I wrote this article in early March for publication in the May issue that you should have been reading sometime in April. Due to Covid-19, the May issue was not published in print and will be a digital version only. A lot has changed in the two months since this was written. However, I wanted it to run as originally intended.
These are challenging times. With a virus impacting all areas of our lives and most all of us are driven into isolation, do we need to give up an activity such as recreational boating? By its very nature, boating allows us to easily isolate ourselves. Now I am not advocating the recreational boating as we have been accustomed with a large crew of friends enjoying a big day out on the water. But surely a quiet day fishing or simply cruising with your immediate family or those you have been sheltering in place with, is no different from a day at home grilling in the backyard provided there is no risky or unnecessary interaction with the general public. As an example, I have recently completed several boat deliveries from the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. As I write this prelude, I am 50 miles off the Washington coast on a voyage to San Francisco. I have had virtually no interaction beyond essential activities, such as purchasing fuel and provisions. A few days ago, I went to a Safeway in Port Angeles, and it was the new normal. I put on gloves/mask, wiped down the cart and left a wide berth around other shoppers. The store was well stocked with no empty shelves, plenty of bathroom tissue and paper towels, along with a wide selection of cleaning products. I bagged the groceries myself and loaded them into the car and boat by myself. I then tied up to the fuel dock myself and purchased 400 gallons of red #2 and did not come within 10-feet of anyone. I really did feel isolated.
As a final thought, now that everyone is washing their hands regularly, how about we work on using the ship′s whistle for making navigational arrangements.
Covid-19, the name of the disease is linked with the virus that causes it. It starts with CO and VI for Coronavirus, the “d” stands for disease, while 19 indicates the year that it was first discovered. What the name does not have is an association with Wuhan or China.
This is the first pandemic for nearly a decade, and in a pro-politically correct era it is not surprising that there′s a lot of debate about what the virus should be called. The outbreak started in Wuhan, China, and initially, people colloquially referred to the unknown illness as Wuhan pneumonia or Wuhan flu. Since Wuhan is in China, a non-western country and people of color live there, calling the virus by the name of the outbreak must be racist. Nevertheless, the virus was first seen in Wuhan, with cases clustered around a wildlife market, and the area accounts for nearly 90% of the cases in China. Naming a virus after the location of the outbreak that first brought it to attention is not unusual. The West Nile Virus emerged in the West Nile District of Uganda, Saint Louis encephalitis virus broke out in St. Louis Missouri, Japanese encephalitis virus broke out in Japan, and MERS the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome broke out in, guess where? Syphilis was the Neapolitan disease, the French disease or the Polish disease, depending on who was naming it. The 1918 influenza came to be known as the Spanish flu, although Spaniards called it the French flu.
While the Wuhan flu (COVID-19) is serious and deadly, any flu should be taken seriously. Both the new coronavirus and various seasonal flu strains can be especially dangerous for seniors with underlying conditions, and in the case of seasonal flu dangerous to children. However, we cannot hide under our living room coffee tables and hope for the best. On Monday, my co-captain and I departed the Bay Area for Newport Beach, CA to pick up a new motoryacht and bring her to San Francisco for the new owner. Driving I-5 in the middle of the day at the start of the week (no way I′m getting on an airplane), we expected a lot of traffic, but found the freeway lightly traveled and made good time arriving in Newport Beach in the late afternoon. After dropping our gear on the boat, we headed to the local grocery store for provisions. While not surprised, I was disappointed to see the store shelves nearly empty. The panic buying is real, but we found enough food and drinks for the planned three days at sea. Fortunately, we brought our own cleaners, disinfectants, soap and hand sanitizers, so finding empty store shelves was merely an inconvenience. The bright spot of the market was the alcohol aisle. Apparently, alcoholics do not panic, and there was plenty of everything. Unfortunately, all of our boat deliveries are alcohol free.
Finding a dinner spot did not present a problem, and most of the chain restaurants were open with few customers, making social distancing easy. The vessel was ready to depart at first light Tuesday morning, with our intended destination being Morro Bay after a fuel stop in Santa Barbara. The weather is cooperating, and we made Santa Barbara before lunch to top up the fuel tanks. Although we had called all of our intended fuel stops the prior day to confirm they were planning normal fuel hours, it was still comforting to find the dock open and busy, although everyone practiced social distancing and wearing gloves. A spray of disinfectant on anything I plan to touch, then soap and water clean up after, we hope to keep the virus at bay.
As we made our way past the entrance to Long Beach, I cannot help but wonder who would want to be on this cruise ship departing Los Angeles. However, these huge ships are still quite a site when you encounter them in the open water.
Having completed fueling, we are off again intending to arrive in Morro Bay before civil twilight. The weather and sea forecasts looked great, and I expected that we could keep a spirited pace all the way around Point Conception, and then take a direct heading for the Morro Bay entrance. Occasionally the weather forecasters get it right, and today was one of those. We arrived in Morro Bay around 1700, and have made our first leg of 215 miles in just under 10 hours, including the stop in Santa Barbara.
I am sure that many of our readers are familiar with Morro Bay, and know that there are not many options for a transient boater to overnight berth. Moorings are almost always available, however I prefer to tie to a dock, go ashore to walk around and have dinner. One of the very few options for a dock is the Morro Bay Yacht Club, which is a very hospitable group of folks.
As we approached the club docks, we found them empty, but the clubhouse was full with a party of some sort. As we lined up for the dock, several of the club members came down to greet us and handle a few dock lines. The apparent port captain warmly welcomed us, and invited us to their St. Patrick′s Day party. How could I have missed that on the calendar? Preferring not to be in a crowded bar with everyone but us enjoying adult beverages, we pass on the invitation and opt instead to find a quiet dinner in town.
Having secured the vessel, completed all our engine room checks and attended to a few items, we were off for the short walk to town, and found the street oddly devoid of anyone. Morro Bay is a tourist town, there are always people walking around and the souvenir shops are open. But not tonight. The town leaders have decided to cancel all the St. Patrick′s Day activities, including not allowing the sale of alcohol in the few restaurants that are still open. The streets looked like a scene from a B Movie ghost town.
Our Wednesday morning departure was delayed as we waited for the fuel dock to open at 0800. Our planned leg from Morro Bay to Sausalito was just under 200 miles, which is just beyond the range of our sport yacht, so we had planned a fuel stop in either Monterey or Half Moon Bay. The decision depends on our timing. Reading the morning update on the sea conditions, I think I′m looking at the forecast for a lake; three to four-foot long westerly swell and south winds less than 10 knots. It appears that we will be able keep a good SOG all the way up the coast.
I love it when a plan comes together, and at 1545 we were secure at the Pillar Point Marina fuel dock where we topped up the tanks. Just thirty minutes later, we were back underway, intending to reach Sausalito. At 1730, we were secure at the Clipper Yacht Harbor, had the boat washed down, loaded our gear into the car and were ready to head home. It has been another delivery where everything went as planned. We covered the approximate 400 miles from Newport Beach to Sausalito in two days, putting a mere 22 engine hours on our newly minted sport yacht. We managed not to break anything, and the list of factory warranty repair items was pretty short. We also managed to keep our social interaction to an absolute minimum. If you count every individual that we came into contact with, none less than the accepted six feet, it is less than a half dozen.
My final thought. A 2018 Center for Disease Control study revealed that only 31% of men and 65% of women wash their hands after using the restroom. This means that cash which has changed hands numerous times, has come into contact with millions of germs. If we are concerned with spreading a disease, I think that we are forgetting that basic hygiene will go a long way to prevention. All this said, as with the annual flu, prevention of spreading the Wuhan Flu is key. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, and that includes your boat. Germs will happily hitch a ride from your trip to the supermarket or elsewhere back to your boat.
Back home, I have the opportunity to watch the news and follow pandemic hysteria as it unfolds. I′m enjoying a good port and fine cigar while social distancing on my back patio, and planning my next delivery. I still have three more on the calendar to complete before May, and it looks to be a busy spring social distancing six miles from other boats.
I love a good story, especially a happy virus story. Send me an email at patcarson@yachts manmagazine.com H