Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands on the west coast of Malaysia, is magnificent: white sand beaches, turquoise sea, lush vegetation. Only four of the islands are inhabited. The largest, Pulau Langkawi, is home to nearly 65,000 people and has all the tourist attractions you could want, but it’s the small islands that seem like the perfect place to wait for a pandemic.
At least that’s what it looks like on Jarrad Laver and Bonita Herewane’s Instagram account. The Australian couple, who sail around the world on their 40-foot Bruce Roberts sailboat Nandji, have passed the global lockdown anchored in one of the archipelago’s small islands.
It’s easy to think that Herewane and Laver, who are known for their popular YouTube channel, Veil Nandji – Frothlyfe, get through the pandemic in the best possible place. But the reality is not that idyllic.
“We [made] the right decision to enter Langkawi two days before the start of the global lockdown and border closures. We received a three month visa and [have been] very well treated. We have the option of visiting the grocery store, as long as it’s one person per household, âLaver said in an email interview. âBut the borders of the countries around us are closed. We are allowed to leave Malaysia, but we will not be accepted in the next country. There is nowhere to go. “
Being stuck in paradise may not seem so bad, especially since they’ve been greeted by locals and have six months of food in store for a trip across the Indian Ocean. But Laver realizes that cruise lines can put strain on grocery stores and healthcare systems – and situations can quickly get tense.
âWe know boats in the Maldives [that have] were confined to their boat for 32 days without even being allowed to swim out of their boat. They are running out of food and currently have a bi-weekly food delivery to share between the boats stuck there, âhe said. âOther boats in Indonesia have received warning shots from officials nearby and have been escorted out of safe ports, [even though] they only planned to rest for the night, not to go ashore. Many angry residents threw stones at boats and chased them from safe harbors, forcing boats to remain stranded at sea with nowhere to go.
The pandemic has also disrupted Laver and Herewane’s plans. They intended to sail from Thailand to South Africa in early March, touching Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Chagos Archipelago, Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar – a voyage of more than 7,500 nautical miles. But now they don’t know when they will be able to leave Malaysia.
The pandemic has also changed things for Joscha Brormann and Niklas Heinecke, two German friends who have been sailing together since April 2019. They are currently in Martinique, halfway on a sustainable sailing adventure they call #SailNaked. The goal is to circumnavigate the world via the Northwest Passage, a corridor through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago that is considered the Mount Everest of sailing, on Ju Mar, Brormann’s cruiser Bavaria 42.
But it’s only possible to cross the Northwest Passage for a few months each year, and the global lockdown has put them well behind schedule.
They worry about their family and friends back home, but they have some good things to do right now, Heinecke said. “We can swim. We can do stuff on the boat. We have food. We even found a friend here who helps us with the groceries and the laundry.
But, like Laver and Herewane, they cannot leave. Brormann’s plan was to spend the summer sailing from the Caribbean to Newfoundland and Labrador, leave Ju Mar in Canada for the winter, then resume their voyage in the spring, sailing to Greenland and into the shift from there. They were already considering delays because Brormann was running out of money – boat maintenance and repairs can be very expensive – but now things are even worse as he can no longer offset his costs by hosting guests who want a taste of the cruise life. He now believes he will return to Germany when the borders reopen so that he can work for a while.
Not everyone wants to wait for the end of the pandemic on a boat. Linda Kenyon and Chris Hatton, Ontarians who have sailed for two decades, spend the winter on their boat, most recently in Cuba. Normally, they would not return to Canada until Victoria Day, but the crisis forced them to make the return trip earlier. The couple, who are 63 and 67, did not want to risk falling ill away from home.
“We’re in that time when they were saying we should be concerned about what this virus might do,” she said. âIf we were to need medical care in Cuba, it would be a problem because the medical system there is already quite strained. And having spent the winter there, we knew it was difficult to find fresh food – there are real shortages. So we never really considered staying [on the boat]. “
They made the trip from Cuba to the Cayman Islands and to Florida in mid-March, and even after leaving their boat in Titusville, Florida, they still had to cross the United States to return home, which Kenyon said to be anxiety. -induce because they suddenly had access to non-stop information about “how bad it is and how bad it is going to be.”
No matter where their boats are located, all cruisers live in uncertainty. Back in Malaysia, Laver and Herewane try to keep things in perspective.
“We hope that the ports can start to open up [soon], but it’s more of a hopeful pipe dream than a reality, âsays Laver. âAll the ports in neighboring countries are closed and the closures extended until mid-May. All countries to the west are closed and show no signs of opening to cruise ships. We will keep a close eye on the situation and take it as it comes. Our biggest challenge is coming to terms with the fact that we might be stuck here for the rest of the year. We are safe, we have food, we are happy, we are welcome and all is well. “
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