What will cruising in the Caribbean be like this winter?

This is the question on everyone’s mind these days.  Well, at least those who cruise the Caribbean in the winter season.

“What will cruising look like and if I go, will I be able to get home in the spring?”

As port officer for the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua, I am focused on what the arrival in Antigua will look like and perhaps more importantly, what will the rest of the season bring for cruisers wishing to visit other islands in the Leeward and Windward island chains.  Here’s the fleet last fall in English Harbor.  Hope to see this scene again soon. But, it’s complicated.  Last week the government of Antigua renewed a state of emergency which is to remain in place through the end of October.   For practical purposes, this allows them to put curfews on place and add additional restrictions as needed.

That’s probably the right thing to do as nobody really knows what will happen over the winter with tourists coming and going from the islands, perhaps bringing infections to islands with very limited resources for dealing with patients who fall to the virus.  Having said that, Antigua has been quite effective in controlling outbreaks and aside from an occasional “imported” case arriving by airline.  I understand that there have been no community outbreaks for some time now.   They have been particularly effective in keeping infections under control as anyone who test positive is put into mandatory quarantine in government controlled and monitored hotels, a sort of modern day leper colony.  That’s a good incentive to follow guidelines and stay safe.

That approach has been quite effective but would never work here in the US with our preoccupation with personal choice.   Quite simply, they have to be aggressive as they just don’t have the medical infrastructure to deal with a major outbreak.

And speaking of outbreaks, it’s scary to imagine what things will be like here in the US this fall when temperatures begin to drop.  Sheltering at home for even a few months last winter was an eternity and now we are facing months of restrictions in the northern states as outdoor activities are sharply restricted bu the cold.  Heck, it’s been bad enough in the south this summer where it’s warm.  Get a grip on our mask, you’re going to need it.

One of the issues that caused so much concern to cruisers, including us, last winter when the islands closed down so abruptly, was what to do with boats when skippers were unable to get crew to help run their boats home.    Many made a beeline for Grenada at the first sign of trouble only to find that island closed and flights canceled and Trinidad, long the go-to place for summer storage, is still closed with no clear plan as to when boats will be able to head there.

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association is working hard to figure out exactly how to manage things for this November’s rally to Antigua, when so much is still unclear.

What will the season bring and will we face the same problems that cruisers encountered last spring when suddenly when most islands closed and crew could not get to the islands to help bring boats home?

One issue that we all faced last spring was really not knowing about places to keep our boats for the summer season that were “safe” and how to purchase  insurance coverage to ensure our boats when they were left in the “zone” during the height of the season.

I was on the phone last week with several of my contacts in Antigua, including the Antigua Slipway, a small working yard in English Harbor.  The Slipway is working on a plan to address the issue of safe storage and insurance for those that opt not to make the run home to the US and need a safe place to leave their boat for the summer.

One thing that the Slipway has going for them is that they are located inside English Harbor, a natural “hurricane hole” with relatively high hills all around, a sort of protected bowl, perhaps the most protected harbor in the Caribbean.  The relative safety of English Harbor is one reason that the English Royal Navy used the harbor year round and I guess had pretty good luck keeping their ships safe there.I will say, from personal observation, the yard, as small as it is, looks pretty safe when compared to other yards in Antigua and the other islands, that are more exposed to the winds.

Events have always been a key part of the rally and one of the key issues that we will have to work around is the need to keep a proper “social distance” from one another and to find a way to celebrate our arrival without violating the 25 person gathering rule.  That may prove to be a bit of a challenge as so much of the experience is making friends and spending time together.  At least these events will be outside which seems to be a LOT safer than congregating indoors.   I long for the days of fun arrival events like our arrival dinner.   This shot, from last fall, looks responsible to me.How about a “responsible” tot of rum?  We’d have to stand a bit farther apart nowadays. Or, a dingy drift that’s safe?  I’ll want to be upwind from the group. A group shot?  Perhaps a smaller group, spaced out.  Not sure how to do that, actually. So, there you have it.  Plenty to think about and with a few more months left before many will make a final decision on where they want to be this winter.

Oh yeah, with all of this in mind, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association is organizing a series of twice weekly webinars focused on next season and getting you and your boat ready to make the run south.   For better or worse, your’s truly is deep into planning this series which will shortly be posted on their site at www.saltydawgsailing.org

To kick off the series of twice weekly events I will be sharing what we know about the coming season along with fun places to visit in the Leeward and Windward chains at 16:00 EST on August 27th, two weeks from today.

I’d better get cracking or I won’t be ready to talk about what to expect cruising the Caribbean this coming season.

All I know is that if given the choice of this…I’ll take this any day.  Or at least during happy hour…Of course, all of this will be just so much easier once there is a vaccine.

No wait, there already is one.  Just call Vladimir.

Sorry, the line is busy.  Donald is on the line with him.

One response to “What will cruising in the Caribbean be like this winter?

  1. Funny ending!

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