Quick update on what Nomad has been up to and what life is like on a boat in the era of the epidemic. (*OK, 1 country, 2 territories)
Turks to Dominican Republic and the World Changes
A couple of weeks ago we left Turks and Caicos for what we thought would be a short stop in the DR. At the time, Corona wasn’t quite something people were taking seriously, and we were going about the world as we had been for the past 5 months. When we arrive in the DR, we stopped in a marina in Samana to check in to the country and refuel. As we pulled into the harbor we were awed by the beauty of the island and excited to explore. That desire, or at least ability to explore, soon faded. By the time we were ready to leave the marina, everything had changed. In the space of two days, the DR went from life as usual to complete lock down. The DR Navy was no longer permitting any movement of boats, we were asked not to leave the marina for any reason, and the mask and gloves came out for everyone.
Sheltering in Paradise
When you are at a marina with pools, a soccer court, a billiard room with good wifi, and many boat kids, it’s really hard to keep the littles on board, especially when the rest of the marina hasn’t quite realized the severity of the epidemic and the need to isolate. We really wanted to anchor out to get away from it all, but we were told that was not possible, and if we left, we would need to leave the country and never return, so we were stuck semi-quarantined until we could get out. Unfortunately, our next weather window was a week away. We waited out that miserable week watching “how to wash hands” videos sent by grandparents and counting the hours to our freedom at anchor somewhere remote. We called US Customs and Border Patrol daily, hoping the border in Puerto Rico wouldn’t shut down before we arrived.
We were relieved when the day came to go and the Dominican Republic and theport navy Commandante granted our our official “despacho,” or permission to leave, as sailors in some ports have been trapped with no option to leave.
It was sad to leave an otherwise delightful marina in a paradise-like setting ripe for exploration, but there are many things we will be trading off in this era of Covid 19, and getting to see much of the DR was one of them.
Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico – US waters at last!
We crossed the infamous Mona Passage uneventfully and arrived in Puerto Rico at sunrise on March 27th. This was, without a doubt, the best sunrise we have ever seen. It was such a relief to arrive into US waters – we felt free and safe and could finally breathe, or so we thought.
We figured that we couldn’t be forced to leave the island, given our nationalities. And we had some comfort and confidence that we could access flights back to the states if needed and have good friends who live on the island. We believed we could anchor where we wanted and stay away from everyone, at least for a self-quarantine couple of weeks while the world settled down.
Earthquakes and A Visit from the Cops
After provisioning, we settled into a lovely anchorage outside Guanica called “Gillians Island.” While we thought we had finally found that paradise – swimming, paddle boarding, using the looky bucket to spy on the critters in the mangroves – all was not as calm as we had hoped. On the first morning there was a 4.2 earthquake a couple kilometers away. And here we thought we had escaped earthquakes when we left the Bay area! If anyone is curious, an earthquake on a boat feels like a big whale has run into you.
On the first night the police hassled us a little, interrupting our buddy boat dinner, asking a lot of questions and checking our papers (again!). Then on the second night the police showed up at 9:30 and asked us to leave the anchorage immediately. The mayor had apparently just been empowered by the governor to change the laws at her will. We begged for some time since it was late and the sea conditions were less than ideal! Not getting a resolution, we defiantly turned off our lights and went to bed. The polic eventually left, but returned at dawn the next morning and hovered until we left.
We thought it was a single circumstance, so we moved on to Culebra only to get hassled 2 hours into our stay by a different official.
It turned out that each mayor was making their own rules, there was no coordination or oversight, and there was complete disregard for nationality – they just wanted everyone gone. It was clear it was time to go. So we did.
Sheltering in a better paradise
Luckily the US Virgin Islands were a 15 mile, 3-hour sail away. We happily arrived with no police or customs intervention of any sort. We didn’t even have to check in with Customs and Border Patrol since we were still in US territory. We were still on edge the first night, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The next morning we quickly gassed up and provisioned preparing for the worst (would we be forced to sail back to the US mainland?) and sought shelter in the next bay over.
So far, we have had two delightful days in paradise. Thanks to the sailing community we got a lead on the perfect, well protected anchorage and we are finally relaxed in paradise – swimming, snorkeling, exploring (after morning homeschooling of course), and falling asleep in a gentle roll at anchor.
More to come in a future post on what’s next. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!
NB – The header photo is the best one we had of the Puerto Rican police for the blog, but this is actually a shot of the one police boat that was super gracious when we first arrived. They were great hosts, welcoming us to Puerto Rico and giving us tips on where to go. We wanted to make sure we noted that, and we thank them for their hospitality.