Lilli Mae - On The Way Home - To the UK!
Sat 21 Mar 2020 14:47
Hi Everyone. Well what a week!
Mike and me are currently on the island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
Last weekend reluctantly we have had to cancel the final leg of "Lilli Mae's Journey Home" to Montego Bay, Jamaica. We are of course disappointed that almost 4 years of planning and the adventure so far has to come to a premature end. Our disappointment is very much shared by our family who are and had planned to be in Jamaica to meet us and celebrate Lilli Mae's journey. Given what is happening in the world right now we need to be thankful we have the opportunity to re-plan Lilli Mae's adventure sometime in the future.
It has been a challenging week. Whilst I (Howard) was en-route to British Virgin Islands news was breaking that many countries were closing their borders to foreigners. Jamaica was one of the early adopters of this approach and so before I landed in Antigua Mike and I were already re-planning. And as we were re-planning more and more islands in the Caribbean were closing their borders.
So what options did we have? We considered sailing north of 27 or south of 12 degrees latitude and parking Lilli Mae until next year. These "parallels" are important because they are outside of the hurricane zone. Hurricane season runs between June and October and Lilli Mae's insurance is not valid if she is in this zone after June 1st. However casting off and sailing north or south for approximately 6 days did expose us to admission uncertainty when we arrived in Florida or Grenada. This option was ruled out.
Our original planning involved getting Lilli Mae to Freeport, Bahamas and loading her onto a ship to Southampton in May. However whilst we were exploring options we recalled a ship departing for Northern Europe from St Thomas in April. After a few frantic emails and phone calls we confirmed there was a planned sailing to Southampton. In order to be in a position to take this option we needed to be in St Thomas. Over the weekend the scramble involved getting temporary visas into the US, checking out with BVI customs and moving Lilli Mae to the port of Red Hook on the eastern end of St Thomas. We managed to get checked-in by Customs (at 5 pm EST) before President Trump's ban on foreign visitors to the United States came into force at midnight EST last Monday (16th March). From here we have more options; our current plan is to load Lilli Mae on a boat back to the Southampton in the period between 8th-18th April.
Last weekend is simply described as a "scramble". My I94 US visa was critical. Getting this necessitated a hastily organised ferry ride to St Thomas (to get my passport stamped) before we could set sail for Red Hook so missed connections in Antigua (Saturday), confusion on rebooked flights to Tortola (from Antigua on Sunday) and early (Monday) morning taxi "no-shows" added to the Monday midnight deadline pressures. We did not want to be sailing into a port we did not know in the dark!
We met with the local representative of the shipping agent an she described some of the current difficulties and particularly highlighted those problems for some boat owners who may be en-route to St Thomas who will now have real problems being able to step onto land.
Mike and I have pretty much been in self imposed isolation on Lilli Mae. We did do some shopping when we went Charlotte-Amalie but since then we have pretty much been isolated. We have plenty of food. I have my work laptop and so I have been able maintain contact with the office and to work. Needless to say running any business in these circumstances is really difficult; one of my colleagues used a really good sailing phrase suggesting "this is not the time to have my hand off the tiller" and so during the day I have been on conference calls and meetings ensuring that we are doing everything we can do to adjust our business operation to this situation.
We had planned this blog to tell you the story of Lilli Mae. Given all that is going on in world I guess this needs to wait for another time. We will keep you updated on progress over the next few days.
In the meantime the crew on Lilli Mae hope that you all remain safe and healthy.