Everybody was Kung Flu Fighting
The spread was fast as lightning
I’ll admit, it was a little bit frightening
Lunar New Year was just bad timing
Since the boys left, after the Christmas holiday, we had quite a busy time. There was Arthur’s birthday, the Bocas regatta, a visit from good friends, our 3 year anniversary on board, and slowly but surely getting ready for sailing to San Blas and preparing for being self sufficient without the proximity of shops. Amidst all this, Yoren spoke to his dad about sailing along with us during the summer and schoolyear 2020-2021. This made a proper sail plan for this year and the whole following leg of our trip around the world, a sudden priority. Maps and previous research were dusted off, updated, and a feasible sailing route was calculated, taking into account all the different variables such as visa requirements, predominant winds, hurricane free zones etc.
Our plan was to sail out of Bocas del Toro on the 27th of March, to give us ample time to reach Portobelo and pick up the boys and grandma from Panama City on April 4th. They were going to spend the Easter holiday with us in the San Blas islands.
But alas, it was not to be. In all our planning frenzy, we did not count on something like the ‘Colona vilus’ (vuilnis?). Since its arrival in Italy we have been monitoring different newssources closely for regular updates. One could only hope travel would still be possible, yet the impending dreary reality of an escalation was gnawning in the background. On March the 9th, the Spanish imported the virus into Panama. And with that, the decision had been made for us.
Corona virus quarantine in Bocas del Toro
Unlike the rather lax attitude of Europe, Panama decided on an immediate, assertive, restrictive approach. From day one, cell phone network providers, bancs and so on spammed everyone to take the new regulations in regard. The Panamanian government didn’t take any chances.
In a matter of 2 weeks, the rules and regulations sprinted from no sports and social gatherings, to social distancing and evening curfew, closure of all borders, beaches, restaurants and hotels, restraint on movement, to forebidden to travel in the high risk zone unless you have a special permit and closure of all non-essential businesses.
Since the 25th of March we have a daily 22hour quarantine. The whole country has been notified to stay at home and gets a daily 1 hour slot to shop for basic necessities, with 30min to get to the shop and 30min to get back home. Your time slot is determined by the last digit on your ID, with a 0 = 10 am, 1 = 11 am and so on. If you are caught without an ID and outside your allotted time, you are in trouble.
So far we had fun watching the Aeronaval pull a young Romeo- on his way to a neighboring boat hosting his Juliet- from his surfboard and chasing him home. Or maybe they are a modern day version of Tristan and Isolde, each sitting in their tower (boat), staring over the water that is too deep to cross. In the present day situation, they longingly eye each other when they are working out. Power stuff on Tristan’s side, elegant stretches on Isolde’s side. And if all else fails, the Scandinavian Isolde pulls off all her clothes and takes a long bare butted sun bath on her foredeck. We can hear poor Tristan panting up to our boat!
On April 1st, the quarantine measures were upped once more (no joke!): People are only allowed to leave their houses for a maximum of 3 times a week, according to the following system: Women can go out for essential shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Men can do essential shopping on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sundays is family day. The whole of Panama needs to stay indoors. The time you are allowed out is still linked to the last digit of your ID.
For 5 consecutive weeks the men have seen one of their shopping days taken away, the Saturday, as the statistics show that it is mainly guys that violate the curfew, and that most new infections happen on weekends.
The past month it has become obligatory to wear a face mask when you go shopping. There is talk in the background of easing some of the Corona measures in the areas of the country with low infection rates, but nothing has transpired yet…
After 66days of Corona, there are 8783 cases in Panama and 252 Corona deaths. There are 43cases in the Bocas del Toro province, on the mainland. No cases have been detected on the Bocas islands.
Of course we are terribly disappointed we will not be able to see the boys any time soon, but getting all teary eyed over that is not going to help anyone. It is a worldwide crisis, we can only sit it out and hope no one gets seriously sick.
Quarantine on Exodus
If you have to engage in social distancing and self-quarantine, a boat is not a bad venue. We have been able to enjoy the most beautiful sunfilled days and clear water in March and some of April. But the weather is starting to change. The rains and thunderstorms are lurking behind the corner.
The greatest advantage of these restraining measures has been that there is absolutely no night music in Bocas. No 3 major party places stretching it until 4am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is eerily quiet. Peaceful, calm, beneficial to night rest. You hardly recognise this place.
The main perk of being confined to the boat is that we have managed to take care of little and not so little jobs that have been on our to do list for forever:
- Fix the cushions in the lounge
- Mount a temperature meter for the engine
- Clean out all the cupboards and packing spaces
- Make boerewors and eat it
- Clean the watermaker’s membrane (and do several loads of washing with the water we drained off)
- Hull clean on Exodus
- Bottom scrape on the tender
- Replace silicone in the bathroom
- Prepare aft and swimming platform to apply to new gelcoat to some scrapes and dents, only to find out the leftover gelcoat had expired 🙁
- Overhaul slider for main sail
- Kitting out the tuna speargun
- Making fish flashers
- Redo the silicone in the kitchen
- Overhauled our stove
- Inspected our liferaft and its contents and done research on replacing the gascylinder and hoses in the future.
- Cleaned out the pump and the locked pipes on one of the heads (always fun)
- Installed a new float switch for the bilge pump
Our biggest irritation has been that the hardware shops are closed and therefore we are not able to do all the jobs on our to do list. However, at some stage we discovered that the Chinese shopowners have a rather pragmatic take on the whole Corona lockdown situation. The hardware shops keep a backdoor open, so you can still get in and fetch some silicone etc. Likewise, alcohol sale has been prohibited for a while, but the Chinese are still eager to make a bit of money and have no issue selling you a box of wine or two under the table. Or should we say directly to your backpack?
Apart from that, life on the Exodus continues as normal. It is almost a practise run for our future big crossing. On weekday mornings we have homeschooling and trading. Under captain’s orders we all do our PT. We swim around the boat without fear of being driven over by a watertaxi. Gitane is rediscovering toys she hasn’t played with for ages. Arthur is teaching her the basics of table tennis. We go for an afternoon ride on our tender in the anchorage and let out Gitane on her body board.
A few weeks ago we managed to take Exodus out for a ride to our dive spot in the middle of the bay on Saturday morning early and return Sunday afternoon. It was great to get out, and we even made some nice underwater pictures. When we got back to the anchorage, a catamaran had taken over our anchor spot. So we had to anchor right in front of the bomberos. It didn’t take the Aeronaval very long to pay us a visit. They reprimanded us for going out without permission, but nothing more than a soft slap on the wrist.
Meanwhile Gitane is practising to become the ship’s barber, and is shedding teeth like a proper shark.
Whereas we first took all the Corona measures in good stride, we are growing increasingly critical of the whole pandemic effect, the final sinking of economies that were on their last legs, the resurging of loony leftish ideas, and the imminent powergrab. Without even going into who started this whole thing and who will benefit from locking up 60% of the world population, eliminating the frail and elderly, and conveniently making the masses dependent on their goodwill, something about the ‘Colona vilus’ stinks really badly…
It is high time that the curfew in the Bocas islands is eased, so we can move around again on the island and interact with people. To this day the only known cases are on the mainland, therefore it seems somewhat counterproductive to keep everyone at home…
Let’s hope we can move on soon!