Leaving Long Island

Our last post was written at the beginning of the Bahamian Lockdown and curfew in the Bahamas.  In the last month we have met and seen people, namely sailors behave at their best and their worst.  We spent roughly a month at Thompson Bay.  We experienced other cruisers offer their assistance with our generator issue.  We helped a few others out with movies and medical advice.  We also made friends with other cruisers.  This was expected.  What we didn’t expect was how a few could become vicious, masked as helping and well meaning advice.

We listened daily as our self elected liaison instructed everyone on what was and was not acceptable.  How we were not allowed on shore and had a specific place to run dogs.  How we were not allowed off our boats, at all.  How protecting the locals was paramount, despite the fact none of us had put ourselves at risk, therefore could not put them at risk.  We witnessed the net controller and liaison and other self appointed cruisers approach 2 boats that came in for fuel.  They verbally attacked one boat who, when answering their interrogation, gave too much information.  Rather than just answering where they had most recently been, gave a 3 month run down, which somehow made their coming from an uninhabited island sound like they had been running amok and dragging the corona virus around with them.   Due to this very public radio conversation, the fuel dock would not sell them 5 gallons of gasoline.  This was the most hostile and unwelcoming thing we had ever experienced!  They had announced they were on their way to Puerto Rico, under the lockdown, completely within reason.  We had recently had friends who had arrived in PR and were forced to move on to the USVI.  Mike wanted to share this information with them, but didn’t want to have the “gestapo” listening.  We asked them to stop by our boat on their way back from the fuel dock so we could give them information regarding their plans  for PR.  When they came by, we knew we were being watched by the rest of the anchorage, they told us they were unable to get fuel.  We shared what we knew about PR and Mike offered to go get their gas for them.  We, although far too social for the anchorage, had been there and permitted to dock for gasoline.  The procedure is to call on the radio when one arrives and the attendants come to the dock, get your can, fill it, then bring it back.  The only problem being that they didn’t always hear the call.  That happened twice that day.  So, he walked up to the store.  They reminded him of the rules and he reminded them they weren’t answering the radio so that he could.  It was all becoming very frustrating.

All this time, the net controllers came on daily and told everyone to stay put.  There was one boat, between lockdowns that said he was leaving.  He was ridiculed to a certain degree and told that they hoped he got home safely despite the order not to move.  It was all very nerve wracking.  We felt to some degree we were held hostage.  They were feeding on fear and exaggerating the Prime Ministers orders.  Mike would call the store when we were able to shop.  He would ask if they preferred us to use the 1 local woman who was shopping for a fee, thereby placing orders or to just come in.  They were so nice and encouraged us to just come in.  Then the  net controllers would say, “NO! absolutely no one on shore!”  Well, we decided Mike would do what those on shore asked us to.  He went to shore and got groceries.  There was a 2 day period between the last lockdowns while we were there.

On Saturday, the boat that was denied fuel decided to move on and make their passage to the USVI.  It was a lockdown day.  When they were sailing out, the net controller, her sidekick and another captain yelled, yes yelled, that the boat couldn’t leave.  They demanded to know where they were going and why.  The captain explained they realized the rules and orders and that as captain he had decided to take advantage of the favorable wind and make his move.  We were able to be in contact with them off the radio.  They shut off their radio to the abuse and shut off their AIS which makes them visible to other boats.  We proceeded to listen to these supposedly well meaning people yell and discuss how angry they were at this boat, debating where they were going and why they were leaving their dingy down, therefore coming to the conclusion they were only pleasure cruising and not seriously sailing.  They came to all kinds of conclusions and assumptions and then announced they were calling law enforcement to report them!  Then, they announced that law enforcement would call the Royal Bahamian Defense Force.  We were flabbergasted!  These are cruisers.  They are the ones that are supposed to stick together!  How could this possibly be happening???  Those of us that were upset and opposed to this behavior were conversing privately and we were warning the outgoing yacht.  They were appalled!  It was so over the top.  We received word the next day that they were about to cross from Crooked Island and no one had approached them since leaving our harbor.  We were relieved for them.

Three days later there were 6 boats that left the anchorage.  Voyager and Ventolines had welcomed a third boat into our buddy boat club and Jeff tagged us the Lockdown Leavers of Long Island.  We were feeling super stealthy and like rebels, even though we followed all the rules and left after the lockdown lifted.  The curfew was still in place.

We made it 70 miles that first day, getting as far away as we possibly could.  We were trying to digest how this lovely island, with people on shore who were so welcoming and we loved our 2 days on shore so much, could leave such a sour taste.  We spoke with one of the other boats that had left at the same time and he was also feeling the same things.  He said he and his wife were dumbstruck at the behavior that Saturday morning.  It felt good to know we weren’t alone.

Since then, we stopped at 3 other settlements and 6 anchorages.  In all this time, no one has accosted us on the radio coming or going.  No one has made us feel unwelcome.  No one has threatened to call law enforcement.  We were in Nassau one night and left during lockdown.  We listened to the RBDF speak with a sailboat that was anchored, asking why they were there when they had given a float plan indicating they were leaving.  The Capt explained that for weather reasons they had decided to stay and had given that information to harbor control.  The RBDF said it also needed to be given to them or port authority, but it was fine, now they knew.  It was all a very civil and not at all a threatening conversation.  Nothing like the so-called liaison in Long Island.  When we came into our present anchorage at Great Harbor we were haled by another boat.  He was looking for anyone who may be making the crossing back to Florida when he is.  This is the kind of people we are used to.  This is what we expect when we talk to one another.  Support, sharing of expertise, helping one another.  It is such a relief to be out of that toxic place.  While there, it was hard to separate the truth of the orders from the interpretation of those blasting from the radio.  It was something like being in an abusive relationship.  The reality was we could leave at any time, but the abusers pretended they could stop us.

I can count on one hand the number of times Matthew, the dogs and I have been off the boat in a little over a month.   This includes sitting on the little boat, Meg,  watching from the water as the dogs go potty and run on an empty beach that I can’t set foot on.  I need a walk.  I need some solitude and alone time.  Voyager is roughly 450 square feet of living space.  Normally in the evening we separate and enjoy our own space ie; the 2 separate cabins and the living room.  This isn’t enough lately!  There are 3 adult sized people and 2 adult sized dogs.  The things one plans for when moving onto a boat is: weather, float plans, where to be to avoid weather, where to go to shore, where to get groceries, where the dogs can run etc.  You don’t expect to be locked down on your boat for indefinite periods.  You’re basically living outside, but you can’t go for a walk.  You can’t just open the door to let your dogs get exercise in the yard.  This has been eye opening.  I doubt we will ever face this sort of thing again.  There are challenges on land and there are challenges at sea, no one could have foreseen this one.

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