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Key West Journal – The Long Farewell Part 2

We are sharing our journal from our time in Key West as the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold.  When it became clear back in early March that this was something that looked like it could have a real impact on our lives, we started keeping a daily journal of how life began to shift and of the evolution of our decisions as well as notes on some of the news as it happened. 

We do not take for granted how fortunate we are to have the options we have.  We know our decisions pale in comparison to those many have been forced to make and still are suffering through.  This is simply our experience.  We’ve added language to our original entries to give context where necessary.  If you have not read Part 1, we encourage you to put this entry on hold and start there: Key West Journal – The Long Farewell Part 1 

March 12 — Music Soothes the Soul

TimOh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a terrible feeling…  That was my earworm song all night.  It just wouldn’t go away, like the song that’s my earworm song on the nights before we travel – Under the Sea.  Yeah, I wish I was kidding.  At least it’s not the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which A.J. has banned from playing on this boat!  It’s looking like it will be another beautiful day here on the Rock.  We have our daily, morning G-dock Covid-19 coffee klatch. Jeff and Karen from Red Head pop by to share thoughts and what they’ve learned, as do John and Carolyn from The Three B’s.

My younger brother, who has a director-level job in the Ohio state government has been sending us the links to the governor’s daily pressers and keeping us in the loop.  A.J.’s sister has been keeping us updated with the latest from New York City where she’s part of the Columbia University task force that is handling this crisis. We watched both the Ohio Governor’s briefing and the New York Governor’s briefing. New Rochelle, NY, where we have dear friends, is in rough shape. Across the country, things are continuing to devolve. The news from California is looking bleaker and bleaker as well.  My nephew lives in Santa Monica and says it’s getting bad out there and he’s worried about losing his job.

We’re starting to hear that “social distancing” is likely to become universally critical with experts saying, “social distancing is currently the most important factor we can control in the COVID-19 outbreak.”  Many businesses are now urging employees to work from home, there are more and more school closures happening and there’s even chatter on the news that states might soon be calling for mandatory self-isolation – which is just mind-blowing. Does that mean martial law?  Julie and Steve (our dear friends and guests in from California) are beginning to contemplate whether or not they should cut their stay short and get back to California to be near her parents and their kitty cats.

The marina is bustling.  A couple of large yachts have arrived and the background music playing on OLOH is occasionally interrupted by the chug-chug-chug of the high-performance “go-fast” boats that have been arriving in droves from an organized Fun-Run and filling up the docks.  At around 4:30 we decided to head out for a harbor tour on the Whaler to check out the new arrivals before going to check out some live music.

Our friend and one of our very favorite Key West musicians, Jason Lamson, is performing for a few hours as a part of the Fun-Run festivities” at the fantastic Barrel House Restaurant onsite. This guy is so talented! So we head there with our guests along with our G-dock gang to see Jason play on into the evening.

6:52 pm: the sun is still beaming and we are receiving really well-needed good vibes courtesy of the great Jason Lamson.
7:53 pm: The days have become more and more tense, but the sunset always brings us calm.

Inspired by our talented friend Jason, and in much need of a night off from talking about the pandemic, we decided to gather on OLOH for a little night of our own music. There’s something so powerful and healing about it, and in that moment, it carried us.

The Red Head Crew on-board for a good ol’ fashioned sing-a-long in the OLOH Saloon. Jasper’s only concern was who was going to pick up that pillow that he knocked off the settee.

March 13 — Nothing Like a Little Boat Shopping Therapy

A.J. was up early this morning and I could hear the soft click of the helm door as he left to take Jasper for his morning walk.  Every morning I’m grateful for their walk-about routine, as my head, often like Cape Disappointment (the foggiest place in the U.S.) needs time to spool up.  I was on the aft deck having coffee when Julie and Steve emerged from their stateroom to join me moments before A.J. and Jasper came back from their walk.  One of Jasper’s favorite things is hosting guests.  He takes his job as morning greeter quite seriously.  That’s probably why A.J. was up early! Jasper can’t wait to get out of bed to see if the guests are up yet, and he’ll go stick his nose near their door to check.  No luck this morning pre-walk but when he saw Julie and Steve his tail wagged so hard his butt shook like a bowl of jelly! After he leaned into Steve and Julie for their morning hug, (and yes, I’m chopped liver when guests are here – I guess that’s the price you pay for being the alpha), he settled under the table.

It was already 75 degrees and a warm breeze was licking at a dripping hot day to come.  We collectively decided not to check the morning headlines because we realized we all needed the morning off from all the Covid news. It’s also Friday the 13th so we stuck our heads in the sand for at least the moment and looked at boats, texted our families, and reminisced.  Of course, I did sneak a peek at a few headlines and read that Fox news had now changed its tune on the seriousness of the virus.  We have friends and family who watch Fox exclusively, so it was with great relief to hear they were coming around.

I wanted to make another provision run as the news we saw last night showed images from across the country of stores with empty shelves. I went to Publix and it was pretty chaotic. There were still sanitizer wipes for the carts, which was a relief. But there were scant meats and no chicken/turkey products at all. About half the eggs were gone. The few cases of water that remained when I passed the beverage aisle were gone on a second pass. There was one 4-pack of toilet paper that I snagged (there are rampant reports of people hoarding toilet paper!) and about ten bottles of hand soap. I put four in my cart and at the check-out was told I could only have two – which I completely understood. I didn’t get much of what I was looking for, but I’m sure after everything calms down, they’ll restock. No one was practicing social distancing.

A.J.:  Bob423 and I have been in regular contact about the upcoming “Going North” presentation that I have been helping to coordinate.  It’s turned into quite an event with marinas along the ICW offering up door prizes and nearly seventy people confirming that they’re planning to attend the seminar at Stock Island Marina Village in six days.  A blast email just went out so we anticipate many more RSVPs.

You’re Invited to “Going North” With Bob423: Cruising the ICW

Stock Island Marina Village and ”M/Y OLOH” are pleased to invite you to an exclusive “Going North” presentation by Bob Sherer, best known by his nickname, Bob423, Thursday, March 19, at 2PM.

Since 2010, Bob and his wife have been cruising the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and providing details and insights from their experiences to better help other cruisers enjoy the ride. Bob publishes an annual book on cruising the ICW and is Waterway Guide’s ICW editor. He also maintains the very popular “ICW Cruising Guide by Bob423″ Facebook group.

Bob423 will update boaters about the latest on the ICW from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. to Hampton, VA, including updates on dredging projects, details on how to get past problem areas, and he’ll cover the current status of the 2020 Georgia anchor restrictions. He will also demonstrate how to find, load, and use Bob423 tracks and routes on both Aqua Map and Navionics iPad apps.

Attendees will have a chance to win door prizes, including a ‘Weekend Getaway in Key West’ courtesy of The Perry Hotel Key West, Stock Island Marina Village, and M/Y OLOH. Plus, the presentation ends at 4:15, just in time to enjoy back-to-back happy hours at our dockside restaurants, Salty Oyster & Matt’s Stock Island!

This presentation is free to attend but seats are limited! Please RSVP below and let us know how many in your party will attend and include if you’ll be dining at Matt’s during the Meet & Greet so we can save you a table!

But with each passing day, we’re wondering if the marina will want to cancel or if we’ll feel it necessary to make that call.  We’re hearing more and more about concerts and other big events starting to be postponed or called off.  There’s a rumor floating around that the Palm Beach International Boat Show may do the same.  But as of right now, Bob sees no reason to cancel our event, his reasoning being “…that attendees will have come in boats, not airplanes so the risk is very small, if any. Nevertheless, there should be a bottle of disinfectant hand wash available at the meeting place because it will be on everyone’s mind.”

Tim:  We keep channel 10 on the marine radio on all day – that’s the working channel for the marina. I suppose it’s like the police scanner was to my Grandpa Mac, a way to keep in-the-know and to get morsels of what’s being served up for the day.  It used to be a bit maddening because A.J. also likes to have music on at all times and as a music guy, he’s easily able to separate “frequencies.”  I spend a fair amount of time in my own head, so I actually had three “frequencies” to deal with, but the lure of the “yenta” (Yiddish for gossip or busybody) hooked me.  Now we always keep a marina’s working-channel on wherever we go.  So, part of our normal routine here is listening for boats that are arriving and watching them come in to dock.  A.J., who is like a hound hot on a scent, is always the first to spot a new arrival. Yesterday, he spied a late model 65’ Hampton Motor Yacht coming in, it’s a beautiful boat we’ve admired in the past. After a quick look online, he sees that this one happens to be for sale.

The Hampton 65 Motor Yacht.

Now, there’s a backstory here… Our friends, John and Carolyn on The Three B’s (a 62’ Prestige) had never toured our boat until we were all here at Stock Island Marina Village. They had been talking about potentially getting a larger boat but hadn’t come across anything that really moved the needle for them. When they checked out our boat, they were surprised at how much room we had for a 60’ vessel. Carolyn loved the galley and was blown away by the passageway (boatspeak for hallway) leading to our master stateroom. Obviously our boats are different designs and we know from experience that moving from a sport-cruiser to a motor yacht is a big change and a big decision.  A.J., the boat-matching guru, knew the Hampton might be a boat that could move the needle for them. He sent them the listing and took a deep dive into it with John, walking through considerations like transitioning from their style of boat to a motor yacht and the modifications he’d make if it were our boat. And guess what? It moved the needle!  Where might this lead?  It’s certainly a nice distraction with everything that’s going on.

A.J.:  While the conditions weren’t ideal, we really wanted to take Julie and Steve out on the water for a Key West sunset which requires leaving the protection of the harbor and venturing just a bit into the ocean.  The Three B’s Crew were also game so off we went on our two tenders.  We carefully made our way out into the slightly sloppy Atlantic and shut the boats down to just drift while rafted together.  With the engines silent, the setting sun brought needed calm to the now pervasive sense of unease we were feeling from outside forces.  To further lighten the mood before returning to OLOH, we did a drive-by of the Hampton Motor Yacht whose owner emerged upon hearing us ogling and invited us to drop by tomorrow for a tour.  That should be another fun distraction!

The OLOH Crew & guests heading out for sunset. Photo courtesy of Carolyn from The Three B’s.

Jasper basks in the glow of the setting sun, still unclear why we keep using the word “coronavirus.” Another great shot from Carolyn.
7:18 pm: Choppy seas as the big orange ball drops from the sky.

Tim: We spent the evening talking about our families and the impact they were all feeling from this. It’s tough being so far from all of them. Julie and Steve are feeling strongly about getting back to California sooner rather than later. Their flight is on Sunday, but being concerned about being around so many people, and after seeing news coverage of packed airports across the country, particularly Miami International Airport, where they’re scheduled to leave from, they decide to see if they can just drive their rental car home.

Our dear friends, Marla and Captain Scott are coming from New York for a visit in four days.  Scott has crewed with us in the past and they’ve both spent some good times aboard OLOH. They are flying directly into Key West and we reached out today asking if they were still planning on coming.  They are.

March 14—  Goodbye Is Never Easy

Everyone is up early and our guests get to work canceling their flight and arranging a rental car drop-off in California instead of Miami. Their house/cat sitter called to say she needed to leave early because of what’s going on. They decided to leave today, by early afternoon, so their five cats will only have to be alone for a day. No worries as there will be plenty of food and water for them!

Captain Scott and Marla text us at around 9:15 am to let us know that they have decided to cancel their flight and instead, drive down by car to avoid the chaos and contact with the multitudes at the airports (there are no guidelines recommending against travel). They are leaving at noon. We talk about whether we should ask them not to come down but decide against it.  It’s only for a few days and it will be so nice to see their smiling faces in person.

A.J. and Bob423 continue to be in close contact about their event and there have been a couple of attendee cancellations due to coronavirus concerns.  The news feels heightened today and it is now non-stop everywhere.  Bob acknowledged to A.J. that he feels the virus is getting scary and that he wouldn’t blame the marina if they’re having second thoughts.  He starts formulating plans for he and A.J. to turn it into a live internet event if the seminar is canceled.

I spent the entire morning in the galley making enough food for Julie and Steve’s three or four-day road-trip to California. Their plan is to drive straight through, each taking shifts. They want as little contact with other people as possible. We pack up two big bags of meals, snacks, and water and send them on their way at around 2 pm. It’s never easy saying goodbye to people you cherish and in particular, as the heaviness of this crisis unfolds, it’s even more difficult.  Julie has been a wonderful light in my life since I first met her years ago – pre A.J. – in New York City. I already miss her joyful laughter.

A.J.:  A bit later it was time to tour the Hampton with Carolyn and John.  We walked over to its slip on nearby H-dock and met its gregarious owner, his lovely wife, and their family that was staying with them.  It was awkward not to shake hands when meeting new people but those are the current recommendations.  So everyone resisted and we had a laugh about it as we bowed and bumped elbows.  And with social-distancing now a part of the conversation around the country, we were hyper-aware that we were in a relatively confined space with new people.  But what a lovely space it was.  Such a beautiful boat (I know it had Tim pondering the thought of OLOH II)!

After the tour, we retreated to The Three B’s to debrief over cocktails (it was cocktail hour, after all).  When it was clear that the boat had piqued their interest I mention to John and Carolyn that since the Hampton was departing for nearby Marathon tomorrow, perhaps there might be an opportunity to go for a ride.  Hmmm.  But with things changing as rapidly as they are, it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll be waking up to.  There’s no denying the stress we’re all feeling, internally and all around us.

We’ll end this entry with this performance from Karen, Jeff and Steve captured on-board OLOH.  The lyrics seem particularly poignant to us right now.

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If you’d like to continue reading this story, you’ll be taken to Part 3 by clicking here.   To be instantly alerted when the next entry is posted, please be sure to subscribe (top right on a computer, scroll down on a phone).

Please let us know how you’re doing and tell us about your experience in this unprecedented time in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you.  And you can always find real-time updates with the very latest on how we’re doing on Facebook and Instagram.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. This made me tear up. Here's Julie's non-contemporaneous entry: After years and miles of separation from our dear friends due to normal life drift and pure distance, we were finally able to coordinate schedules for a Key West visit in March. The anticipation of spending some quality time with 2 friends I loved and missed so much was overwhelming. Since moving to California, Florida has not been a destination for me in several years, so I was thrilled at the prospect of some family time with beloved cousins in addition to our OLOH visit. The idea of cancelling this trip was unthinkable, even though some friends and family questioned the wisdom of traveling at this time. The brief story is: despite all the obstacles, this trip was beyond worthwhile! Reconnecting with Tim and A.J. was, as one friend of mine likes to say, a massage for my heart. Anyone who knows them can attest to their over-the-top 5-star royal treatment hospitality. Meeting their friends from neighboring vessels was a special treat. But, more than anything, just to share music, deep conversation, and sunsets with long-lost beloved friends was priceless. I'm leaving out some details of the trip for lack of space, but, suffice it to say: this visit reconfirmed why our friendship has lasted throughout the years. The love and caring of these 2 outstanding and amazing friends supercedes the miles and the time spent apart. My heart is full! I love you ❤
    1. Julie is so spot on with her comment of time spent with you guys makes your heart full. I mean come on, live music too on the OLOH!!!!! Thanks. Peace and Love
  2. I love this reflection of the journey. We never know how our lives will change. Continue to stay safe and healthy!! We all are!

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