Fortunately there is good cellular data in most of the Bahamas. Unfortunately we have been keeping up with the news of the COVID-19 virus. We had been planning on spending about 2 more weeks before heading back, but weren’t sure how much we’d enjoy ourselves checking the news every hour, so we headed straight back. While in a way it made sense to just stay there in a tropical paradise away from people … it’s not that straightforward for many reasons.
How long would we need to stay? The Bahamas enforce strict immigration law & may not necessarily extend your visa. Hurricane season begins in only a few months & our existing insurance would be void. It may get bad there too – thousands of tourists from around the world are on their way out, but may have first infected many Bahamians. Medical resources are extremely limited with only one real hospital (in Nassau) for the entire country. Many of the smaller islands have only a one-room clinic with a part-time nurse.
These were our thoughts over a week ago. Of course, the situation has become worse since then. The U.S. State Department is telling all U.S. residents to return now, or be prepared to stay away for a long duration. What if we tried to cross back to the U.S. in a few weeks & instead of easily clearing back in via a phone app, we are ordered to appear at some pier for a health screening and/or mandatory quarantine on shore? This, or worse, is possible if the Bahamas becomes yet other country with a large number of cases.
The Bahamas government is now taking this very seriously, so it may not be easy for cruisers who decide to stay. Being able to stay and/or being able to re-enter the U.S., obtaining food & fuel may become serious concerns. From our decision time to arriving in the Miami area was only 3 days.
As we crossed the gulf steam, we were surprised at the number of boats who appeared to have just left Florida heading the other way. They are probably thinking … what’s the worst that could happen??
We found the last slip at a small marina in Marathon, Florida within walking distance to a Publix Supermarket. We had seen photos of the crazy supermarket scenes from around the country, so were were expecting long lines to get in, people wearing masks, large signs with cautionary messages, etc. Nope – these are the Keys baby – 1/2 way to crazy Key West. While extremely busy & some shelves bare, the atmosphere was fairly casual & one guy I spotted was even barefoot. Our cupboards were mostly bare after 3 months in the Bahamas, so we’ve made 2 cautious, but large runs to stock up, not knowing where our next easy stop will be. We can’t believe it, but some marinas are shutting down & will turn away any arriving boats.
We have also now scrapped our original Florida plans. As we were married on Sarasota Bay on a Krogen trawler on May 5th 30 years ago, I had the crazy idea to return in our own boat to celebrate. Oh well, maybe for our 31st wedding anniversary next year.
Be safe everyone!!