We’ve decided to share our journal from our time in Key West as the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold. There’s a fine line between taking each day as it comes and actively preparing for something when you have no idea how big or bad it will be when it arrives. Our mantra has always been on the side of ‘live in the moment – enjoy the moment if possible because difficult times do not request an appointment, they just show up.’ In reality, as boaters, we are always planning ahead – watching the winds, the tides, the waves, and the weather. Carefully examining whatever elements present themselves. We have learned that arming oneself with as many tools as possible makes for a better boating experience. We have learned that being flexible is better than ending up miserable.
As this virus invaded our day-to-day lives, as it has done with everyone else across the globe, we found ourselves in uncharted waters. 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 that many have been forced to make and still are suffering through. This is simply our experience. Note: Except where indicated, the journal is Tim’s voice. We’ve added language to give context where necessary.
March 8, 2020 — Stock Island Marina Village
The Quiet Before the Storm.
The morning begins as most mornings do for us here. There’s a warm breeze on the aft deck and we draw the sunshades to temper the welcomed, but too-bright-to-read sunlight that rises on OLOH’s stern. The smell of the sea is a bit stronger today than usual – maybe it’s the heavy moisture that lay on the swim platform waiting to be taken back into the sky when the sun snatches it. Jasper has returned from his morning walk with A.J., finished his breakfast and is standing watch outside. The coffee has finished percolating and A.J. is already seated on the aft deck, reading through the top stories in the New York Times before settling into his routine of pouring over boating blogs and forums and answering questions that we often get from folks who follow our adventures and are looking for advice. As I pour my coffee, he asks me if I’ve seen any of the news this morning. That’s usually not a good sign.
I’m not a morning person, Lord knows I try, and as I am pouring my coffee I’m wishing I hadn’t given up the sweetener. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t think I could be so angry at sweetener-free coffee, but after a few weeks of even tougher mornings waking up, a splash of cream became enough and we mended our friendship. Jasper stood near my legs, waiting for a family hug, which he likes in the morning. It’s the sweetest thing. With coffee in hand, I join A.J. outside and ask how bad the news is. He reads me a few headlines about the coronavirus. At the moment, even though there’s a feeling of being completely isolated from what’s happening in other parts of the country (that comes easily in Key West) – we know it’s looming. We’ve been keeping an eye on it for weeks, and for the first time, we wonder whether we need to consider getting the boat closer to our families. Our big concern is our parents and we plan to call them today to see where their heads are at with everything.
We also talk about staying focused on the tasks at hand and enjoying all the good things that are still happening here, like the pending visits from some great friends. We’ve only been in Key West for about three weeks and while we promised ourselves we’d limit our visitors this year, we realized that it would be nearly impossible. There are just too many great people we want to spend time with and our time here is limited so we’re packing it all in.
A.J. has been diligently working to help with a project he is very excited about, a “Going North” presentation by Bob Sherer, best known as Bob423, who is the defacto Guru of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The event is set to take place in twelve days at Stock Island Marina Village and he and Bob have been discussing how things will take shape in the face of what’s happening.
Our dear friend (and Jasper’s kissy-face buddy) Abbey will be spending the night on OLOH. She is one of MarineMax’s most talented and beloved ambassadors who has traveled the world as their Marketing Director, keeping their brand front and center (MarineMax is the nation’s leading boat retailer). She’s here this weekend for work, hosting a Galeon Yachts rendezvous in Key West which includes events at Stock Island Marina Village. Part of her weekend in town also includes touring Stock Island Marina Village with associates in preparation for their Azimut rendezvous that will be coming here in April with forty-plus boats. We connected Abbey with another amazing force, Jordan, who runs this place. Jordan and her team have worked hard to welcome MarineMax to the SIMV experience. We’re proud that we were able to facilitate that connection. We’ve spent three years building relationships and connecting people we know in the boating world. Smiles, handshakes, introductions, and invitations for OLOHritas are all part of our approach to supporting and helping to build a vibrant boating community. When Abbey arrives she brings a few coworkers and Jordan and her husband, Jason, and Brittany join in as well. The virus is on all our minds but we decide to enjoy the moment. Cocktails flow, appetizers are devoured and Jason even plays some music on my left-handed guitar! Everyone is gone before sunset and our conversation moves back toward the virus as we check in on our news feeds.
And the news continues to trickle in. Oregon declared a state of emergency while Washington State considers mandatory measures to get people to heed the warnings of social distancing and staying at home. Four days ago, Washington State reported eleven deaths related to the virus and California declared a state of emergency. The news yesterday that Governor Cuomo of New York, Governor DeWine of Ohio, and Governor Murphy of New Jersey had declared states of emergency has given us great pause. Many of our family and friends live in those states. Cases are beginning to grow in Pennsylvania and Connecticut as well.
I read today that Pelosi and Schumer have asked the administration for a series of measures protecting the public against fallout from this as well as adequate protection for the folks working on the front lines. Is it going to get that bad? I tuned in to Fox news to check what they were saying and they don’t seem to believe this is real and the world is taking it too seriously. They’re even coming up with conspiracy theories. They mockingly play a clip of a doctor from another network suggesting that this could become a worldwide pandemic and call it overblown. That just seems to be irresponsible and at the least, really bad optics.
The government has officially warned Americans against taking a cruise, but shouldn’t there be stronger warnings? It’s almost as if they are downplaying the severity of it for some reason. Is it because of the economy? Saudi Arabia initiated an oil price war with Russia today and that won’t be good for the markets.
While there is a sense of feeling safe here because we are so far from everything, is that a foolish feeling? This place is a destination resort with cruise ships docking and airlines dropping off visitors non-stop for a taste of Key West magic. Maybe this is actually a really bad place to be if this thing is real and getting worse. What about the weather, the heat, and the strong breezes – doesn’t that make it better? Do we need to have a serious conversation about leaving? Do we need to buy masks? What the hell is going on!?
These questions have become the topics of discussion on G Dock with our dockmates and good friends — the crew of The Three B’s, a 62’ Prestige tied up right behind us and the crew from Red Head, a 65’ Florida Bay Cruiser tied up in front of us.
March 9— What’s Going On!?
This morning the largest market crash in history happened. White House messaging about Covid-19 scared the markets as did the oil war. The virus continues to spread slowly in Washington State but again, it doesn’t seem like there are alarms sounding as loud as perhaps they should be. Italy locked down the entire country today and that should be enough to wake up our country. I keep saying I am not an alarmist, but I’m feeling alarmed. Is it possible that it could be as bad here as it is overseas? Here in Key West, so many people seem oblivious or unconcerned. Spring breakers are arriving and the pools are packed. It’s business as usual. There have been no strong warnings or guidelines issued that we know of here in Florida. There aren’t a lot of cases, apparently. But if there’s no testing how can they know?
Abbey headed back home today and we’ll miss her. As always, we had a short but intense visit filled with laughter. She and I ended up sipping bourbon until 2 am, not wanting the visit to end. We talked about life, the virus, and what might be coming down the road…and even though she’s expecting to be returning here in April, there may be a part of us that knows it could be a very long time before we see each other again in person.
The evening seemed to bring calm, bathing us in warm moonlight. Sometimes you just gotta take the shot! Tomorrow, our friends, Julie and Steve will arrive by rental car. They flew to South Florida from California and are heading down here for a four-day visit. We haven’t seen them in five years and we’re excited to catch up with them. Both are extraordinarily talented musicians and the crew on Red Head suggested we all go to the Little Room Jazz Club in Key West to hear one of their favorite jazz musicians, Larry Baeder. Business as usual in terms of making plans, but with a lingering uncertainty.
March 10 — All Hands on Deck
Our morning begins with checking the Covid-19 news. There is a layer of heaviness that is hard to shake, so when Julie and Steve arrive, they are a welcomed sight. Our night begins with a fantastic meal at a great restaurant called The Café, with delicious vegetarian, vegan and fish dishes.
After that, we take them to the Little Room for a night of music. While talking at dinner, we learn that Steve is old friends with Larry Baeder who we were on our way to see perform – a total coincidence! Larry is a virtuoso singer and musician who is a legend in Key West. When Larry sees Steve, who he used to play with 25 years ago, he is overwhelmed and invites him onstage to play and sing. The two of them fall back into it as if they had played together yesterday. It’s a packed house and Larry and his band give an incredible performance.
In a press conference tonight, Dr. Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that even though this may not be in every state yet, it will come. If we want to get ahead of it we need to change how we live. He said we all need to say “all hands on deck.”
March 11 – How Much is Enough?
It’s another beautiful, albeit windy morning with temps heading toward 80 degrees. As we sip our morning coffee on the aft deck, the sun pokes through our shades ready to show us another stunning day. Julie and Steve are sleeping in and we begin discussing the “what if” scenarios regarding Covid-19. Our neighbors on The Three B’s, John and Carolyn, stop by for a chat. Our conversation centers around two things, the weather, and the virus. As boaters, we spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating the weather. How windy will it be today? Will it be calm enough to take Jasper to the sandbar? Is it a day to take the Whaler to Geiger Key Restaurant or our newfound favorite, Stock Rock Café? Both are incredible spots on the water with great food and great vibes. The winds are pushing 10-15kts out of the southeast so it looks like we won’t be getting out of Safe Harbor on the water today which is a bummer as we could use a fun distraction at this point.
Carolyn and I talk about provisioning. She and John have a car onsite and have offered it to us whenever we need it. The four of us agree that we are probably in a pretty good spot to ride out whatever is going on. Our plan has been to head north in mid-April but we are not confident that this virus will be close to being over by then. If it gets really bad, how long will we end up staying here? The one decision we all agree on is that if we are to ride out whatever is to come, we’ll need to extend our reservation sooner than later so we can keep our spot and we need to provision properly. A.J. takes care of the reservation, extending our stay, at least on the books, until June, and I get ready to go shopping.
A.J. and I are a good team. I’m the guy preparing for Armageddon and he’s the guy pumping the brakes and taking the corners cautiously, measuring every move. I think I’ve said prior to every coronavirus conversation, “I’m not being an alarmist, but, if shit hits the fan…” And, I don’t think I am an alarmist. I’d rather be prepared for the worst and have a rosy outcome. I’d rather be wrong than blindsided. I always joke that if our life is like a movie, I don’t want to be “that guy” in the horror movie that the audience is screaming at to not go into the dark shed, where clearly something is amiss, with no weapon or way out once the shed door closes! I can just hear the audience screaming at my character, the village idiot. “What was he thinking? How can he not see what’s coming?” So, I spend the rest of the morning on Amazon, ordering everything from paper towel and toilet paper to dried fruit, quinoa, nuts, vital wheat gluten and a little bit of sanitizer. How much is enough?
Julie and Steve are vegan and we are open to giving that a try while they are visiting. It’s a culinary challenge that I’m up for, which is why vital wheat gluten (with its dry consistency similar to flour) was on the Amazon order. It’s the primary component in seitan (say-tan) – a meat substitute loaded with protein that can be used for myriad meatless dishes. You can even make “chicken” nuggets with it. We shall see how that goes!
Our new friends Lisa, Lou and Rabbit on S/V Snow Goose, are headed out tomorrow for the Marquesas for several weeks. There’s no cell service there, so they’ll be off the grid and we half-joke that when they return in April the world might be a different place. Their hope is to ride this out and that when they get back things will be getting back to normal. We hope so, too, but are not so sure that will be the case. Good luck, guys!
The crew from The Three B’s joined us for sunset cocktails on OLOH and all conversations, once again revolved around the coronavirus. We talked about social distancing, our families and our decision of the moment to settle in here and ride it out. Stock Island locals and good friends Jason (who’s also our amazing diver), Naomi and their dog Django (Jasper’s unintentional nemesis) wander by for a dockside chat and we talk about what’s happening. They are considering heading to the Marquesas as well if things get bad. At this point we’ve punctuated all of these conversations with the qualifier that our conversation will likely be much different in a week’s time, if not sooner, at the rate things are unfolding.
We’re still socializing at what we feel are proper distances with our close friends who are all being careful, relative to what we understand we should be doing at this time. Hugs and handshakes have now gone away and hand-washing and sanitizing routines have been heavily stepped-up. While it’s hard to know where this is all going, we’re starting to get the sense that this could be a long haul with lots of tough decisions ahead.
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