|Division Belle with her wreath and Christmas lights|
One would think that traveling on a boat like ours would be the perfect way to quarantine and stay safe, but it has turned out to be a very difficult year for boating. It started when we headed south in January, bound for the Bahamas. Our idea was to get the boat into the Exumas in the southern part of the Bahamas, and fly down for several two-week stays during the spring. Given our two beloved dogs and the Lovely Laura Lee's work, we need to be able to travel back and forth to wherever the boat is located.
Things did not go as planned. Weather was uncooperative for ocean travel on the way south and we were mostly confined to the Intracoastal Waterway. The boat was left at a boatyard in Jacksonville for about two weeks for some minor repairs, and at a marina in Stuart for most of a month we needed to be at home. We finally reached Fort Lauderdale near the end of February. Without good weather to cross to Bimini, my bride came home and I finally got an acceptable but rough crossing day to Bimini with a hired mate on March 4. I left the boat at Brown's Marina in Bimini, took a small seaplane back to Fort Lauderdale, and drove home in a rental car. In those days, it was all about wiping things down and using hand sanitizer. Covid 19 was not thought to be transmitted through the air.
As March progressed, lockdowns and travel restrictions began to be implemented. Everyone recommended no unnecessary travel, and by the end of March the Bahamas had closed their borders, meaning I could not get there to return the boat to the US. It was July first when we were finally allowed to re-enter the country and depart on our boat the next day. By mid-July the borders were closed again, so we were fortunate to get out of there. The boat was a little worse for wear, but we have gradually been getting her back in good shape.
We had a good trip back up the east coast in July, and in September we took the boat up to the Oriental, NC area where we spent some time before heading back home with her. But some things have changed for us about cruising because of the pandemic. For one, we always enjoyed stops where we could walk around and go out to dinner. Now we only dine at restaurants with spacious outdoor dining where the staff wears masks, or we get takeout food and eat on the boat. Second, because of our need to get home and back to the boat, we will now only venture as far as we can go and rent a car back home in some sort of reasonable driving time. River Dunes near Oriental was about the northern limit and was a 6 1/2 hour drive from home. In the coming year we are considering a cruise up the St. Johns River from Jacksonville, and perhaps taking the boat to the west coast of Florida within some kind of reasonable driving distance. Thoughts of the Chesapeake Bay or New England in summer or the Bahamas in winter are banished for now.
As the year comes to a close and the holiday season is upon us, we are mindful of how fortunate we are and how many individuals have lost their lives, their loved ones, or have suffered medical or economic distress from this pandemic. We are doing what we can and we urge everyone to support the organizations of your choice that are assisting the most vulnerable among us.
Our best wishes to you all for a joyous holiday season and a happier new year than this one has been.