What follows is a multi-part series on ways Nordhavn and Nordhavn owners are facing the many challenges posed by the novel Coronavirus.
The best laid plans are no match for Coronavirus
If you look on the blog of Nordhavn 5901 Independence, the first thing that comes up is a picture of owners Larry and Jamie McCullough holding a yellow “Q” signal flag which indicates quarantine. The couple look happy enough sitting in the cockpit of their N59 with their SalvaVida beers, the official cervesa of Honduras. “Day 5 of our 14 day lockdown,” writes Jamie. The couple arrived in Roatan last week, and were welcomed with a mandatory two-week quarantine order, preventing them from moving about the town for anything other than necessary items. Roatan was under an order of self-isolation, with most restaurants and shops falling victim to the forced closure of non-essential businesses.
It’s bittersweet, surmises Jamie. As they walk to the grocery store, the town is “sleepy”, absent of the chaos the daily influx of cruise ships usually bring about. The McCulloughs are able to take in the beauty of the tiny streets and cleared out beaches without having to maneuver around throngs of tourists. But they know what is their gain is this poor city’s significant loss. “It is unfortunate for many reasons, primarily due to the human frailty of the situation, compounded by the economic hardships it is going to place on the people who live here,” says Jamie. Thankfully, the McCulloughs heard the self-isolation order could be lifted soon. “Without tourism, life here will be challenging”.
Concern over COVID-19 potentially having an impact on Americans was just starting to make the news cycle when Larry and Jamie left Key West on board Independence. It was early February and they were on their way to Mexico without too much concern that the coronavirus would impact them. When they arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, officials asked them upon clearing in whether they had been to China recently and then took their temperature.
Their stay in Mexico the remainder of the month was an enjoyable one where they went sightseeing, took guided hikes, had dinners out, and drank cocktails by the beach. It was business as usual with loads of visitors shopping, dining, sunning; visible concerns of a coronavirus scare fairly absent. They exited the country without incident the end of February and went to Belize, with their first stop being in Placencia, just south of Belize City. They settled in for the night and in the morning were boarded by five government agency representatives, and were asked questions…but nothing specific to coronavirus. They stayed in Belize longer than expected and wound up unintentionally socially isolating – but not due to the virus. Bad weather forced them to wait three days in a protected lagoon before pushing on to Roatan.
Arriving on March 12 into Barefoot Cay, a luxury resort in Roatan, they had no issues checking in but the following day received their cruising permit and were told they would not be able to clear out for 30 days. Today, they have just three days left of separation and soon will be able to freely explore the picturesque city beyond more than their walks to the grocery store.
It’s nice not having to rush through their stay, writes Jamie, however this throws a curveball into their itinerary, one of many since they arrived in Roatan. Larry updates me today that Honduras is not allowing foreigners to fly into the country, so they will be without their third mate who was supposed to arrive yesterday. Although he was to lend a key assist with the next passage to Panama, the McCulloughs know they could tackle it just the two of them. Another twist, however: Larry tells me the husband and wife crew that were to meet them in Panama tested positive for coronavirus last week and won’t be able to help out. To top it off, the McCulloughs’ mandatory quarantine in Roatan has been extended an additional two weeks. With the uncertainty, Larry mulls over what to do next. The borders of Panama, Columbia and Costa Rica are now closed. Do they ride out the delays and continue with their itinerary when possible; put their boat on a ship bound for the U.S. west coast, or put the boat on the hard in Roatan and fly home to wait for things to regain some normalcy. They will have to make a decision relatively quickly.
Larry admits their stress levels due to coronavirus waver (reaching their low point in the presence of cocktails and sunset), but neither has fears of catching the disease. The concern is more about the unpredictability that lies within changes to the itinerary, concern for crew/friends’ schedules (and now health), as well as dealing with the parameters of their insurance policy. Their time to explore the southern climes dwindles glaringly with every delay.
One thing is for sure, they will not let COVID-19 ruin their dreams of cruising. They’ll roll with the punches aided by common sense and perhaps a Quaran-tini.
With the rapid daily changes that occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all information contained is accurate and up-to-date as of the time of posting.
All photos courtesy of Larry and Jamie McCullough