The Covid Chronicles
During 2020 we were in the Biritish Virgin Islands when COVID-19 really started causing panic around the globe. We had no idea what was in store for us, but we had to make decisions based on the limited knowledge we had at the time.
Of course many others faced the same situation. Beneteau America approached us with a request to do an interview, partly to highlight the situation, and partly to offer some insight to other current or prospective boat owners. Here is the interview:
Where are you staying for the quarantine?
We were slowly making our way south, with the goal of ending up in Antigua. The lockdown really hit hard when we were in the British Virgin Islands. We cleared into the BVI just before the lockdown came into effect, and while we were there the place just emptied out. It was surreal. Imagine having The Baths all to yourself – we did. Imagine being the only people on the beach at White Bay (Jost van Dyke). We were!
Eventually we decided to turn around and head back to US waters. We were getting concerned that we would be trapped in the BVI (and friends of ours ended up in that exact situation, which was not fun). We headed back to the US Virgin Islands and cleared into St. John.
We spent several weeks hanging out in the USVI, where it was actually extremely busy. Many people must have had the same idea as us, because virtually every anchorage and mooring field was absolutely packed. We were lucky though since movement was allowed, and we explored all of St. John, spent some amazing time on the north shore of St. Thomas and even sailed down to St. Croix where we provisioned in Christiansted (a loooong walk to the store!) and sailed to Frederiksted on the west coast where we could anchor right next to the cruise ship pier – because of course there were no cruise ships coming in!
This pier is a famous dive spot, and with no ships around we could dive it right off the boat which was amazing.
Eventually though we needed to start thinking about our plans for hurricane season. Our insurance requires us to be north of St. Mary’s (basically the Florida Georgia border) by July 1, so we left from St. Thomas and did a 10-day sail to Lake Worth in Florida where we spent a week waiting for weather to go further north. Right now we are in Cape Canaveral hoping to catch the launch of the Space X Crewed Dragon, which is really exciting.
We are also finally back in a marina after spending 12 weeks on anchor, which honestly we are enjoying very much.
How is the quarantine onboard your Oceanis Yacht 62?
One of the reasons we decide to buy this particular boat (after looking at about a million different options) is the fact that it feels like a home. The interior is so nicely done, with no exposed fiberglass in sight, that you often forget you are on a boat (provided you’re in a decent anchorage). And since the lockdown in St Thomas was not as severe as many other places, we did just fine with the quarantine situation.
Now that we are in Florida, it’s also a state that was wise enough to open earlier once the data started showing the lockdown situation was not necessarily the best idea, so we are grateful to be here, and looking forward to things getting back to some semblance of normality.
How do you do your grocery shopping? How do you plan daily?
What’s the single most essential thing you could hope to have when living full-time on a sailboat? A chef of course! And I am lucky enough to be married to a beautiful, talented women that happens to be a trained chef. So provisioning for us very much depends on where we are. In the islands it can be extremely challenging: selection is very limited, going shopping is an all-day affair, especially when the store is 2 miles from the dinghy dock, and it can be extremely expensive.
While in the islands we typically do a big shop every 2 weeks or so, and chef then allows what we have in terms of provisioning to dictate the meals. She has an amazing capacity for knowing exactly what is in the fridge/freezer/pantry/bilge at any given time. Cooking in a boat galley is extremely challenging. Coming from a kitchen with 3 ovens and every appliance you can think of, to a small space with a super tiny oven and very limited equipment means you cannot rely on your gadgets, just your talent and ability to design, produce and pair flavors. This means dedicating a sizeable amount of time to each meal. Tanya starts early in the morning with her preparation for the evening meal.
By 11am her mise-en-place is usually done, and the next day she can take the same ingredients, or the left-overs from the last 2-3 meals, and transform them into a completely new but amazingly delicious meal. It’s like watching magic happen before your eyes. I’ve literally never seen anyone created gourmet meals out of such disparate ingredients. If there was a TV show entitled “Chopped on a Boat” she would win – hands down.
Now that we are back in the USA we have the luxury of stores like Whole Foods and delivery services like Instacart, plus we are in the marina with a rental car to hand. This of course completely changes the way we provision, and after so many months in the islands, we really appreciate the convenience and selection we have here in the USA more than ever.
You are only 2 onboard and the cutest dog ever, how “easy” it is to navigate and maneuver on a 62 footer?
We are actually 3 on board now (and yes, the cutest dog, have to agree there)! Our daughter was in boarding school in Dallas until COVID-19 forced the school to send all the boarders home, and we have since decided that she will remain with us and complete her schooling online.
As for maneuvering – the boat comes standard with a bow thruster, but we also opted for the stern thruster, which was a wise decision. With the twin rudder configuration, and the bow and stern thruster, she has actually been exceptionally easy to dock and maneuver in tight spaces.
The only time we’ve ever had any issues was when we tried to dock in a 38 knot cross wind at Bahia Mar in Ft. Lauderdale. If Tanya was not on point with the roaming fender, that could have been a disaster!
What is your favorite activity onboard?
For me, it’s probably eating ???? In all honesty though we live a “normal” life. When you do this full time, it’s completely different to coming to your boat once a month, or chartering for a week at a time. We follow the daily routine of working, schoolwork, cooking, cleaning, maintenance, sleeping. Rinse and repeat.
The difference is when we do take time off for fun, we have so many cool options. Diving, snorkeling, SUP, going to the beach, flying the drone to get some cool perspectives, going for walks, exploring a new town … compared to our land life we are doing so much more.
And the best part is we can move onto a new place as often as we like, and do it all over again in a different environment, but within the familiar comfort of our own home, without the hassle of a holiday trip like air travel, packing bags, unpacking bags, etc.
Before the quarantine, you were already living onboard your 62 full time, what does the quarantine change?
Partly because of where we were (USVI and now US) and partly because of the lifestyle (it’s self-isolating by default) not much changed for us. The hardest part was not being able to meet and interact with other people. We are not super keen socializers at the best of times, but we always enjoy meeting new people, sharing a drink and a laugh and good conversation. We’ve met so many amazing people, from such a wide variety of backgrounds, young and old since we started this adventure, we we’ve really missed that during the lockdown.
What made you choose to live full time on your sailing yacht?
We just love traveling and adventure. There is so much to see in the world, and we were always planning the next trip. What better way to enjoy travelling than by taking your comfortable house with you to see distant shores? And not a cramped airplane seat in sight!
What are your plans after the covid-19 crisis?
We were hoping to spend the hurricane season (July through October) exploring the north east coast, but if the states up there don’t open soon, we will likely just spend some time in Georgia and the Carolinas. We will also make our way up the Chesapeake toward Annapolis for our annual haul-out and some warranty work. We’re really looking forward to meeting up with our friends in Annapolis again.
As the saying goes when living on a boat: “Plans are written in the sand at low tide” and that is very true!