The last few months have been pretty unprecedented and so here is an update from us. I am writing this post from the bow of the boat on a beautiful sunny day. Things still feel pretty normal here in our marina in Sicily but as we all know, much has changed.
We have been in lockdown of varying levels on our boat now for nearly 2 months (March and April). Coronavirus hit Italy first in Europe and hit hard, however we have been relatively lucky here in Sicily. As an island, the lockdown came early and as I write (late April) the number of cases here is approx. 3,000 with 230 deaths. On a national scale in Italy there are 200,000 cases and 27,000 deaths. In short, Sicily is doing very well.
The lockdown however is not easy and it took us at least 3 weeks to mentally transition into a very unusual way of living. We often wonder, with 4 people on an 11 metre boat, whether we could win a lockdown prize for this accomplishment. However with beautiful sunny days and a pontoon to run up and down (when the police are not looking!), we are conscious that it could be much worse. A brief description of our boat is given by Sean in the following video – enjoy it.
The boys are doing ok but as parents around the world know, lockdown is not easy for kids. They were attending school here in Sicily when it suddenly closed and so boat schooling has resumed. We are all enjoying that. With many of the world’s children now learning at their home, the internet is awash with amazing learning experiences and resources. We are currently enjoying some lesson plans created with Sir David Attenborough on the animal kingdom. It is an exciting time to homeschool.
From a social perspective, we are lucky to have two kids who generally enjoy each other’s company but they have found the lack of freedom to play outside and with others very frustrating and restricting. Children in Italy have not been allowed outside for over 2 months now! For our two who have grown up mostly outside and in company, it is difficult to adjust. It feels like a very abnormal situation for kids, and for us all. But the kids have also adapted; they are more comfortable in the boat than ever. They recognise it as their home, their playroom, their security.
On another positive note, lockdown has also created some lovely family moments along with some moments of reflection. In some ways, we have led quite tightly packed, frenetic lives. The lockdown has forced us to slow down. I doubt we are not alone in thinking that this exercise of slowing down has also been quite a powerful reminder of what is truly important.
From a sailing perspective, countries in the Med quickly closed their borders. There appears however to be no coordinated response from EU port authorities. Some ports restrict access while others allow basic provisioning for those in transit. In many cases, setting foot on land triggers a 14 day quarantine period. Cruising in the Med is strictly prohibited at the moment. However boats are allowed to sail to their home port.
So what does this mean for our sailing plans? We had hoped to cruise along the Amalfi coast, Sardinia and Corsica over the next months and to return home through the waterways of France. Given the current situation, coupled with the high probability of second waves of Covid-19 in European countries, our current thinking is that we will try to sail home the way we came (the Atlantic route) setting out by mid May as soon as a good weather window materialises.
So….we are currently planning to sail and preparing the boat, with Gibraltar (which is currently open) as our first major journey milestone. It would be an 8 day straight passage from Sicily to Gibraltar but we hope to stop to rest when and if we can. As we are effectively repatriating, which is generally considered essential travel, we are in touch with the various port authorities and we are confident that we will be aided along the way. In Gibraltar we will make plans for the next passage up the Portuguese coast. Our minds are once again in preparation mode; we will soon be on the move again, one step at a time and with a very flexible mindset. Watch this space….
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