How the corona crisis affects German Caribbean sailors

How the corona crisis affects German Caribbean sailors

The Caribbean is beautiful, Jochen Schäfer knows that. Because she’s so beautiful, he’s finally there. He sailed there from Berlin with his wife Natalja on a sailing boat. They took the usual “barefoot route” across the Canary Islands and the trade winds made them move quickly.

When they arrived at the turn of the year, there was no mention of the coronavirus . The temperature is constant at 25 degrees, the climate is pleasant. They drank cocktails on the beach and enjoyed the paradise through which they drove from island to island until they came to Sint Maarten . And then there was the virus.

Die Karibik-Insel St. Martin war lange Zeit ein beliebtes Reiseziel, hier ein Archivfoto.

The Caribbean island of St. Martin was a long time a popular travel destination, here an archive photo. Photo: imago / blickwinkel

That changed everything. Jochen Schäfer, a blonde, slim man of 64 years, knows about the difficulty in giving his emergency a certain urgency. He’s in paradise, isn’t he? Can a crisis in swimming trunks be a crisis?

The Caribbean island states, some of which are under French and American administration, have taken extensive quarantine measures . The ports are closed, there are the same contact blocks as in Europe.

What happens when the locals run out of money?

In some places like in Guadeloupe, sailors anchored off the coast are asked to leave the territorial waters. It is reported that some were escorted to the open sea by the coast guard.

Schäfer and his wife Natalja, 63, moored at a marina in the Dutch part of the Caribbean island of St. Martin to carry out repairs on the To have their ship’s pushpit carried out. The tender’s suspension must be reinforced, which requires welding.

That should be done in a week, then it took a second. “They are still not finished,” reports Schäfer on the phone, “the workers drag out the job to stay busy because there are no more.”

What happens if the locals run out of money due to the foreclosure?

“Yesterday, someone was shot in front of the supermarket,” says Schäfer. Although he does not know the circumstances, crime is generally higher on the Caribbean islands, but the experienced Berlin security expert takes it as a foretaste of the problems to be expected if the financial reserves of the population have been raised. Who knows how quickly the view of the “floating wallets” then turns, as to which the yachts in the harbor have to appear to people.

Devastated by the hurricane – and plundered

The Schäfers, like hundreds of other cruisers, travel in a region whose social tensions are hidden by tourism. The couple can see the damage caused by Hurricane Irma 2017 t in many places. Back then, the looting would have generated much greater financial losses than the hurricane itself, insurers say.

This indicates the other danger that travelers in the Caribbean are exposed to. At the beginning of June the sea at the equator will have heated up so much that tropical storms and hurricanes and leave a swath of devastation in the Caribbean.

This is why many sailors make an effort to leave the area beforehand – especially the Lesser Antilles, which are most exposed to the storms as the outermost island belt. St. Martin is the northernmost of these Caribbean pearls. There are a number of sunken yachts in the bay.

Although they still have two months before the weather worsens, Jochen Schäfer and his wife are impatient. They had planned their trip to take two years. Now they think it might be wiser to go home earlier. But how are they supposed to do that?

Paradise could become hell

Leaving a port would currently mean finding no more refuge. All they had to do was take the big leap across the Atlantic with a journey time of eight to ten weeks. For two people, this is a risk in itself.

Schäfer, who has already made this trip on a regatta yacht, knows: “The hardships are very great on the long distances. You will soon curse yourself for leaving. ”Nevertheless, the shepherds would be able to do it, their ship is relatively new and fast, and they would only have to take care of themselves.

But what about the families with small children? What about those who were left alone on board by their spouses for a short flight to Europe? In addition, boat crews would have to stock up, which is also difficult under the current quarantine measures.

This is how a WhatsApp group of over 70 boat crews has formed, which advises on ways of returning home. A petition calls on the federal government to ensure “open ports”. The returnees hope to be provided with provisions via quarantine jetties in the Azores.

Many have put all their savings into the boat and the trip. Losing their belongings would threaten their existence. As beautiful as paradise is where you are now stuck, it could be hell.


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