Sailing Through a Pandemic

I’ve always been paranoid about having three things go wrong in quick succession. Having one or two things fail on you is usually recoverable. You can make do with sails while you repair the engine. You can continue on just the main sail if the genoa gets shredded while you were dealing with the engine. But troubles seem to compound exponentially once a third thing goes wrong. That’s when sea stories tend to take a very dark turn. So, I try very hard to keep the count of troubles down to one at a time. For the foreseeable future, count one is the pandemic and the various disruptions, shortages, fears and losses it will leave in its wake. I need to figure things out before we get to count three.

A good sailor takes into account all sorts of different possibilities and tries to have response plans ready for most any contingency. Unfortunately, while we were thinking through our safety systems, installing propane sniffers and bilge alarms, taking first aid courses and practicing man-overboard maneuvers, we simply forgot to consider the possibility of a global pandemic. Clearly, it was a gaping hole in our planning!

On the one hand, a boat in the Bahamas must be among the best places to avoid getting infected by the new, nasty corona virus. It’s extremely easy for us to go days at a time without coming within 20′ of another person. Our house is literally spinning in a circle that is 120′ wide, discouraging others from getting too close. We were hoarders long before it was trending. We keep several weeks of meals in our stores. We generate our own power. We can and do go days at a time without touching shore or coming within a hundred feet of anyone. And when we do go ashore, it’s generally to an isolated little village for some fresh food, or an empty bit of beach for a stretch. We encounter very few people and can encounter even fewer than normal without changing much about our current lifestyle.

However, there’s more to consider than just our social distancing abilities. What about health care treatment at a time when such services are in high demand? What about the costs of health care, both here and, worse still, in the US? What about food and fuel? Will supply chains fall apart and leave the Bahamas without adequate supplies? And what about taking our boat back through the US? Should we be rushing home, waiting it out here, or holding fast to our plan of returning in a month or so? I have absolutely no idea. I’m hoping that by writing this post, some things will crystalize. Until then, do you mind if I just keep rambling a bit? Thanks!

Traveling through the USA during a time of heightened fear and diminished norms scares me as much as a hurricane season in the Bahamas. I’m sure the US will eventually figure a technological miracle cure, but that will take time. And until then, spending months in a country that already seems to be lagging behind most in testing and dealing with the issue seems like a bad idea. While navigating a pandemic, the qualities I’m looking for in a country are not rugged individualism, a disdain for governments, the world’s most inflated health care costs, and a throbbing hard-on for gun rights. No, I’d much rather be spending part-one of the apocalypse in a country that values social cohesion and good governance – boring though they may be. How about Norway? Unfortunately, the route from Bahamas to Canada via Norway is just not an option.

Today, grocery stores in Eleuthera were filled and parking lots overflowing as people stocked up. All were in good spirits and as friendly and gracious as ever, though.

Staying in the the Bahamas is also kinda scary. Although the combined odds of getting the virus and then getting sick enough to require care are very low, the odds of getting good respiratory care in the Bahamas at a time of high demand are also very low. More likely, we will not get the virus here or not get severely affected by it. But there are other things to consider about staying. Food here is delivered weekly. Ships and trucks arrive in Florida, then a ship travels over to Nassau and unloads food to smaller boats that make their weekly runs to the various islands. It wouldn’t take much to disrupt the supply chain and leave the smaller islands with little or nothing. The same applies to fuel. We could stay and find ourselves enduring some sort of army rations delivered via parachute – if we are lucky. And then there’s the impending hurricane season. Yeesh!

Okay, so what are options? What are the up and downsides of each? Let’s try a poorly formatted WordPress table:

Put the boat on the hard in Bahamas. We can sail to Freeport, about 200 miles from our current location and hire a marina to put the boat onto the hard. They actually dig a hole and put the keel into the hole to help protect from storm damage. From there we can get a flight to Nassau and a flight to Toronto. (At least, these seem to still be available options.)Gets us nearer to our loved ones soonest. Relatively quick and painless. Gets us back home fastest – maybe in 5 days or so. Leaves us with nowhere to live until end of May. Leaves the boat to rot in the sun. Leaves the boat in a hurricane zone. Costs thousands of dollars in storage fees, extra flights. Leaves me wondering how and when we will be reunited with our boat.
Sail to Florida and store and/or ship the boat. This was always a possibility of how the trip was going to end. It could take two weeks or more to get the boat to Florida. But it could be as few as three or four days. Gets us nearer to our loved ones sooner. Ensures we are not separated from our boat for too long. Leaves us with nowhere to live until the end of May or until the boat is delivered. Requires us to enter and exit the US before getting home. Exposes us to more people along the way. Exposes us to the risk of US health care costs. May require us to purchase a car since rental cars are probably going to be in great demand. Increases risk that Canada will close border entirely before we get it done.
Stay in Bahamas until mid-April, then decide. Although the Prime Minister made it clear that all Canadians should get home fast, I’m not sure he was considering a scenario like ours. Maybe it would be best to hold fast for a while, keeping the storing and shipping options open.Gives us more time to be worried in the Bahamas? Gives more time for things to settle down?Adds risks for being stuck in Bahamas and/or the US.

Although it might be that we could easily continue on and leave the Bahamas in mid-April as planned, and do so with reduced risks for us and, well, everyone, it’s going to be hard to continue enjoying life in the Bahamas. Once in Florida, it will be relatively easy to get ourselves reunited with the boat at some point in the not-so-distant future. We will look into both shipping and storing options. So, we will skedaddle back to Florida as quick as we can and figure out how to get the boat home from there.

Thanks for helping me think this through. I’m sorry to be calling a sudden halt to our adventures. And I’m sorry for all the stress and discomfort everyone is going through while we enjoy another beautiful sunset in the peace and tranquility of Eleuthera. We will keep you posted about our journey home. If you can recommend a place we can rent in Ontario from mid-April until the end of May, please let us know!

I look forward to seeing you all again, under circumstances that do not endanger anyone. We will all get through this! Hold Fast!


  1. Don’t forget to wash your hands and don’t touch your face! Don’t envy your return through the states, there’s a madman in charge there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Be careful of the US closing its borders to all none US citizens .

    Not sure how Canadians would fit into the mix but with crazy pants in charge, it would be something to consider.

    Personally, I think I would wait it out a bit down there .
    The tourists are going to begin to trickle down because of restricted air travel which will slow the spread in your area.

    Fyi. People here still dont get it.
    We came through Pearson last night from the Dominican to find more than 1/2 the airport staff without masks or gloves! So now the first diagnosis of a customs officer at Pearson is reported today. Duh!
    Didn’t they learn anything from the US when they were screening the first cases from China without proper equipment and as a result had many infected screening staff.

    Also. Fyi.
    You may want to ask Doug and Heather what they are doing these past few days since their return.


    • Hmmm. Intriguing, about D&H. There’s a certain logic for staying, for sure. But being far from so many people we care about is making it hard to enjoy being here. I blame all of you for wrecking my time in paradise. I go away for one year, and look what you guys have done to the planet. Geeze!


  3. It’s a dirty blow Thom b’y! Fate should be a whole lot kinder. I think you and Kath have made a very good decision, so head her for home and we’ll be cheering you on as we monitor your progress. Blessings!!


  4. So sad your great stories are coming to an end, but at least you are both still healthy and that matters more than anything else.We experienced a Caribbean hospital 24 years ago when our daughter got sick as a three year old. It was chaos and there were violent episodes inside the hospital when people waiting got impatient. That was a long time ago and there was no pandemic, but there was no toilet paper, no soap and the IV she needed was on a wooden post. Also, we did not see them open a steripak when they brought the IV needle so we made them get another one in a steripak and open it in front of us. They were not happy. So, safer here Thom and Kathleen.


  5. Hi Thom, as we face number of challenges getting back from our wintering in Progreso Mexico I can emphasize with your dilemma. Have you taken a look at going back to Charleston and holding there? There are various options for storage (in or out of water) in marinas on the Ashley River. It’s within reasonable accessibility range of Toronto
    Good luck – by the way we have a grand daughter who is caught in Peru where they have a complete lockdown – airports including – and the Canadian embassy just closed up!!


    • Thanks Tony, I wish you and your family Godspeed. We were going to travel about 30 miles today, but this seems like a good window for a long run, so we plan to sail through the night tonight. We considered various US places to stop, but I think we will truck the boat to Lake Ontario.


  6. Hey Thom/Kath,

    What a tough choice to have to make! So sorry to hear it. Mucho del suckio!

    So far all is calm in Mazatlan too. My flight is via AeroMexico around mid-April. I can’t get out any earlier than that as airlines aren’t responding to calls, website chats, etc. Personally I feel safer here but don’t know how it will be in a month. Easter is a huge gathering here with thousands of mexicans coming into town. I am hoping to leave just after it ends if my flight goes ahead. If I have to though, I have the support needed to shelter in place.

    Keep safe and remember the WHO recommendations I’ve been reading (no more picking friends noses and avoid smelling other peoples farts). I’m definitely following it.


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