Well, what a difference a week makes. Things have escalated very quickly both in the USA and UK. As I write this the USA has surpassed Italy with over 100,000 cases of the virus, the UK has gone into full lock-down allowing only key worker mobility, admittedly still voluntary, with all but essential travel restricted, i.e. med runs, and food shopping and an hours exercise respecting the 2-metre distance rule allowed, which now appears to be implemented and respected.
How has this affected us? We’ve had our own dilemma too, centred mainly around health insurance, our policy covered us through the Caribbean and Bahamas, but limited us to only 89 consecutive days at one visit in the USA. As we have only been back in the states for a short period of time, we assumed we’d have till June to do what we’d usually do, which is either make a trip back to the UK or visit friends outside the US to reset our 89-day policy constriction and then return, but when we checked our policy to confirm exactly what date we would have to leave by, we noticed our policy renewed in April. Now normally this wouldn’t be an issue as it is normally just a quick policy email, we say “yes” and it rolls over for another year, however with C19 taking a serious hold, our insurers understandably made severe restrictions to our cover.
These new policy restrictions seriously put us at medical cover risk should we contract the virus. Then the US put in place a blanket ban on travel to and from the UK, which then rolled out to the Caribbean and the rest of the world, which then, in turn, limited the number of airlines providing service, Virgin our prefered airline (Airmiles Accounts) closed down all direct flights from Miami, routing them via JFK (a bit of a C19 hotspot) and more and more flights were getting cancelled left, right and centre.
We had to make some immediate and drastic decisions, we couldn’t really stay in the US, our medical insurance wouldn’t cover us for the virus, we couldn’t sail back to either the Bahamas or the Caribbean or anywhere for that matter, as all the ports/borders had been shut, we were pretty scuppered! Our current boat insurers wouldn’t cover the boat for hurricanes in Florida so the boat needed to be in Georgia, at best a 3 day sail away (that’s if the ports would let us back in). Like so many of our cruising friends, we were completely screwed.
We really didn’t have many options open to us! So we set to work, bashing away on mac and iPad trying to get cover for the boat in Florida and Insurance for us, it was a very short search, finding cover for the boat was easy, finding cover for us, impossible! We had no choice we had to get back to the UK, so we managed to find direct flights with Delta Airlines from Atlanta, we knew Atlanta airport well, Helen had flown through it a few times on her way to Philadelphia with work and we both had been through it while we had been in Georgia last year.
We already had a car on hire with Enterprise at Fort Lauderdale, one of the benefits of hiring a car with a large organisation is we knew (well hoped!) we could drop it off at the airport branch, so we changed the boat insurance to US boat/Geico to give us the cover we needed to leave Allegrini where she was safely moored at the dock at the bottom of our friends John and Linda’s garden in Fort Lauderdale.
We packed our bags and drove 9 hours to Atlanta, a relatively uneventful trip, due to the fact the roads were quite clear and it’s one road, the Interstate 75 or commonly know as the Florida turnpike.
We dropped the truck off to Enterprise, who didn’t query us moving it multiple hundred miles and hopped on the transit bus to a rather eerie and empty “F” Concourse to the Delta departure lounge which thankfully was also empty, to wait the few hours for our flight.
After an anxious wait in the lounge, while the indicator board showed flight after flight cancelled (the pic of the departure board above was taken at Atlanta), we took off a little late and arrived 7.5 hours later, again to an all but empty airport, straight through passport control, (no medical scanning) baggage-reclaim, customs and on to Enterprise Car hire who upgraded us from our tiny budget car to a Jag for almost nothing due to the sheer quantity of cars available. We drove back to our apartment in central London, through what only can be described as a scene from a zombie or 28 days later movie, with only a very small number of cars and trucks, we were glad to see that people were taking the PM’s advice and staying home.
We managed to do a two trolley shop of food due to the fact we had absolutely nothing in the flat, as it had been rented for the last two years, (with the exception of some loo roll, paper towels and some washing stuff left by Kevin our previous Tenant) The supermarket was surprisingly full of stock, they had instigated a one in one out a policy on the number of people in the store at any one time, but we flew through that too.
So that’s us for the moment, we are self-isolating for the next two weeks, (in case we did pick it up on the way through) we have food, some booze, a pretty decent internet connection, and a very comfortable flat to hide in. All of this sounds very measured but it was a crazy anxious stressful time and pretty devastating to leave the boat in another country for who knows how long. But we are very lucky to have the flat and we are so so glad to be back home which is reassuring just in its familiarity and knowing that we are in the same country with family and so many old friends.
To all our friends in the USA and Caribbean, or those who have had to do the same as us, take care, be safe, hopefully, it won’t be too long.
To all our friends here in the UK, sorry we won’t be visiting you just yet…….but we look forward to digital dates.
To Allegrini, who has been our home and looked after us so well over the last 2 years, we will be back!
And for those of you who were going to join me for my 60th Birthday drinks, don’t worry I’m staying 59 till next year.