The Great Escape

Covid-19 dramatically changes our end-of-season plans

Judging by the number of messages we’re getting, it’s already time for another update! Grab a glass of something—this is going to be a long one.

Things are changing quickly, including our plans.

Here is what the days have looked like since our last post:

THURSDAY

As planned, we left the Tobago Cays Thursday morning and headed straight to Union Island to clear out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. On a mission, we dodged boat boys peddling mooring balls at exorbitant prics, and instead anchored in Clifton. We cleared out, bought bread, and were on our way in less than an hour. Surprisingly, Customs was pretty much empty.

We arrived in Carriacou, which is part of Grenada, at noon. After lunch, we headed straight to Customs, where we first underwent a “health inspection”. This entailed a nurse asking us questions about where we’d been in the last few months, and taking our temperature using a digital no-contact thermometer pointed at our foreheads. We cleared in without issue, but were told by the customs officer that all boaters who had been to Martinique recently were being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Since this applied to us, we asked about things like getting groceries, and were told that one person could go ashore to get groceries. We were also informed that the Coast Guard would be doing periodic checks to ensure people were respecting the quarantine so we had better be on board.

Our next stop was obviously the grocery store, where we bought everything we would need in case we wouldn’t be able to get off the boat for another 2 weeks.

We then settled in for two weeks of isolation aboard Ar Sgrail.

FRIDAY

We woke up to hear that a mandatory quarantine would apply to all boaters entering Carriacou as of that day, regardless of where they had come from. Things were changing rapidly. Every day, another island went on lockdown and shut their borders. We debated taking three days to sail back to St. Martin, where at least we would be surrounded by friends while waiting for our flight to leave in a month. But then Air Transat sent us a message saying that our April 25 flight from St. Martin would now be leaving…the next day. Obviously, we weren’t going to make it. So we decided that staying put would be our best bet.

The ever-growing list of islands we couldn’t go to

SATURDAY

The borders were officially closed. Boaters would no longer be admitted to Grenada or Carriacou. We sat in the cockpit and watched the Coast Guard, armed with rifles, go from boat to boat. For some reason they skipped us, but our neighbours said they were told that all boaters, regardless of how long they had been here, were now to remain on board until further notice. Later on, this somewhat confusing notice was handed out with a list of businesses that would deliver supplies to boats.

This notice was hand-delivered to all boats on Saturday

With things deteriorating quickly, we debated putting the boat up in Carriacou or Grenada and flying home early. On the one hand, we wanted to be closer to family during this craziness. On the other, it’s a very dangerous time to be travelling and we would be increasing our risk of exposure exponentially by being on shore after haulout, then being in enclosed, germ-filled spaces like taxis, airports and airplanes. We would also need to quarantine ourselves for yet another two weeks upon arriving home. Nonetheless, Air Canada still had four planes flying out of Grenada up until March 31, so we began researching our options.

SUNDAY

Sunday, the decision was made for us when it was announced that the airport would be closed as of midnight the next day. This was a result of Grenada’s first coronavirus case, which was announced at the same time. In the end, the airport was closed Sunday night anyway.

Notice that flights to Canada are cancelled

So there it was: we would be down here for the foreseeable future. At least we were well stocked. We knew it could be a matter of months, not weeks, so we were glad we had made it this far south—outside of the hurricane zone, with hurricane season only months away.

MONDAY

Despite feeling “stuck”, we were determined to stay positive and use this time constructively. Mel started daily meditation and ukulele practice. She made banana muffins and David baked beer bread. He also went to and from the water dock three times to fill the boat with water using his handy dandy portable roll-up water tank in the dinghy, which holds 100 L, and then did four loads of laundry by hand. We read lots, and cleaned lots.

Then, Monday evening, we received an email from the Canadian Consulate down here, saying that despite the airport closure, Air Canada flights would be repatriating Canadians until the end of the month. We quickly determined that we wanted to be on one of those flights. It would be a month earlier than we planned, but we would rather come home early than not at all. We booked seats for March 31 and made arrangements for boat storage for the summer. This was complicated by marinas enforcing a 2-week quarantine for boats before hauling them. Since we don’t have the luxury of time, Ar Sgrail will stay in the water on a mooring ball with guardianship this summer. This was the right call, since all the marinas ended up closing the day before our flight.

WEDNESDAY

We got another scare, in the form of another email from the Canadian Consulate saying that because things were changing so quickly, they could not guarantee that the remaining flights would be permitted to leave. So we decided to move up our timeline and get seats on Saturday’s flight (the 28th), giving us three days to sail down to Grenada, get on the mooring, pack up and close the boat down for the season.

Email from the Consulate

It’s been over a week of highs and lows for everyone, and we are no exception. A part of us is sad to be leaving early, but mostly we are relieved to be going home. This thing may last a while, and we want to be closer to friends and family (even if we won’t be able to see them for a few weeks).

Boat in packing mode

I would like to take a moment to say how grateful we are to have good, steady internet during this time (thank you, Digicel!). It has been so necessary to keep apprised of all the developments and make arrangements, but also for keeping in touch with all of you. Thank you for reaching out and checking in.

SATURDAY

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well for us and we make it back! This is being sent from the airport in Grenada so it’s looking good. See you on the other side.

David sports the latest covid fashion

Sunday update: Made it home!!

13 thoughts on “The Great Escape

  1. Okay, great to hear! I have to say that I’ve been thinking of your guys often. I will come by and drop off some stuff at your door on Thursday (when I’m in the area anyway)… I’ll email you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We hope you made the flight, we came home early as well, Thursday the19th, we were in self isolation, which was only strongly suggested. Now it’s mandatory as some people weren’t isolating.
    Will hopefully be able to catch up from a distance soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’re counting down the days! Wish we could at least go for walks, but we’ll have to be content with walking around our backyard for now. It’s not that nice out anyway. Virtual sundowners soon!

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  3. Very happy to hear that your both healthy. Hope the trip home isn’t too bad. Just stay as safe as you can.
    Hope to see you on the other side 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We wore mask and gloves the whole time. Apparently they have put hospital-grade air filters on all the planes so it may have been overkill, but better safe than sorry! Overall the trip home was fine, though the late-night drive home from Toronto was long and tiring. Happy to be home!

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  4. Oh, we were just talking about you guys minutes before I read the update! I was telling Feng that apparently, you’d be staying put (by choice and probably forced to because of border closures). Glad to hear you’re on your way back, sounds like the safest option.

    On the plus side, Ottawa looks deceptively normal. On the downside… everything else? 😆

    Send me a text when you get home safely, I’ll be able to provide groceries soon since my own self-isolation is almost over (and I’m fine, really…).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your story is just like ours and many others. We managed to get our boat on the Hard at Clarkes Court and fly out on the 1st of 4 Rescue flights made by Air Canada. Our Gov of Canada also informed us these flights were a go, then the next day said they weren’t.! We actually rented an apartment and went grocery shopping the first day of Airport closure and were prepared to hunker down in Grenada. Then the next day the Gov. of Canada said that indeed these 4 flights would still be flying. Ups and downs for sure! We got a refund less a day on our monthly apartment and gave away all our food to our cab drivers family and apartment owners. Our last bit of foreign aid before we flew away. Very emotional time being flown home. Everyone keeping their distance and wearing gloves and masks. We had 2 women in front of us on the plane who had purchased those little sample bottles of Island rum at the duty free. They gave Don and I both a bottle and we drank to our rescue to Canada. Shortly later the Captain announced that if anyone had duty free liquor with them that they must keep it in the overhead bins! Was he talking to us? Too late. Funny really. Anyways, glad to see the snow in Cochrane AB. We are well stocked up by family and staying home for the duration. We pray regularly to God for World healing. Stay safe wherever you are fellow sailors. This too shall pass. all the very best to you and yours Don & Fiona S/V FIDO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fiona and Don,
      Thanks for reading! Sounds like you had a similar story – you are lucky you were able to haul! All the mixed messages last week from the High Commission (and the rumour mill) were super confusing and made it hard to make plans. But it all worked out. And we definitely debated cracking our duty-free rum on the plane, but masks made tippling a challenge. Enjoy your time at home! Maybe we’ll see you in Grenada this fall 🙂

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