Our Corona Crusade: Sailing Home While the World Locked Down In Our Wake!

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to take the privileges and good fortune we have for granted.  While the fact that travel, dining out, attending concerts, plays, or other fun events, even meeting up with friends, old and new, for happy hour are no longer options for the foreseeable future, never have I craved and cherished so deeply simply my health and home while Phillip and I were on our wild impromptu passage from the Bahamas to Pensacola. 

It was an unintended passage. Certainly not one we had planned to undertake on such short notice.  But, with the world seemingly shutting down port after port, door after door, in our wake, it felt like we were running on a bridge that was crumbling behind us.  Phillip and I simply wanted to get back to Pensacola, secure the boat, and go home. That’s it.  Each day of the passage, however, definitely offered up its own set of challenges that put the possibility of that happening in question.  While there are dozens of smaller stories to share from this passage—some frightening, some fun—to give you all a broad strokes update on what just turned mine and Phillip’s world upside down, I believe a timeline will be the most telling. Looking back on this, it frightens me a little still to see how lucky we were to have made it.  But, the point is, we made it!  Phillip and I are healthy and home now, with our baby girl safely in our fold for hurricane season.  But, that was nowhere near the case three weeks ago when we were over 700 miles away on an island in the Atlantic.

March 13

US: In light of growing coronavirus fears, the NCAA cancels “March Madness.”  New York issues a statewide ban on gatherings of 500+ people.  In the weeks prior, Trump has issued a ban on incoming travel from certain countries in Europe to the U.S.  We learn after we land in Eleuthera in the Bahamas that Trump had declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, freeing up nearly $50 billion in disaster aid.

Bahamas (BH): The Bahamas records their first case of COVID-19, a 61-year-old Bahamian woman with no recent travel history.  

Plaintiff’s Rest (PR): With the status of travel changing day by day it was a tough decision for us whether to go at all. The purpose of this two-week trip to the Bahamas—when we booked it back in Pensacola in January—had been to put our boat back together by replacing the fresh water pump on our Westerbeke that failed when we attempted to sail to the BVIs back in November.  (We are now incredibly grateful for that failure as it kept our boat within safe sailing distance from home so she could rescue us from this pandemic.)  Once operational, we planned to sail the boat from Spanish Wells where she was secured at a nice, but highly-exposed dock back to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, where she safely rode out Hurricane Dorian in 2019, button her up there for the season, then fly home from Great Harbour Cay to Pensacola on March 26th.  With increasing travel restrictions, we saw two options: 

1) cancel the trip, stay home, and try to fly over sometime in May or early June to secure the boat (an option we all know now was never going to happen), or not secure her at all and risk losing Plaintiff’s Rest if a hurricane swept over Spanish Wells; or 

2) risk the trip in hopes we would be able to move and secure the boat and fly home just fine on the 26th (that also was not going to happen but we didn’t know it at the time) or—this was considered only in jest in the beginning—if all travel restrictions continued to mount, sail the darn boat home.  

With those options, we chose to go.  Despite the frightening news we received upon landing, we were happy to find the boat was floating happily waiting for us, ready to be put back together.

March 14

US:  The Trump administration bans travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland.  

BH: A Braemar cruise ship carrying five persons who tested positive for COVID-19 arrives in Bahamians waters but is not allowed to dock.

PR: Phillip and I set to work on the engine and spend a sweaty day holed up in the engine room putting the new fresh water pump on.  Unfortunately, even with the new pump, the engine continued to overheat every time we let her rise up to 180 degrees.  We turned in that night feeling defeated and worried about our prospects for moving the boat at all.  

March 15

US: The CDC advises no events of 50+ people for the next eight weeks.  New York, which is seen as the epicenter for the coronavirus at the time with near 1,000 cases announces it will close schools the following day and all bars and restaurants in New York must close by 8 p.m. the following night.  Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders hold theirfirst one-on-one debate in the Democratic primary to a crowd of zero.  

BH: Prince George Dock closes as cruise lines world-wide suspended their operations amid the pandemic. The US Embassy cancels immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments indefinitely. Officials also announce the closure of all schools. The Office of the Prime Minister announces as of Thursday, March 19, all foreign, non-Bahamian nationals who have traveled in the United Kingdom, Ireland or Europe in the last 20 days will be prohibited entry to the Bahamas at any point of entry.

PR: After successfully figuring out how to effectively prime the fresh water pump (a story for another day) we finally got the engine running to temp.  After scrubbing the boat thoroughly, and replacing a transducer that was giving us trouble back in November, Phillip and I shower up and watch the debate at Wreckers, a fantastic little restaurant and bar in Spanish Wells that was, thankfully, still open and serving.

March 16

US:  The White House issues guidelines for social distancing, urging Americans to avoid restaurants and bars, limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and work and engage in schooling from home when possible.  Airlines say they will need a $50 billion bailout as signs of how serious an economic crisis is resulting from the coronavirus become more apparent.  

BH: The Bahamas Department of Corrections suspends visitations, commissary and all public activities.  The Braemar cruise ship, with over 600 passengers who have been stranded at sea for weeks with infected passengers aboard, is redirected to Cuba where passengers will be flown home through a Cuban airport.

PR: Phillip and I start to seriously consider sailing as the most reliable option for us to get home without being quarantined or otherwise locked down or exposed to great numbers of potentially infected people at the airport.  Ironically, as soon as we start to truly embrace the idea and start testing all systems for an offshore passage, we find the batteries are showing their age (seven years) and not holding a sufficient voltage (12.3 or lower) soon after being removed from shore power.  We set our goal the following day on determining whether we can acquire new batteries and replace the battery bank ourselves in Spanish Wells in time to take advantage of a favorable window the day after.

March 17

US:  With thousands in the hospitality and food industry filing for unemployment, the White House begins discussing direct payments to Americans to lessen the economic impact of the virus and tells GOP senators in a private meeting that unemployment could reach 20 percent without serious steps taken.  The number of cases reported in Florida is 166, and the U.S. death toll from the virus hits 100.  Florida’s Governor orders all bars and nightclubs be shut down state-wide.

BH: Governor General CA Smith signs a proclamation declaring a public state of emergency.

PR: I receive a text from my niece, who is in her first year of college at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, telling me she and her fellow students will not return to class until at least mid-April.  The Plaintiff’s Rest crew is now fully committed to sailing home in light of the rapidly-changing pandemic situation.  Thankfully, we find a marine service center in Spanish Wells that promises to be able to have four new 6-volt golf-cart batteries sent over by boat the following morning (March 18th) so we can install them on the boat and leave the next day (March 19th) under a good weather window of light east winds. With the shut-down of all bars back home, we hit up Wreckers again and again, knowing it may be the last restaurant we eat at for months.

March 18

US:  The Trump administration closes the U.S.-Canada border to nonessential traffic. Trump invokes the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of medical equipment in a worst-case scenario.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Federal Housing Finance Agency suspend foreclosures and evictions. By mid-afternoon the Dow has erased all of the gains since Trump took office.  

BH: Governor General C.A. Smith declares a state of public emergency in the Bahamas due to the presence of COVID-19 in the country. Two more cases are confirmed in the Bahamas.

PR: Phillip and I squeal when we see a golf cart pull up to our slip that morning to drop off four new batteries for the boat.  We tackle the install and squeal, again, to see the new batteries holding better than the old bank already with their off-the-shelf only charge.  We make one last provision run to the store.  In Spanish Wells, people (tourists mostly) are starting to buy and hoard toilet paper and paper towels.  We buy one extra pack of each just to be safe, along with a slew of non-perishable provisions for our passage.

March 19

US: The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  Cases in the U.S. top 10,000 as the virus quickly spreads. Trump says the FDA is accelerating testing of treatments for the coronavirus. The State Department urges American citizens to avoid traveling internationally. California directs residents to stay in their homes.  Weekly jobless claims jump by 70,000 in the wake of thousands of restaurant, bar, gym and other business closings.  

BH: U.S. citizens who are abroad are advised to arrange for immediate return to the U.S., unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  Many airlines cancel international flights. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announces emergency orders activating partial nationwide shutdown and nightly curfew.

PR: Plaintiff’s Rest gets the heck out of dodge!  Our first day under sail from Spanish Wells to the Great Bahamas Bank is, thankfully, a fantastic, easy downwind run. 

March 20

US: The Trump administration closes the U.S.-Mexico border to nonessential travel. Governors in New York and Illinois urge residents to stay home.  The Treasury Department pushes back the tax deadline from April 15 to July 15.  There are now 563 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida.  Florida’s Governor orders all restaurants to switch to take-out and delivery only.

BH: The Prime Minister announces a 9pm to 5am curfew, restrictions on private gatherings, and closure of most in-person businesses, with limited hours for food stores and farmers’ markets, pharmacies, gas stations, laundromats, banks, construction, and restaurants (limited to take-out only).

PR: Phillip and I sail beautifully across the Bahamas Bank and enter the Gulf Stream around sunset with plans to cross the Stream overnight and drop the hook somewhere in/near the Keys the following day.

March 21

US: The FDA approves the first “point of care” test for the coronavirus that can generate results in about 45 minutes.  The news tells us 706 cases have been confirmed in Florida, with twelve deaths reported statewide. 

BH: I hear from a fellow cruiser via Facebook Messenger that they are in the Exuma islands staying distant from other cruisers but they are grateful to be able to go ashore on the uninhabited islands just to be able to walk around and get some exercise.

PR: As soon as we gain signal after the Gulf Stream, Phillip receives an email from Delta advising our flights from Nassau to Atlanta and home have been cancelled.  A friend texts us and tells us the Florida Keys have banned all incoming travel and that the marinas are shut down to transients.  I find I’ve never felt more grateful to have a capable boat and ground tackle that enabled us to continue moving safely toward home, even while distancing.

We text a friend (shout-out to Russell and Lynn!) who sends us directions for a little anchorage just after the Channel 5 Bridge near Marathon called “Jew Fish Hole.”  After a two and a half-day voyage from the Bahamas, Phillip and I are thrilled to be stopped and secure for the night.  So thrilled it doesn’t bother us, too much, that the auto-pilot gave us trouble all day, frequently letting go and crying out “rudder response failure.”  With no visible issues or bad connections, we feared the computer was simply going out and faced the reality that we would likely have to hand-steer the boat home.  Knowing that, our plans then changed from a five or three-day passage mostly offshore, we decided to do day-hops as much as possible to avoid exhaustion from hand-steering.  Phillip set his alarm to rise early the following day so we could motor our way up to Shark River.

March 22

US:  Trump mobilizes the National Guard and says makeshift medical facilities will be built in New York, California and Washington, the three states hit hardest at the time by the outbreak. We learn all state parks in Florida, including many beaches, have been closed. 

BH: Health officials announce they have tested 117 people in the Bahamas for the virus.

PR: Phillip and I set a schedule for hand-steering shifts and spend the day dodging crab pods and making our way through Yacht Channel and up the ICW.  Shark River was another new anchorage we had heard good things about but had never tried, although we had also been warned the bugs there come in alien-like swarms. “They are huge, angry, and hunt in packs.  You will not survive without screens,” one friend told us.  While we do have screens, when the bugs started to mount in the cockpit as we simply approachedthe mouth of the river, Phillip and I decided to stay further out, to avoid the swarms and to keep us closer to our track the following morning.  Thankfully, no bugs or cruisers were harmed during our visit.

March 23

US:  Total confirmed cases in the U.S. reach 82,404—the highest in the world—surpassing China’s 81,782 and Italy’s 80,589.  Trump announces FEMA was providing aid to the states, saying 73 pallets of personal protective equipment had been shipped to New York City. 

BH: Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced a 24-hour curfew and border shutdown among additional measures that expand the emergency powers regulations.

PR: Phillip and I weigh anchor at dawn and motor-sail our way up to Naples.  We say several times during this trip how grateful we have been for calm, sunny weather. Although we are having to motor a good bit, it at least allows us to make way everyday and inch closer to home without being pinned up anywhere (that would likely be shut down for isolation) waiting on the weather.  Phillip and I also love this little anchorage nook in Naples because it is a very easy in-and-out via a well-marked channel.  It is also nice to nestle in among the rich and wealthy, without having to be one!  The height and scale of some of the yachts here, as well as their pool statues never ceases to surprise me.  

March 24

US:  Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee agree to postpone the Olympics until 2021 in light of the outbreak.  Worldwide cases of COVID-19 surpass 400,000.  Confirmed cases in the U.S. rise to 25,665. Miami-Dade, Alachua, and Orange Counties in Florida issue stay-at-home orders.

BH: All ports of entry are closed to pleasure yachts. A fifth COVID-19 case is confirmed on Grand Bahama. The patient has no relevant travel history.

US: We weigh anchor under a dazzling pink sunrise in Naples.  Captain Annie has the brilliant idea to leave early (4:00 a.m.) to ensure we make it all the way to Cayo Costa before sunset, but I forgot about the damn crab pods in south Florida.  It was a horrendous shift for me 4:00 to 6:00 a.m. hand-steering in the dark while trying to spot those stupid floating bombs in the water.  I have never been happier for sunlight and my shift to be over that morning.  I hate crab pods!

March 25

US:  The White House and Senate leaders reach an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus deal to offset the economic damage of coronavirus, one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures in the history of Congress.  The UN launches a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan to assist vulnerable countries in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.  The first case of COVID-19 is reported in the British Virgin Islands. 

BH: Traveler health questionnaires and a screening protocol is implemented at ports, hotels, and rental properties to identify guests who may require surveillance or treatment.

PR: The sun is a blazing pink ball rising as we lift the anchor and begin our leg from Cayo Costa up to Venice, Florida. We are grateful to speak to the harbor master on the phone and learn they are open for business and accepting transients.  While we definitely could have continued hopping along toward home, without sufficient wind to sail, we would not have had enough gas to motor the rest of the way, and we wanted to change the engine oil.  “Westie,” what we call our Westerbeke engine, was running up on 60 hours at that point, and we did not want to set off on another potential 30-40 hours of motoring home without giving him fresh oil.  So, knowing Venice would afford us safe dockage, hot showers, laundry, and a complete top-off of all supplies was very comforting.  

We were also able to successfully check back into the U.S. via the Small Vessel Reporting App while underway, which was a huge comfort getting that last step behind us without having to set foot in an airport or a crowd. The trip that day was also a nice run up the ICW. The occasional ill-timed bridge opening was the only annoyance, but on the bright side, it allowed me some exceptional opportunities to work on my boat maneuvering skills in tight places. We (I!) docked in the early afternoon, allowing us time to wash the boat before calling in some Carrabba’s via Uber Eats for dinner!

March 26

US:  Italy reports the highest single-day death toll for any country of 919.  Confirmed cases in New York rise to 37,258.  Cases in the U.S. surpass those in China and Italy—making it the new epicenter of the pandemic.  Anguilla reports its first cases of COVID-19. 

BH: Four additional cases are confirmed on New Providence, bringing the total number of cases to nine. Health officials say country experiencing a “surge.”

PR: It is a full day for us in Venice, changing Westie’s oil, dumping the fuel jerries into the tank and walking them to the dock for a re-fill, washing everything possible on the boat, and getting an Uber around town to provision up on food, oil, and antifreeze.  The grocery store is a bit haunting seeing folks in masks and gloves, wiping down all of the carts before handing them to you, and so much white empty space on the shelves, particularly the you-know-what aisle.  We crash back at the boat as the sun sets and order up another Uber Eats from Papa John’s.

March 27

US:  The news tells us more than one-third of humanity is under some form of lockdown.  The World Health Organization (“WHO”) announces that the first patients will shortly be enrolled in Norway and Spain in a trial called the Solidarity Trial, comparing the effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19. Across Florida, we learn 3,198 people have contracted the virus, 46 of whom died.

BH: The Bahamas go into “lockdown.” Any cruiser on a boat in the Bahamas is allowed to stay until their visa expires, however, they are only permitted to go ashore for essentials like fuel, medical, or food. Any cruiser ashore after 9:00 p.m. can be arrested by the Bahamian Police. Bars, liquor stores, some marinas and restaurants are closed; cruisers must call ahead. There are now nine cases in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama.

PR: We’re off the dock early headed up the ICW to DeSoto Point, an anchorage we had never been to before but had always wanted to try.  Phillip and I find ourselves uncovering many little silver linings like this along the way. Hand-steering is tiring, but it proves very do-able for short day hops.  After navigating some frighteningly intense fog in the morning while trying to time the bridges, we make it to DeSoto in the early afternoon and drop the hook. Phillip and I give our baby girl a quick bottom job to speed us up for our anticipated 30-hour passage offshore to Apalachicola. 

March 28

US:  The Zaandamn cruise ship, which had over 130 passengers with flu-like symptoms aboard and two reported COVID-19 deaths, had been out to sea for two weeks and denied access to various ports is permitted to cross the Panama Canal and proceed to Florida for dockage and quarantine.  We learn New York is now being considered the epicenter of the pandemic with over 700 cases and 12% of the workforce sick. Trump recommends a strong travel ban on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

BH: A 35-year-old woman with no recent travel history tested positive for COVID-19 on Grand Bahama.

PR: Phillip and I rise early and head off at sunset to make our way up to Clearwater to stage up for our offshore crossing.  Motor-sailing into Clearwater proves anything but boring as scores of boaters of all shapes and sizes zip and whizz around us in the channel, while thirteen knots of breeze tries to push us out of it.  It was very telling, though, that many people were using boating as an escape from being cooped up in their houses.  There were scores of people out!  But, the traffic finally settled out around sunset and the rolling ceased, allowing Phillip and I to fall fast asleep on the hook, eager to get our longest, likely most arduous offshore passage started and behind us.  While the trip definitely offered us a fair amount of fun and enjoyable moments, it also felt like a marathon as we pushed each day to go as far as we safely could.  Typically when we are cruising we stay longer at certain places.  We rest, and explore, and don’t wear ourselves out as much, but this trip was definitely different in that we had to, every day possible, keep going, keep working, keep the boat moving toward home. 

March 29

US:  Trump extends the federal guidelines on social distancing for another 30 days after a top public health expert warned deaths from the coronavirus could reach as many as 200,000 in the U.S.  We learn the virus count in Florida is 4,950, with a current death toll of 60.  Friends from home send us reports of continued closures of restaurants and businesses. They gripe about having the kids home 24/7 and tell us downtown Pensacola looks eerily desolate, but that the anchorages are full and cheery.

BH: Three more cases are confirmed in New Providence. We hear from fellow cruisers in Eleuthera that they made it safely to Cape Eleuthera Marina and have been able to get provisions, but they advise us Great Harbour Cay is not permitting any cruisers to leave their vessels.

PR: Phillip and I weigh anchor around 6:00 a.m. and start our first offshore leg of this voyage without an auto-pilot. With very little wind, we are reliant primarily upon our engine, which makes me nervous as I always fear something can easily go wrong there, just as it did when we were trying to make it to the BVIs.  Any slight beep or knock or odd sound makes me jump in fear that the engine is breaking. But, Westie holds strong and motors an impressive 34 hours all the way across.  Other than navigating a few Behemoth ships during our night shifts, we have a nice run but find ourselves sore throughout our backs, arms, and shoulders from the steering.

March 30

US:  Florida’s Governor asks retired first responders and health-care workers to return to the workforce as hospitals are anticipating becoming overwhelmed with virus victims.  The Department of Education announces that in-person classes will not resume in Florida schools until at least May 1st.  

BH: Returning Bahamian residents must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon re-entry if they have traveled to other countries. The islands are closed to all tourists.

PR: We watch the sun rise over Dog Island as we make the East Pass the following morning and listen to a bit on NPR about how many thousands of people are watching the movie Contagion right now and spend the day motoring from the East Pass into Apalachicola, thankful that Westie is still running so strong and steady, and tie up at the City Dock around 5:00 p.m.  We look for signs to see if dockage is prohibited but see none and we receive friendly greetings from residents, further than six feet away, who are walking about. Feeling as though we will be able to stay, Phillip and I further secure the lines knowing a hard north wind will be coming through in the following days.  We’re grateful, however, that it will be blowing us off the dock, rather than onto it. However, our good luck proves short-lived when we get a knock on the hull later that evening telling us we have to leave the dock due to isolation orders.  While we completely understood the reason, being banished to the river with storm-winds of potentially 40+ coming the next day was not a happy moment for this crew.  We dropped 175 feet of chain with our Mantus snubber and hoped for the best.

March 31

US:  We learn there has been another jump in Florida cases, which now total 6,741 with 85 deaths.  Sumter County issues a stay-at-home advisory.  We hear hospitals are running out of sedation drugs needed to intubate COVID-19 patients.  Over 80% of the U.S., more than 262 million citizens, are under stay-at-home orders. 

BH: A new case of COVID-19 brings the total number of cases on Grand Bahama to three.

PR: A different kind of storm is brewing over our heads where we wait on anchor in the Apalachicola River for the winds to build.  I spend the afternoon in the cockpit watching the wind gage, the anchor, and the snubber, as the boat heels, groans, and careens on anchor.  It is not a pleasant afternoon on the boat.  However, the highest wind speed we see is 36 knots, and our ground tackle proves up to the task.  We are still very pleased with our decision to purchase the Sarca Excelanchor.  The storm finally passes around 5:00 p.m. and we immediately begin happy hour celebrations.  We spend a cozy evening on the hook  and set the alarm for an early rise and motor up “the ditch” the following day over to Port St. Joe.  We are surprised to find a tiny little marina, Captain’s Cove Marina in the ditch, is still open for business, so we set our sights there.  Sadly, we heard Port St. Joe Marina, which used to be one of our favorites, was wiped out by Hurricane Michael and has not yet been rebuilt.

April 1

US:  Florida’s Governor, although reluctant to do so, issues a statewide stay-at-home order that is set to go into effect on midnight of the evening of April 2nd, the night we expect to arrive in Pensacola. 

BH: Six new cases are confirmed in New Providence. A report from Staniel Cay advises no travel is permitted between the islands except for emergencies.

PR: I think Sleepy River would be a better name than “the ditch” for this part of the river.  It makes you feel like you’re floating along like Huckleberry Finn would have done on his little raft.  It really is a beautiful river.  Unfortunately, the winds are still blowing 18-25 most of the morning and sometimes, working against both the current and the wind, our boat can only make 2-2.5 knots, a slightly scary speed when you’re motoring a tight channel. But, the current finally loosened its grip when we turned a bend in the river, and we were able to then make good speed of 4-5 knots.  We tied up at Captain’s Cove Marina around 4:00 p.m. and were happy to find fuel, simple but operational hot showers, even ice.  It’s the little things, you know?  We set our alarms for another early rise anticipating an 18-24 hour offshore run from St. Joseph Bay home.

April 2

US:  Ironically, the U.S. is now getting large shipments of masks and other personal protective equipment from China as the Chinese were thankfully able to beat the curve and are beginning to recover.  Total COVID-19 cases in the world surpasses one million. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is telling us on NPR how to sanitize our groceries, which only tells us just how really weird things are going to be back home.

BH: All boaters are to remain on board their vessels. If provisions are required, they are instructed to contact local grocery stores for delivery to the nearest dock. We hear reports locals in Spanish Wells have been instructed to watch for cruisers leaving their boats and going ashore and to report them to the Bahamian Police. No domestic travel by plane or boat is permitted within the Bahamas. Three more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in the Bahamas, the youngest is nine years old.

PR: Phillip and have a very real fear we could be stopped in Pensacola Bay while coming in and sent away or sent to a quarantine, or forced to endure some other outcome we couldn’t even predict at that point.  We are hopeful, however, that the “worst” thing that could happen is they tell us to dock and go straight home to quarantine.  That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do for weeks, so we considered that to be a potentially great outcome.  

We shove off the teensy dock at Captain’s Cove Marina around 6:00 a.m. and begin motoring out into the St. Joseph Bay. Thankfully, the wind allows us to motor-sail and make 6.5 knots average throughout the morning.  It dies off in the afternoon and into the evening as we hand-steer and continue under motor.  Phillip whips up a chorizo jumbalaya dinner that we eat under red head lamps and settle into hour-long steering shifts expecting to get to the Pensacola Pass around midnight or 2:00 a.m.  Although the news reports continue to make home seem like a new frontier, Phillip and I cannot wait to get there after a long day offshore with still a long night ahead. 

April 3

US:  We learn Florida’s case-rate is 10,268 total cases with 170 deaths.  The global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is now estimated to be between $2 and $4 trillion, that is if the pandemic is contained by the end of September. The United States now has the highest number of cases in the world, over 245,000.

BH: The Prime Minister’s Order is interpreted by cruisers to mean once your visa expires, you are to leave Bahamian waters. There will be no extensions. In the coming days we hear cruisers trying to go ashore for provisions are being stopped by un-uniformed “Bahamian Police” and sent back to their vessels. We also learn that of the few grocery stores that remain open, many have implemented a schedule where you can only enter during certain hours according to your last name and ID must be shown and checked at the door.

PR: Phillip and I see the masts of our friends who are anchored up at Ft. McRee as we come in and, while it feels good to be in familiar waters, we both know we are actually in probably the most unfamiliar waters we’ve ever been in before with the current state of things.  However, we are thrilled to see our marina on the horizon and find no other boats, no Coast Guard vessels, no Fish and Wildlife, no one out there to stop us. We motor in and dock in our designated slip under the black of night.  Phillip and I walk home in our foul weather gear probably looking like we’ve donned haz-mat suits in light of the epidemic, which may not be a bad idea.  We see no one, and we’re grateful for it.  With that arduous journey behind us, we sleep the sleep of Gods even as the sun rises over a new day.  While we have no idea what lies in store for the remainder of this year, particularly with respect to travel, I have never felt more grateful to simply have the boat safely in our fold, with the two of us healthy and back home.  

The entire state of Florida goes under a complete lockdown the night we arrive.

We hope you all are staying safe and well out there.