When countries locked down because of COVID-19, thousands of cruisers were stranded. We hear some of their stories
Locked down in Bonaire
by Kate Hall
It is amazing what can happen to the world in four days. That’s how long it took us to sail from Antigua to the ABC Islands. We were on our way towards the Panama Canal and in the four days we were at sea without internet, everything had changed. We arrived late on a Saturday evening, Customs was closed, so we moored up quietly and collapsed into bed. Next morning, we were stamped in, but informed that the borders were shutting that day. We had only just made it.
Fast-forward to March, and we have been in Bonaire for two months. We are unable to arrive in any other country or even leave this one: we are trapped in paradise. We are in a foreign country without television, with a language barrier, and limited internet access. Trying to explain it to our boys, aged eight and six, is hard. There are two children aboard a yacht nearby who look of a similar age to ours, as we see them swinging from a bosun’s chair. “Can we play with them please”? No, they can’t leave their boat. “Why, Mummy?” The questions go on.
We are lucky and have been able to go ashore and explore. It is sunny and hot every single day. There are a few things to keep you grounded: the incessant mosquitos and sand flies that seem to bite all day long. The searing temperatures and high humidity are harder to bear in a small, confined space when you are not at sea with constant breeze.
But we have been able to get on with some tasks on our never-ending to-do list. I’ve also managed to blitz home schooling and catch up on the many days missed during sailing passages where no one felt like reading or writing.
Yet as the days morph into weeks and months our dream of sailing around the world in two years is slipping away. We should be in the Marquesas now, 5,000 miles west. Each day we try and work out where we could go. Could we get through Panama?
When is lightning/hurricane/cyclone season for each location? It’s a 3D puzzle that continually moves. Meanwhile, we are stuck in a marina unable to leave. Our income from our holiday rental has dried up too. So we are spending money just to stay put, with no end in sight.
Currently our options are limited. We could feasibly sail back to Britain non-stop but the first 1,000 miles would be into the wind, we have two children on board and therefore would be sailing short-handed. So this is not an option for us.
Because of the looming Caribbean hurricane season, we need to stay south of 12°N, which leaves us with Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and part of Costa Rica, all of which are currently closed to new arrivals, except for Panama (which requires 14 days quarantine). All are under strict lockdown and curfews. So, for now at least, we are stuck in paradise.
Kate and her family have since sailed round Bocas del Toro and are currently in Shelter Bay marina awaiting for their slot to transit the Panama canal. You can follow their ongoing adventures on their blog Halls Aboard.