I guess we had a good run. For many this COVID thing isn’t a problem. Working from home and creating new hobbies etc. For others it’s devastation. Businesses closed, employment unavailable. I have several friends working from home and getting full pay who don’t see the carnage. All you have to do is go to the mall and see the closed stores and clerks getting 20 hours of work versus 40 and the reality hits home. Yesterday our president was diagnosed and headed to Walter Reed. Yes, these are strange times and I can only think back to 9/11 when our country faced surreal uncertainty. But you don’t read my blog to get my take on current events you read it to find out what’s up with Happy Together so let’s get on with that!
Should We stay or should we go
After a summer of dodging tropical systems and leaving the boat in St. Thomas we HAD to make a change. Remember, in St. Thomas the marinas are exposed so you can’t leave a boat there during a named storm. Lennie and I were glued to the National Hurricane Center website along with Windy and every other tropical system site you can imagine. Since most boats headed back to Florida or the Eastern Seaboard, we started to think we should just bring her home. For a 4-week period that wasn’t even an option since an open ocean sail from St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale is over 1,000 miles – much of it without a safe bailout marina. Storms like Hurricane Joaquin formed in 32 hours so the idea of being halfway during a weather event was a non-starter for us.
Chewie get us out of here
The eastern edge of Puerto Rico lies just 40 miles West of St. Thomas and we were anxious to get into one of their HUGE protected marinas so that Happy Together could be well tied and remain safe (no guarantees). The problem was that after St. Thomas went into their second lockdown so did Puerto Rico. Their governor of PR not only shut down the island but she shut down any boat traffic in or out of marinas. So now we sat home waiting for something to give. Finally, St Thomas lifted their lockdown and Puerto Rico’s was set to expire on Friday the 11th of September. We had no idea if Puerto Rico would actually open or not but with 7 systems at once alive in the tropics, we decided to make our move.
Stuck in the middle with you
Once again, we hopped a flight and went to St. Thomas and provisioned for what we hoped would be a 4-day trip that would end with us in Puerto Rico. We left the harbor with 2 days left until PR would be “open”. We anchored in between two islands off the north side of St. Thomas known as Lovango Cay anchorage. We were the only boat and we took some time to dive and have our ever-famous Rose’ dinghy cruises. After two days the Puerto Rican Governor allowed the lockdown to expire without renewing it. Hooray! We “thought” all was good and headed west for an overnight stop in Culebrita one of the Spanish Virgin Islands halfway to Puerto Rico. This is one of the most beautiful bays in all the Caribbean and once again we overnighted alone. We called Homeland Security upon arrival and they told us we were allowed to enter Puerto Rican waters and could use the “Roam App” to clear our arrival. Once the app sent us a message that we were “officially” in Puerto Rico we cheered out loud. It had been a long time and we needed to get here but…
Ready or not here we come
The next morning, we called the marina and said we would be there at around 4 pm and the marina manager said “You can’t enter Puerto Rico until the Director of Navigation releases the restriction” WTF? I said the lockdown is over and the marina closures coincided with the lockdown so therefore we shouldn’t have to ask. The marina manager said they could not let us enter but she had sent an email to the director and she was waiting to hear back. We sat in the anchorage at Culebrita for two days waiting for this clearance even though Customs and Border protection said we were checked into Puerto Rico. AND we are American citizens. The bureaucratic nightmare was unnerving. Finally, we were at a point where we had to either head to PR or turn back to St. Thomas. What to do……I remembered that during the previous lockdown when we originally asked for permission to enter the marina gave me the email address to the Director of Navigation two months earlier. I tried emailing directly with no response. Then I searched my deleted items and saw an email I had sent him about the previous lockdown. I had asked him if the marinas would open when the lockdown order ended and his one-word response was “Correct”!!! I felt like I had a smoking gun. We picked up anchor and headed to Puerto Rico and into the marina. Although nervous we would have a showdown, we noticed dozens of Puerto Rican boaters out on the water enjoying themselves so this marina shutdown must be over. We pulled into the marina and right into a slip. I said on the radio that I had “an email from the Director” essentially authorizing us. We tied up and met our caretaker and were on a plane within hours as we figured they couldn’t kick us out if we weren’t there. When I forwarded the email to the marina manager, she agreed that based on the email I should be allowed to enter. And that my friends are the politics of Covid and Yachting in 2020!!!