About a week ago, we were enjoying Faro Blanco Marina in the Florida Keys but feeling ready to continue our Great Loop Voyage, rather than staying through our planned March 31 departure date.
News of the spreading COVID-19 virus had reached us, but had no visible effect on the thousands of vacationers and boaters in the area or the restaurants, marinas and other businesses that cater to them. That was about to change quickly.
As we strategized about a departure earlier than March 31, I spoke with brother Steve, who planned fly to Key West, be with us on the boat for a few days, and then drive our SUV back to Michigan. Then his late March trade show in Detroit was canceled due to the virus, allowing him to come a few days earlier. Good news! But a few days later continuing news of virus risks led us to talk again and decide he should cancel his Key West flight and join us later at another port. Not good news.
A group of friends from Indiana and Florida had planned to join us in late March for a few days at Faro Blanco. But increasing intensity of news coverage about the virus, and more public data about its rapid worldwide spread, changed many of those plans. Intrepid Mark and Mary nevertheless flew to Fort Lauderdale, rented a car, and drove to meet us in Marathon.
By the time they arrived, Faro Blanco Marina was almost out of diesel fuel, but agreed to reserve 250 gallons for us for a departure the next morning.
That evening we distanced ourselves by ordering takeout sushi from the excellent menu at Castaway Restaurant.
The next morning Rhonda battled Highway One traffic out of the Keys while the rest of us had a beautiful six hour cruise across a nearly flat Florida Bay to meet her in Everglade City.
Rural and isolated E City seemed like a good place to hide away from growing effects of the virus, but that was just an illusion. Josh, our air boat captain, disinfected boat equipment after each group of passengers. And Bruce, his father and the business owner, expressed concern that he would be forced to close his business during the busiest part of the season. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in quiet E City, but it seemed surreal as worldwide COVID-19 concerns increased.
By the time we cruised from Everglades City to Marco Island, we had decided that there was too much uncertainty to continue our voyage. We decided to leave the boat at Marco Island and head home to Holland for a while. With much hard work by Mark, Mary, and both of us, we rented a U-Haul trailer, packed it with bicycles, food, clothing and supplies, deep-cleaned R&R inside and out and prepared her for longer-term (we wish we knew how long) storage.
As we drove north, we saw more and more messages reminding us of increasing public health concerns and government action.
As we neared home, we learned on the ALGCA message forum that the Florida Keys are closed to visitors.
We were happy to arrive at our home in Holland this afternoon, to practice social distancing and learn how we can help in our new community. Those two goals may be inconsistennt – we will take it one day at a time.