Blue water cruising in the days of COVID 19

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In the midst of the pandemic at the time of writing, most European countries have banned recreational boating on their coasts altogether. A state of emergency has been declared in several countries, and many ports are closed. The situation is potentially a little more flexible if you are a passport holder or permanent resident of a Schengen-area country and can prove that you are on your way to your country of residence and have a compelling reason to call in at a port. This would most likely be the case for a vessel seeking shelter from bad weather, or needing to refuel or revictual to continue her voyage. In this case, some countries are allowing you to anchor, others will let you enter ports but will not allow you to leave as long as the containment measures remain in force in the country. A quarantine period of 14 days is also being enforced in many regions (Algavre, northern Portugal, among others). It should be noted that in Madeira, Porto Santo and the Azores, stopovers by leisure craft are currently prohibited, which until further notice complicates the traditional return route to Europe that so many boats normally take in the springtime.



The Caribbean is always very busy at this time of year, and could have become a particularly complex sailing area with the current situation, given that almost every island is able to enact different regulations. But the situation is rather simple - yet difficult: the islands have almost all banned pleasure craft from entering. Some, such as Saint Lucia, went into lockdown for everything outside of essential activities on March 23rd. For the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, stopovers by boats flying a flag other than a European Union one, is prohibited. For those arriving before March 23rd, or for EU-registered vessels, stopovers and stays are possible, with the same confinement rules as for those living ashore. A very informative diagram (in French) of what you are or are not allowed to do has been published on this subject by the Maritime Authority in Martinique and can be viewed HERE. Even swimming around your boat can be regulated, as in Les Saintes in Guadeloupe. It is now forbidden to move more than 15 meters (50’) away from your boat and not for more than one hour. If the situation weren't so serious, these anecdotes would make you smile and bless our dear multihulls, which in these circumstances offer a much larger authorized space area than a monohull!



Since March 19th, Canada has closed its borders to foreign vessels, including American. Only Canadians can enter the country but will have to observe a 14-day quarantine period. In the United States the situation is much more complex, as it depends both on federal and state laws and on local police regulations, which sometimes make situations ludicrous. But since March 18th, one marina after another has been closing, from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle, and from New York to San Diego, and the United States is heading towards border closures. Unless you are an American citizen or permanent resident, it will most likely be impossible to travel to the United States on your boat in the coming weeks.


It's normally THE place to be at this time of year for those who don't fancy tackling Cape Horn or take the grand tour round South Africa, which means 99.9% of us. However, since March 23rd and at least until April 6th, access is forbidden to any vessel under 65'. Moreover, any vessel arriving from international waters will have to respect a quarantine period of fourteen days and observe a curfew that allows only two hours out per day to obtain food and/or medicines. Michel, Marie and Thimotée (6 years old) on board Caretta, were lucky enough to be there just the week before all this happened! They’re now stuck, but happy, in the Las Perlas Islands, though there’s a lack of certainty about the welcome they’ll receive in French Polynesia…


With Covid-19 having spread all around the world in just a matter of weeks, the virus hasn’t spared the Pacific, taking some sailors by surprise in the middle of the crossing, such as the competitors in the World ARC between Galapagos and the Marquesas. The rules have changed along the way and nothing is simple. The authorities in French Polynesia seem to admit that the time spent at sea can be deducted from the 14-day quarantine, which in the context of a transpacific race is really good news. And even if it seems logical, it's always better to say it! However, it is also planned that non-residents will be flown back to their home country, having to leave their boats there... In the meantime, and in any case, you'll have to respect the local containment regulations which extend as far as Tasmania, as reported by the Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST). After adopting such measures, Australia more radically closed its ports to foreign pleasure craft on March 18th. Franck and Mary aboard the HH55 Ticket to Ride are taking these exceptional circumstances philosophically. While they were victualling and preparing to leave Mexico for French Polynesia, everything was becoming uncertain. But the options on the table are seen as great opportunities: continue exploring Mexico, leave for Hawaii and from Hawaii either go back down to Tahiti when the weather and the health situation will allow, or go back up to discover Alaska. There are worse prospects for confinement.


Further west, for those who are lucky enough to already be discovering Asia, nothing is simple either. Countries as magnificent for sailing as Thailand, the Philippines or Malaysia have closed their borders. Cata Plume left Bali bound for Christmas Island, deciding to cover a good 500 miles, away from the noise and fury of the world in this great natural park. Cyril and Magali Jagot aboard Black Lion have taken the decision to live their confinement at sea, and managed to leave Sri Lanka bound for the Seychelles, more than 1,700 nautical miles distant, having fully stocked up first. If the Seychelles have closed by the time they arrive, they’ll still have the option of going down to Madagascar, Mauritius or Reunion Island.


Whether you're heading east or coming from the Indian Ocean, South Africa is a must-see stopover with long maritime traditions, but it’s also a country that has to protect her people. Therefore, since March 24th, even though planned stopovers by yachts are officially forbidden, those seeking a port of refuge, not a rare event in these waters, will be accepted. They will nevertheless be quarantined, and will not be able to leave the country until the end of the confinement period.


To find out about the exact situation in each country, we can only advise you to check the excellent website specifically for blue water cruisers, Noonsite which does a magnificent job of collecting and updating information. In these troubled times, don’t hesitate to send us your news, to share your experiences, your links to official websites referring to your country or those you are visiting by writing to us at But above all, take good care of yourselves, of those around you and we hope to see you soon out on the water.

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