Sailor has boat hit by waves, loses communication only to land in New Zealand and find out about coronavirus

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This sailor from Canada stepped off his boat and found a completely different world.

Bill Noorie, a 67-year-old retiree from Calgary, arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week only to discover that life across the globe had been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My wife said, ‘The jargon is ’rounding of the curve,’ so now we’re 6 feet away [due to social distancing],” he told New Zealand broadcaster TVNZ on Friday. “So it’s a little strange to me.”

Noorie set out in September from Vancouver Island, planning to sail the Southern Ocean underneath the world’s five most southern capes, with the last being the South Cape on the south coast of New Zealand.

But during his seafaring journey, the 67-year-old hit a series of severe storms with high waves that damaged his boat, according to CBC News.

He had to sail to South Africa in February to make repairs, but could receive only limited communication from his wife in emails or text messages as the world began to lock down.

The April 25 storm tipped his boat and destroyed electrical equipment on board, leaving him able to send only a few words using a tracking app.

The 67-year-old continued to sail on and finally arrived in Christchurch on Friday, where 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 told TVNZ on Friday. “I was the most isolated person on the planet, they didn’t want to let me in. It was too funny!”

The local harbormaster told the broadcaster that officials let him go without the usual quarantine period after hearing of his voyage.

“He’s been at sea for three months, by himself, socially distancing, washing his hands, doing all the right things,” Jim Dilley told TVNZ. “We do have such a good network and a very good health system here, so we can afford that, in an individual case.”

Norrie told CBC News that officials looked up his tracker, and after realizing what he had been through, welcomed him with beer, biscuits and baked goods. He’s now a local celebrity in Christchurch.

“I’m a spoiled, fortunate man,” Norrie told the Canadian news organization. “I’m almost hoarse from telling my story … I can’t walk down Main Street, people stopping me, wanting to take a picture with me. I go to a restaurant, there’s a crowd around me.”

He plans to soon be back on the water to finish his trip to Canada, but in much tamer seas to get himself home.

New Zealand imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 – along the way earning praise for its success in doing just that.

The South Pacific island nation has recorded 1,503 positive coronavirus cases and 21 deaths. More than 1,400 of the patients who tested positive have since recovered.

Last week, it slowly started reopening parts of its economy, allowing hair salons, barbershops, some retail stores and restaurants to open their doors for the first time in two months.

Fox News’ Lucia Suarez contributed to this report.

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