Tourism

Stranded Aussie couple resort to sailing leaky boat with dodgy skipper to return home

A young Aussie couple have gone to great measures for the chance to be reunited with loved ones after being trapped overseas during the pandemic, including emptying more than 300 buckets of water out of a “derelict” boat.

Jake Shepard and Tamara Ilic have been documenting their journey across social media after becoming stranded overseas in March 2020, at the beginning of the global pandemic.

The couple originally set out to work and travel in Thailand, departing from Australia on 14 March after Shepard managed to secure a job as a tour guide and Ilic planned to work remotely.

“March 2020 we left Australia, sold everything we owned and hopped on a plane to Thailand with only a backpack each and half a plan,” Ilic said on the couple’s blog, Lockdown Travellers.

“What we set out to do has changed drastically due to the Corona Virus, but has worked out 10 times better.”

After losing their jobs during the initial outbreak, Shepard and Ilic stayed put in Thailand for a few months, settling in Koh Samui.

In August, they decided to try their luck continuing their travels, spending two weeks in Paris before heading to Mexico via Amsterdam.

After travelling around Central and South America for a few months, the couple realised it was time to come home in March this year, but prohibitively expensive airline ticket prices and flight caps forced them to get creative.

The two decided to return home via boat and planned to sail from Panama through the Marquesas Islands onto Tahiti, New Caledonia and Brisbane.

But things didn’t go to plan.

Their skipper, who they refer to as “Trav”, turned out to be inexperienced and the 14-metre yacht they hired was deemed “derelict”.


“After setting sail we found out that this was our skipper’s third attempt to make the Pacific crossing,” Ilic said in another blog.

“In short, he is inexperienced, he demolished nine bottles of rum in nine weeks, he has no business sailing the Pacific Ocean, let alone taking on inexperienced crew.”

Not long after departing, things began to fall apart on the yacht, including power outages that stopped them from using the bilge pumps and disabled navigation.

After having to remove 356 buckets of water, and resorting to using an iPad for navigation, they were forced to make an emergency stop in the Galapagos Islands for repairs.

When they finally made it to French Polynesia, the couple were shocked to discover their skipper had not supplied the correct paperwork to local authorities.

French Polynesian police in Hiva-Oa told Shepard and Ilic that Trav was forbidden from entering French Polynesian waters due to issues with his boat and incorrect paperwork.

“The maritime authorities exact words when describing the boat were ‘his boat is derelict’,” Ilic said.

After a week of worrying if they would be deported to LAX, the couple posted to their Facebook page 13 May confirming they were finally legally allowed on the island and were headed to Tahiti by plane.

According to The Australian, the two found a new skipper and yacht in Tahiti.

Facebook updates posted by Shepard and Ilic today said they were getting ready to set sail for Fiji tomorrow for the last leg of their journey.

According to their YouTube page, they are aiming to arrive back in Australia before Christmas.

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