As we stared at the photo of Berkeley East being towed out of the berth she had occupied for the past 10 months, we whispered in unison, "this was a bad year to have the boat in Barcelona."
But when we made the decision, last summer, to return to Port Vell, no one could have predicted that COVID-19 would turn the world upside down. When we left BE for the winter, we never imagined that the European Union would block our return. As we flew across the Atlantic from Spain to North Carolina, pandemic, lockdowns, financial crisis, death, destruction, at no time entered our minds. We will think differently in the future.
We were so excited to sail Berkeley East into Barcelona last September. BE spent her first Mediterranean winter in Port Vell, 10 years ago, and it was a fantastic experience. We had been planning another visit from the moment we sailed away. One of the few marinas located in the heart of a bustling city, Port Vell provided us the opportunity to use Berkeley East as a hotel while we explored Barcelona and the surrounding areas. And that is exactly what we did in 2010, and again in 2019. Our plan was to go back to Spain in late March to visit other areas of the country. But when our flights to Barcelona were cancelled due to the Coronavirus, so were our travels.
It turns out 2020 is a bad year to have a boat stranded anywhere, let alone Barcelona. In April, May and June, most marinas were closed and boating was actually banned in many European Union countries. Over the past months, stories have emerged of cruisers stuck on their boats around the world, quarantined, unable to enter ports, living at the mercy of local officials; not the free and easy lifestyle typically associated with cruising.
For the past seven years, BE has sat on land over winter (a preferred position), but in Barcelona, she stays in the water, in one of the most expensive marinas in the Med.
We never intended for Berkeley East to live in Port Vell indefinitely, so with the European Union closed to Americans, we began considering our options. We could apply for an exception to the travel ban, although we didn't have a reason that was deemed acceptable. We could try to skirt the rules and find a way into Spain, but Barcelona is just one of many stops we would need to make, not to mention that we prefer to respect the requests/laws of the countries we visit. We could sit tight and hope the EU would let us in before the end of the cruising season. We could suck up the expense of Port Vell and leave Berkeley East in the water for another nine months, perhaps more. Or, we could have BE moved to a dry dock and hauled for the short, possibly long, term.
In the past 13 years, we have had delayed starts to the cruising season, but never a total miss. But as we entered August 2020, we were seeing the writing on the wall. COVID-19 cases were rising in the US and Spain; there was no sign that the EU would open up to Americans any time soon, and even if they did, we weren't certain that we wanted to travel thousands of miles to Spain and move Berkeley East through multiple countries in the middle of a pandemic. Boats aren't meant to just sit in the water; movement keeps the bottom clean and the systems engaged, so a move to dry dock was the obvious choice. And it needed to be done while there was space available.
It was a very tough decision because no one has ever moved BE without us on board. We have always overseen hauling, and personally prepared and pampered Berkeley East for winters, walking away knowing she was safe and secure. But thanks to the "Boat Doctor" the process went smoothly, with the exception of an engine malfunction that required Berkeley East to be towed out of Port Vell. She is now sitting comfortably on land less than a mile from her previous home. And as luck would have it, the timing was perfect given that all the zincs (protective anodes) on BE had completely disintegrated.
We feel very fortunate that we had choices for BE, and the means to execute them. And we are thankful that to this point, we have avoided the virus, which has harmed so many. Hopefully there will soon be treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19 so the world can return to normal, or perhaps a new normal. Until then, we will continue to do all that we can to be part of the solution, while embracing every day and appreciating every sunset.