Cruising in the Time of COVID-19

We are living through this science fiction horror movie like the rest of you, but with a difference — we also lived through the trailer. That warning may have saved us from contracting the virus. At least for now.

Our annual snowbird voyage south on our 43-foot Gulf Star trawler was planned to be a departure from our usual peripatetic support of the fossil fuel industry. We are beginning to think, reluctantly, about life after boating as our bodies age and about where we might want to spend our winters. Saint Augustine is on our transom for a reason, so we made a marina reservation to experiment with using the boat as an apartment for the month of February. For 10 days we hung out with friends, listened to live music (with them playing) and lived it up. Life was grand. Then one day, we didn’t feel quite right.

Despite both having had the flu shots, we each came down with the worst case of flu either of us can remember. We went to an urgent care and I asked the doctor why the shots didn’t work. He said, “Oh, they did. If you hadn’t had them, I probably would be sending both of you over to the hospital in an ambulance right now. The shots don’t keep you from getting sick, they just make it less severe.”

The boat turned out to be a great place to be sick. Unlike the small apartment in Albany, N.Y., we use for transition times between boat and summer cottage, we had two bedrooms, so we didn’t keep each other up coughing. We also have two bathrooms on the boat. Being in the humid air of Florida instead of the dry heated air of home was a blessing. We were fortunate in having friends who were able to bring us food and medicine. Our symptoms were very similar to Covid and we would both be sure we had had it were it not for having flu tests that were positive. It’s quite unlikely that we had both at the same time.

By the time we were ready to head north, the Covid panic had begun. There were lots of comments on social media lambasting people moving in their boats but we had just been isolated for two weeks so were not too concerned about spreading it. We practiced great care in our few stops for fuel, water, and pump-out, but masks should have been on the radar then. At the time, it was all about hand washing.

It was a strange trip. All the visiting we planned went by the wayside and the onset of marina closures caused us to run some of the longest days we ever have. We streamed and listened to news constantly. I thought often about that movie where astronauts are in orbit when nuclear war breaks out and destroys most of the earth. Our life was relatively unchanged amid all the beauty of early spring on the ICW, following the redbuds north. We were so torn. There were things we needed to get back home to take care of but we knew that, as soon as we left our boat, the last refuge of the world as we knew it, things would never be the same again.

Marinas in Maryland were closing right and left at the time, including the one we were headed for, and we had to leave the boat to await things opening up on the Hudson. So, we had the boat hauled in Norfolk, Va., so there would be less to worry about if things developed in a way where we couldn’t get back soon.

Now home in New York, with little to do because of the unusually cold weather that is delaying the opening and move to the cottage, I’m spending a lot of time following the development and response to the outbreak. I said that we lived through the trailer to the movie but I’m increasingly beginning to think that this isn’t the movie we are living through now, but the trailer for what is to come. Our planned cruise of the Canadian canals this summer appears to be off the table. I believe the public health scientists (the former chief public health officer of one of the Canadian provinces is a friend) who fear that the response of the southern coastal states may well make them places we will not be able to visit next fall and winter. I wonder how long our Gypsy Star will sit on those blocks.

Roger Long
Canaan, NY