ELEUTHERA SUR, The Bahamas There are much less enviable places to be locked down than the Bahamas, but being that far from home carries anxieties. Just ask Joe Weathers and Lynne Muller.
Theyve just froze the country, Weathers told First Coast News Wednesday afternoon. Theres no anything. No one can leave their house, their yard. No stores are open.
The couple is accustomed to solitude living on a 42-foot sailboat even while home and working on the First Coast, Weathers and Muller said the social distancing mandated by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic hasnt been among their greater challenges lately.
We were self-isolating before it was cool, right? Muller quipped of their general lifestyle. What has been a challenge has been obtaining supplies and consistent information. The couple left northeast Florida for the Bahamas in March.
We went to the Abacos to bring some relief supplies for a former client, Weathers said. The rest of their three-month sailing permit in the island nation was to be enjoyed at leisure. But a lot has changed since then.
We had local police and customs agents come to the boat and distribute information to us, Muller recalled, asking us to not go on shore but providing us with telephone numbers for local fuel and groceries and propane.
Those orders specifically meant that Muller and Weathers arent allowed to even try to shop, restricting their land access to a deserted beach, where they walk their three small dogs.
At the time of our FaceTime interview, Weathers and Muller were anchored off the west side of Eleuthera, an island about 110 miles in length but only a few miles wide at its broadest. Their travels there were driven by necessity and with a few stops along the way.
The bigger problem is, transient dockage doesnt exist, going ashore is prohibited, a lot of fuel and services are closed, Weathers said, adding that Its always a worry. Its much more expensive here, buying groceries and fuel.
A couple of different anchorages, in search of propane, Weathers described, and then we finally ended up in Rock Sound. And now that were here we are on lockdown, were not allowed to leave.
He elaborated on that latter point by saying theres been some ambiguity. Early in the crisis some boaters apparently ignored orders to stay where they were, fleeing the Bahamas altogether. Whether that was an act of defiance or confusion even seemed unclear, as, according to Weathers, the rules have sometimes been ambiguous.
Conflicting information between the prime ministers office and then what the police say, and then, what the U.S. embassy had to say, Weathers described the situation, acknowledging that some confusion anywhere isnt surprising in such severe and unprecedented circumstances.
We pool our knowledge [with nearby boaters] and see what other people are doing, what theyve listened to or heard, he said.
But Weathers and Mullers sunny disposition comes tempered with heartache.
You know, we had plans to head back home for Lynnes sons graduation, which has been postponed and most likely will be canceled, Weathers said.
And, March 30th, Weathers father passed away unexpectedly in New Hampshire. Weathers couldnt get to his fathers funeral in New England.
Basically there was no way. [My parents] were on lockdown as well, at an elderly facility. Describing the service, Weathers said, They had just -- 10 people were the maximum, and they live-streamed it.
Despite his sadness about the situation, Weathers was clearly thinking beyond just himself. Im sure thats happening to thousands of other people around the country, he said.
Its a blend of conflicting concerns, really. Weathers readily admitted some trepidation about returning to Florida too soon.
Our biggest anxiety, honestly, is heading back to the United States and hotbeds of pandemic, Weathers said.
And although he and Muller respect the limitations of their supplies, they remained clearly optimistic, saying they could get by for six weeks, maybe eight, with what they have aboard after recently replenishing some supplies.
They also repeatedly spoke of how genial their visits from the authorities have been.
Theyve been very gracious, he smiled, concluding with a contagious optimism. Were OK, just waiting out the duration here, I suppose.
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