Wow. The news is out. The US government announced yesterday (Aug 20) that the US land border would remain closed for at least another month. The next border announcement will be on September 21, 2021. Too late for us to make a push for the Caribbean for 2021.
Eleven years ago, Mike and I started planning an early retirement that included living on our sailboat in the Caribbean. The goal was always 2020. Of course, back then, we could not have imagined a worldwide pandemic altering our course, first for one year… and now, sadly, for a second year.
Although the crew of Wild Horses is shocked and disappointed about seeing our 2021 plans get shelved, we are a resilient bunch. Our new goal is now Caribbean 2022 and we have already started to take note of new boat projects and plans to fill our in-between time. Oh, and we have also secured a sweet little cottage space in Gananoque for the winter. It is beautiful, walking distance to everything and right on the water (Big thanks and virtual hugs to Andrea and Paul for finding this for us!!!!). The cool part for us too is that the apartment will be very “boat-esque” – small fridge, no oven, limited storage space. Call us crazy but this is us. We love living large in a small space. The winter will be our own land version of Wild Horses. Nice.
The extra time also allows for all-things-covid to settle into a safer situation, especially in the States, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. Thankfully, we are doing much better in Canada. Our vaccination rate is outstanding (yay Canada!) and people continue to follow public health guidelines on distancing and mask-wearing. We feel safe here.
A funny (not so funny) thing happened on July 21. The United States decided to NOT reciprocate Canada’s border opening plans. Instead, they made the statement that US land borders would remain closed until at least August 21.
Why is this such a big deal to the crew of Wild Horses? Well, the reference to land borders includes sea ports. In other words, Canadian boats continue to be restricted from crossing into the United States for non-essential travel. Oh boy.
For a lot of Canadians who are anxiously awaiting the opening of the US border, this is just another delay. The border will open eventually, once the Delta variant gets under control in the States, and in Mexico. For us, the delay is everything as we only have a small travel window to start our journey south. The New York State canals close on October 13 and we need two weeks to get through them, plus another two weeks ahead of that for final prep and administrative work. What this boils down to is that a delay of one more month will be a month too late.
On Aug 21 the US government will make its next border announcement. If they state that the border will remain closed until at least September 21, that will be the end of our 2021 push to leave. We will stay in Canada for another winter and set our sights on September 2022.
But aren’t there other options? Yes, but it isn’t as simple as just altering course. Each option has its own risks and requires specific planning, effort and, yup, costs.
1. Taking a different route that avoids the United States. Yes, this exists. Many eastern sailors have gone out the St. Lawrence Seaway, around the Maritimes and straight through to Bermuda, totally avoiding the United States. This is a big water route that puts boat and crew in the face of big seas and strong weather for weeks at a time. It is considered to be one of the more challenging routes world wide and we would be tackling it during hurricane season (check out the story of a crew we know from our home port). To make this journey happen, we would need extra crew, extra skills and extra time (eastern sailors usually start this journey by early July). Risk level = 10, Fun level = 0
2. Having an American boat delivery Captain sail Wild Horses across the border for us. Yes, we thought about this. Boat delivery captains are skilled and knowledgeable. Wild Horses would be in good hands and once she is checked into the States, we could fly over (yes, weirdly enough, the US borders ARE open to air travel) and take over captaining Wild Horses south to the Caribbean. There are two big issues for us with this option: our dog (lots of stress and planning with airplanes and taxis) and, well, the cost of all of this. I have roughly estimated it at the “holy crap” level between hiring a captain, extra boat insurance and for our travel costs. Cost level = 10, Fun level = 0
3. Getting an American company to truck Wild Horses across the border. This is similar to hiring a captain but maybe comes in a bit cheaper, perhaps at the “oh my gosh” level (just below the “holy crap” numbers). Cost level = 9, Fun level = 0
As you can see, fun is part of the equation for us. We don’t want to get south at any cost. We actually want to enjoy the ride. Weird. Plus, there is the havoc that the Delta variant is causing in the United States. Low vaccination rates and anti-masking politics are not making the States seem like a great place to travel through on our way to the Bahamas.
So, where do things stand?
We are shocked and disappointed, of course. Wild Horses is ready to go. Our critical boat projects are done, our paperwork is ready and the crew is ready. But, if the US government’s announcement on Aug 21 is to extend the border closure until at least Sept 21, we have decided that we will be staying in Canada for another year and re-setting our Caribbean plans for September 2022. I still cannot believe the words even as I write them but I am also very grateful to be “stuck” in a country that is safe and that is chock-full of fully vaccinated family and friends with whom we now have another year to reconnect.
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.