Ok, ok. Yes, it’s been a while, and we apologize to those loyal readers who’ve sent us increasingly worried messages asking if we’re ok. We are, sort of. Like nearly everyone else we’re trying, often unsuccessfully, to adjust to the pandemic spanner that got tossed into our best-laid plans. Actually, we didn’t really have plans but Covid-19 sure has limited our options. Let’s back up a bit.
When last we wrote Jack was appreciating some new hardware in his port side leg. He made steady progress and our plan was to sail north to Thailand around the end of February when he was fit enough to handle the boat.
While Jack was still rehabbing his knee we hired a local canvas company to replace our deteriorating cockpit enclosure and re-cover the cockpit cushions. We ran into a snag when the canvas people told us they couldn’t schedule our job before our Thai visas expired but they could easily finish before our current Malaysian visas ran out in early April. We were faced with a decision. The Thai visas weren’t cheap, but the canvas price was excellent and we really needed the new enclosure because it’s not only a comfort issue, keeping us sheltered from the elements, it’s also a safety concern for visibility underway in harsh weather.
In the end, we decided to sacrifice the Thai visas and wait in Malaysia for the canvas work to be done. It was a decision that sealed our fate, for good or for ill.
In mid-February, the canvas was ordered and the painstaking patterning work started. It’s a big job and we made some design modifications from the original so the canvas folks made several trips to our island over the next few weeks. During this time, just like everyone all over the world, we monitored the news as a contagious virus inched its way toward us. And suddenly, on March 18th, Malaysia went into full lockdown. All but essential businesses closed, and that included our canvas people. Our hearts ached for them, and all the other small businesses that were left with no income.
We assumed the lockdown would be temporary. As our April 13th visa expiration date approached we worried we’d have to leave the country with half our cockpit work done, bad for us, bad for the canvas business. Just in time, the Movement Control Order was extended and foreigners on tourist visas, including us, learned we could overstay our visas without penalty, but once the MCO was lifted, we’d have two weeks to clear out. At the same time, our embassy communicated to us that they recommended no unnecessary international travel. Flights were canceled left and right. Our choices were to either leave the boat and return to the US immediately or stay put. We stayed put.
As a reminder, we are in a marina on a tiny privately owned island. The only other business here is a small resort owned by Taj.
When the country went on lockdown, the resort closed and sent most of their employees home. Except for a skeleton crew, we yachties were the only residents on Rebak Island. At the time of lockdown, there were 110 marina residents and we were effectively quarantined together.
Back to the fate part. Had we declined the bid from the canvas people and left for Thailand when we intended, we’d have been locked down there instead of here. Would that have been better or worse? Who knows? Just different, I guess. We know people who are stuck in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Maldives, and the movement restrictions and visa worries are largely the same. We feel lucky that our small island is virus-free and we’re safe both from infection and from weather. On the other hand for people accustomed to traveling, being tied to a dock for this long is taxing.
The community of long-distance sailors is far-flung but tight. We’ve been following the travails of our comrades all over the world, people like us who are on our boats but confined to a certain place and with bureaucratic worries, people who weren’t on their boats when the lockdown happened and can’t return to them, people who were underway when borders closed and weren’t allowed to clear in to their destinations. Some have been lucky enough to get to a safe place where they could wait out the worst of it and move on. Depending on your passport countries are either open or not. Unfortunately, as US citizens we are not welcome in the EU, and Malaysia just announced that citizens from the 23 nations with the greatest number of cases (we’re number 1!) are not allowed to enter the country. That means if we leave Escape Velocity and fly back to the States, we will not be allowed to return for the foreseeable future. The surrounding borders are all closed, probably until at least 2021. It’s quite the situation.
So, like everyone else, we’re in limbo, trying to adjust to this new reality and wavering about whether to leave our home and return to the States until the world gets to the other side of this. On the one hand, we’d be able to see friends and family and do a little safe road tripping in a big country. On the other hand, we’d hate to leave our home, we’re definitely safer here, and SE Asia is affordable on our social security income, which America definitely is not.
Meanwhile, here we sit.
We do have some stories to tell, and Jack and I are determined to do some blogging again. We’ve missed it, but I admit the realities of life during a global pandemic too often take our attention away from our own day to day life. We need to remedy that. Life is short.