Nick Fabbri and Terysa Vanderloo—the former a 49 year-old dentist from the U.K. and the latter a 35 year-old Australian paramedic who’d met a decade earlier in India—can vividly remember the day that COVID-19 shut the world down.
Fabbri was onboard the couple’s 38’ sailing yacht Ruby Rose in a marina on France’s Atlantic coast, completing routine winter maintenance work. Vanderloo was back in Adelaide, Australia, visiting with her mother and sister.
When reports hit their morning news feeds that borders around the world were about to shut down, Vanderloo flew immediately back to London, where Fabbri’s family lived. The next day, Fabbri snagged one of the last trains back across the English Channel. For the next three months the couple quarantined in London as the global economy shut down before France re-opened its borders to non-residents so that they could get back to Ruby Rose in late May.
“That was one of the strangest periods of our lives,” recalls Vanderloo. “For years, everyone thought that we were crazy to give up our lives to move onto a sailboat and work remotely. Then all of a sudden there was no place that everyone else wanted to be than isolating and working remotely on a boat.”
Two decades earlier, in late 2001, I experienced something similar to Fabbri and Vanderloo.
On the December day that U.S. and Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I was hovering over a place called “Point Nemo” (reputedly named after the famous submariner from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) on a 44’ steel ketch sailing from New Zealand to Argentina across the Southern Ocean ultimately en route to Antarctica.
There is no place that you can get farther from land on earth than here—precisely 1,670 miles from the Pitcairn Islands to the north, the Easter Islands to the northeast, and Maher Island (part of Antarctica) to the south.
Being in the middle of the ocean as it is, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Point Nemo—no peak, no prayer flag, no welcome center—just a set of GPS coordinates on a screen (48°52.6′S, 123°23.6′W to be exact) to remind you that the nearest shipping lane is so far away that if your boat flounders your odds of survival are basically zero.
At first, it was hard to process the reality that the world was about to go to war from so far away. Yet, ultimately it became impossible not to obsess over the news every minute of the day because there’s nothing else to do in the middle of nowhere.
The irony of all of this two decades later is that the whole concept of living full-time on a sailboat, working remotely from some absurdly yet remotely…
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