We awoke to a calendar item: "Lufthansa Flight 429 to Munich / Barcelona departs 6:30 pm." Obviously, that flight was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but the notice on our phones was a stark reminder of how quickly things have changed.
Just a few weeks ago, we were managing all our house, doctor and financial meetings in anticipation of being away, on Berkeley East, for many months. Boat parts and supplies were laid out on the bedroom floor in "must go" piles, along with a "would be nice if there is room" stack. Sea trial appointments were set for Berkeley East upon our return so necessary engine parts could be ordered and shipped before the Easter holiday break. Travel plans were being made for our long-awaited exploration of Spain's Basque Country. Dinner discussions were almost always about where we should sail in 2020.
The fact is, we were pretty certain we would be delayed going back to BE this year. We had been following the Coronavirus spread in Italy, were cautiously watching the situation developing in Spain, and wondering what would happen in the US; while we were hopeful, we were also realistic.
The news we heard from our friends in the EU prompted us to begin social distancing sooner than many. While others went to restaurants, bars and gatherings, we stayed home; we couldn't risk getting sick in the off chance that we were able to make our flight to Spain. But we are lucky because our years on Berkeley East have helped train us for isolation. Long passages alone, weeks without stepping foot on land, traveling in countries where we could not communicate, we know how to occupy ourselves without going crazy.
We cannot count how many times we have heard someone say that the boat is the best place to be in circumstances like this, "you can just sail away," is often the comment. While that sounds like the perfect solution, it is a complicated one in cases of emergency.
We left Berkeley East five months ago, buttoned up, in the water, in Barcelona, Spain, before COVID-19 was even on the radar. All of BE's systems are shut down, and there is no food, water, wine, or toilet paper on board. While Costco delivers most of our needs to the front door here in North Carolina, provisioning in Barcelona requires multiple trips to multiple markets, on foot, with our trusty shopping trolley. And finding toilet paper for BE's marine toilets in Europe is next to impossible unless we are willing to pay ridiculous prices at super yacht stores. Fortunately, a purchasing error some 13 years ago left Berkeley East flush in TP, so it has never been a problem until the last of it was used in October. Who knew there would be a worldwide shortage of toilet paper? Several rolls of "Scott One-Ply" are currently in the "must go to the boat" heap upstairs.
As painful as it is to leave BE sitting alone in Barcelona, we know that we are far better off here, at home, with grocery delivery and good healthcare if needed, than we would be if we were quarantined on Berkeley East amid Spain's own healthcare crisis. And we are very thankful for that.
So while we stay home and wait for the curve to flatten, between jigsaw puzzles, some very chilly water ski runs, and Face Time happy hours with friends, we are reviewing the options for Berkeley East this year.
Over the winter, we developed three possible cruising plans: 1) take BE north to England and the Baltic Sea; 2) sail back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean; 3) spend one last season in the Mediterranean. While Option 1 (sailing to the UK and the Baltic) was winning our hearts pre-COVID-19, at this point, Option 3 (staying in the Med) is looking like the only real possibility. That said, at the present time, many marinas and ports throughout the Med are closed, and yachts from Italy and Spain are being refused entry to those that are open. We have no idea how that might change in the coming weeks, or months. But we are hopeful that we will be back aboard BE soon, and will spend time revisiting some of our favorite European locales. Then again, considering that Berkeley East is in Spain, and her crew will have come from the most infected country in the world, we are prepared for just about anything. BE may just have to change the spelling of her name and remain in Spain for some time - su nombre es "Berkeley Este."
We hope all our friends throughout the world are safe and healthy.