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Apr 25, 2020 (Day 4,713)
Quick Fix: 18° 19.9 N / 64° 56.2 W
Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Keeping Busy
With stay at home restrictions entering the second month we're all passing time and coping in whatever way we can. My parents are renovating their kitchen, for example. My oldest brother is rebuilding a Harley Davidson motorbike he purchased online. My younger brother was working on an epic three-foot long cross stitch of the Last Supper then, presumably after losing interest, started absentmindedly picking at the wallpaper in his London house, he is now remodeling the entire home office. My sister, well, she's got four year old twins and a three month old baby, so she'll be occupied for another twenty years. We're having no difficulty keeping busy on Dream Time either - there's always something to do on a boat, and what began as a few small projects quickly unraveled to a full-on re-bedding, caulking, sanding and fixing frenzy. But it's time to rein it in. Next week we'll be sailing 1,000 nautical miles to Florida, so we'll have new distractions to keep us occupied.


Apr 22, 2020 (Day 4,710)
Quick Fix: 18° 19.9 N / 64° 56.2 W
Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Home (pages) Around the World
We have almost completed our world voyage. After sailing over 46,000 nautical miles we have only one thousand more to raise Florida, to arrive back at our State of departure where, in 2008, we set sail for the Caribbean. And while this will not ‘close the loop', New York was mile marker 0.0 and our official start line, it does seem like a noteworthy moment. So in anticipation, we will be updating our home page to highlight some of the anchorages we’ve enjoyed most around the world. We’ve also updated our Gallery area to include the countries we visited across the Mediterranean, Cape Verde and our Portraits page. Some of the home page photos you may recognize, others are new, and we will be rotating the images over the weeks and months ahead. And who knows, as we're already discussing a return to the South Pacific, there may just be some new home pages on the horizon...



Day 4,707 - St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
20:31 hrs - April 19, 2020
Raising Hope and a Q Flag

During thirteen years of world cruising we have raised our quarantine flag dozens of times. It has flown in all four hemispheres and under all conditions – rich blue skies, dark stormy skies, during the day, and in the night. It has shaken the halyard, whipping and snapping in heavy weather when sailing close hauled into New Zealand with cold wet decks under tight sails and low clouds; it has hung quiet in still humid tropical air while motoring over glassy seas into southern Thailand; and it has waved gently in warm Caribbean trade winds where volcanic pitons on the horizon marked our destination after sixteen days crossing the Atlantic.

At times it has flown for two days while we have waited patiently for our turn to be cleared by officials, while in most countries it is on display for just a few hours. Frequently it flutters over an empty boat while we take our dinghy ashore to wander on sea legs through busy streets in foreign cities, searching for customs and immigration offices that have, on occasion, been located miles apart.

To the casual observer this plain yellow flag may seem rather uninspiring, after-all, it bears no markings or design, yet raising it to the starboard spreader, for us at least, has always been a time of celebration and certainty. It marks our approach to land, our arrival, and the promise of a new country to explore after days, weeks, or even a whole month at sea.

But it has never flown in these conditions, during a global pandemic. When the majority of countries are fighting a virus behind closed borders, and where lockdowns have left many mariners literally stranded at sea with an entire ocean separating them from the nearest port offering refuge.

To the modern mariner the Q flag represents a request for clearance. But in the 18th century “Yellow Jack”, a name given to the yellow and black checkered quarantine flag, symbolized not an arrival, but likely that of an ultimate departure, flying as a warning from ships already riddled with infectious disease, from yellow fever, smallpox to cholera. It was an ominous and frightening message to mariners and to officials ashore that contagion had stowed away and that ship, and passengers, were contaminated. It was a haunting signal and one that resulted in quarantine, a word derived from the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning “forty days”, the length of isolation.

Our Q flag was flying above Dream Time in the US Virgin Islands when COVID-19 spread into the Caribbean, and while these islands are not home waters, they are, thankfully, home territory. And so by chance we found a sanctuary just 1,000 nautical miles from the mainland we sailed away from over 46,000 nautical miles ago, not stranded at sea or isolated in a remote corner of the world.

Our Q flag is faded now, it is no longer the vibrant yellow it once was but a softer memory of its original color. Its edges are weathered too. The fabric is worn thin and a little tattered around the edges. It has travelled with us around the world and is a welcome prelude to the milestones of our journey, unfurled and released to fly into each new country we have sailed, a satisfying and comforting ceremony that results in the raising of a new courtesy flag.

Soon we will set sail for America. But as borders are closed between the Virgin Islands and Florida, we will not be raising our Q flag again on this world voyage. And while we do not know above which overseas port our Q flag will fly next, of this I am sure: we shall sail clear of this uncharted territory and these turbulent times, Q flags will soon fly again, whipping, waving and fluttering around the world under starboard spreaders, over calmer waters, and that is an arrival we will all celebrate together.


Day 4,705 - St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
18:15 hrs - April 17, 2020
Before to After

Isn't it strange, this transition from before to after.

First we had the shock and awe beginning with whispers of a far away virus, graduating quickly to a somewhat closer European epidemic to suddenly, within a few weeks, a worldwide pandemic. When that passed the feeling of shock shifted into an odd and anxious kind of acceptance that life was going to be quite different, but only for a while? Meanwhile being bombarded with a steady stream of breathtaking news and ever shifting information forcing quick direction changes and adjustments. And now a new feeling, something yet to be determined, as our evolving new reality begins to appear revealing a dramatically changing world. And this is maybe just the end of the beginning?

As sailors we live the kind of life that insists on flexibility and patience in all things, we live by nature's seasons and rules, but nature normally has a comforting built in predictability. The weather systems and oceans move to their own rhythms but have patterns and paths we can follow. But this new virus created by the very same nature is not revealing its path or pattern to us. So for now we simply have to do as it tells us, be flexible, be patient, and wait for the vaccine.

Lately I've been listening to music that I listened to in New York after 9/11 when I needed to escape what was happening. It's been comforting and hopeful and distracting, and this time it's reminding me to think again about that lovely John Lennon quote:

"Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not okay, it's not the end."

Apr 11, 2020 (Day 4,699)
Quick Fix: 18° 19.9 N / 64° 56.2 W
Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands

A Fair Fight
There's no lobster season in the USVIs, which means if you're in the mood for a tasty crustacean, you can just swim out and get one. But it's a little harder than it sounds. First you have to find them, which can mean hours of swimming. Then, you can't just shoot them, that would be easy, and illegal - besides, you wouldn't want to carelessly wipe out a whole new generation of lobster by spearing an 'egger' - so you need to use a pole to gently tickle the lobster from its dark crevice, which can be 20-30 feet below the surface, and once the lobster has come out to investigate the annoyance, you have to carefully negotiate a loop around and behind the tail, tightening the snare before it flaps away into a deeper hole never to be seen again. Oh yes, and all this whilst free-diving. The tickle method is new to me and it certainly gives the langustas ample opportunity to escape, at least when I'm operating the device. But tonight we dine, on a tail bigger than the plate. And yes, it was a fair fight. Thank you lobster.


Apr 9, 2020 (Day 4,697)
Quick Fix: 18° 19.9 N / 64° 56.2 W
Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Taking Shelter
The tradewinds shifted today, swinging Dream Time gently to face south, where off her bow the open Caribbean Sea sparkles uninterrupted to the horizon. Hassel Island now lays just a few boat lengths from the stern, our keel floating over a seabed so close it catches sunlight in a kaleidoscope of patterns that jiggle and dance on a sandy bottom, while a halo of canopies rigged above provide soft shade to cool the cabin. Time feels distorted - we can't believe we have been in the USVIs for a month. Local marine life that once eyed us with suspicion seems comfortable with our presence. Turtles are not so quick to dive; miniature reef fish have made our propeller their home, which offers shelter from a large barracuda that patrols the bay; and two birds continue their struggle to build a nest atop our radar. But with each gust of warm wind a fresh collection of dried twigs rain down on our canopies. With hurricane season just over a month away, it is a reminder that we can't stay here for long.

Apr 5, 2020   |  Saint Thomas, USVIs - Counting turtles on a Sunday afternoon.


Day 4,689 - St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
09:19 hrs - April 1, 2020
Settling In

The US Virgin Islands is the only country in the eastern Caribbean still 'open'. All other countries in the region are now officially closed, in lockdown or, at the very least, require a 14-day quarantine for new arrivals. It's clear that restrictions will change here soon, likely this week, and the USVIs will be added to the long list of countries trying to contain COVID-19 behind closed borders.

In anticipation we have returned to an anchorage on the southern coast of Saint Thomas in a quiet corner of a bay, yet close enough to dinghy ashore for supplies. We have our own little beach just a few boat lengths away on a corner of Hassel Island isolated from development by cliffs and an almost impenetrable wall of tropical forest, home to a giant breed of tree iguana, I discovered, whilst stumbling through the bush in an attempt to locate an old hiking trail that Google satellite images assured me was there.

The bay is home to a family of lobsters tucked under a limestone ledge just a hundred feet off our stern, and I annoy them daily during my snorkel. Two turtles patrol the bay regularly and can often be found snoozing under a rock a few feet below the surface. An eagle ray likes to dig around in the sand under our hull, and two days ago we even had dolphins feeding in the channel. This is a good place to weather the next month.

We're settling into a routine of exercise and distractions to pass the time. In addition to snorkeling we 'kayakercise' around the island, a 2.5 mile paddle, I go running ashore in the evening, Catherine has an impressive collection of bungies for her home gym, while I do my best to lift a stack of dive weights without denting the decks. For leisure I've rigged a hammock under the canopy where I spend an hour after lunch quietly reading, which usually just turns into a comfortable snooze.

It's possible that when the USVIs close, or lockdown, that we may be asked to leave, after-all, even though we're US citizens we're not island residents. Time will tell. But if we are allowed to remain, this anchorage will be our home for the next five to six weeks. And yes, we know how remarkably lucky we are to be here. Local birds like it too and seem happy to have Dream Time anchored in the bay. They've decided that our radar dome, located half way up the mast, is the ideal location to build a nest. For days we couldn't understand where all the twigs on our deck were coming from. Mystery solved.