This blog is coming to you from the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia where we are currently spending our mandatory 14-day self isolation. We made it back to BC but getting here was an adventure. Let me tell you the story.
When we left you at our last blog post we were hopeful that Puerto Penasco would open for the end of May. Rumor had it that although they were asking new arrivals to quarantine for 14 days, the boats were able to tie up at the marinas and most were serving a maximum of 8 days in quarantine before being allowed to come ashore.
Based on this information we and friends on the sailboat Milou decided to head for Penasco. Our timing would have us there the third week of May thinking that if we had to spend a week at the dock that would be OK and they would likely be opening up at the end of May so all should be good. Or so we thought.
After stops in Puerto Don Juan and Puerto Refugio we made the 20-hour overnight passage to Puerto Penasco arriving at 8 AM only to be told by the Port Captain that we must anchor outside the harbour and serve our mandatory 14-day quarantine. Puerto Penasco has a sheltered harbour but the anchorage outside the harbour is exposed to all the wind and waves that make their way up the Sea of Cortez. The Port Captain would only allow us to seek safe harbour at one of the marinas if the winds got bad, but he did not consider waves as a safety issue. There were another couple of nights we rocked and rolled out there. We were very thankful to be on a catamaran as we watched the monohulls roll from side to side dipping their rails in the water occasionally. After the third night, we set a stern anchor to keep us pointed into the wind and waves, that helped a lot
It turns out that some of the previous boats, once at the marinas, had been moving about far more than they were supposed to under the quarantine and the Port Captain decided he was going to make an example of us as a result. There was no way we were getting in without serving our full 14 days. We tried to decommission the boat as best we could while we were killing our time but there is only so much you can do while you are still on the water, living on the boat and not on the hard. We also rearranged our flight reservations and moved them out a few days as it became apparent we would be doing the full quarantine. Airlines do not make it easy to deal with them.
Its Thursday, day 12 for us, and high winds are forecast for tomorrow. By this time there are seven boats at anchor outside the harbour and the Port Captain is allowing us all to enter the harbour. Those that had not served their full quarantine would have to go back out and re anchor once the winds were over. He has radioed us with our marina locations and times to enter. He will be meeting us at the docks with our paperwork. The good news is that he has decided that if we clear our medical checks, he will call our quarantine complete (day 13 of 14 what a break) and allow us to haul out. The medical team was supposed to show up Thursday morning which would have allowed us to haul that day, but they did not arrive until 5:30, after passing our temp checks it was too late to haul. Interestingly the medical team consisted of two guys. The one taking our pulse and temperature was in a complete suit with face shield and mask. The second guy was in jeans a tee shirt and wearing a bandana.
Friday’s haul out for Stray Cat and Milou is booked. Timing the tides is essential for a haul out in Puerto Penasco with a 20 ft tide swing. We have our window between 11:30 am – 2 pm. Fortunately, we both got hauled before the big winds that hit late afternoon and lasted into the night. Friends on one of the boats at the marina recorded top wind speed of 52 knots. We recorded 36.8 in the boat yard. Thank goodness we were all secured in the harbour. I would not have wanted to be at anchor during that event.
Our friends on Milou are Americans and were going to be driving home. They offered to drive us to Phoenix where we would be flying out from. While we were at anchor, we were messaging with a couple other Canadian boats that were already out of the water at the yard. They had some distressing news. It seems the border crossing at Lukeville (closest crossing to Penasco) was not allowing Canadians to cross and transit the US on their way home. We called the border and they confirmed this. I then called the CBP main number and was told it was up to the individual agent to determine what was deemed “essential travel”. We called the Nogales crossing and they said, “give it a try”.
Nogales would be a three-and-a-half-hour detour to Phoenix. We could not ask our friends to make that kind of detour on a give it a try so we made arrangements with a local driver to drive us to the border, wait and make sure we made it across (we were told it could be up to 5 hours) and if not drive us back to the boat. Oh yes one other hoop to jump through. On the roads leading from Penasco there are health checkpoints and non-residents would be allowed out but not back in again. It required a signed letter by a local doctor that stated we were heathy, going to the border and returning that same day if we were not allowed to cross in order to get back to the boat if we needed to. So, while I was cleaning the boat Barb and another Canadian from the yard left to get the necessary letters.
Monday morning, we are picked up a 6:45 AM for the drive to Nogales. After an uneventful 4-hour drive, we arrived at the border crossing. We walked through a long sidewalk that I imagine could be filled with people but today was empty. We walked right up to the agent. He asked us where we were going, we replied, back to Vancouver via Phoenix our flight is tomorrow morning. He said OK, and that was that. We crossed the border and walked to where we caught the shuttle bus to Phoenix. We sent our Mexican driver a text to let him know we were in the USA and he was on his way back home.
One night in a hotel close to the airport and at 6:30 the next morning we were in the airport. Now that was a strange sight. We are so used to airport busy with travelers hustling back and forth and line ups for everything. This morning it is a virtual ghost town. No line at the ticketing counter. No line up at the security screening, most of the gates are empty. Very eerie.
Our flights were all on time and we arrived in Vancouver as planned. Travellers arriving back in BC are required by law to “Self Isolate” for 14 days (here we go again). Fortunately, our families have summer places up on the Sunshine Coast. Our daughter and son in law went and got insurance for our car, fueled it up and checked the fluids and tires, our car had been sitting for 8 months. They filled it with groceries and stuff we would need for 14 days. One drove our car and the other drove theirs to the airport. When we came out from the airport, they basically tossed us the keys to our car and off we went to self isolate again.
I’m writing this on day 10 of 14 of our self isolation / quarantine. We have had rain everyday for the first week here. Finally we have a couple of sunny days and temps finally reached into the low 20’s. We are definitely not in Mexico anymore. By the time we are done with this we will have spent 28 of the last 32 days in some form of quarantine. I understand the need for and the reasons we must do this, but it is starting to wear on us. We have had several calls from the Canadian and BC Health Authorities checking up on us, making sure we’re ok and still here where we said we would be for our 14 days. Yes, I know I’m whining. I really have nothing to complain about. We are very blessed that we were able to self isolate on a boat in Mexico and then at a lakefront cottage in BC. There are many that have it far worse than us. Just like on a boat, there is always a job list at the cabin so there is something to occupy our time.
Our second season of cruising in Mexico is in the books. To say it was not what we were expecting would be an understatement, but it was an adventure and that’s what we are out here for. Season three will begin who knows when. Our normal plan would be to head back in October. We won’t head back until we know Mexico is a safe place to be. Their Covid numbers are just spiking now so October does not look promising. As it has been a waiting game for most things this year it appears the beginning of season 3 will be more of the same. Stay Tuned. Stay safe everyone!