Similar to planning for a long ocean crossing, the checklist for surviving a virus outbreak has similarities. The objective is to make sure you can last as long as possible in the most self-sufficient manner and have redundancy plans. Of course, passages may take up to a month but this virus might last several.
Unlike a long passage, however, most of us still have access, although limited, to grocery stores or food delivery systems.
Another difference between a successful long passage and surviving COVID-19 is that cruisers need to be prepared to set sail and perhaps set sail for a long passage.
The food supply in the country you’re located could get disrupted, the government could ask boaters to leave (if you’re in a foreign country), the crime rate could increase with foreigners becoming a target and/or if this drags out for a while there’s the whole hurricane season issue.
As I write this there are some countries that still allow people to go for walks, buy alcohol, get a flight out, use marina services, have access to dinghy docks and several other things we’ve all taken for granted. In Grenda, we have all been put on a severe lock-down. We’re not even allowed to got to shore for a walk. The major grocery stores have closed down limiting only certain small market shops to be open for short periods of time every other day.
If you’re in Grenada now following some of the items on this list might not be possible but most countries in the Caribbean are more relaxed so perhaps consider what might be on the horizon.
The main objective is to prepare yourself for a long passage, ensure your boat is ready to set sail at a moment’s notice and keep topping up your water/food/fuel supplies as long as it’s safe to do so.
Here are is a checklist of what needs to be done.
1. Have lots of water
Keep water supplies topped up and have redundancy even if you have a water maker. Watermakers are prone to failing so stock as much water on board as possible. We have two huge jerry cans that sit in our back locker in addition to 10 five-liter jugs.
If we use a jug, we fill it back up with our water maker water so that we always have the same amount of water available.
We will also make enough water or fill our tank from a marina to keep our freshwater tank topped up every day.
2. Ensure food stocks are high
Have ample supplies of long-life food including canned items, dried vegetables, and beans, pasta, rice, and flours. Regarding the canned items, make sure to have a variety of veg, fruit and even canned meat. If you’re not used to cooking with canned items it can be strange to buy them…think about what you eat fresh and buy the can equivalent.
If you have a nice sized freezer, buy as much meat (or foods you eat) as you can. Consider getting quantity – don’t buy meat with bones in it – it just takes up space.
Think of a balanced diet and find sources of food that are long-life. Consider long-life milk, baguettes, tortilla wraps, and so forth.
- Don’t put the cans anywhere near an area that might have saltwater exposure. The cans will disintegrate quickly if they come in contact with saltwater.
- Buy rice, flour, and pasta in small quantities as they’re likely to get bugs in warmer climates. Many items already have bug eggs in them and the heat helps them to hatch. By having these items in smaller packaging it won’t contaminate too much of your stock.
- In other words, buy three 1lb bags of rice rather than a 3lb bag of rice or break down larger bags into smaller bags. Put each of these items in an additional plastic bag to keep the bugs contained. Those little suckers eat through the plastic! Look through your stocks on a routine basis to quickly clear out intruders. If possible, you can try to freeze rice, flour, and pasta for a few days but I’ve heard varying accounts as to whether this ultimately will stop the eggs from hatching.
- Don’t leave any flour, rice or pasta unattended for too long – so don’t hide it away in a bilge for weeks! You can’t imagine the infestation you’ll have if it gets out of hand. Believe it or not, I once had an infestation from Wasabi powder. Those little weevils will eat anything.
- Buy veg that lasts a long time – carrots, parsnips, cabbage, butternut squash, and so forth.
To get loads more tips and watch a video on how we provision for long passages, check out 20 Tips For Provisioning For A Long Sailing Trip.
3. Have spare cooking gas
Not only do you want to have spare gas tanks but you’ll also want other options for cooking. We’re fortunate to have an electric oven/stovetop, a microwave, slow-cooker, electric griddle pan, a gas grill and a gas stovetop (a camping stovetop). We used to have a solar cooker but I felt a neighboring boat would use it more than us so gave it away. I’m now slightly regretting it.
In a pinch, it’s possible to create your own solar cooker or if you’re really desperate you could run your engine/genset and put a pot on top!
4. Have cash reserves
It might end up being difficult to get cash. ATMs may run out of money and it might prove to be impossible to get to a bank. Consider having two stashes of cash. One that’s available and one that’s hidden. Some cruisers keep a fake wallet on their nav station with some money in it so if a crime is committed only so much is taken.
Cash can be helpful to give to people offering to take your trash, deliver food/water and anyone out offering fresh fruit and vegetables.
5. Keep fuel topped-up
Like water, you want to keep your fuel as topped up as possible. Why? If you have to make a quick exit you’ll be ready to go not worrying what your fuel levels are. In addition to having your fuel tank(s) filled have extra fuel on board for both your boat and your dinghy.
Why might you have to leave your current location? The country might become unsafe (the crime rate increase) or the government could choose to kick out foreigners. Bad weather might be coming and the harbor you’re in could become uncomfortable. Or in the case of hurricane season, you might just have to sail north or south for a few days to avoid a direct hit.
6. Ensure all mission-critical boat jobs are done
Your ultimate aim is to be able to:
- Survive a long time on your boat with limited contact and dependency on land-based services.
- Be able to leave quickly if need be.
The last thing you want to do is set sail knowing that the engine hasn’t been serviced in a long time, there’s a leaky fitting or a mission-critical boat issue hasn’t been sorted. To survive this virus outbreak you want to prepare as if you were going to cross an ocean. (It might just happen that some of us do have to cross an ocean!)
7. Set up a weekly service schedule
If boat systems are left unused for too long they seem to cease up or stop. Even if you have no plans of having to move for months it’s still important to routinely run your engine(s) weekly, turn on your navigation equipment, check your nav lights, inspect your rigging, run your water maker and keep on top of exercising your through-hull fittings.
If you’re in a marina and are plugged into mains electric it’s important to run your genset, in addition to your main engine, once a week just to move the parts around. Impellers are particularly known for being unhappy staying in one position for too long!
8. Abide by government directives!
Especially if you are in a foreign country, it’s imperative to go above and beyond what the government asks you to do. If the President or Prime Minister asks you to stay home, that means to stay on your boat. When you’re told not to have visitors over, that means don’t have visitors on your boat!
Country leaders won’t throw their own people out for being morons but they sure as heck won’t dismiss the idea of asking foreigners to leave. With COVID-19 we’ve already seen this happen. Cruisers on the ARC Around the World Rally made it to French Polynesia and were told they’re not welcome, instructed them to put their boat in Tahiti and fly home.
Furthermore, if cruisers are seen to be propagating the virus, it could give the local community reason to express anger. A thought I don’t want to ponder.
And lastly, if there’s any way to somehow show support or service for the local community, do your best to be of assistance. Country leaders don’t want more of a liability, they want people to follow directives and be supportive.
9. Help other cruisers
Many cruisers have had to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival to a country only to discover that a countrywide quarantine was then imposed. That means that these cruisers have been on their boat for several weeks now.
If you can offer to help get food or supplies to these cruisers your chances of someone repaying your kindness increase exponentially. If you’re not the pay-it-forward type of cruiser now is your opportunity to get stuck in. Treat other cruisers and the local community around you as best as you can – volunteer your time or service.
In Grenda, every night at sunset we have a boat, called Minuet, that has started up a trivia night over the VHF. It gives the cruisers something to think about during the day – how to find a question that will stump everyone. And for 1/2 hour at night, it allows people to forget worries.
It brings in laughter and a sense of community.
Just providing a bit of entertainment can keep morale up – the woman that organizes the weekly musician jam now collects videos from the musicians (performed from their cockpit) and uploads them to FaceBook during the time that people would ordinarily meet at the bar.
Our local Gin maker, Jim – an ex-cruiser, changed one of his tanks over to make hand sanitizer! The market next to us is now delivering foods to the bays and some restaurants are making ready meals to pick up for lunch and dinner.
Don’t sit back – if you see an opportunity to help, step up to the plate!
10. Have an ‘if all hell breaks loose,’ plan
Don’t ponder these situations for long but consider worst-case scenarios. For example, for us, a bad situation would be if we were forced to leave Grenada. Let’s say the government asks all boats to leave.
Most countries around us have closed borders so assuming the worst, we only have two options on where to sail. Considering we hold both American and British passports our plan would be to sail directly from Grenada to the US – a 12 day non-stop sail.
If that isn’t an option we will then have to head for the UK – a 24 non-stop day sail.
Another difficult situation might be during hurricane season. If we’re all confined to our boats and a hurricane is coming I’d rather sail the boat out of harm’s way instead of getting off and risk losing our home.
Our plan is to sail from Grenada south heading towards French Guayana in South America – not intending to make landfall. We’ll sail south out of any known hurricane paths, bob around on the sea and head back when the coast is clear. The hope would be that Grenda will let us back in upon our return.
11. Keep spirits up
Once your worst cast scenarios are considered, do a 180.
Now it’s time to keep your spirits up. You’re no good to anyone if you’re freaking out. What will make you freak out? Watching the news too much, commiserating with others online or neglecting to watch your thoughts and allowing them to get out of control.
Your thoughts create your emotions. Your emotions create your attitude/mood. And from there you base your actions. If you’re finding yourself down in the dumps look at your thoughts. That’s where you have to make the change.
- Limit your access to news to once or twice a day – only to get the facts and only from reliable sources.
- Seek out positive people that are looking at the brighter side of things.
- Pull out your hard drive with 4 terabytes of movies and weed out the comedies – get yourself laughing!
- Sign up for inspirational news alerts, Facebook Groups or newsletters.
- Get stuck into a project – polish your chrome, service your engine, clean the walls or wash out the cupboards.
- Set up an exercise regime – swim around the boat six times every day, do yoga every other day and/or do 10 sit-ups and 10 pushups and see how many you can increase to between now and the end of this pandemic.
- If you have Internet sign-up to do a course. There are loads of online learning hubs. I do loads of courses on Udemy. Check that out.
- Play games – board games, cards, computer games.
- Meditate – if you’re not into listening to your breathing or saying OM search for guided meditations on the Internet or YouTube. There are thousands that are out there helping listeners to be positive, increasing your energy, feeling good and so forth. Download a track, pop in some earplugs and be transported away to a happy place.
- Podcasts – there are good feeling podcast shows! Search up a comedy show, how to be happy show or something that interests you.
- Read a book – find a funny book or something that will really captivate your interest. Or if you don’t like to read, Audible offers audio versions of books.
- Learn how to make really amazing recipes with canned food! Of finally figure out how to bake bread.
- Go fishing! Figure out how to make a lobster trap or try eating a land crab!
What else?! Please add some ideas below in the comments section to help us all out 😉
Tips on kids
I feel terrible about children having to endure isolation. Especially single kid families. We only have one child and our dear friends out in the harbor also have one child. Every day the two kids spend a bit of time on FaceTime. We can’t do too much because our friends don’t have unlimited wifi.
Every few days we take deliveries out to our friends and each time Sienna and James swap pictures they’ve made for each other. Recently, Sienna sent a ‘mission’ to James. He has to use the paper puppets she sent him to make a video show. We can’t wait to see the result! And James made us some chocolates to taste.
During every quick visit, we do little exchanges…
Yesterday was a girl’s B-Day in another bay – Claire on Clarity. Her dad, Aaron, had to come to shore to pick up some food. Sienna was able to pass on a book and some Shopkin figures so that she got a little something for her special day. And all the cruiser kids spread out across the world, that know Claire made videos and sent them to her.
Unlike normal cruising life, routines are very difficult to have.
With this virus, however, we’re not moving anywhere. A routine will provide children with a structure, allow them to feel some control over their life and create things to do to keep them off the screens for the whole day.
Our routine consists of:
– Breakfast – we all eat together and listen to the cruisers VHF Net starting at 7:30.
– Homeschooling – Simon does Math, Science and History and the Sienna heads over to my class where I teach Reading, Writing, Spelling and Language Arts.
– Lunch – we all eat together and discuss options for the afternoon.
– Swimming/Yoga – we have access to a pool right now. The water in the bay we’re in isn’t very clear so we’re all doing 20 laps in the pool. Sienna and I also do yoga every other day.
– Family Game Time – we play Sequence, The Emoji Game or Rummikub.
– Sundowners – there are a couple of boats close enough to us to yell across to so we all position ourselves as close as we can get and enjoy a beverage as the sun goes down. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have this social interaction! Sienna does FaceTime with one of our friends.
– Dinner – we eat together and discuss what movie to watch.
– Movie Time – we finish the day watching a movie.
In-between the above listed Sim and I are working on the boat, the website, making videos and helping the community. Sienna still has screen time – she is often on RoadBlocs (not sure how that is spelled?) because here cruiser friends are also playing online. Sienna also has ‘Art’ time alone – she’ll make drawings for James or paint a picture. She also has beads and arts and crafts. Additionally, she’ll pull out the legos or dolls if I feel she’s had too much screen time. We also bake something fun at least once a week.
Take care of yourself – make sure you’re doing things to keep your spirits up. Ensure you’ve done what you can to provide for those around you – your partner/your family. Take care of your boat – she needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. And do your best to support the local and cruiser communities.
If anyone can survive a virus outbreak it’s the cruiser community! Amen.
Please leave any comments or questions below
And keep in mind that this virus outbreak changes everything we thought we knew every day. Some or all of this information may or may not be relevant depending on where you are or when you read this. Stay healthy and be safe! x
Other Articles/Videos Of Interest?
- Where Can We Sail To Avoid COVID-19
- Life With The COVID-19 Pandemic – A YouTube Channel Video Update
- The COVID-19 Silver Lining For Cruisers