Covid-19 is preventing many families from being together this Christmas, however one father has gone to great lengths to get home from the other side of the world to be with his son in Gulf Harbour when he opens his presents on Christmas Day.
Dmitry Pelevin was in Russia in February when Covid-19 escalated and his first attempts at getting home were thwarted by closed borders and cancelled flights. Not knowing how he could make it happen, he nevertheless made a promise to his seven-year-old son, Andrei, that he would be with him, in Gulf Harbour, for Christmas.
He has gone to extremes to keep that promise, including buying a 20-year-old yacht and sailing it home solo from the Caribbean. Although Dmitri is an experienced sailor, he has never attempted a solo voyage like this before. He says this solution was also a way to make his long-held dream of sailing adventure come true.
The devoted father, originally from Russia, moved to NZ when Andrei was one-year-old, and is now a permanent NZ resident.
Ever since the voyage began, Andrei has been checking the map and calling his father when he can. The Gulf Harbour School student lives with his mother, Dmitry’s ex-wife, Olga.
Olga says Dmitry and Andrei are close, and her boy is missing his father very much.
“They last saw each other at the beginning of the year,” she says. “Andrei is addicted to fishing and he’s looking forward not only to Christmas, but to fishing with his dad on the boat this summer.”
So far Dmitri’s epic journey has included travelling to France and flying to Martinique in the Caribbean in July. There he bought the 37ft Dufour Gibsea yacht, built in 2002, called Cupiditas, and prepared it for the ocean crossing.
He sailed to Panama, which took nine days, with the only hiccup being a few breakages during a squall. From there he sailed to the Marquesas Islands and on to Tahiti.
Last month, November 23, he arrived safely in Tahiti, where the boat is undergoing some minor repairs before the final leg to New Zealand.
He hasn’t slept on shore for more than six months and as well as being with Andrei he is looking forward to “getting back to a normal life” and seeing his friends.
All going well, Dmitri hopes to leave Tahiti this week and get to Opua in the Bay of Islands around mid-December so that, after he completes a two-week Covid-19 quarantine, he can sail down to Gulf Harbour and share Christmas with his son.
His aim was to live on the boat at Gulf Harbour Marina over the Christmas/New Year period, so he could be as close to his son as possible. Initially the marina said it had no berths available, but a special plea from Hibiscus Matters brought about a Christmas miracle, and a berth was found.
Gulf Harbour Marina customer services manager Javier Prado says the marina is really pleased to be able to help and get Dmitri near his son when it matters most.
“We know how important it is to be around the ones you love most over the holiday season, especially after the year we have all had!” Javier says.