A Canadian sailor who has spent the last three months alone at sea has landed at Christchurch’s Lyttelton Harbour to find a world changed by Covid-19.
The adventurous retiree, Bill Norrie, says the outbreak barely registered at his most recent landing in South Africa and news of the pandemic only dribbled over in over his satellite connection.
“My wife said, ‘The jargon is rounding of the curve,' so now we're six feet away [due to social distancing],” he says. “So it's a little strange to me.”
“It hasn't really hit me yet, because I haven't really had much contact really.”
The 67-year-old set out from Canada on his yacht ‘Pixie’ back in September, and has spent the last nine months sailing across the globe, passing South America, Africa and Australia on his way to New Zealand.
The pandemic caught him by surprise when New Zealand officials started to query whether he was planning to spend 14 days in self isolation upon landing.
“Initially they said, 'You can't come here,' so I was like, ‘Where am I gonna go, right,’” he says, laughing it off.
“I was the most isolated person on the planet, they didn't want to let me in. It was too funny!”
The regional harbourmaster, Jim Dilley, revealed with a grin today that the relevant officials quickly came to the decision that Mr Norrie was in the clear.
“We do have such a good network and a very good health system here, so we can afford that, in an individual case,” he says.
“He's been at sea for three months, by himself, socially distancing, washing his hands, doing all the right things.”
Mr Norrie was met at the dock by an enthusiastic welcoming party led by local sailor Viki Moore, who treated him to a beer on arrival and some scones.
His isolation isn’t over yet either. He’s planning to restock and head back out in a few days for a final three-month jaunt through tropics on his way home.
Ms Moore is helping him to gathering the supplies, but copping a few hostile glares along the way for bulk buying.
“I got a few funny looks at the supermarket actually, especially when I went and bought three packets of yeast at the same time. I thought I was gonna be lynched,” she says.
For his part, Mr Norrie is just pleased to be heading into calmer seas on his way home to wife Cathy.
“I can't wait to get out there, but I've had enough Southern Ocean for a while,” he says.