Honeymoon couple hitch a 9,200km trawler ride

Honeymooners stranded on the Falkland Islands because of the COVID-19 have managed to return home by hitching a ride of more than 9,200 kilometers on an Antarctic fishing boat.

A New Zealand honeymoon couple stranded on the remote Falkland Islands in March because of the coronavirus have managed to return home by hitching a ride of more than 9,200 kilometers on an Antarctic fishing boat.

Feeonaa Clifton said she had never spent even a single night on a boat before she and her husband Neville embarked on the monthlong voyage through some of the world’s most forbidding seas. After weeks spent watching albatrosses and learning how to don survival suits, they were finally able to set foot on land again yesterday.

They arrived on the Falklands on March 7, just as the pandemic was worsening. Their flight back was canceled, and they ended up spending 12 weeks in lockdown with an elderly aunt.

Few of their options for getting home were realistic at first. Then they heard a New Zealand fishing boat was planning to make the journey.

Skipper Shane Cottle said he was a bit nervous at first about taking the couple on his 38-meter vessel San Aotea II, along with the crew of 14.

“I wasn’t sure about their sea legs and that sort of thing,” Cottle said. But the couple turned out to be perfect sailors after several days of queasiness.

They gradually fell into a routine. They used their body weight to do resistance workouts each day in the confined space. They did some research and work. They played cards. They watched films on shared hard drives and chatted with the crew.

They saw dolphins, watched albatrosses follow them, and heard some of the crew had spotted whales spouting in the distance. Meals were generous portions of lamb, pork and steak for the hard-working crew, and Clifton said she was excited to finally get some fresh fruit, some New Zealand bread.

She said they slept in bunks, rather than the romantic notion of hammocks. “The mattresses were surprisingly comfortable,” she said.

Their honeymoon wasn’t what they expected but she said it was wonderful in many ways.

“We spent an unheard of amount of time together,” she said. “It was frustrating with the restrictions at times, but it also opened up new possibilities in our lives.”

They landed in the port of Timaru and expect to be back in Auckland within a few days.

Clifton said the first things she wants to do are to hug her kids and have a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate being home.

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