It’s been a while since our last post. Here on Rehua, we are still coming to grips with the global crisis that has been unfolding slowly since the start of this year. It is hard to believe that we now live in a world where humans are not allowed to leave their house (or their boat, in our case) without wearing a facemask and only for essential grocery shopping. Socialising with other humans outside the immediate family unit is no longer allowed, unless it is via a video call. Outdoor exercise is allowed once a day, in the local neighbourhood, only one person at the time; family members are no longer permitted to exercise together.
These measures, applicable here in Singapore, seem extremely harsh. Singapore has seen a recent increase in COVID-19 infections, throughout many of the dormitories that are housing migrant workers. The local population however, remains largely unaffected. Luckily, the migrant workforce is mostly young and healthy and the total number of hospitalised cases remains low. Singapore has had 14 fatalities since the start of the crisis in February. For a population of 6 million that is very low and it proves that testing, isolating and tracing is really important.
As we were enjoying a sun-downer on the foredeck of Rehua last night, contemplating the current situation, Seathan and I were counting ourselves lucky. We are fortunate that we decided to stay in Singapore for another year. Many of our sailing friends are currently stranded in remote places across the globe. We know several cruisers that are currently ‘stuck’ in the Maldives. They are not allowed to go ashore, they have to stay onboard and they are not permitted to lift anchor or go anywhere else. The local authorities provide them with fresh food once a week. They are safe for now, but the weather window to cross the Indian Ocean will soon be over and it will leave many of our friends in a real predicament.
Other friends that are currently sailing through Indonesia were told they are no longer welcome. One cruising family reported they were chased away by locals who threatened to send bullets through the hull of their boat if they tried to anchor near their island. This is hard to imagine. Indonesia is a country where we spent nine months and where we visited so many beautiful remote places with friendly and welcoming locals. It seems a different place now.
I realise that we are in a privileged situation. Many people around the world, both in developing and developed countries, face unemployment, hunger and even starvation. The socio-economic effects of this crisis will be massive. We are extremely lucky to be safely moored up here in Singapore. I can continue to work from home, the kids are still being home-schooled and Seathan has a long list of boat-jobs to work through. By the time we will be ready to set sail again, everything will hopefully be back to ‘normal’.
Or will it?
I worry that now that countries are locked down and have closed their borders, they will only gradually re-open them, and probably never to the extent they were before. Before this crisis, we were able to sail from one country to the next without pre-arranged visas and obtain the necessary paperwork upon arrival. We were free to come and go as we pleased and the world was our playground. I love travelling to new places, visiting remote islands and meeting locals (who can usually teach us a thing or two about how to live a sustainable and self-sufficient life, by the way).
Travelling around the world, on our own boat, being as self-reliant as we can, is the ultimate way to feel alive, free and happy. All this freedom has now been taken away and I fear we will never get it back.
I’m worried about what comes after the lock-down. My concern is that many governments have gradually taken away many freedoms and introduced new laws and restrictions that prevent free movement of people. They will be reluctant to lift these restrictions as long as the virus is still around.
I hope I’m wrong, maybe everything will be back to normal by the end of this year. However, there is one thing I’ve learned since the crisis started and that is that we should never take anything for granted.