What strange times these are. Pandemics were the subject of movies, not something we expected to experience first hand and Corona used to be a beer with a lime. This is a first for all of us, we are in uncharted territory. Sailing around the past couple years we have realized just how connected we all are, people are so mobile, going from country to country, we are all entwined globally through work and travel, and now we are seeing the difficulty of trying to contain a virus in such a global community.
At first we were pretty removed in the Caribbean from what was happening back home and around the world, until we weren't. Suddenly there was talk of the virus and posters warning of it's spread started showing up, and then quickly it all escalated and within a couple of days people were wearing masks and gloves, distancing themselves when out in public, borders started closing and islands began shutting down. We felt so bad for friends and family that were dealing with these difficult times back home and overseas, then suddenly we were feeling sorry for ourselves too. Guadeloupe closed it's borders and asked us nicely to leave, a 10 hour sail turned into 20 hours when ports kept closing and we had to keep moving on to find that safe harbor. Travel plans got cancelled, restaurants and cafes all shut their doors, grocery store shelves were empty and had long check out lines, all the things everyone is dealing with everywhere, no where in the world is immune it seems. All of a sudden all the plans we had were shelved and new plans had to be formulated. It’s made us realize the importance of connections, we rely on fellow sailors to share information on which ports are open, which are closed, they seem to have the most up to date and accurate news. And we understand the importance on these islands to protect their residents, everyone being so apologetic for asking us to leave, for not allowing us to entry, for the long lines and many extra check points in customs. So lately we keep sailing on, until finally arriving in the US Virgin Islands, bypassing all those stops we had planned to make, feeling more secure to be in home territory while the world around us keeps changing.
We were looking forward to returning to the Caribbean after two years away, to reconnecting with friends, to witnessing first hand the rebuilding efforts after hurricanes Irma and Maria had left the islands devastated before our last visit. We were hoping that things had returned to normal, the people and place had recovered. And now this, busy season in the Caribbean and there are no tourists once again, the industry that keeps the islanders working has no work, beaches are empty, there are no cruise ships at the dock. We can't even imagine the economic impact this virus has on the lives of so many, around the world and in these islands. It makes us realize how fortunate we are, fortunate to have options, fortunate to have social distancing surrounded by water, with fish for company and stars overhead, sheltering in a place that continues to move, and a well stocked boat, thanks to all that tuna fish.
And through this we struggle with how to connect with people around us while still keeping our distance. The best part of traveling has always been the interactions with others, now we suddenly find ourselves stepping back when people stop to talk, friends visiting on their dinghy from a distance, not tying up or coming on board, always conscience of not overstepping that personal space, not contaminating those around them. Meeting up with someone in a harbor now means talking with them on the VHF radio. That saying "help yourself, help the world" has never been more true, keep yourself healthy and keep all those around you healthy as well. But where do you draw the line between thinking of yourself and thinking about others? The question of the pandemic, and plenty of time on our hands to ponder it.
While we wait out our time until we return back home we try not to waste our days, we struggle just like everyone, everywhere on how to fill these long days of uncertainty that we suddenly find we have. And we realize it's much better to get through these days as a community instead of on our own, even if we are separated, to help each other, even at a distance. I love that Italians are playing music on their balconies to bring some joy to neighbors that are confined at home, I like to think we will share all that toilet paper and those hand sanitizers that have disappeared off shelves. We may not like the circumstances, but it is nice to know that we're in this together, sharing information and staying connected. And it is a test to see how we'll persevere in isolation. We are told the prudent thing for us to do is to self quarantine on the boat for two weeks before we head home, to make sure we are both healthy for the journey and will be allowed entry back in the states when we arrive. So after two weeks alone, just Tony and I, we have another two weeks alone on the boat sailing back…seems daunting. Friends were worried about our marriage when we moved aboard, wondered how we would get along in such a small space, this may be the ultimate test of that relationship. But we also feel so many can now relate to this dilemma of sharing their space, no matter the size, for such a long time, to be confined, hopefully we all past the test.