I.There is always a lot going on in the Caribbean in spring. The sailing season is in full swing. Thousands of Europeans sail through the paradisiacal waters at this time of year, with their palm-fringed beaches and lonely bays. For a few days now, relaxed sailing tourism has given way to purposeful activity. A lot of Europeans are chatting with each other in the Antilles.
The Germans too. One WhatsApp group after another emerges, which fills up with dozens and dozens of participants within a few hours. Their names are the program: “Sailing home”. “Shipping home german” or “Sailing home April 2020.”
This is due to the corona pandemic. The Caribbean had been spared for weeks. In the meantime, however, the virus has also reached this part of the world. Corona cases have been registered on almost every small island in the Antilles. And that brings the sailors into trouble. “Our crew canceled! Now we are all alone on the giant catamaran and probably have to cross the Atlantic in pairs, ”writes one user. “If someone knows someone who is stuck without a boat and wants to go to Europe, please message!”
It is not the only one. Instead of a crew, a mother is looking for a flight opportunity for her own offspring for her boat. “We have to bring our children home, but they need accompaniment.” “Antigua close,” writes someone who just managed to head for the island. Another confirmed shortly thereafter that he had already been banned from investing.
The corona virus has triggered a real chain reaction in the island nation, which includes Antigua and Barbuda as well as a large number of smaller islands. The international airport closed on Thursday. Then on Friday Prime Minister Gaston Browne declared the emergency. Since then there has been a curfew at night. Tourists come to the country just as little as crews. Most large hotels have to close by the end of the month. And how long the sailors are allowed to run around freely is open.
Heading to another island in the Caribbean is also hardly recommendable. The risk of not being able to anchor there is increasing every hour. And if you have to stay outside the five-nautical mile zone, you will not be able to get diesel, water or food supplies. No wonder that more and more sailors are now considering how they can quickly sail back to Europe – especially since most of the boats could otherwise be destroyed by the hurricanes that hit the Caribbean from June.
But sailing to Europe is easier said than done. The fastest crossing on one of the centuries-old blue water routes takes between two and eight weeks, depending on the boat. It leads up from the Caribbean on the American east coast with a stopover in Bermuda. From there it goes over to the Azores, the second refreshment stop, and then further north before the boats on the Iberian Peninsula again encounter mainland Europe.
This path is a challenge even under ideal conditions. Given the circumstances, it is a risky adventure, says Johannes Bravidor. The 41-year-old sailor, most recently CFO for a Swiss company, has teamed up with a handful of other Germans and is trying to organize the crossing from Antigua these days.