Covid isolation at anchor

Since we travel by sailboat we tried to dodge as much news and updates of the pandemic as we possibly can. The only relevant information for us are entry protocols and local safety measures in the countries we visit. Now the virus unfortunately caught up with us. After experiencing flu-like symptoms, we tested positive for COVID and had to isolate on our boat in Roatan, Honduras.

At first the results were surprising to us as we spent the last weeks mostly among us, and minimized social contacts. In hindsight it is impossible to trace back where and from whom we got infected. It could have happened during a provisioning run on land, from someone on the street, at a restaurant or simply from someone we talked to. Our symptoms are luckily only mild, possibly due to our vaccinations. The progression of the infection could have been a lot worse and we were glad it wasn’t. After we received the test results and, apart from that, no further instructions from the medical staff how to deal with the virus, we went back to the boat to isolate onboard Porky until we feel better and test negative again. At the time most countries recommended a 7-10 day isolation period when infected. So that‘s what we planned to do.

Fortunately, we hadn’t planned any major activities apart from diving for the next few weeks and just wanted to prepare for our onward journey to Guatemala, which now has to be postponed for a few more weeks. We lie in a protected anchorage in Roatan with sufficient medical care around in case we need it, good internet connection to pass the time and a friendly cruiser community who already offered us help.

So here we are, confined to our 12 meter long boat, sharing somewhat like 15 square meters with three people for the next 7-10 days. ‘This can’t be much different than crossing the Atlantic for one month’, we thought when we walked back from the testing center, careful to keep our distance to others. Luckily, just a couple of days before, we filled the boat with plenty of food and drinks, hence, did not have to worry about running out of provisions.

The first days passed by fairly quickly. Our headaches, sore throats and stuffed noses reminded us that our bodies are fighting a virus and needed rest. When we didn‘t sleep or nap, we read books, watched videos and movies, listened to podcasts or prepared food. Happy at first that we don‘t need to think about being on course, steering the boat, changing weather patterns or adjusting sails, we enjoyed doing nothing at all. Once we felt better we started bathing in the sea again to wash the dried sweat off our skin, something you can‘t do on a passage either. Some rain showers forced us to get up to close the hatches and put up buckets to collect rainwater, but apart from that we didn’t really care much about the weather, which normally dictates our daily activities.

Soon we also felt the disadvantages of isolation at anchor compared to the daily routines of offshore sailing. Without a watch system the days and nights became blurry and lacking rhythm. Sleeping, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, reading, playing games and watching movies, napping, eating, reading again… We had to make the best of the confined time to keep our spirits up.

We started watching the boats full of landlubbing tourists passing by our cockpit. Some shouting, what we think they thought were random German words to us. Some vigilant eyes might even question what the third flag hoisted beneath our German and Swiss flag stands for. Our self-designed family flag has already made many other sailors wonder what exotic nationality we have onboard. In the past, some were even curious enough to stop by and ask.

The hardest challenge was to see other boats, some of which we had previously met in different countries, sail into the anchorage and drop anchor next to us. When people from other boats came by and said hi, we immediately had to warn them about our contagiousness. Some even offered their help to do grocery runs or garbage disposals, which was nice, but we simply desired to talk to old and new friends without putting anyone at risk of infection. However, hearing what others have been up to since we have last seen them or get to know new crews had to wait. The bay was filling with more boats and we desperately hoped some of them would still be around when we are fully recovered.

Since we also missed the regular cruiser’s events like movie and BBQ nights, we decided to run the Porky movie randomizer every night and watch one movie before we went to bed. Some nights we were lucky, other nights not so much and we discovered how bad some of the movies in our collection actually were.

All in all the isolation at anchor was much more boring than an offshore passage. We were still surprised how time flew by despite doing nothing. Our symptoms became less every day, we started feeling much better and after 10 days we could finally leave the boat again without putting anybody else at risk.

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