Detours and Delays

"Are you guys still alive??"  

The comment popped up on our YouTube channel and prompted me to look at my blog.  When was my last blog post?  *GASP* Philippines?  July 2020?  

Yep.  I've got no excuses.  It's been over a year since I last sat down to document our latest happenings, and oh, how many happenings have happened since then.  I could not begin filling you in on all of that, but I think that a brief catch-up, in this case, is important.  

After being caught in the Philippines for 9 months due to Covid-19 travel bans,  Quickly, we made some phone calls, filled out all the right paperwork, contacted all the officials, and the proverbial ball which had been cemented in place slowly began to start moving.

Prepping the sails

This all happened about 3 weeks before Christmas 2019.  Elizabeth had been doing remote learning through the international high school in Penang, Malaysia, where we had planned to go before the lockdowns started, but they would stop providing remote classes in January.  The timing to get to Malaysia could not have been more perfect.  However, it wasn't that easy.  With each forward movement, we'd be met with tough decisions. 

Elizabeth getting in one last pet with our favorite dock dog

First, they were saying we could fly into Malaysia, but would be required to do two weeks of quarantine.  This posed two problems.  We'd have to pay the premium price for fourteen days in a hotel which would cost USD $6,000+ for our family of four.  Also, our boat would have to stay in the Philippines.  There was really no available safe place to store it, and we had no guarantee of when we'd be able to come back and get it.  That meant we'd not only pay for quarantine housing and abandon our boat, but also would have to move into an apartment.  

This initial information started a pattern.  We'd come up with a proposed option, think about the pros and cons, decide what we would need for that option to work, and ask God to make it possible if that was His will.  This time, we realized that flying into Malaysia wasn't really going to work.  We would have to sail there.  Lord, thank you for opening this door.  We don't want to leave our boat.  It just doesn't feel right.  We need to be able to sail to Malaysia.

Amazingly, our friend Matt on SV Perry emailed us a hot tip within moments of this prayer - he'd read online that sailors were being allowed to check into Malaysia at one particular port of entry!  Mark sent a quick email to James, the marina manager there, to see if he could help us get in.  Once he explained the situation to us, we had more decisions to make.  Yes, he could get us in, but we would not be allowed to quarantine on board.  One other boat who had been granted that permission had snuck to shore and broken the quarantine prematurely without permission.  The officials were no longer letting people stay on board.  Okay, Lord, we know you will provide.  If we need to pay for quarantine facilities, we will have the money.  If we can stay aboard, you will somehow change the officials' minds about refusing sailors to quarantine on board.  We would love to stay in our home for those two weeks, but You just lead the way.

Daily temperature checks

The very next day, James sent us an update.  He had figured out a compromise with the officials that would convince them of compliance and allow sailors to quarantine on their own boats.  Every day, his marina crew would come out to the boat and take photos of us on board and our dinghy would never be allowed to be lowered from our boat.  Again, a way had been made where there seemed to be no way.

By this time it was a week before Christmas.  It all happened so fast!  Plans for Christmas parties with our dear Filipino friends had to be canceled as we rushed to get our rapid tests, get the boat provisioned, and get ready to set sail.  

In order to check out of the Philippines, we sailed a few days to Puerto Princesa.  The customs officers were still ironing out the details of all the Covid rules and regulations, not many foreign people had sailed through there lately. We had our recent rapid test results to show them, but they said they needed their own test results which would require a three-day wait time.  In three days, the offices would all be closed for the holidays!  More prayers were prayed there in the empty waiting area while the officials deliberated behind closed doors.  Strange confidence overcame me as I recalled all of the prayers that God had answered since this began.  Whatever the decision, Lord, I know You are in it.   

Within moments, we were walking out of the offices, exit stamps in our passports.  We hopped in a trike, prepped the boat for an 11-day passage PLUS a 10-day quarantine aboard (ironically, the time required to stay on board non-stop - 21 days - was the length of our longest ever passage from Galapagos Islands to French Polynesia over 5 years ago!).

Happy New Year! at sea
We arrived in Pangkor, Malaysia, after celebrating Christmas and New Year at sea.  One of the ships in the Singapore Strait even treated surrounding vessels to a fireworks show when the clock struck twelve!  Throughout the trip, I kept a running log of each person's temperature along with a photo as proof.  I was hoping this record-keeping might shorten our required quarantine, but no such luck.  

Finally, after being unable to travel for nine months, we put up our Q-flag, dropped the anchor, and took in our new surroundings.  During our quarantine period, we would only leave the boat twice to get the necessary swab tests.  Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how we passed the time.  We ate lots of spaghetti dinners and used up all of our fresh provisions, though.  The kids had no excuse not to get caught up on schoolwork after not having done much school during the passage, and Mark dove into his marketing work.  Movie nights, game nights, and a lot of swinging from the halyard happened in those two weeks, too.  

10-day Quarantine After an 11-day Passage

Blowing off pent-up energy!

When the quarantine was over, we were planning to leisurely sail our way up to Penang, where Elizabeth was enrolled in school (Michael was completing 8th grade with me in homeschool).  However, we heard rumors that Malaysia was prohibiting all interstate travel.  We had no time to provision or prepare.  Instead, we filled up on fuel and hightailed it overnight up to Straits Quay Marina in Penang!  Stepping on land is overrated anyway, right?

Straits Quay Marina...finally arrived 

Tears of relief welled up in my eyes as we pulled into the marina in Penang.  It had been over two years since we'd found this school for our kids and started the process of getting here.  A recall on our Volvo engines put that plan on hold and required a giant detour to Guam for double engine replacements.  A tropical storm in Micronesia added some extra excitement and experience.  Then, on our way back, Covid happened, postponing our plans even further.  Pulling into our slip in Penang brought gratefulness for the detours and delays.  Thinking back on the friends and experiences of our time in Guam, Yap, Palau, and the Philippines gave me a renewed hope for what our time in Penang would bring.  Those detours and delays were certainly not in our plans, but they were already established in His.  He knew what we would encounter.  He knew what we needed to learn and how we needed to grow.  He knew all along.

Our Thanksgiving Tree in Coron

I've not been good about documenting our happenings for a while now, but writing this post makes me realize how important it is to stack those stones - to look back, to remember, to memorialize all that God has done.  It can be so easy to just keep pushing through each day, getting quickly discouraged and allowing the mundane and minuscule to drown out the miracles.  The past few years have been crazy and strange.  Nothing worked out the way I thought it would, but somehow, it's all worked out for the best.  That's what I want to remember. 


Gathered around the table with our friends in Coron, Philippines to share an American-style Thanksgiving meal together, complete with home-grown turkeys!



  1. Good to hear from you. Still waiting to see you in Mallorca someday. Take care of you and your family


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