Former Queenstowner Jaime Sands, who worked for the Queenstown Lakes District Council and, latterly, Hilton Queenstown, is now working on a private yacht in the Caribbean – where lockdown has its own challenges, and the consequences of Covid-19 are severe
I first started hearing about Covid-19 while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and didn’t give it much thought.
I never imagined it would become what it has now.
After losing the internet for five days and not having any contact with the outside world, it was a strange and somewhat scary experience coming back online to reports of how quickly it was spreading, the number of deaths, and countries going into lockdown.
Still, at this point, I felt pretty removed from it all and was excited to get on to land after spending two weeks at sea.
The island we were on had no reported cases and we were scheduled to have a guest trip for 14 days, however, that was cancelled due to concerns about the virus and the island going into mandatory lockdown.
After we found out there was a reported case on the island we’d spent time on recently, in the Caribbean, we started taking things more seriously.
If one of us gets the virus, the whole crew will fall ill because we’re living in such close quarters and don’t have the option of removing ourselves while out at sea.
Not having direct access to medical facilities like people on land may have is pretty daunting when you think about it.
To minimise our risk to the virus, we set up a cleaning station on our swim platform after our most recent food delivery.
We washed all vegetables in soapy water and bleach, and sprayed all packaging with an alcohol and bleach solution.
Right now, we’re staying as positive as we can and as long as we stay healthy, we’re in the safest place we can be right now.
Like many industries, yachting is also being affected.
The Mediterranean season in Europe is essentially over before it began – the majority of charters have been cancelled, and crew have lost their jobs.
Some crew have been in isolation onboard for months now, uncertain when they’ll be on land again.
Over the past few days we’ve been trying to find a country which will allow us to seek refuge in their waters, putting us in a bizarre limbo, adding another layer of anxiety to this whole experience.
On Sunday morning we finally received clearance, but by Tuesday we were denied entry.
But, for now, we’re staying put because we have nowhere else to go.
The thing I’m struggling with the most, as I’m sure a lot of people are, is the uncertainty of what the future holds and when I’ll see friends and family again.
This is why it’s so important to take this seriously and stay at home.
It’s great to see New Zealand leading by example – I’m so lucky I was able to call Queenstown home for a number of years.
If you’re in isolation with your friends or family, count yourself lucky and cherish this downtime with them.
Stay home, stay strong – we will get through this.