Yesterday was the first day of spring and we are still in St Lucia. Normally we would be making our way back toward Antigua to enjoy the festivities of the Classic Yacht Regatta and to prepare for Brenda’s return home and springtime in New England. However, everything has been canceled, flights, social events and islands are locking down and not allowing yachts to check in. In some cases cruisers have been pointedly asked to leave and anchorages closed.
However, virus and lethal pandemics aside, it’s a beautiful morning and given the spectacular sunrise, you’d never know just how unsettled things are in the world.And, a beautiful view of the nearby mountains. The fact is that things are really heating up in the US, with a reported 40% increase in virus cases in just one day. And, yesterday the State Department said something like “Come home now or plan to stay where you are for the indefinite future!” Not very helpful for anyone who’s on a “slow boat to, well, somewhere…”
We could certainly just ditch Pandora and fly home but it’s beginning to feel like this whole thing could take a year or more to sort through and the idea of leaving her in Trinidad when things are becoming chaotic, doesn’t seem like a good idea to us.
Of course, the massive overnight increase in cases in the US is, in part, because of much delayed testing, and late warnings from the administration about how dangerous things are. Nobody really knows what the death rate will be and for those in the 60+ age bracket, like us, for example, it’s higher than for those who aren’t so “mature”. For years, I have been quite happy to be in the over 50 crowd because I was quite excited about our retired years but now being older is a liability and that new reality is taking some getting used to.
I’ll admit that I have mixed emotions about where we are as on the one hand, I’d like to be home where we could be helping out with Rob and Kandice and our three grandchildren. However, here, we are pretty safe with only very modest evidence of infection. We’d love to be able to help out with Rob and Kandice as they are in the healthcare business, supplying testing materials and equipment, and have been very busy. Kandice’s mother Pat, in her 70s, watches the kids during the day, she is also being pressed to put in more hours at the grocery store where she works to deal with the “hoarding hoards” that are swamping the store.
Instead of being able to lend a hand, here we are hunkered down in a marina, thousands of miles from home afraid to leave and give up our spot for fear that we won’t be able to return and yet not being sure where to head.
All of the islands in the Caribbean have implemented various forms of restrictions with the hope of slowing the outbreak of the virus in their country as it has done elsewhere in the world. And, that’s a worthy effort given the fact that, as just one example, Antigua has only three ventilators in the whole country. Think about that for a moment…
The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, a group that I work with as a board member, has taken the lead in sending out updates, much of which is reported on Noonsite, that serves the cruising community, about what’s going on in the Caribbean, islands are open and those that are closed. It’s amazing that it was only about three months ago that the virus first made it’s appearance in China and now has so quickly spread to nearly every country on earth.
As so many nations have become much more nationalistic, BREXIT, Trump, etc, I am hoping that this epidemic will help leaders understand just how interconnected we are and that to withdraw from the world community just isn’t realistic.
Cruiser friends of ours decided a few days ago to head to Grenada to have their boat hauled for the summer. They sailed overnight to reach there before midnight on Wednesday to beat the deadline for a 14 day quarantine that went into effect yesterday. They wrote to say that in a single day, prior to the deadline, 50 boats cleared into the island, a huge number by any measure.
Here’s the list of who’s open and who’s not as of yesterday.
These countries are now closed to visiting yachts. St. Martin, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Mustique, Trinidad & Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Statia, British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Saba.
And, for those who are considering a straight offshore run to the NE US, Bermuda has a 14 day quarantine (so if you are planning a stop there plan on a long one) And, you had better hope that nobody on board is harboring the virus when you begin a ten day run to New England. To get sick at sea, a half week or more from help if you have to bail out along the way, is a scary thought.
While still open, other islands are adding restrictions to entry. For example,
Antigua has a single port of entry, St John, where cruise ships normally dock. Friends of ours that arrived there a few days ago spent much of the day getting through customs and immigration, 6 hours standing in line.
Grenada has only two entry points and Turks & Caicos will not allow entry if you have been to St. Martin as that islands has, for the moment, the most confirmed cases in the Caribbean.
In most cases yachts on passage are still able to anchor most anywhere as long as they don’t go ashore. However, that may change as it has in Les Saintes, part of Guadaloupe, where local law enforcement has told all visiting yachts to leave the port and go elsewhere.
Marinas along the US coast have begun to close to vessels returning from other countries. Given the increased restrictions on anchoring in the SE US, anyone entering the US will have few places to anchor, US citizens or not. Even Puerto Rico is in lock-down mode, marinas are closed and they are considering a full travel ban.
So, all of this leaves us wondering what we will do to get home and where to leave Pandora. At this point, we are focused on trying to find a way to get back to CT with Pandora but how to do that and as getting crew is unlikely, we want to do what we can to make the run as easy as possible and avoid passage legs of more than a few days at a time so that we remain close to help, such as that might be, if we need to bail for health or mechanical reasons.
Meanwhile, I am continuing to address any issues that will keep Pandora from being ready to head out as needed, beginning with some small projects like re-bedding fittings on deck to fix tiny leaks and the major addition of our new fridge. As the new unit is much larger than the old one, the old unit on the left and new on the right. There was no way that I was going to be able to install the new fridge to the left of the watermaker so the watermaker was moved to the other side of the workshop. This is how it was prior to the move.
Thanks to Brenda for suggesting that I move the unit there. It’s not completely installed yet but is getting close. A working watermaker will be critical if we can’t go ashore for the next few weeks at least. The installation of the new fridge unit only took a few hours under the able guidance of our refrigeration tech, Prudent. Now I know why he came so highly recommended by other cruisers. Although, I’ll admit that seeing an “open flame” as he soldered the pipes did give me pause for thought. Here we are, with the new fridge purring away and using much less electricity than the last one. It’s a very nice piece of equipment, even if it did take three months to get to u. However, now it’s all done and was worth the wait.What’s next? It seems that after two weeks of back and forth we have decided to head for the American Virgin Islands where we will likely hook up with other cruisers heading to the US on what will likely be billed as a “flotilla” of cruisers with the support of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, a group that I serve on the board of and act as port officer for our fall rally to Antigua.
The plan will be to help cruisers who are US Citizens bring their boats back to the US with a minimum of fuss. Volunteers with Salty Dawg will work hard to smooth our return process with local officials, US Coast Guard and perhaps senators, where appropriate.
Today, I’ll tackle the last bits of installation on the watermaker, another trip to the bank to get cash to pay for all of this and more provisioning for what may very well be several weeks on the hook and underway with no hope of resupplying.
And, to make it feel, sort of, like normal aboard, I was able to get fresh tropical flowers yesterday. Our little flower and herb garden. And yes, we think we have enough toilet paper. At least we think we do. No, better check…
Well, I’m optimistic that we will figure all this out and make our way home. At least we have a plan even if it’s likely to change along the way.
That’s me. Hope springs eternal…
Or as Brenda once said, “Bob and the Dog, Ever Hopeful.”