Dubbed the "safest man on the planet," Canadian sailor Bill Norrie has been on a solo yachting expedition for the past nine months. And since a brief resupply stop off South Africa three months ago he's traversed the treacherous Southern Ocean, when he first heard the term coronavirus via a satellite phone call from the water to his wife back in Canada.
The 67-year old finally arrived last Thursday on New Zealand's coast at Canterbury's Lyttelton Harbour, and after clearing customs he was caught up to speed over his first steak and beers in months.
He emerged from the risky solo trip across the ocean to find a vastly different society altered by the pandemic.
''It's still unreal to me because I've only heard text messages from my wife about how's it all shut down [everything]. I'm very thankful New Zealand let me come in,'' he said.
His solo trip began last September, which took him around South America, Africa and Australia, ultimately around the entire globe.
After so long at sea he was shocked by what he found upon finally completing his trip in New Zealand:
When he finally arrived in Christchurch, he said he was surprised to hear harbor officials ask where he would be self isolating for the next two weeks.
“Initially they said, ‘You can’t come here,’ so I was like, ‘Where am I gonna go, right,’” he said with a laugh. “I was the most isolated person on the planet, they didn’t want to let me in. It was too funny!”
In the end authorities did let him in and even waved the isolation period, after he proved he hadn't had human contact throughout his solo tour.
He told New Zealand broadcaster TVNZ of his initial difficulty in processing the 'new normal' of social distancing and learning more of the global shutdowns first-hand: “it’s still sorta strange to me,” he said.
A local news crew had captured the moment he finally jumped off his boat and knelt on the ground after not having been on dry land for multiple months.
“I never thought it was going to happen!” Norrie said while getting emotional. He had been stunned upon his first communication with the port, not realizing the crisis could be such that they might not even let him dock.
Apparently he's actually at this point prepping a return voyage to his home in Canada. The fact that much of the globe and its economies are shut down means he likely feels better off at sea anyway.