The news of the Covid-19 disease, and then the first cases of the disease, seemed to reach South America somewhat behind Europe or North America. UK friends were filling Facebook with coronavirus memes before we could appreciate these fully, and Brazil’s president’s supporters still suspect the communists of inventing the whole story, even after the US president has reluctantly started to advise that everybody stay inside. Here in Chile, as perhaps in other places, the news and the first cases formed a start from which the rest escalated rapidly. One day the neighbour’s saying it sounds like it’s only some sort of a cold really, the next he’s shouting through a mask from two metres away.
In some senses we boat people were better off than those on shore; for example we had no panic-food-purchase impulse, as ocean boats contain months’ worth of food as a matter of course. Sailors like to comment, usually as they view the latest disaster movie, that they’re the ones prepared for an apocalypse. With long crossings leading to not only pasta supplies, but also extensive isolation experience, to some extent they’re prepared for a sudden quarantine. Or not, being continual crossers of borders, for in this situation the borders are soon to close. The foreign visitors and foreign charterers sailing on the Beagle are now shut in the opposite Chilean and Argentinian cities of Williams and Ushuaia respectively, regardless of which of the two they base themselves in normally. Family in the Marquesas were told to leave on their vessel after having already weeks before cleared into the country (though on protesting that the surrounding borders were sealed they were placed on permanent exile in the bay). In short, seafarers should hope that no period of restrictions precedes any apocalypse. (Something of the zombie variety, always swift to result in anarchy?)
At any rate the local Chilean navy have handled developments pretty politely at least for the boats already in their country, sending representatives to make a speech or two periodically, better than getting info in between the head-splitting beats of the one radio station anyway. After some weeks of limitations on social contact all were banned for a while from leaving their homes entirely, thanks to the appearance of some cases on this small island and the lack of sufficient hospital services in the place. That said it was possible to ask for a safe-conduct pass for a specific purpose, and I was encouraged to exercise my energetic 30ish-kilo German Shepherd puppy, perhaps because he was then enthusiastically demolishing a fence behind me. Regulations have since lifted slightly although only slightly, as the virus continues on the island currently.
So on the whole we could have been worse off than to be on Isla Navarino, able even in the lockdown to stroll in the autumnal woods nearby. All the best to all the sailors and non-sailors out there, wherever they find themselves (and find themselves trapped) today! Let us know how life is where you are.