Friday, March 20, 2020

A Safe Haven

A view from our spot in the marina

By Kathy

Hello Everyone! We wanted to post a quick blog about where we are and what we are doing during the these uncertain times. First, let me start by saying we are safe in a very nice marina in Puerto Rico. The marina has very few boats and only a handful of the boats have people on them.

The Original Plan
Our plan this season was to make some miles and head back north. We have been moving at a pretty quick pace since leaving Martinique after the holidays. We stop for only a few days in most anchorages and have been on move almost every week. Two weeks ago we arrived in the Spanish Virgin Islands which are part of Puerto Rico. We spent about a week in Culebra waiting out a weather system. Then last week we moved over to a marina in mainland Puerto Rico. This would be our first marina stay in almost two years. We had big plans to see the island by car, visit old San Juan, eat lots of mofongo, hike the rainforest, shop at West Marine, and fill the boat with lots of groceries to make it back to FL over the next 6-8 weeks. After our 4 day marina stay we planned to cruise the southside of Puerto Rico, hop over to the Dominican Republic, make the jump to Turks and Caicos, then cruise our favorite islands in the Bahamas before reaching Florida. But our journey would not end in Florida. We planned to stay for just a few days to switch out our big dinghy with our small dinghy, unload some of our personal items from the boat into storage, and restock provisions. Then we would continue down through the Keys with a stop in the Dry Tortugas and then on to the coast of Mexico. We left time on the calendar to cruise Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala before leaving SandStar with our friends at Belize Sailing Vacations and flying back to St. Pete to re-enter the land life and start the school year. As you can guess, all of these plans changed in just a matter of days but we have been practicing our ability to change and adapt over the last few years because plans are always changing when you live on a boat.

The New Plan
As things started getting worse with the spread of the virus we started modifying our plans. The first thing to be taken off the list was cruising Mexico and Belize. We were not comfortable going to Florida where the number of cases were increasing daily and then sailing away on a long passage to Mexico. We were worried that we may contract the virus while we visited Florida and then start showing symptoms on a multi-day passage or in Mexico. Then as borders started closing over the weekend and early this week we decided to stay put in Puerto Rico until we can make it to the next few ports and back to Florida. We were still planning on leaving the marina after a weather front this weekend and cruising the southside but we were told once we leave the marina we could not come back. All the marinas are in lockdown for transit traffic. We have friends who are on other islands that are in anchorages and have been told they do not have access to land. They have to stay on the boat. We have not heard that this is happening here but it could happen so we decided to sit right here at this marina at least for the next few weeks.

Puerto Rico
We have only seen a teeny tiny bit of the eastern side of Puerto Rico and from what we have seen this is an amazing island. They have hills, mountains,  rainforest and it is just stunningly beautiful. Everyone we have met has been super friendly and the people in Puerto Rico are taking this very seriously. All non-essential businesses have been closed since Monday and a curfew has been set in place from 9pm-5am. Everyone is practicing social distancing and we have not seen any groups congregating all week. Once we heard of the businesses closing on Monday we made a decision to do all of our provisioning on Sunday afternoon. We heard about the closings when we were at West Marine and could not read the notice on the door that was written in Spanish so we were not sure what it meant for grocery stores. It was not planned and we barely had a list. The original plan was to provision in smaller shopping trips to various stores over the course of the week since we were going to need to stock the boat for a trip back to Florida. We did it all in a few hours on Sunday from one grocery store. The stores were well stocked and the rest of the island is shopping like normal. We were the oddballs with two carts of food. It sounds like a lot but that is a normal big provision run for us when we plan to not see a good grocery store for an extended period of time. The only extra items that we bought were 10 containers of powdered Gatorade for rehydration if somebody gets sick. We did make one last run to a Super Walmart before returning our car to pick up some extra pain relievers in case of fevers. We realized once we entered Walmart they really do mean essentials only. They had whole sections of the store taped off so you could not shop for anything but essentials. The only sections of the store that were open were grocery, pet care, baby care and health and beauty.

The Marina
We are in a small marina in a gated community on the south east side of Puerto Rico. No visitors are allowed to enter the front gate so the place is pretty empty. There are lots of houses but we are guessing a majority of them are second homes and vacation rentals. The marina has a great staff of people that will help answer any of our questions. The community also has a small but well stocked mini-mart that is open in case we need anything. They have somebody at the front door that will open it for you and they only allow so many people in at a time. There are a few restaurants within walking distance and they are doing delivery service.

What are we doing to keep busy?

It is a usual school day for us so not much has changed on the school front. To all of our friends who have been thrown into homeschooling without a lot of notice we learned a few things over the years.

It is hard to homeschool your kids. Especially if you have more than one and in different grades. It will take time to get a routine down and it will be different from when they are in a classroom with 25 other kids. Do not be afraid to change the routine if it is not working. Figure out what works for your each of your kids individually. We handle Emma’s school day different from Sam’s school day and that is different from Jack’s school day. Take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. You will have great days and some not so great days.

Speaking of days….in homeschool you have two extra days for school. You can spread out your school load to Saturday and Sunday too. This took a bit of time for our kids to grasp that Saturday and Sunday are now just like any other day of the week when everyone is at home. You also have more hours in the day. Our kids will sometimes opt to do school in the evening just to change things around a bit.

We cannot do our usual swimming or hiking but we have found other ways to keep our bodies healthy. We are able to exercise by taking walks along the empty beaches, Dan running around the neighborhood, and the kids have been doing Deck of Cards workouts on the dock next to the boat. It feels good to be sore from a good workout.

We ordered a WIFI booster a few days ago and it just arrived. We have WIFI at the boat! Everyone is very excited to not have to monitor every byte that is consumed and we are able to use all of our devices.  It doesn’t take much to make a cruiser happy.

Reading and Writing
We have been living a lifestyle of having time on our hands so we have gotten use to this but it was hard to get into the groove when we first started. Everyone is reading and Dan is catching up on his technology books. I am hoping to finish our first video and catch up on some blog posts.

Let the organizing begin!

The Reorg 
We are doing a massive inventory on the boat of food stocks and making note of where everything is located. I should have done this years ago but this year we have hit our stride in provisioning for the long haul so it becomes even more important when you want to find that one can of beans you know you bought but have no idea what cabinet it is in. Originally I thought I would only have a day to do this after our provisioning run but since we will be staying for a while I can take my time. We are also going through random storage areas and trying to figure out what will need to be removed from SandStar and what can stay once we reach Florida.

Party Planning 
Emma will most likely turn 15 right here in Puerto Rico in a few short weeks. The boys are planning a big blow out party for the five of us. The highlight is that we are able to get ice cream from the mini-mart. They have Ben and Jerry’s Dairy Free Fudge Brownie ice cream. We did not even know this existed! So for the first time in 3 years we will have cake AND ice cream for a birthday. Again, it doesn’t take much to make a cruiser’s day.

Overall spirits are high on SandStar. We have gotten use to being in isolated locations so being on the boat with just the five of us and very little outside interaction feels a bit normal.  Yes, we miss our friends and we are disappointed we did not get to do what we planned for the rest of our time on the boat but staying healthy and doing our part to keep others healthy is a lot more important so we will hang out here on the boat in Puerto Rico until we feel it is the right time to start moving again.

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