Monday 27 April 2020

Standing at the top of a beautiful ski run. You have spent all day preparing for this descent but the lifts are closing and the fog is rolling in, the slopes are too dangerous to ski on.  The only way back to the Gondola involves trudging uphill and a nasty rope lift that will shred your gloves.

All around you, people are setting off but as you wait you notice a few more cautious skiers are turning back.  It is possible if all goes well to get to the bottom but though enticing at the top the slope is marked as closed.  There are no rescue services and your insurance would be invalid.   What will you do?

We are sitting at anchor in lockdown in a beautiful place, all ready to set off, everything was prepared for the passage across the Pacific, until without warning, everything closed around us seven weeks ago.

From our anchorage in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz we can show you pictures of the exotic bird and marine life that equal any that we have seen from elsewhere. The availability of sun-ripened local tomatoes and passion fruit may sound enticing but the reality is, that like everybody else that we know in the world we are locked down, restricted in our movements, aching to socialize, to get out into the local countryside, to come and go at will, to have some certainty in our lives, to swim further than three metres from the boat.

Pictures of French Polynesia look enticing and draw us on.  News that they are relaxing their restrictions makes this seem even more attractive.  We believe Australia and New Zealand will allow yachts in even if this is not yet certain.   Maybe the restrictions will lift as fast as mountain fog and inter-island travel will suddenly become possible.  We can still wait here no matter how enticing it looks.  Our decision timetable dictates that westward travel across the Pacific means departure by Mid June but this is too late to enjoy the Pacific. It is just the latest we could leave here and have time to reprovision and do some maintenance in Tahiti.  We now think Mid May is the latest we could go West and enjoy the Pacific.  If it is not open by then we will have to look the other way.

Turning Back - Are We Crazy?

Turning back isn’t the first option that comes to mind.  It is bad enough going back to collect some missing items that you need for a weekend away when you have just turned onto the Motorway and have to drive a further ten miles before you can turn back at the next exit.  From here it is a 600 or 1000 mile decision and a delay of nearly a year before setting off again.   The stock of food we have will go out of date, the maintenance we have done will have to be repeated.

We have set off already, we are ready to go but if we carry on across the Pacific and cannot stop in the islands we are trading a "short" sail of 600 miles to Ecuador or 1000 miles to Panama for one of 7500 to New Zealand.   We might miss out on some good island hopping this year if things open up and we set off by the end of May but then we might miss out on the Pacific completely if they don’t open up.  If we go back we can always explore Ecuador if or when that opens up and the Pacific will be there next year or the year after if we have to wait that long.  Perhaps it is not so crazy, turning around now we don’t lose our chance to see the Pacific, we only delay it.

There are downsides though to going East. Panama has some of the worst lightning storms, every day between now and December.  Ecuador has to open for us to leave the boat there.   COVID 19 is rampant in both countries and flights have not opened up.  The journey home will not be simple, even when flights start operating.  On the other hand, we don’t have to rush home on the first possible flight and if we can reach the marina in Ecuador it is in an isolated community. Like French Polynesia, the Governments in Ecuador and Panama have started to publish timetables for relaxing the lockdown, including the resumption of international flights, even if the conditions are very different.  Heading West we escape the virus, going East will be difficult every step of the way, including when we finally arrive home.

Today our decision is to wait with a focus on returning to Ecuador and backup of going West if it really opens up in the coming weeks. But this plan is written in the sand of a beach below the high water mark and things are changing fast.  Tomorrow there will be another tide and we will be forced to review our decision, with new information and a new perspective. One thing is certain. If, like the skier on the slope, we travel further west then it is too late to turn back.  This is the most compelling reason to stay for now and to look East when we are able to move on. For once down that first steep slope, there is no way back.


Unknown said...

Hello. Was talking about you the MattGoldman and others today....all about Common Scrambling etc. Anyway, your blog and questions are more interesting. I have no idea what I would do in your position because I can't imagine setting out west with that distance to go. Do you have a consultant to help? But I am guessing that most places on your route will be freed up a bit when you get there, if no fun. Its not much fun here ,overall, although Liz and I are enjoying our time at home by the river. We shall have to see whether this government makes matters better or worse when lifting lockdown. They have done pretty poorly so far, but maybe they will set better objectives this time.

Good luck whichever decision it is. Stay safe. Look forward to seeing you somewhen or how.


Alison and Randall SV Tregoning said...

Another great blog entry Andy and Clare,
I think that we would be considering exactly the same things as you in your situation. We hope that the best answer will become obvious soon and that plan will be straightforward and safe to execute. We will keep watching your blog...
Best wishes, Alison and Randall

P.S. If you want to see that you are not alone in this type of predicament check the following blog from the Maldives:

Andrew G. said...

Reading this blog makes us look like we are on holiday!

It helps us to appreciate how lucky we are.