March 11th 2020: After some blustery days in Black Point, we arrived in Stanley Cay and anchored by the pig beach (probably the most famous tourist trap in the Bahamas) next to Gorm den Gamle. And yes, the kids did go and see the pigs. And no, it wasn’t very interesting.
But we did have a very nice evening with tapas and Cuban rum on Gorm den Gamle.
March 12th 2020: We woke up to the news that the United States would be closing their borders for anyone who had been in the European Union for the last 14 days. We decided to head straight for the US before the borders would be closed for us too. We didn’t want to end up being trapped in the Bahamas, where the hurricane season was about to start, and we were worried what would happen if food supplies dwindled in the Bahamas later on.
March 13th 2020: Left to go straight to Florida. We had a beautiful sail in the protected water behind the Cays. In the beginning we sailed with Gorm den Gamle, who were heading to Nassau to store the boat before catching a flight home. But soon we were on our own again.
In the waters between the Bahamas and Florida we saw a number of cruise ships, seemingly drifting around aimlessly. We later learned that they were not allowed to dock anywhere.
Lock down had now started in Denmark, which had 801 cases of COVID-19 but no deaths yet. 1300 deaths in Italy.
March 15th 2020: We arrived in West Palm Beach, Florida. Crazy to think that we actually sailed Chip-Chip all the way to the US.
As we approached the coast, we saw an endless number of motor boats and scooters, with people having fun on the water and on the beach. Spring break was in full swing and nobody seemed to care about a random virus. We anchored on the intracoastal waterway with many other boats. Managed to do the preliminary US check in on the roam app without problems, so that was a relief.
Later that night, we received a text message from the Danish Foreign Ministry telling us that all Danes abroad should return home before the flights shut down and it’s too late.
March 16th 2020: We tried to check in to the US in the port, but the office was closed due to corona, and we had to go to the airport. Eventually, we found the right place, and got stamped in to the country without issues. Very happy and relieved.
We went grocery shopping and were completely overwhelmed with the extensive selection of food. The only thing missing was toilet paper – it turned out we would never manage to get toilet paper in the US.
At this time, Florida had 273 registered cases of COVID-19, and 98 deaths in the US, but we were very aware that the US hardly carried out any testing, so we were very careful with touching anything and made sure to wash hands a lot.
Denmark had 914 registered cases and 1 death.
March 18th 2020: We went grocery shopping to be able to anchor out for an extended period of time. Marinas started closing, making it difficult to get on land, the covid-19 cases were increasing rapidly in NYC and some states were even closing.
The thought of getting ill and having to rely on the US health system wasn’t a good one, and Canada had already closed their borders, making it impossible to go north. We were very aware that many flights were being cancelled, and that it may in the end be necessary to sail home if we chose to stay. Not a nice thought either, with countries being closed all the way to Denmark.
In the end I said to Esben that I thought it was time to go home. Not at all a nice decision. We had been looking so much forward to sailing up the East Coast, but the way things were, the trip wouldn’t at all be as planned. And though Chip-Chip is a great boat, 28 feet is just not a lot for four people if you’re not allowed to go on land.
On this day, Italy had 3300 deaths, the US had 186 deaths and Denmark had 977 registered cases and 4 deaths.
March 19th 2020: Called St Mary’s boat yard in Georgia and arranged for Chip-Chip to be hauled out on Monday (this was Thursday morning). Then we booked four plane tickets to Denmark for the next Wednesday, and finally we left for our last 250 nm trip up the coast.
March 21st 2020: After two days of sailing, we headed into the incredibly beautiful winding rivers of the Georgia marshes, and put out anchor by St Mary’s boat yard. We had planned to celebrate Runa’s birthday anchored by Cumberland Island, and it was a bittersweet feeling to turn down the St Mary’s River instead, to be hauled out.
When our phone got a signal, we received several messages from friends and family, asking if we’re okay and what we’re going to do. The news of the virus situation in the US was all over the news in Europe.
March 22nd 2020: We meet our neighbors in the anchorage, who gave me a lift in to talk to Rocky, the owner of the boat yard. He told me that we would be hauled out the next morning at high tide. The water is so shallow in the river that the only time to sail in is at high tide.
Back on Chip-Chip we worked hard the whole day to get the most important things packed into our 5 small bags. There’s no way we could pack everything we would like to bring back, and end up leaving a lot of things.
In the afternoon, we start preparing the boat to be left in the hurricane zone for the summer. The main saloon quickly fills up when the main sail is taken down and put inside, but we manage to sleep onboard with me and the kids in the v-berth and Esben in Runa’s much too short bed (He chose the arrangement – preferred the short bed to sharing with the kids 😉 ).
March 23rd 2020: Chip-Chip is hauled out at 9 in the morning. Everything is handled very professionally, and after a couple of hours, the boat is resting safely in the spot it will stay for the next few months.
We pack down everything on the boat, including solar panels, the dinghy, the outboard engine and everything else. In the end there’s nothing left for us to do, and we get a taxi to a hotel in town.
We learn that our flight from Amsterdam to Denmark has been canceled, and that we will have to spend a night in Amsterdam.
Italy now has 7100 deaths, the US has 905 deaths and Denmark has 24 deaths related to COVID-19.
March 24th 2020: We find out that the first flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta has been canceled, and arrange with KLM that we will drive to Atlanta instead, and board the flight there.
Receive a text message from the Danish Foreign Ministry informing us that flights between the US and Europe may stop before long.
March 25th 2020: Try to hire a car to get to Atlanta, but everything in St Mary’s is closed. We get an Uber to Jacksonville Airport, where we manage to get a car that we can drive to Atlanta.
5 hours later we arrive in Atlanta Airport.
At the check-in desk we’re informed that the plane is overbooked, and that they don’t have space for us. After two hours of completely insane discussions we have new tickets to NYC and Amsterdam, and a hotel room for the night. Never have we ever met such useless staff in an airport.
We do not sleep well, worried that we will be kicked off the plane again.
Italy has 8100 deaths, the US has 1300 (most around NYC) and Denmark has registered 34 COVID-19 related deaths.
March 26th 2020: We arrive in the airport 6 hours before the first flight leaves, to be sure to be checked in as early as possible. Have no issues, and depart for NYC.
The news is full of stories about the covid-19 chaos of NYC, but in the airport most shops are closed and everybody is calm. We were very happy when the plane took off and we were on our way to Amsterdam. From there we would be able to get home no matter what happened to our flight.
We arrived in Denmark on Friday the 27th of March, and the trip is officially over. Esben’s mom greeted us in the airport, but we couldn’t give her a hug because of the risk of virus transmission. We take an empty bus through a desolate country to Årøsund, where my parents had rented a holiday home for us. The sun is shining, and we’re just so very happy to have left the US, though it wasn’t at all what we wanted or how we wanted our trip to end.
What it comes down to is that we’re so incredibly privileged to have been able to make a trip like the one we have had. And also to leave Chip-Chip in a relatively safe place and return home when we wanted to, with so many people welcoming and helping us in the first weeks back. We are looking forward to the next chapter – whatever it may be.