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European family stranded in paradise

By Staff | Apr 22, 2010

Herbert, Corinna and Elizabeth Quelle are stranded on Sanibel because of the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded air travel and stranded European citizens around the globe.

The Quelle family are challenged with a problem that to many people would be a dream come true.

They are stuck on Sanibel.

The London-based family cannot go home because the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland that has spewed aircraft-damaging ash through the European skies. The global air-crisis – which began after the large Eyjafjallajokull volcano started eropting last Wednesday – is wreaking havoc for many travelers including Herbert, Corinna and Elizabeth Quelle.

The family found out they are stranded on Sanibel last Friday, Corinna Quelle said. They arrived on the island on April 10 after a long trip that included time in Cuba and Miami.

Herbert and Corinna Quelle embarked on the trip to celebrate their daughter Elizabeth’s 18th birthday. This included a stay in Cuba where Elizabeth was born while the family lived in Cuba due to Herbert’s job as a German diplomat. After their stay in Cuba the family headed to Miami for a bit then came to Sanibel – a favorite vacation spot since the 1990s, Corinna Quelle said.

They checked into the Pelican Roost condos on April 10th and expected to stay for a short while since they left home March 31.

They figured a little sun, surf and relaxation would top their family vacation off just right.

But now, a little time on Sanibel is turning into a bit more than they hoped for lost work time for Herbert and lost school time for Elizabeth who is due to graduate high school in May.

The family is not sure what is going to happen after finding out their flight on Virgin Airlines was canceled last Friday. “On Saturday there was a slight panic,” Corinna Quelle said. “This is something that nobody expected.”

They made alternate plans to fly on Air Berlin. Those plans were, however, canceled on Monday.

Since then they have move into a different condo because other guests with reservations laid claim to the unit where they had been staying. But on Saturday the unit they are in will no longer be available either. Pelican’s Roost has been gracious in giving the stranded family a discount, Corinna Quelle said. But money and time are beginning to run out.

Elizabeth has six exams she must complete before graduation. She has already missed time in a school drama production and is worried about her remaining work and school commitments.

Beaches and golden tans don’t seem quite so much fun when homework and exams await.

“It just feels strange after awhile,” Elizabeth said. “You just want to go.”

And though the palm trees are swaying and weather is warm, Herbert Quelle knows work awaits.

“It’s not that easy,” he said. “My ambassador is in the same position.”

But while they wait to find a ride across the ocean, the family is learning more about the islands.

They paid for a $10 membership to the Sanibel Public Library where they go daily to check e-mail and use the Internet, Corinna Quelle said. They have visited the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and are learning about mollusks. And they went to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge to learn about the area’s fauna and flora. They also visited the CROW Wildlife Clinic.

They are beginning to know the staff at the library and folks on the island.

“We find ourselves becoming part of the island’s infrastructure,” Corinna Quelle said. “It’s just not a superficial level. We’re getting more into the depths of the island.”

Corinna Quelle said she always dreamed of owning a condo on Sanibel if she ever had the funds to do so. She just never dreamed she would be stranded on paradise.

“There are worse places to get stuck,” she said with a chuckle.

As of now they may have to wait until May 5 to leave. Herbert Quelle is trying everything he can to get his family home before that. “The longer it takes the more expensive it gets,” Corinna Quelle said.