742 Nuku Hiva, Polynesie Francaise
[email protected]

87 22 68 72

Association des Voiliers en Polynesie (AVP)
 [email protected]


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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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  1. April 14, 2020 at 7:42 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    Report from SV Cream Puff – just arrived in Tahiti:

    Hello from Tahiti,

    I see on Noonsite that Tahiti is listed as open. This is technically no longer true.

    48 hours outside of Tahiti waters an approaching vessel must contact their agent for a DPAM form (Direction Polynesienne Des Affaires Maritimes) or contact [email protected] to obtain the form. We received our DPAM form over Iridium email via satellite phone from our Agent in Tahiti. The agent was helpful in letting us know about the changes in regulations and the issues in Nuku Hiva so that we could change course and arrive in Tahiti instead.

    The DPAM form must be filled out completely and return for review. The Authorities will make a determination whether you will be allowed or denied entry into Tahiti. It is not an automatic approval as we have heard of a couple boats being turned away. We were also told to contact JRCC to report and answer questions about the passage and health of the crew (last port, date of departure, days at sea, symptoms…etc). If a boat is denied entry, according to the list on Noonsite, there are not very many places left to go.

    At this time there is plenty of room in the anchorages even with the World ARC here. As stated on Noonsite, many boaters did leave their boats to fly home but there are still a lot of boaters who stayed and are living onboard. There have been two flights arrive and leave in the past few days but otherwise the airport is essentially closed. We do not have details on those flights as we just arrived and our internet is very slow. There are basically the same restrictions here as the rest of the world as far as social interaction and movement. As with the rest of the world, most businesses are closed with the exception of grocery, medical and other essential businesses.

    I hope this helps other boaters.

    SV Cream Puff

  2. April 13, 2020 at 11:25 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    Forwarded from Luanne & Steve Ormsbee of SV Aurora currently in Tahiti, French Polynesia:

    The current information on Noonsite is accurate. Kevin & Olivier have described the situation here very well. I would strongly recommend not coming to French Polynesia if at all possible. The borders are officially closed.

    The authorities have been kind enough to allow those of us who were at sea when confinement started to enter, but I don’t think they’d be as forgiving to someone who headed here knowing the country is closed. My understanding is that all countries west of here are also closed to foreigners. In addition, Cyclone Harold left several countries with significant damage.

    Kevin noted they have started to turn boats away from Nuku Hiva; if they start turning boats away from Tahiti, one could be left with quite literally no place to go.

    Covid-19 cases remain fairly low, at about 50. However, we have been told that if the situation worsens French Polynesian residents will be prioritized for treatment and foreign nationals should not count on being able to receive medical services. Many cruisers likely have medical repatriation insurance, as we do, but that doesn’t necessarily help if flights are restricted.

    We left the Galapagos on March 4, intending to make landfall in Hiva Oa. On March 19 we were instructed to make landfall in Nuku Hiva; on March 20 we were told to proceed straight to Papeete. We requested permission to divert to Nuku Hiva as we were still 1,500 miles from Papeete and felt we lacked sufficient fuel and provisions to safely make the passage to Tahiti. We were granted permission to go to Nuku Hiva for up to 4 days, then we were to proceed to Hawaii or Tahiti. We were not cleared into the country and our passports were not stamped. Immigration is only clearing people into the country in Papeete.

    The harbor at Nuku Hiva is quite full; maybe 90+ boats. At least while we were there, more were arriving than leaving. DPAM has directed everyone to leave French Polynesia or, if that is not possible, to head to
    Papeete as soon as they reprovision/refuel/make repairs. DPAM has just been granted the authority, in conjunction with local authorities, to order people to leave. They are enforcing the confinement restrictions
    (only one person per boat ashore at a time, once a week; no going in the water for any reason, including boat maintenance) with checkpoints and a log of shore visits. They are also monitoring the bay for prohibited activity, such as swimming or boat-to-boat visits. The stores are still pretty well supplied, but fresh stock is running a little low. The next supply ship is due this coming week. We heard today that the supply ships were running out of supplies prior to getting to some of the smaller out islands. It seems clear the cruisers are putting a strain on the local community.

    We are now in Marine de Papeete in Tahiti, having arrived Saturday April 11. Immigration is closed until Tuesday, so we won’t be cleared in until then. My understanding is they will stamp our passports, but I don’t know what kind of authorization to stay we will get (if any). They are encouraging all foreign nationals to repatriate to their home countries. We applied for an ‘exceptional circumstances’ waiver on March 21 that would allow us to stay with the boat, but that hasn’t been granted yet. I don’t know if this is even an option for boats arriving now. There is a very real possibility that we will be asked to leave, with or without our boat, possibly on short notice.

    Presumably countries will open up again this summer, but everyone is starting to think about where to put their boats for next cyclone season. I’ve heard the yards are already close to capacity with boats that were
    stored last year and now won’t be leaving. We’re hoping to make it to Fiji or New Zealand by November, but that seems very uncertain at this point.

    Luanne & Steve Ormsbee
    SV Aurora