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Ontario man who lives on boat stuck on Colombian island amid coronavirus pandemic

Popular YouTuber Captain Rick Moore is waiting for coronavirus restrictions to lift so that he and his partner can set sail through the Pacific Ocean and Panama Canal. Supplied

A 54-year-old Barrie, Ont., man who lives on a boat says he’s been stuck on the Colombian island San Andrés for five months as restrictions continue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Rick Moore, a popular YouTuber who’s lived aboard his boat Sophisticated Lady for 15 years, had planned to set sail through the Pacific Ocean and Panama Canal in March before most of the world went under COVID-19 lockdown.

Read more: What to know if you’re a Canadian stuck abroad amid the coronavirus outbreak

Now, five months later, Moore and his partner are still waiting for restrictions to lift.

“There has been opportunity to go down (to Panama), but the timing just isn’t right for us yet,” Moore told Global News.

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“We would much rather be here in San Andrés than in Panama because for a self-sufficient live-aboard, it’s much easier for us to do stuff here — there’s more freedom.”

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there have 468,332 cases of the novel coronavirus in Colombia, including 15,097 deaths.

International flights in Colombia are suspended through Aug. 31, while the country’s quarantine measures have also been extended until the end of August.

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Moore said he could probably return home to Canada, but he worries he wouldn’t be allowed to leave once he comes back.

“My house, my life, my everything is right here on this boat, and if I leave and they don’t let me come back, and a storm come(s) through, then I lose everything I own,” Moore said.

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“I can’t take that kind of risk.”

To make matters even more stressful, Moore’s passport expires this week, but he’s nowhere close to a Canadian embassy to be able to renew it. The embassy is located in Bogota on Colombia’s mainland, which is just over a two-hour flight from the island of San Andrés.

“As a Canadian in Colombia, that is going to present a problem,” Moore said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about that — no idea.”

Read more: Canadians stranded in South Africa by COVID-19 could pay $5K for trip home: government

The next step for Moore and his partner is to get to Panama as soon as possible to get his boat ready for the Pacific, but he’s not sure the country will let him in with an expired passport, even if they have an official letter explaining the situation.

“Everywhere I go, it’s all a catch 22,” Moore said. “Passport might get lost, it might get detained, it might not come back in time. I just don’t know.

“I just do nothing right now and just wait and see who’s going to loosen up first.”

Before the pandemic hit, Moore was creating commercial videos for companies in the tourism industry, like hotels and resorts, but that market has since dried up since COVID-19 took hold.

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“I’m very lucky that my business is online now pretty much 100 per cent,” Moore added.

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“I just turned to focusing 100 per cent on making YouTube videos and went from one video a week, or one video every two weeks, to posting almost two videos a week on average.”

Right now, Moore earns his income through YouTube and the membership platform Patreon.

Over the last couple months, Moore said he’s gained about 15,000 subscribers. His YouTube channel has more than 130,000 subscribers in total.

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“A lot of people are starting to entertain the dream of wanting to do something better with their lives,” Moore said. “They look to people like me who are already doing it just to learn how to do it.”

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When the pandemic hit, Moore thought his Patreon numbers would go down because so many people were out of work, but it’s been quite the opposite.

“It became worth something to so many more people who were borderline affected but not dramatically affected,” Moore said.

“They still chipped in to keep us going.”

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— With files from Reuters

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