This world pandemic has interrupted so many lives in many unique ways across the globe. Loved ones can’t find their way home, jobs are being lost, and many are falling sick. With borders around the world being shut and placed on lockdown, our options are becoming more and more limited.
As of March 20, the Panama and French Polynesian borders have shut indefinitely. Canada is no longer accepting international travellers. And many of the Caribbean islands have begun going on lockdown. Sailing friends in New Zealand have told us that they just breached their first 100 cases. This means New Zealand and Australia are not too far away from lockdown themselves.
Our plan this year was to cross the Panama canal in May, sail to the Pacific islands to cruise for 5 months before heading to New Zealand for end of October/November 2020. With everything happening at this point in time, the foreseeable future infers the inability to cross the canal in a reasonable time (we were already late crossing). French Polynesia will also be on lockdown for a very long time we believe. Some of the islands are wary of yachties and with this new pandemic they’ll be closing their borders to them for a long time. On top of that, New Zealand (our final destination) is just experiencing their outbreak of COVID-19. This means they’ll most likely be on lockdown by the time we would have reached the Pacific Ocean (had we have reached it at all).
I also had plans to fly home to Canada for a few weeks. Although I can successfully make it home, Mike would not be able to come with me (only Canadian nationals and residents are allowed in), and the uncertainty of whether I could leave when I would like to reunite with Mike is a big IDK. Sorry Mom, but I simply cannot leave Mike on his own for however long these lockdowns will happen. He’s a big boy and can take care of himself, but it’d possibly be a long time on his own and I can’t do that. So I cancelled my plans to come home, my dad actually told me to stay on the boat. He said I was safest here and to not leave Mike alone.
With all this in mind, Mike and I have been discussing all our options. Currently, we are anchored in Simpson’s Bay Lagoon of St. Martin. Self-quarantine for us is just like a normal day aboard the boat. We wake up, attack boat jobs, I cook and write, Mike starts new projects, and we enjoy a nomad kind of life. The only difference? We’re no longer allowed to go ashore unless it’s for a medical emergency, or for groceries. Both require a legal document to be filled out and signed (or risk receiving a EUR35-135 fine).
First, we discussed the cut-off date for cancelling the Pacific. We talked with the friends who will be sailing with us to New Zealand about this and decided end of May was the “the-Pacific-crossing-is-cancelled” date. If we were to start any later, we’d be cutting short our time in the Pacific islands, and we all agreed that we want time to work with us and not against us while enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime trip. However as time goes on, it seems more and more likely the Pacific crossing will not be happening. So what would we do instead?
I shared with Mike how cool it’d be to sail either the Eastern or Western coasts of North America. East and West coast Canada are super beautiful, and it’d be insanely cool to visit them by boat. The West coast is out of our reach, but the East coast isn’t. We figured if we did it, we’d sail straight up to Nova Scotia, Canada, and spend most of summer there. By September, weather will cool dramatically and will signal us to move back south to the Caribbean. We’d meander our way back down the Eastern coast of the US before reaching the Bahamas, planning it in a way we can skip hurricane season. We’d then continue offering charters in the Caribbean for a third season, and continuing the Pacific crossing for 2021.
There is only one issue with this plan. It also has a cut-off date before it becomes too dangerous to sail North due to hurricane season (which is approaching, unfortunately). July becomes too dangerous, so the cut-off date would be beginning to mid June. Not much longer after the cut-off date for the Pacific crossing. It’s 1300nm from St. Martin to Nova Scotia so we’d have a minimum 11 day sail non-stop. It’s doable, we’d make it there in time, but weather gets a little sketchy in June. So it could be potentially dangerous. Also, we have to keep in mind Canada’s own lockdown. Will they allow Mike into the country by that point? We will have to see and play it by ear.
Our second option: sail to Grenada now. Grenada’s borders are still open to cruising yachts (they’re super pro-sailing boats). Two ports are open for check-in and a mandatory health check is required. We will be sailing from a country that isn’t on their “do not enter” list, so we’ll both be allowed in. Grenada is relatively out of the hurricane belt, and is a super place to chill on the boat during the hurricane season. With the uncertainties of how long the pandemic will take to blow over worldwide (I believe this will have repercussions for at least the next year, with most travel bans lasting as long as six months), Grenada is a fantastic place to settle down for the long haul. It’s got easily accessible facilities for boating, and flights back to our respective countries. It’s even an inexpensive place to store and/or haul out the boat if need be.
With all this happening, we’re trying our best to look at things from an unemotional and logistical perspective. As much as we’d both like to sail North given the Pacific doesn’t happen, it just makes sense to sail the 3 days to Grenada. There, we can anchor down for the long haul and figure out our next moves from there–far away from the hurricane belt.
I hope everyone around the world is doing okay mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially with this pandemic. The world has essentially come to a halt and only the essential working members are working day and night to ensure everything runs as it needs to. Our plans are forever changing, as I’m sure yours are too. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on our next moves. Stay safe (at a distance!) and wash those hands!