Ensconced in the cocoon-like security and comfort of our home, a Freedom 38 sailboat named Her Diamond, I turn my attention away from the 24-hour coronavirus news cycle and I reflect. I am saddened by the suffering and fear that have overtaken our world. So far, my wife, Sheila, and I, and our friends and loved ones, have escaped the ravages of the COVID-19 virus. But like everyone else, we’re weathering the storm at home, which happens to be aboard. I begin to wonder about the differences between sheltering on land and afloat in a slip.
Years ago, my youngest daughter gave me a nickname, Silver-Lining Bob. Today I’m drawn to finding a positive thread in the social isolation that we are enduring to avoid infection.
We move with the seasons, but we are currently at Burnt Store Marina, in Punta Gorda, Florida. We have good wifi and we’re connected to power and water from ashore. We can take long showers and run our air conditioning (spring in southwest Florida is hot and humid).
Making new friends and then sharing sundowners in the cockpit is normally one of the most enjoyable parts of our life afloat. With physical distancing, this is off the table. We still converse with dock neighbors, but they’re often sitting in their cockpit and we’re standing 10 feet away on the dock. These brief encounters provide an opportunity to swap sea stories, but it’s not nearly the same as a large cockpit gathering, sharing appetizers, enjoying potluck dinners, and playing board games.
Like our land-based neighbors, we are relying heavily on the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, and keeping up with the news. Like our land-based friends, we continue to take our daily 3-mile walks (around the marina), minding social-distancing mandates when passing folks on the sidewalk, something that’s starting to feel oddly normal, though still unpleasant. We often wear our face masks and carry hand sanitizer with us, to use if we happen to touch a hand railing or marina restroom doorknob.
So where is the silver lining? Because of the small size of our home and its relative isolation (there are only 3 other liveaboard boats on our dock), we feel a sense of security. We continue to enjoy sunsets and moon rises from the cockpit. I continue to blow my conch at sunset, saluting the conclusion of another day. When conditions are right, we dinghy out of the harbor to a sand bar or small island for a picnic, just the two of us. One to two times per week, we throw off the dock lines and head out onto Charlotte Harbor for a daysail. We’ve made occasional overnight outings, dropping the hook in secluded anchorages. Sheila still attends to art projects, but has also been sewing cloth face masks for friends and family. Manatees and dolphins continue to swim through the harbor, sometimes engaging us on a more intimate basis when we’re in the dinghy. Finally, and this is no small thing, for the first time in 35 years, there is nothing haunting me from our boat repair to-do list. It’s all done (though I am confident the list will begin anew).
And maybe the real silver lining is that we do all of these small things more deliberately, with more awareness, appreciating them a bit more than normal, grateful for our continued health and good fortune. And those sundowners? We’ve found a way to do them electronically. No, it’s not the same.