The New Normal

It’s Thursday night, and we are moored in Caneel Bay, on the northwest side of St. John’s, U.S.V.I. I am sitting in “Nor’easter’s” cockpit under a moonless night with lots of stars. St. Thomas is off my starboard quarter, less than 5 miles away, with lots of lights showing. The other islands to the north are dark, except for a couple of residences where people are probably up watching Netflix or news on the pandemic. It’s pretty quiet out here, the sea is flat, but a nearby catamaran is lit up like a Christmas tree and running its generator, which is not terribly obnoxious but does detract from the tranquility. If they turned off some of their lights, they probably wouldn’t need to run the genset.

Having spent the past year constantly on the go, either on passage or in port getting ready for the next leg, it is actually unsettling to me having nothing to do but wait for the pandemic to resolve itself.  “Nor’easter” is in fine shape, and without little boat jobs to complete each day, I spend too much time looking at news on my phone and not even venturing off the boat until late in the day, which is depressing.  Yesterday was fun, as Jamie and I hit the beach right after breakfast and did interval training, running, burpees, pushups, squats, planks, etc. for about 45 minutes.  Then we took a hike to the top of the island, went snorkeling in a magnificent coral garden about a mile away from our mooring, and cooked a nice dinner.  Today, by contrast, I didn’t leave the boat until 1600, spending most of the day trying to salvage some brass hinges on my instrument covers that had become frozen from salt water.  The ocean sailor is eternally battling the effects of salt water on mechanical and electrical systems, and the sea generally wins.

Of all the trials and tribulations we encountered this past year, our current situation is by far the most frustrating.  The joy of cruising is sailing to exotic ports, meeting new people, seeing lots of different cultures, enjoying local restaurants, bars, and other attractions, and planning the next leg of the journey.  Here in St. John’s, while we are not confined to our boats as are our fellow cruisers in Grenada, we are advised to socially isolate ourselves, there are no open restaurants except for take-out, and the only shops open are grocery stores and pharmacies.  Cruz Bay, a delightful town full of attractions, is nearly deserted but for a handful of people waiting to depart from the ferry dock. It reminds me of a scene from the 1960’s screen rendition of Neville Chute’s novel about the WWIII nuclear war, “On the Beach.” It’s eerie.

The most challenging part of this, for us, is figuring out how we get out of here before hurricane season arrives in June.  Many have reserved space in a boatyard in Grenada, but we left that country when they told us we were confined to our boats full time.  Those still in the country are making the best of a bad situation, but there are no flights out of there to the U.S., so they are in limbo.  My plan was that Jamie would fly home in early May from St. Martin, and I would sail from here to Bermuda with one of my racing buddies from Sandusky, then have another friend from Canada join me sailing to Newport.  However, Bermuda is closed to cruisers, and anyone sailing to Newport is subject to a 14- day quarantine on board.  My wife, who has never done a passage that long, was not anxious to be my default crew for this 1400 NM jaunt, and I can’t expect anyone from home to subject themselves to being stuck 14 days with me on a boat in Newport after making a 10-day passage.  On top of that problem, anyone flying here from the U.S. could potentially infect me, creating the worst case scenario of my being incapacitated on an 8-day passage.

With the above facts in place, Jamie has reluctantly agreed the sensible thing is for her to accompany me to Newport, but we must completely isolate ourselves for two weeks before departure, which means no grocery shopping, no socializing, even from a distance, and no new crew coming on board from the U.S. Jamie survived her most recent 400 NM passage from Grenada to St. Croix in fine form, and we have laid in a supply of transdermal Scopolomine anti-motion sickness patches.  I am looking forward to this great adventure with my wife, and with enough enthusiasm to make up for her lack thereof.

My fall-back plan if Jamie had not agreed to join me was to haul the boat in Puerto Rico and leave it “on the hard” for hurricane season, pick it up next November, and spend the 2021 season cruising the Windward and Leeward Islands.  However, having spent the last 16 months living on, sailing, and repairing “Nor’easter,” I’m truly ready for a break.  Not to mention the fact that the boatyard in Puerto Rico emailed me today that nobody is allowed to enter their waters, and that the boat yard is closed until further notice.

These few months down here with my wife were supposed to be the “easy” part of our 18-month trip, but like everyone else in the world, our plans went up in smoke.  I am so grateful Jamie is with me, and she’s whipping me into shape with half-mile swims, long hikes, and morning calisthenics on the beach.  We have done so much snorkeling around this bay, the sea turtles probably recognize us, and we know exactly where to find the nurse sharks.  Our big excitement is going to the grocery store every 3 days and trying not to touch anything anyone else might have contaminated, then cleaning all our produce before we store it. 

“Nor’easter’ is 3rd boat from the top left
My dermatologist is going to kill me!

This is the new normal, and we don’t expect it to end until April 30 at the earliest.  If and when it does, we need to get moving either to a boatyard or north to America.  Hopefully, by then we will have some clarity and be able to make the right decision. In the meantime, considering what some of our friends in the U.S. are enduring, we are grateful that, by sheer luck, we are in this safe, secure place without much chance of getting sick.

We hope all of our readers are staying well, both physically and mentally, and making the best out of this seemingly historic event. We “Boomers” have skated through life relatively free from major world crises, such as WWII and the Great Depression. While there are legions of individuals, both in the U.S. and abroad, who have been, or will be, tragically affected by COVID-19, at the risk of making a premature evaluation of it’s impact, if this pandemic and associated economic disruption is the worst that happens to our generation before we pass on, I think we’ve gotten off relatively easy.

12 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. Hi Jamie and George, And thanks for posting your current location and situation. While not being what you planned, you are at least infection free and in a great place. You both sound like you are ready for a triathlon or some radical endurance sport… Danielle and I are hunkered down on our mini farm 20 miles south of Charlottesville Va. we are staying on the farm most of the time with occasional trips out for food. We too are very cautious when returning home from those trips to wipe all and clean ourselves thoroughly. We pray you both stay healthy and that you get a break in order to head home. Thank you for posting as you bring us both enjoyment and comfort by your writings. Our very best thoughts and prayers, Rob and Danielle

    Robert Goulette 714-325-0258

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    1. Thanks Rob and Danielle. My sister lives in Afton VA. Are you near there?

      George E. Steinemann S/V Nor’easter Swan 44 MKII (2002) U.S. Doc. 1168445

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  2. Dearest Hardy and Jamie,
    Thank you for the update !!!!We pray for your health and safety ❤️❤️❤️🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
    Have a Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter 😇

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  3. Hardy and Jamie. Have been following this blog for some time. So amazing!! Hope both of you and your families stay well. And yes, Jamie you can recover monetarily for the emotional distress your husband is causing!! Good luck. Be safe. Looks like you are making the best of a difficult situation. Tygh

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  4. Dear Hardy and Jamie, thank you for all your updates. I’m sorry that you are stuck at sea, but at least you are in a beautiful place and you have each other. I know that is no consolation when you’re not too sure of your future options. You will get through this as we are all forced to. This is an awful time but I guess we just need to be thankful that we are healthy and still have some money in the bank( although a lot less now). Jess and I are hunkering down, walking the dog a lot, doing Pelaton workout and yoga videos and drinking wine. I can’t wait to see you in the future and give you both big hugs! Keep us posted on your adventures. Love, Jean

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    1. Hi Jean,

      A few hours after posting my last blog USVI closed all the beaches and trails, so other than swimming and taking the dinghy to town for groceries, we are stuck on board.

      Wonder if birth rate jumps worldwide 9 months from now.

      Give my love to Jess. Hope to see you both before too long!

      George E. Steinemann S/V Nor’easter Swan 44 MKII (2002) U.S. Doc. 1168445

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  5. Not sure my comments have been going through. I love reading about this adventure that is really more than adventure in my book😳. Continue staying healthy and positive.

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    1. Hi Paula, yes we get your comments and appreciate hearing from friends like you back at Cedar Point! Keep in touch!

      George E. Steinemann S/V Nor’easter Swan 44 MKII (2002) U.S. Doc. 1168445

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  6. Not sure my comments have been going through. I love reading about this adventure that is really more than adventure in my book😳. Continue staying healthy and positive.

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