It was reading the Ocean Cruising Club’s Facebook page that made the decision for me.
On Friday, the Norwegian yacht Escape West posted: “We are in Curacao waiting for the morning light to go into our reserved space in the Spanish Waters. Then the coast guard call us and tell us Curacao is closed, we cannot enter their waters. Go away!
“We left St Martin Sunday evening and then Curacao was open and all we spoke to there said they have heard nothing of closing – so we left. Now we are here with myself, my wife and our five-year-old. Low on supplies and tired after the passage. Curacao authorities tell us to go but WHERE?
“We understand the virus threat and respect that but we cannot just go without knowing where and being prepared…”
That was posted on Friday. A few hours later, the club’s Port Officer for the Caribbean island reported the coastguard was prepared to use force to remove the boat from their waters.
Yesterday, after coverage in the local paper, the family were given 48 hours to buy provisions and prepare to leave – but where will they go?
All the sailing groups are alive with similar desperation: French Polynesia is “closed”, visiting boats told to leave Florida’s Key West, marinas in France and Spain in lockdown. Panama is still open but crews coming from the Caribbean are not allowed ashore. Someone who had hauled out for maintenance and now can’t get back in the water described the trials of living high and dry on a small boat with three children under ten.
Meanwhile, I was in the Lowestoft Cruising Club’s visitor’s berth. I had set up base there for three months to do some work and save up for a new mainsail before setting off for Scotland and the Azores and finally Porto at the end of August where I was due to meet up with the family for a week in an AirB&B.
But how much of that is going to happen? Driving down to your boat is “non-essential travel”. If you haven’t yet launched after the winter, you can forget it for this year. In France they’re enforcing the curfew by refusing to open lock gates and bridges.
Hold on, there was a bridge between me and the sea: It opens ten times a day on request – but who was to say the harbourmaster would go on granting requests? Already there were reports that London was about to go into lockdown. Maybe he would take a leaf out of the French harbourmasters’ rulebook.
Besides, there was no point in continuing to stay in a marina if I wasn’t going to be allowed to visit potential customers – and if I had to self-isolate and work over the phone, where better to do it than anchored in some deserted cove? Followed by an exhilarating sail over a sparkling sea to the next deserted cove…
When you think about it, could there be any more effective way to isolate myself? The boat is low in the water with supplies (even toilet roll). I have water for 80 days (beer for 88). By the time I need to go ashore to re-supply, nobody will be able to argue that I haven’t been in quarantine.
I know it sounds anti-social but, honestly, this is all I ever wanted – to be on my own on my boat with no-one knowing precisely where I am. Sounds weird, I know, but by the time you get to 70, one of the great advantages is that you get to know what you like.
Personally, I think it’s going to be a great summer.