(Written jointly this time)
Karen: I know we said we’d next be giving you Part 2 of our Caribbean Catch Up posts. And we will! I’ve already started pulling all the photos together and editing them for blog-fitness.
But we have a current update on our travels that we thought important to share. We’re leaving the US Virgin Islands tomorrow to move the boat back to the mainland US!
This wasn’t our original plan for 2020, of course. We had hoped to island-hop our way back to through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas, stopping to dive and beach and enjoy. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, we started adapting. I stubbornly clung to hope, for a while, that we could still salvage some of the original plan. (I really, really wanted to hang out in Culebra and Vieques, in PR, for at least a week.)
But while some of the U.S. mainland is starting to loosen the current restrictions, the islands are playing it more conservatively. Rules and regulations are increasing; many have 24-hour curfews, and all Caribbean island borders have been closed entirely to foreign-flagged boats. Even Puerto Rico is refusing all new boats, even if you are US-flagged. Meanwhile, hurricane season is only getting closer.
Andy: So it’s time for us to move toward home. The short version of the plan is this: we are departing Friday morning, April 24 to sail for Florida. You can track our progress on MarineTraffic.com (MMSI 368074460) if you get curious where we are.
Now, more details for those who want them…
We will be sailing 1175 statute miles from St. John, USVI to South Florida. Our plan is to follow a route along the north shores of Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, and Cuba before bearing north to Florida. This is known as the Old Bahamas Channel. If we average a speed of 6 knots (about 7 MPH) the entire trip should should take about a week. We’ll sail day and night, stopping for sleep when possible, but trading shifts at the helm to give each other rest time.
Friday’s plan is to sail to Fajardo, Puerto Rico, anchor and clear into the USA (we are in the US Virgin Islands now, but that doesn’t count with Customs and Border Protection). We’ll spend the night at anchor.
On Saturday morning we will sail to San Juan. The island of Puerto Rico is closed to all boat traffic, but we petitioned for and received permission to come to a fuel dock in San Juan on Saturday to fill our tanks. (We’ve also heard that diesel is less than half the price there than it is in the USVIs these days). We will be required to depart and continue our journey as soon as we have taken on fuel.
We should be sailing predominantly downwind with following seas for the first five days or so. The Gulf Stream will also be in our favor this time. Right now, weather looks good for this passage.
We expect to have connectivity most or all of the trip through either our cell phones or our satellite system.
Here are some of the safety precautions we have put in place:
- We have a solution in place to update Marine Traffic for this voyage. That means that you should be able to track our progress throughout the trip.
- Our satellite internet and phone work – we tested the system a few days ago. We will turn that system on when our cell phones are out of range.
- We have inspected and tested all safety, navigation, and life-saving equipment
- I have backup charts on my iPad, and we have paper charts for much of the territory.
- We are well-provisioned with fresh water, food, and supplies for this trip. (Karen’s note – I spent all day cooking up several meals to freeze, to make life easier on passage.)
- We have a few potential places to anchor along the way that could afford us some rest, as needed.
- We are carefully tracking weather, winds, and waves.
In a little over a week, we should be back on the mainland. Please keep us in your prayers!