A post without a video….
Lennie and I were on the boat in January and February for two 9-day trips and we really enjoyed having the boat back in the Caribbean. We had been in cold water for 2 years on the west coast of North America and we were looking forward to spending a year in warm water for diving, and plenty of sailing and Rose’ infused adventures. With the cameras not rolling it’s just us doing what we love with each other. The outpouring of support from our wonderful YouTube followers gave us “permission” to just be us off the grid without the need to share each trip. You know we love the channel and love to teach and entertain, and this last six months without filming and editing has opened up a whole new world for me, with time to invest in other pursuits, and I am enjoying the break. We still plan on filming our trip across the Pacific Ocean whenever that happens as it is hard to plan now.
Well that sure went sideways
After our February trip, Lennie and I headed to Park City for a long weekend of skiing and the world changed. COVID-19 hit Washington State and everyone knew it was coming to them. When we landed in Salt Lake the airport was busy. When we left four days later it was empty. We came home Monday, and by Wednesday the NBA was cancelled and Tom and Rita Hanks were infected and the rest is history. Lennie and I are on the move a lot so sheltering in place was a pain for us but watching the pandemic explode with death and economic chaos was brutal. We didn’t really think about the boat at first because we knew it was safe at Nanny Cay Marina in Tortola. What we didn’t know was that we couldn’t get it out if we wanted to. The government of the BVI closed its borders to travel until Sept. 2nd. September 2nd??? How could they make that call when the US and Europe change their policies daily based on new data. The BVI wasn’t having any of it and said they are closed. Interesting side note – in a CNN.com cover story the BVI held the top spot for international GDP relying on tourism at 93%. These people will suffer without tourism but we know the government is doing their best to protect the health of their citizens. Now we know the risks of leaving your boat in another country in this strange new world.
Black Ops…..maybe not
Okay so after you realize the world isn’t coming to an end……how do we get our boat back. We started working on this at the end of March. First call to the marina went unanswered. They were closed. Next call to our boat manager, he was at home under lockdown. Who was looking after the boat? Was it tied up correctly? Was the power on? Was the water pump running….all these things started to bother us. Most importantly, our insurance coverage requires the boat to be south of 12.5 degrees (Grenada) by June! The uncertainty of not having answers added to the frustration at home with work and lockdown and everything going on there. We needed to get to the boat one way or another so we started our mission plans. First, we contacted the US Embassy in Barbados and wrote to the ambassador to explain our situation. They explained that there was nothing they could do. Next we reached out to every ministry in the BVI’s government via email and explained our reason for wanting to get the boat out. Several departments wrote us back and understood the problem and said “the government is aware of the situation and will be coming up with a plan for foreign vessels to leave”. We also wrote to some people in the sailing press to keep the pressure up and put a spotlight on the problem in case it went on for months. We searched Facebook and connected to DOZENS of other people in the “same boat” and this network led to more contact with BVI officials. Nanny Cay Marina and B&G Marine Services worked together to come up with a plan and repeatedly met government officials but still nothing moved forward. Now it was time to consider all options. At some point during this two-month time I was speaking with two of my Warrior Sailing contacts who were both Navy Seals and they suggested we fly to St. Thomas and take a small boat and sneak into BVI waters at night and slip the lines on Happy Together and motor her under cover of darkness to the USVI – which is only six miles away. After considering what a good video that would make, I told them it wouldn’t be possible to get a boat in St. Thomas because they were on lockdown also. Then they suggested a HALO jump (high altitude low opening) and to parachute into Nanny Cay at night. They were not kidding when they said they had the contacts to arrange this. At this point I thanked them for their ideas and realized how lucky I am to have Navy Seal friends. May come in handy sometime, but not this time in a sovereign country. We are only talking about getting a freaking boat out, so this is not a “real” problem in the big picture. Finally, the BVI government said any boat could leave provided there was someone already in BVI, who had a US passport, who wanted to leave, and who couldn’t come back until September. Hmmm. Just need to find that person. Believe it or not some people found this. I had one person contact me and they said they would bring the boat out if I paid for a flight to the US, and a hotel for 90 days AND…….paid them $50,000 US. Considering the boat was safe and sound in a great marina I declined that offer. Even when he came back at $15,000. After that another week went by and the BVI government announced a plan that a BVI captain could take the boat out of the marina and motor to West End and clear customs out of BVI and motor to the channel between BVI and USVI and then we could have a small boat take us from St. Thomas to meet the boat for an open water handover. This plan could work! Stay tuned………