2020 – Oh, No!

Mar 25, 2020| 6 Comments

It is the year 2020, and what a start we have had! Pneumonia clobbered The First Mate, our most reliable car ever, a Lexus SUV, caught fire while we were driving it in the middle of nowhere Colorado, the French Consulate held our passports hostage, the snow plow ran into the side of the garage, and the list goes on with the Coronavirus being the final blow.

All was not bad news. We did fit in some family fun over the Holidays. David and 4-year old Henry were in for Christmas. What a wonderful bounding time that was, especially for The Captain!


Granddaughter Berlin arrived 3 days before the pneumonia diagnosis. The First Mate was just beginning to drag, though she thought she was merely run down, not sick. We shared a family Holiday tradition: a Raclette dinner. It was Henry’s first introduction to melting the cheese on a Raclette grill, and he got the hang of it immediately.


We had planned to return to Avante in New Zealand in the middle of January, but that was nixed for 2 reasons. One was that The First Mate’s pneumonia made any idea of travel impossible. The other was that the French Embassy in Washington had our passports. This year’s planned cruising on Avante to French Polynesia will require a longer stay than the normal 3-month visitor’s visa. We needed to obtain an extended stay visa, and that required a time-consuming, multi-step application process culminating with a trip to California on December 9th to a separate agency where we were finger printed, submitted our last 3 months’ financial statements and shelled out several more $100’s to keep our applications moving along. There, we also had to turn in our passports to be sent to the French Embassy for further processing. We should get them back in 3 – 5 weeks. Long story made short. We did not see them again until February 28th, two weeks after we had told them we expected to be in French Polynesia! “What a mess” we thought, for we could not make plans, reservations or anything until we had those passports back in our hands.

We were now able to return to our boat in New Zealand, but the threat of Coronavirus was looming. We did not like what we were seeing or reading about this virus. In no way did we consider it something not to worry about or that it would “miraculously go away” as a certain well known person was saying. The virus was already in the States. Several large events had been cancelled, and airplanes were flying with a lot of empty seats. The elderly (us!) were known to be the most vulnerable, and we considered that the stressed lungs of the recovering First Mate put her in a higher risk category. Still, The First Mate was reluctant to leave family and friends. She was fearful of going on that long international flight, but The Captain insisted that once we got to New Zealand, she would be far safer out on the boat breathing ocean air than in the States. He was right, and the weeks and months following our arrival certainly did prove his case.

Tuesday, March 10th –  We finally flew off to New Zealand arriving on Thursday morning. The airports in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Auckland were about ⅔ full, and our flights went smoothly. The only extra screening we received upon arrival in Auckland was a question about whether we had been to China recently. We zipped through customs, picked up our rental car and drove north to the Opua Marina. We were still thinking that we would be able to do the “Grand Tour” we had been planning for so long – an 8,000 nautical mile sailing journey from New Zealand to French Polynesia and then returning to New Zealand via Samoa and Tonga. Our friends, John and Lyn Martin, were keen to go, and we had the much-delayed visas for the stay. We immediately began working to get Avante ready to leave for the long passage to French Polynesia in early April. The Captain scheduled some remaining boat maintenance, including a haul-out to clean and paint the bottom. The First Mate began efforts to re-stock the larders. In the evenings, we met with friends for dinners to catch up on all our activities of the last few months.

Saturday, March 14th – And then, how the world changed! Just 3 days after our arrival, the New Zealand Government announced that anyone entering the country must self-isolate for 14 days. Our timing was lucky. We had just made it here in time. The next day we read that the Galapagos Islands had totally closed its borders making them the first Pacific Island to do so. The whole of the Galapagos economy depends upon the tourist industry. What an impact this is going to be for the Galapagos, and with foreboding, we realized this was probably just the start of what would be happening across other Pacific Islands. Tonga shortly followed, and within a week, other Pacific island nations had implemented quarantines and closed their borders. Visitors currently in those countries were told to “Go Home”. We realized any hope of doing our “Grand Tour” was dashed. We may not be sailing anywhere this season. If this virus continues to spread, the last place we would want to be is on a tiny Pacific Island nation with limited medical facilities. We decided to delay all plans for boat maintenance and to go out sailing in the nearby Bay of Islands while we waited to see what happened.

By then, almost everyone in the States had recognized the potential seriousness of this pandemic. It’s borders were being closed to more countries, and more international flights were cancelled. Friends began asking if we were returning home soon. No! Avante is our home. We did not like what we were seeing with the weak and disjointed response to this pandemic in the States, and we felt comfortable in New Zealand with the country’s response so far and with good friends near.

Saturday, March 21st – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the nation to give everyone “certainty and clarity” about the risks of Covid-19. Calmly and succinctly she told her people, “Today I am going to set out for you as clearly as possible, what you can expect as we continue to fight the virus together.” She explained the 4-Level Alert system that was being put in place. At the moment, with risks rising, the country would be on Level 2 Alert. Only nationals and resident visa holders would be allowed to enter the country, and they would be required to self-quarantine. Stores and schools are still open, and people were encouraged to work remotely when possible. Levels 3 and 4 were explained to prepare the nation for what might come. She concluded by saying, “So thank you for all that you’re about to do. Please be strong, be kind, and unite against Covid-19.” We are impressed, and we cannot help but wonder what is wrong in our country with the conflicted messages given the people of our nation. We see unity and a sense of mission here while in the US, there is division, rising fear and countless hours spent berating and blaming others rather than dealing with the crisis.

Monday, March 23rd – Just 2 days later, Jacinda announced that with the virus becoming increasingly difficult to contain, the country would now be going to Level 3 Alert. All public venues and non-essential businesses will be closed. She further stated that in 48 hours, to further control transmission, the entire country will go to Level 4 Alert. This highest level will be in place for the next 4 weeks. Over the next 2 days, everyone is to do what they need to do to prepare to stay at home. Where you on at 11:59pm on Wednesday night, that is where you are to stay for the duration. All non-essential businesses, except grocery and pharmacy, will be closed. People are told to shop normally. Stores will be stocked. All schools are closed. Online schooling will start. All moving around activity is to stop, except for short walks around one’s home. Again, she rallies the nation around the dire need to fight this virus together and ends by telling all to “be kind.” The contrast to the misinformation and arguments coming from the States could not be greater.

Wednesday, March 25th – With the country battened down, we receive an email from the Immigration Department informing us that our visitor visas have been automatically extended to September 25th. That is 3 months beyond the date our visas would have expired. We are amazed at such forward thinking, and needless to say, we are delighted. There is now no question of our returning to the States soon. New Zealand has embraced us. We will stay here until it is safe to return to the States – whenever that may be.

If we had foreseen the impact that Covid-19 would have on the world in 2020 and been able to make a plan to keep ourselves safe by minimizing our exposure, we could not have developed a better plan than what has happened. We are isolated on a sailboat on the coast of a country that has good healthcare facilities and that is taking this virus seriously. We endured a blizzard of bad luck at the start of the year, but we consider ourselves very lucky right now.

    Comments (6)

  1. Hi Sue and Bill,
    What a journey !! So glad you are safe in New Zealand. We feel safe in Savannah on
    our island. We can still play golf and take long walks – zoom with the family in Calif. and face time with the little ones. Not sure if we will go to Telluride for the summer – right now “outsiders” even part timers are not really welcome. For now our marsh views, river view and ocean view keep us calm and relaxed. Lots of good reading….. Stay safe and well, Libba and Curt


  2. always so enjoyable reading you and happy you still have your blog going.
    It is good in these strange times to realize how lucky we are and we are happy for you that your situation is one of the most enviable. We feel lucky too compared to many to live where we do and to be able to enjoy hikes in beautiful non crowded environment. A shame this country is so divided and we are worried it is getting worse with this pandemic. We are ashamed of what is happening at the highest level and ashamed every time we hear the clown at the top.
    We wish you all the best and for your family too, Marie and Tom


  3. So glad you are healthy and in THE safest spot in the world! Life goes on at DM with golf courses still open. We’ve been advised that “officials” are checking to make sure we maintain our social distancing while golfing, and are lucky that there’s been little talk of closure.

    Still a run on paper goods at the stores, and all have implemented senior mornings, limited number of shoppers and one way aisles to comply with regulations.

    Meanwhile our 3 month old female Yorkie is keeping us both entertained and frustrated as we attempt to housebreak Tequila without the wisdom of the trainer who had to cancel because Ducie didn’t deem her an essential worker!

    Stay safe and enjoy your time away from Trump and the US!

    Nance & Jeff


  4. Any bets on your being in NZ on the 12th June 2020 ?
    Great blog and good to see all is well under the circumstances.
    Rodney and Chris


  5. Loved your update. My goodness you had a rough start to the year. Glad you are happily sailing NZ waters and enjoying a well run country. We are still on stay at home orders with checkpoints on roads to ensure folks are obeying orders. We are allowed to go out for groceries or pharmacy. So far only TP, paper towels and the like as well as sanitizing stuff not available. We have senior shopping hours early weekdays so that really helps as the stores are better stocked at that time. So far no meat or fresh veg. shortages. Canned soups coming back on shelves. Its a weird time all right.


  6. Glad to her from you and know you are safe. Do think of you often and think being in New Zealand is wonderful for you. Loved the post and the peak into life in a saner, calmer and compassionate society. I’m still in Oregon in a beautiful agricultural valley that has not been heavily impacted by covid 19. Staying safe with my cat, books and wonderful country side to drive through to stave off complete boredom. Take care. Jeanne


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