Vaccine Hunting in Florida

Vaccine Hunting in Florida took us to a pop-up in Fort Lauderdale

All your “I got Vaxxed” posts motivated us. Colombia is struggling to inoculate its residents, so there is little chance we would have gotten vaccinated there soon. We researched options and went vaccine hunting in Florida.

Long Time Away From the Boat

We left Colombia a week ago. It’s been a long strange week but a good one. The weirdest, and hardest part, is being away from Sava. It’s only been a week so far, but that’s the longest we’ve been away from the boat. In Curaçao we lived in an airbnb for a few weeks, but we still visited Sava daily while she was in the yard.

We are travelers, so being away from home isn’t an issue. But being away from our boat feels wrong. It feels like snorkeling without fins or traveling without luggage or Linus without his blanket. Sava is safe at a marina and will be fine when we get back, but I have to say I am antsy to get back even though we’re having lots of fun and reuniting with lots of people.

They say that sailors are called back to the sea; for us, it’s not that extreme, but we are drawn to marinas, bars on the water, and our cruising friends when we are not near our boat. We are not used to being away!

Sava Cartagena
One last photo before leaving Sava in Cartagena

It’s been two years and a few months since we sailed away from the U.S., and coming back by air almost feels like cheating. Yet, this was what we would have done if Covid hadn’t stopped travel for so long. We hope to plan more trips by air in between our passages, and hope for visitors to return to Sava before long.

Goals for the Trip

Research was hard before we got to Florida, because most of the official vax sites geo-blocked us. Our friend Jeff in the U.S. booked us appointments for a J&J vaccine near Tampa for Friday. We wanted the J&J one shot to avoid waiting 3 weeks between shots for other brands. We flew in to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night and our goals were to find a walk-in J&J vaccine sooner and closer, see friends, and buy stuff for the boat.

Logistics for Vaccine Hunting in Florida

As I mentioned, pre-planning for the actual shot is hard out of country. We did manage to book our flight (Jet Blue with no change fees), a rental car and hotel, and arrange to visit some friends and family. Some things worked better than others! Florida is a big state, and we wanted to get vaxxed as close as possible to where we were staying but we couldn’t do much of that until we were in The States.

Before leaving Colombia, we had to get things in order. We cleaned and prepared the boat for our departure, including treating the watermaker. We also had to get Covid tests in Cartagena to get on the plane. I don’t know how much longer we’ll have to get tested after we’re all vaccinated, but I for one can’t wait. I’ve only been tested twice and that swab is not fun. It was relatively cheap and easy and we got our results within a couple of hours.

Then it was just going to the airport and boarding the plane, all of which was calm and easy in Cartagena.

Cartagena Colombia airport
Empty airport in Cartagena Colombia

Not a Great Welcome to Florida

The 2.5 hour direct flight from Cartagena to FLL was not crowded so we had a middle seat open between us and plenty of room for our carry on luggage. We landed early, but our plane didn’t have a gate so had to wait for our actual arrival time to deplane. This was the easy part!

Do not expect to fly into FLL and feel safe from Covid if you aren’t vaxxed. We were herded into Customs and Immigration, lined up close to hundreds of people, and made to take off our face masks (alongside everybody else) at machines before waiting in more lines for a human check-in. It probably took an hour to check in, but we did get in.

Then we tried to find a hotel, because Brian’s choice was bad. Even though Brian reserved on the weekend, they didn’t bother to contact us until the afternoon of our arrival day, Tuesday, to tell us we needed to check in or contact them before 8PM so they could email us check-in instructions. We didn’t get off the plane and have internet until after 8PM so we couldn’t go there. I have stayed at bad hotels before and we might have dodged a bullet not checking into this one since the people at Oasis Inn in Fort Lauderdale are clearly incompetent.

After an hour of searching we finally got settled in at a Holiday Inn Express in Fort Lauderdale. It was clean and had nice staff, decent wifi, a good shower, and a comfortable bed.

Vaccine Hunting in Florida

Once we were finally settled in a hotel, a quick online search gave me some pop-up vaccination sites in Fort Lauderdale. Our plan for the next day was to get a rental car and get vaxxed. Done and done!

Vaccinated in Florida
Pop-up sites for vaccines in Florida are easy to find

Getting vaccinated was really easy. We drove to the pop-up site, a Salvation Army just off the Highway 1 in Fort Lauderdale, scanned a QR code they had posted on a sign by the door, and filled out some information on our phone. Most of the questions were age and health-related, plus they asked for email address, phone number and a U.S. address.

The whole thing took a couple of minutes but we were waiting behind a family anyway. Based on our answers to the questions, we were deemed not at risk so were given another QR code on our phones which we showed to the people working the desk at the vaccination site.

After that, time sped forward. We got labels to wear and hustled over to the vaccination desk. They scanned my label, gave me a card and jabbed me. It hurt! And then my arm went numb for a few hours and I forgot about it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end.

We are Vaxxed!

It was really easy to get vaccinated in Florida. If we hadn’t been picky about J&J because of time, it would have been easier. Most pharmacies are offering all sorts of Covid shots on a walk-in basis. I had my passport ready in case they wanted proof of citizenship, but no one asked to see any form of ID.

Florida getting vaccinated
Happily getting vaxxed in Florida

I had side effects from the vaccine. Brian did not. Mine only lasted the first night but I was miserable. My side effects included chills, blinding headache, leg pain, dehydration, thirst and insomnia. Most of it was gone by morning except the headache. The next night I slept like a baby and was very happy I never got Covid and was vaccinated. Still, I was very jealous of Brian, who never felt a thing. It’s been a full week since and I am back to normal and healthy, and happy to be able to freely visit my mom.

Being In The Southern U.S.

Around the same time we arrived, the CDC lifted the mask ban for vaccinated people. Compared to Colombia, masks are off here, so we look weird when we forget and walk outside without our masks. Hell, we look weird anyway just to be walking some places down here! Still, a lot of people still wear masks indoors, and we are too because we are still so newly vaccinated. I’ve gotten so used to mask wearing it feels naked without.

It’s weird to be back to the U.S. after so much time in the Caribbean. We’re overwhelmed by the abundance of amazing stores, supermarkets, and beer options. We are buying too much but also getting some things we needed at our favorite boating stores. A quick Fort Lauderdale tour of West Marine, Blue Water Books, and Sailorman was just what we needed.

Vaccine hunting in Florida is a success
Happily vaccinated in Florida. Mission accomplished!

Leaving the boat is hard, but coming back to the U.S. for the first time after over two years is harder! We’re trying to fit in as many people as we can before flying back home to Sava and Domino. It’s been great to see my mom and friends on our drive north and who flew in to see us and hopefully we’ll squeeze more visits in before we return to our security blanket/home/transport and Domino. We’ll keep wearing our masks and figuring out where to go next.

Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

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