The Valiant 40 on the cover of the September issue is named Brick House and belongs to longtime contributor the late Patrick Childress and his wife Rebecca. Patrick was 69 and healthy when he arrived in Cape Town, South Africa in May. Last month, he died there after contracting COVID-19. The loss of our friend, co-worker, and such a widely followed sailor has sent ripples of sadness through the cruising community. Patrick was a fellow South Florida native, and his circumnavigation aboard a 27-foot Catalina helped inspire my own sailing dreams. There is a tribute to Childress’ work for PS in the upcoming issue, and readers can follow Rebecca and Brick House at their blog “Where is Brick House?” which also has links to their widely followed YouTube channel “Sailing Brick House.”
Patrick’s illness and death was a particular shock because we were in correspondence by e-mail not long before he was hospitalized. He e-mailed the photos for our Valiant 40 review about a month before he got the virus. We’d both mused about how lucky he was to be in Africa, where the COVID-19 seemed to be less prevalent than in many US ports. Currently, however, Cape Town is struggling with the disease, with more than 2,000 deaths.
Today, in South Africa, as in many parts of the world, the free movement of foreign cruising boats is curtailed or closely monitored. New rules are changing the shape of international sailing and making it especially challenging for sailors who are already out there, or who were on the verge of launching their dream of an island escape.
In some places, US cruising sailors are still effectively confined to their boats in the foreign port they cleared into. Cruising between islands, even those within the same country, is limited or completely restricted. Leaving a country entails research as to whether one’s destination port is welcoming foreign boats.
The good news is that many countries that rely on foreign cruisers are beginning to open up. The Bahamas have opened up to cruisers who can prove that they have been tested within 10 days prior to arrival, and more distant locales like Fiji are establishing clearcut guidelines for foreign vessels that want to visit their country.
It is clear that many of our favorite destinations are eager to welcome back world sailors, if only because their local recreational marine industry depends on us. This imposes a great responsibility on the sailing community to ensure that we not only protect ourselves and other cruisers, but the communities we visit. Many of these countries simply don’t have the resources to deal with outbreaks, so the blatant flouting of local health advisories that is going on in our own country can have dire consequences in small island nations.
The websites for the host countries you hope to visit can provide guidance on where things stand in that country. For the latest on COVID-19 in ports around the world, Jimmy Cornell’s Noonsite website provides a “biosecurity” link with status updates. Even if you are cruising domestically, you’ll want to do your research.
This leads me to my last point. Many of the sailing organizations that sailors rely on are going through a rough patch. Groups like Noonsite that depend on advertising to support their services have seen revenue drop. Our favorite charities like Shake-A-Leg Sailing have had to cut back on activities and/or institute costly changes to their programs to prevent the spread of disease.
Those of us who have the privilege of realizing the dream of escape can’t and shouldn’t escape our responsibility to our community, both ashore and afloat. Now, more than ever, it is important that we give back to the organizations who helped bring us this far. If you have some favorite sailing-related charities to promote during these times, send you recommendations to Practicalsailor@belvoir.com.
PS Publisher Belvoir Media and Harvard Medical School have created the Harvard Coronavirus Resource Center to answer questions regarding COVID-19. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center