What is the life of a sailing cruiser during covid like? How have things changed since the pandemic started? Is it all bad or perhaps there is a silver lining to be found? Read below to get an overview as to what it’s like to be a sailing cruiser in 2021 and beyond.
1. Restricted to fewer Geographical Areas
This is probably the most noticeable way that things have changed due to the pandemic. Previously we spent our active sailing seasons visiting handfuls of different islands or countries. In the 18 months, however, we’ve spent all our time in just two countries. During hurricane season, when cruisers tend to hunker down and wait for the storms to pass, we made Grenada our home. And while the sailing season was in full flow, we enjoyed nine months in St Martin.
Due to the various and ever-changing restrictions, many countries are completely closed, require long quarantine periods, and/or incur substantial costs to get PCR tests.
To give you an idea of what the situation has been like, while in St Martin we were able to sail freely in either the Dutch side OR the French side but not go between the two unless you booked out of one and booked into the other. From St Martin, we were allowed to sail to St Barth’s but only from the French side (not the Dutch side), and at times we had to get an antigen test prior to sailing.
Otherwise, all the other countries around St Martin were either closed or required substantial check-in procedures. At one point you could go to Anguilla, the country north of St Martin, but you had to pay a steep fee and quarantine at a government-approved facility for one week.
The other issue under consideration has been about being in a country that is deemed ‘okay’ one day and ‘not okay’ the next. Once a surge of covid numbers gets reported, being able to sail to other countries causes issues. We’re often asking ourselves if we’re going to get stuck somewhere, where do we want to be. Or when we see Covid numbers rise, we know that we might need to leave for our next destination before it causes complications.
2. Sailing into a different country is painful considering the new procedures and paperwork
Back before Covid, we used to joke about the booking-in process taking an hour or the Immigration officer being a bully. We would tell stories about who had the worst experience or took the longest time. Looking back, it was such a breeze. If only we knew what was to come!
Now it’s a day’s worth of work to figure out just how to enter another country. Forms must be filled in, approvals gained before sailing, proof of vaccines need to be supplied – and if you have the wrong vaccine or are not vaccinated, that’s a no-go. Documentation needs to be uploaded to one website, and email must be sent to another. And as you can imagine, the websites set up to organize all these new rules don’t work properly. To add insult to injury, there is never anyone on the end of the phone to call either.
As if that’s not enough, the process changes without notice and there is no one central place to determine what has changed or how to proceed.
Many cruisers are getting their information on FB Groups that are in the location of where they want to go. For example, the Grenada Cruisers Forum is full of up-to-date information on everything you need to know. I just feel bad for the moderators that constantly answer the same questions over and over.
3. Life of a Sailing Cruiser During Covid – The new breed of cruiser
Before Covid, the cruisers that I met ranged from couples in their 20’s to retirees in their 70’s. Many had a sense of adventure, craved the freedom that the seas provided, and focused on living life to the fullest. Conversations centered around where to next, how to fix an issue on the boat, what the weather is doing, a new recipe that’s great for the local sweet potatoes, or stories of big storms or challenging sails.
Recently, we’re seeing many couples and families with very large boats, big attitudes, and the need to classify themselves above and beyond the type of boat they have.
New cruisers are found comparing their boat to other boats spouting off why they have a superior boat. Many are overheard making unkind comments about Cat’s or Mono’s. There have always been running jokes between motorboats, Cat’s, and Mono’s but it was mostly done as banter. Nowadays there seems to be hatred or anger oozing out.
Who cares what boat you have or what boat someone else has?
Perhaps these cruisers are a product of the environment they came from where there is black and white, wealthy and poor, big and small.
Many new cruisers are also talking politics! Politics! For seven years I’ve had very little to do with politics. My husband and I are up to date with the headlines, but we don’t go further than that. The traditional cruiser is aware of worldly news but isn’t tied up in it. They certainly wouldn’t start off a conversation about politics during sundowners!
We also have quite a few new boats that are known for their religious preference. The new cruisers refer to cruisers as, “The Mormons” or their change of religious status to not being religious. Those are the “Born-Again Christians that have left the church.” What the heck?! Where did these classifications come from?
Before, the only classification you’d hear is the make of the boat. It’s the family that has the Bruce Roberts or the couple that has the Amel.
At first, I felt like perhaps my energy was attracting people that had dissimilar views and values as me. For so many years we’ve always attracted other cruisers that were just like us. People that are kind, honest, easy-going, go-with-the-flow, open-minded, tolerant, and working hard to create a lifestyle where everyone felt included. Never did we talk to other cruisers about what job they had in the past or what their religious or political views were. I felt as if it was an unspoken rule to not talk about politics, religion, or, as my husband adds, football. Things have changed.
After speaking with other long-term cruisers, they’ve voiced similar remarks. It’s not just a different world on land, it’s certainly a different world within the cruising community. Some of the new cruisers are cruising for reasons different than when we got into it. It is what it is. Part of me thinks they won’t last too long, or they’ll just end up hanging out with cruisers like themselves. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
4. We’re spending less money
Since we’re restricted to areas many of us know well, we’re not doing as many excursions or sightseeing trips. In Grenada, we’ve done the waterfalls, chocolate factories, rum distilleries, and city walk. We’ve done it, got the t-shirt, and don’t need to do it again.
Furthermore, so many countries are having periodic lockdowns or curfews so going out to dinner or the bar just isn’t possible. As I write this, Grenada has just closed all bars and restaurants so there is takeaway service only.
Yes, we’re paying more for PCR tests but considering that we’re only getting a few within the year, it’s not much. Overall, there is nothing for us to spend money on so I’m not complaining about this one! The life of a sailing cruiser during covid is definitely far less expensive than the lifestyle was before.
5. More time to reflect and have quiet time
Since things are closed, and we can’t sail to different countries, we’re spending much more time at anchorage enjoying the beauty around us. Never did I spend so much time in my cockpit watching the pelicans divebomb their dinner or examine the exquisite beauty of a school of cuttlefish.
Because there is nothing I can do I’ve given myself permission to sit and just reflect. Sometimes I’m not even reflecting – I’m just sitting.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened or how, but I’m certain Covid has instigated this change within my body and soul.
I feel as if I’m doing far less but feeling more grateful for life than ever before. I am happy. I am fulfilled. I’m happy and fulfilled for no reason.
It’s not the pelicans or the white beach with clear turquoise water that bring me delight. Nor is it my beautiful boat or the wonderful group of sailing buddies that surround me. These are all things that happen on top of being fulfilled. Before Covid, I was always rushing around. If I wasn’t cleaning, I’d be working on my website, preparing for guests, creating a video, or sailing to the next destination. My life was so full of the need to be productive.
Somehow that’s changed. I’m producing the least amount, having a blast doing what I’m doing when I am productive, and just enjoying the relaxation of sitting and being. Is it time to call me Guru Kim? Surely not yet. Hehehehe.
6. Plans are written at low tide in the sand
That’s a common comment you’ll hear from cruisers wherever you go. Even before Covid, you’d make plans to sail in one direction but inevitably you’d end up going in the other direction. Now, the life of a sailing cruiser during covid is even more erratic (or flowing depending on how you look at it!).
We sailed down to Grenada from St Martin. As mentioned, getting the paperwork in order, and organizing the PCR tests took time. Just as we arrived for our weeklong quarantine our friends got word that St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) had opened its borders. Interested in seeing something new our friends hopped on the Internet and worked for hours to get permissions, fill out paperwork, and eventually get accepted to enter SVG. They spent a few weeks seeing islands they’d never seen before and then entered Grenada later than anticipated.
What Simon and I are finding is that we have a general plan for the cruising season.
This year we plan on heading to St Martin from November until May and for hurricane season we’re thinking about being in Maine (June to November). Chances are that neither of those plans will happen but that’s the plan.
On a small scale, we don’t make plans to sail anywhere in advance. We tend to wake up after a few days in an anchorage and say, ‘There’s no wind today, why don’t we motor over to that cute day anchorage?’ Or we’ll break something on the boat and then we’ll have to sail somewhere to get it fixed.
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve sailed to an anchorage to haul out and fix a thru-hull fitting, sailed to another anchorage for a 50th bday party, and we went to our favorite marina, Le Phare Bleu, to stock up on food and enjoy a variety of celebrations. We’re now at our fourth anchorage and there’s no plan yet to move. Considering the life of a sailing cruiser during covid, the chances are we’ll sail somewhere tomorrow but I don’t know about it yet
7. A deeper understanding of going with the flow
Being a sailing cruiser forces you to eventually go with the flow. If you’re a control freak like I used to be it was a hard learning curve. I had to-do lists, places to be, and people to see. After trying to make things happen and failing miserably, I finally gave up and started becoming more flexible.
Up until Covid, however, I still had a list of what I wanted to accomplish for the day. Perhaps it comes back to the need to feel productive? Every morning I’d think about what I wanted to do throughout the course of the day. Often if it didn’t go to plan and I was fine with that. What I wasn’t fine with was not having a plan. I needed to feel in control by speculating how my day should go.
Now, for some reason (perhaps you can explain it to me), I wake up and I enjoy my coffee and book. I then wait until I’m hungry enough to make breakfast. After that, I just do whatever feels best to do. I don’t force myself to do anything I don’t want to do. Sometimes I feel like cleaning so I clean. Other times I want to create a video.
One day I even felt compelled to do my taxes and it took me an hour where it used to take me all day long!
First, I don’t know why I even felt compelled to do my taxes because traditionally it’s the very worst way I can think of spending time. Second, when I did them, I enjoyed what I was doing.
So perhaps this is what is meant by following the joy? Just do things you want to do that bring you pleasure and when you don’t know what to do, just sit and watch the pelicans.
So…it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Life as a sailing cruiser with Covid has caused restrictions that at face value would seem to dampen freedom but I’ve never felt more free in my life. Surprise, surprise.
How about you? If you’re out cruising now do you feel the same? Have you had any silver lining stories you can share? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
Other Articles & Videos About Our Lives As Sailing Cruisers
- Overnight Sailing Trip – Check out our recent non-stop voyage from St Martin to Grenada
- Britican Sailing Lifestyle Video – Discover more about the sailing lifestyle by watching one of our videos
- Life With The COVID-19 Pandemic – A Channel Update – The earlier days of Covid
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