Ivar and Floris are Sailors for Sustainability. Nearly all countries around have closed borders to foreigners, including those on sailboats
GAMBIER, FRENCH POLYNESIA: “We are in good health and spirits. Since our arrival in this tropical paradise, we have met very friendly locals and explored coral islands with white beaches, crystal clear water and coconut-laden palm trees. The underwater world is astonishing: there is an abundance of coral and colourful fish. Coconuts, banana, grapefruits, and papaya grow in almost every garden and the forest. Apart from sailors, there are not many tourists here. Pearl farming is the main economic activity. We are sailing to save the world”.
In an exclusive report, Ivar Smits and Floris van Heers describe how to stay in Gambier, an archipelago in French Polynesia, far away from Coronavirus. The two guys from Amsterdam in Holland have been sailing the world for years – and will continue for many years to come. The ambition is a project called Sailors for Sustainability, and to save the world.
Our situation changed
“We are in good health and spirits. Yet since the arrival of the coronavirus in Tahiti, some 1800km from here, a lot has changed. We are anchored in front of the archipelago’s only town, Rikitea, and may only leave the boat to buy groceries. All domestic and international air travel has been suspended.
We are aware that foreigners brought diseases, so there is quite some sensitivity among the local population. We therefore hope that the outbreak stays confined to the area around Tahiti and does not reach the other archipelagos. Still, there are worse places to be stuck, so overall, we are very happy to be tolerated in Gambier.
The worldwide lockdown related to Covid-19 went fast. Until a few weeks ago we expected to cruise via the Pacific islands to New Zealand this year. Now everything is up in the air. Virtually all countries around us have now closed their borders to all foreigners, including those on sailboats. We are staying here for the foreseeable future.
A Force for Change
The Covid-19 crisis seems far from over and the expected economic and social consequences vary from grave to disastrous. The virus’s impact forces us as a society to critically examine our ways. Although dangerous viruses are by no means a new threat. Covid-19 has a gigantic impact on our society because never before did humankind live in such a hyper-globalized world. The rapid meltdown caused by the virus lays bare that our civilization was enormously efficient, but not sufficiently resilient. Just like the climate crisis can be seen as nature’s way of telling us that our energy systems, agricultural methods, and consumer culture are unsustainable, Covid-19 could be seen as a message that our way of globalized way of living is unsustainable.
Prevent the next virus
We therefore look beyond the challenges to save as many lives as possible from this virus. We must also change our society in such a way to prevent the next virus having a similarly devastating impact. We need to address a plethora of related sustainability challenges and implement solutions that lead to an ecologically sound society. That is no easy task, but you probably won’t be surprised that we have some ideas on how to achieve that.
Take fate in our hands
With more and more countries in lockdown, focusing on our communities is the sensible thing to do. We would be less dependent on geopolitical, climatic, and economic situations elsewhere for our food, energy, and other needs, but could take our fate in our own hands. In other words, we would increase local resilience. That’s exactly what the founders of the Transition Town movement had in mind. Followers will know that we have featured this sustainable solution before.
Watch video – read stories
Totnes in southern England is widely regarded as the birthplace of a worldwide movement that aims to strengthen local communities, generate local renewable energy, and grow more food in gardens and public parks. We visited them to find out how they achieve that. For our video and article about the transition town movement, go to and learn how you too can make your community more resilient.
Going forward with solutions
To keep discovering successful and inspiring examples of sustainable change all over the world, we depend on travel to other countries. Since we are grounded in Gambier for the time being, we have decided to change the focus of our project. We plan to keep you posted on good examples of local resilience from around the world. To the extent possible, we will also upload the last few stories and videos from South America and Easter Island to our website – which in any event is a great source of more than 40 inspiring sustainable solutions from around the world.
Save the World
In June 2016 Ivar and Floris, aboard “Lucipara 2”, a classic steel ketch of 47 food, left Amsterdam after months of preparation. For years they have followed the dream to save the world.
After sailing via Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, some Mediterranean countries before heading west to Cap Verde, the shores of Brazil and South-America. Previous report came from Chile. By end of March 2020, visited 23 countries and 25,500 nautical miles sailed.
“We continue to work together to come out of this crisis stronger”, Ivar and Floris let us know from the tropical paradise in French Polynesia.
Subscribe to Newsletter or share posts while sailing the world. Support, become a partner or sail with us as a trainee. For more information Sailors for Sustainability
Read more: Sailing the world for years