Here’s what you guys have missed—W and I were up in Seattle for the month of March. I know right now you’re thinking, WTF why would they go to the center of a pandemic? But keep in mind, when we left during the first week of March, there were only 5 known Covid cases in Washington state. Nothing had been shut down and we had no idea how bad things were going to get. Conor was slated as an augment instructor in Yuma until the end of April. It seemed like the perfect time to visit family, who we hadn’t seen since last spring.
Then shit hit the fan.
Suffice to say, it was not the vacation we had planned. We quarantined in my parents’ house and at my in-law’s farm for the duration of the visit. Lots of great time with grandparents, but each day that ticked by left me wondering if we were going to be stuck in the northwest indefinitely. When Conor’s assignment ended early, it felt like a “now or never” situation to try to get back home. I also needed to be back here in April for a very important medical appointment. After rescheduling flights five times, W and I flew back together to meet up with Conor in NC. It was a hard decision to make, but military orders changing last-minute qualified as “necessary travel”. I’ve never seen the airports so eerily empty.
We are currently in the middle of a 14-day self-imposed quarantine on our boat. We all feel great (no fevers or cough!) so fingers crossed it stays that way. It is just a precaution to make sure we don’t accidentally spread the virus if we are asymptomatic carriers. We report to the duty corpsman every morning with a temperature/symptom check and even have our own separate bathroom at the marina.
We aren’t going stir-crazy yet and are using this time to get Story Time ready for the sailing season! Right now, we are replacing the lifeline netting and doing brightwork. It felt good to strip that nasty old net off, but now the boat looks so naked!
We want to be cruisers so we can unplug from everyday life. The ultimate goal is to take our boat and go off the grid for weeks at a time, exploring uninhabited islands and leaving the “real world” behind. With all the COVID-19 insanity these past few weeks, it has made me wonder—will we ever be able to truly go offline? Is it dangerous to remain completely in the dark? How much of a break is good for mental health, versus safety and preparedness in the long run?
The virus situation escalated within weeks. I’ve seen news stories about couples on backpacking or hiking retreats returning home after a month to this shitstorm. It has to be like a bad dream. Living it IS a bad dream, but less of a shock after watching the pandemic develop. I’ve been wondering about all the cruisers out there who have just completed a long passage and are returning to find every port is closed!
When prepping for a passage, food is carefully prepared and rationed. There is garbage to be considered, water storage, and fuel. While sailors try to plan for delays or alternative stops, I can bet none of them saw this coming. How frightening to be low on food, fuel, and water but denied entry to restock. I don’t blame countries for trying to protect themselves, but these boaters are stuck in a terrible situation and I can’t help but worry. What would we do in their place? We have a hurricane plan, we know what to do if something breaks on our boat, but we have no pandemic plan. Honestly, I never thought we would need one!
Entering a port with a yellow flag flying has just been a courtesy for the last 100 years or so. It tells people ashore that all passengers and crew aboard are healthy and not bringing any diseases into the area. In the past, if a ship was quarantined, they flew a checked yellow and black flag called the Yellow Jack. Once the quarantine was up and the ship deemed safe, they were allowed to fly a solid yellow flag again. It is crazy to think that these flags now serve a real purpose again in this day and age, rather than as tradition.
This will be one more scenario to consider when we prepare to leave North Carolina. If any experienced cruisers have advice or resources to share, please do so. We are one hundred percent certain that we are on the right path, but it is also our responsibility as parents to adventure SAFELY.