Where to go next on Pegu Club has been a frequent topic of discussion. Originally we had planned to take our time, poking north, exploring North Carolina, and going as far as the Chesapeake. We would then start moving south again, aiming to be on the ICW by October 1st so we could try to avoid freezing as autumn moved in, and arrive in the Bahamas ideally by Christmas or even Thanksgiving. As it has for so many other people, Covid-19 completely upended those plans.
This is the first time since we began cruising that I’ve wished we had a land base we could return to. Several of our cruiser friends have hauled their boat for the summer and gone home. Stay-at-home orders are a completely different thing when you have an apartment or a house to wander around in vs. a 30 foot sailboat. But we have to work with what we’ve got, so we started brainstorming.
We briefly debated hauling the boat and renting an apartment in West Hartford. There’s something about a pandemic that makes you want to go “home”, but that idea was quickly rejected as being too expensive, plus there is that pesky winter thing. How about staying in Vero Beach for the foreseeable future? It was possible, but we really didn’t want to be here for hurricane season and there aren’t many options for daysailing around here.
As we talked our priorities came into focus. We wanted someplace with a low hurricane risk where we could go sailing. We wanted a town that we could walk around in (including a grocery store within walking distance), and medical facilities should one of us get sick (Jeff’s congestive heart failure puts him at extremely high risk if he gets Covid-19). All with a reasonably priced marina. Sure we could anchor all summer, but we discovered last year that being able to stop in one place for awhile and just step off of the boat makes for a very nice cruising break. It’s hard to explain, but it worked for us and has kept the cruising experience fresh, avoiding burnout.
Our top choice was Annapolis so we called the marina that we had planned to stay at this summer, only to discover there was a long waiting list. Hmmm. That wasn’t the case last year. Then we looked into Norfolk and called another very reasonably priced marina with great reviews. The dockmaster was really friendly as he explained he didn’t have any room. As he put it, all of the boats that normally would have left are staying put because of Covid-19. He didn’t even have room for the pre-pandemic reservations. Uh-oh. This was starting to look like a pattern.
It was so obvious as we thought about it. Just like the supply chain for toilet paper was out of sync, so was the typical pattern for cruisers. People who had planned to go to the Caribbean had turned around with all of the border closures. People who were going to haul out in Grenada or Trinidad for the summer were coming back to the States because they couldn’t get in to those countries and they didn’t want to risk having the boat down there for hurricane season. Others who head to New England were holding off, with popular places like Newport and Block Island instituting 14 day quarantines or delaying the start of the season altogether. Maryland had prohibited all recreational boating. The typical flow of cruisers was jammed up. So now what?
Beaufort, SC? We couldn’t really sail there, plus the hurricane risk was a bit too high for our comfort and the marina we liked requires boats to leave if a hurricane is coming. Charleston, SC? We could sail, but again, there’s a hurricane risk and the more affordable marinas were very exposed to fetch in heavy weather. Belhaven, NC? We couldn’t really sail, there was a moderate hurricane risk, and no hospital nearby. Oriental or New Bern, NC? We could sail, but those towns seem to have a bullseye on them for hurricanes. We’d spend the entire summer wondering when one was coming.
Hampton, VA? We could sail, the hurricane risk was better than Oriental or New Bern, but the marina was too expensive. Rock Hall, MD? We could sail, but the marinas were pricy and the medical facilities were far away. Baltimore, MD? Low hurricane risk, close to medical facilities, long trip to get to decent sailing, plus it’s Baltimore. Not exactly a place we’d walk around in the evening. Connecticut? Way too expensive for a marina for a few months, plus we didn’t want to head that far north this summer.
Clearly all roads were leading back to Annapolis. Low hurricane risk, walkable town, medical facilities close by, plenty of sailing opportunities, and we love it there. So we decided to up our price range a smidge – we’re making up for it with minuscule entertainment spending considering that we won’t be going to any restaurants or movie theaters for a VERY long time – and we found a slip at Bert Jabin’s in Annapolis. I was excited as I hung up the phone with them, and realized that any place else would have felt like settling. We should have saved ourselves the debate and just ponied up the money sooner. We LOVE Annapolis. It should be a good summer.
And what about this winter? I really don’t know if we are going to be comfortable going to the Bahamas given their limited medical facilities as long as COVID-19 is an issue. This may be a winter of exploring the west coast of Florida and checking out the Dry Tortugas. But who knows what will happen in the next six months? For now, we’ll head up to Annapolis and appreciate simply having a place to be in a spot we enjoy so much.