As we prepare to head home after two and half years away, we do everything we have gotten accustomed to doing before a long passage, readying the boat and stocking up on food. The emotions on board are so different than we had expected at this point in our journey though, who could have prepared for what is going on in the world right now? We thought we would have mixed feelings about returning home, and we do, some things we are sad to leave behind, and others we are so excited to face ahead. But there are so many more unknowns, just like everyone everywhere, we are not sure what the future looks like right now, when things will return to normal, if there will be a new normal. So we prepare as best we can, but also know that we will have to figure things out as we go, take it one day at a time like we have learned to do, to be flexible and to adapt.
We were looking forward to doing this last passage just Tony and I, getting in the rhythm of sleepless nights and being self sufficient out on the water together. The original plan was to sail from the British Virgin Islands to Bermuda, around a five day sail, then on to NYC, another 4 days at sea. Now that Bermuda is closed those plans have changed and the trip home has stretched from days to weeks. Our coarse now leaves from the US Virgin Islands, sailing through the Old Bahama Chanel, past Cuba, up to Florida, an 8 day sail, then up the east coast another 2 weeks. And we're not sure what we will encounter when we reach the states, we have heard that there may be a mandatory two week quarantine when we arrive, hopefully they will count the days at sea alone before we got there. Stocking the boat seemed such a simple task when there will just be the two of us on board, it got a little more difficult when the time at sea went from 9 days to almost a month. But in this time of quarantine everyone is learning to stock up, to cook meals from pantry staples, to appreciate the value of a fully packed freezer. And we find time is a pretty available commodity, we have plenty of it lately, long days to fill while being stationary, plenty of time to prepare.
When we do set sail it will be after spending a month in one place since travel has been restricted and borders have been closed, and to think I thought the worst case scenario was one month quarantined on board, we are now looking at two months and counting. Usually it takes some time to get used to being confined on the boat during a long passage, but we are already spending our days isolated on board, it will be a welcome change to finally be moving through the water. Our last days in the Caribbean are not what we had anticipated. We were feeling fortunate that we could still walk the beaches and hike the park trails when so many friends on neighboring islands are confined to their boats, dealing with curfews and the risk of hefty fines if they don't comply, but now the beaches and trails have been closed to us as well. The wide open spaces on land are no longer available, so we take solace in the fact that we can still swim the turquoise waters and have a sea of turtles to keep us company. And we realize how lucky we are that we can return home before hurricane season hits in June, so many boats here have less options, having to wait out the virus before they can move to safer waters, wondering when they will have the freedom to move on, a freedom that we have always taken for granted.
Lately there are no stories to share and few interactions to enrich our days. The people that have added so much to our trip are all at a distance now. But we still get a sense of community by participating in the cruisers net on the radio each morning. Everyone in the harbor shares information, government and park news, scheduling garbage pick up, provisioning and laundry services available, helping each other with parts and expertise needed for boat repairs, buying, selling and swapping things on board that are no longer needed. In normal times these broadcasts would also contain social information, where to meet up for hikes, happy hours, yoga classes. There are not many activities planned in this time of social distancing, a race out six miles and back to empty holding tanks in an attempt to make a friendly competition out of keeping the harbor clean, and a virtual pizza party. Everyone put in their orders for pizza, resulting in 40 pies, and a boat volunteered to go one island over to pick them all up. Near panic set in when the boat was not allowed into the harbor because of new restrictions, after a lot of chatter on the VHF, and pleading, they sympathized with our situation and bent the rules, resulting in a long line of socially distanced dinghies picking up pizzas off the back of the boat when they returned and a lot of happy cooks on board, relieved to finally have a night off. We are not used to staying in one place for so long, of not getting together with nearby friends, but everyone, everywhere is learning to adapt to these new conditions. It's amazing how much a short wave from a passing dinghy means now, that one gesture makes you feel like we are still connected and gives us hope that things will return to normal, and we will appreciate what that means so much more.
We are under a full moon now, on sleepless nights I sit up top, listening to the sound of the waves breaking on shore, watching the nearby anchor lights bobbing with the stars overhead, soaking in the peace and quiet that surrounds us, and I realize how much I'm going to miss this feeling of space. But the wind has shifted, bringing big swells into the harbor and the tiniest of jelly fish. You can barely see them, but you feel them as you swim through the water, not exactly painful but prickly, like swimming through thorn bushes, they let us know it's time to move on. We are ready to sail away, to move forward, even though the future is so uncertain. We're not sure of the restrictions we'll meet when we arrive in the states or where our final destination is, but there's hope in moving forward, hope that we're getting a little closer to that normal we crave right now.
And if you'd like to track our journey home here are the links:
The first for our position -
The second for all the boats traveling with us, a very small group -