Hunkered Down in South Carolina

One month ago I had just cancelled my flight and chose to drive home in a rental car from Charleston, SC. I was having trouble wrapping my head around what had occurred in the five days brother James and I were offshore sailing Celtic Cross north on what was to be the first of several passages moving my boat back to Detroit. Instead of simply taking a break before the next passage, I prepped Celtic Cross for what might be a stay of weeks or even months tied alongside a dock in South Carolina. Of course by the time I was home I had a list of a dozen items I had forgotten to do before leaving.

Rascal (foreground) and Celtic Cross settled in Charleston City Marina. Rascal (Hull #404) is a sister Amel Super Maramu built in 2003 a few months after Celtic Cross (Hull #380)

Even the drive was different. I enjoy driving long distances, but there was moments of anxiety the whole way back. I drove the 900 mile trip in one long day, using drive-throughs for meals, self serve pumps, and rest stops only in freeway rest areas. As dusk fell I found myself on a two lane US-33 in southern Ohio wondering if gas stations were shutting down for the night. Fortunately, I had flown south to Fort Lauderdale with a handful of face masks, nitrile gloves, and Clorox wipes left over from my chemotherapy and stem cell transplant three years ago. The term “social distancing” entered our lexicon while I was offshore in the Atlantic, but anyone flying on a plane knew there were risks of infection, so for the first time ever I wiped down my seat and tray table. And in offering wipes to the guy in the next seat I had two other passengers ask if they might have one. Strange at the time, but today, one month later… completely normal. Except that none of us are even contemplating flying in the near future.

Fast forward two weeks to the 1st of April. I had cancelled my flight back to Charleston for our next leg sailing north. Instead, I spent the better part of the morning wiping down groceries with Clorox wipes after they were delivered from the store and sat in the garage for a day. President Trump and his corona virus task force were briefing the nation that the next two weeks were going to be really bad. 100,000 to 240,000 deaths were anticipated if everything went well. He broached the subject of re-opening the country around that time and the press went predictably berserk. The Democrat fear mantra of “People will die!” was heard time and again on newscasts and from our congressional delegates.

Fast forward another two weeks to the present. In that short period, the country’s attention had indeed shifted to… well, exactly how ARE we going to get things going again? Great question and there are no pat answers or history to guide us. What makes this exceptionally interesting is that we have never, ever been here before! Frankly, I think the job that our President and the Task Force are doing in guiding a nation of 330 million people through this is extraordinary. Not only is it a pandemic, it is a pandemic with an unknown virus about which our health care system knew virtually nothing. And we had virtually no experience with shutting down an entire country of this size. And by the way, you get to measure the time available to come up with solutions, plans, logistics, etc. in hours, not the months or years you may actually need. And no do-overs allowed. Get it right the first time.

Now that it appears that the death toll has been suppressed to levels below the projections, predictably many are claiming that the measures taken were too extreme. Really?!? Don’t recall hearing that prognostication two weeks ago. I have always maintained that being a critic is easy; even to the point of being cowardly. Criticism and complaints are forgotten if things go well. The critics know that they will seldom be called to task. Making decisions in the absence of certainty, picking a direction, and leading the charge are what real leaders do. Their decisions are held up to merciless scrutiny, unlike the critics who will seldom make a decision that requires real risk.

The time has come to figure out what I can do with Celtic Cross. Under the circumstances it still makes more sense to get her back to Michigan. Today is supposedly the middle of the worst of this virus, with the most people dying. Purportedly we are at the top of the curve and should be heading down the other side. What this will look like 3 months or 6 months from now is unpredictable at best. Future travel across the country is likewise unpredictable should there be a “second wave” this fall or later. So here is my plan.

  1. I’m not flying anytime soon. I’ve found that I can rent a car for point to point driving for about the price of an airline ticket. It just takes longer. The plus side is that I can bring crew with me and the longest drive is down to Charleston, which can be done in a day. Of course, rental car businesses need to be open.
  2. Travel restrictions need to be lifted in the eight states we drive through traveling to and from the boat.
  3. Social distancing will likely remain in effect for many weeks ahead. Whatever group I can assemble at some point in the future needs to be tested the day before departure to see if anyone is positive. Once we become a group, social distancing from others becomes pretty easy on a sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic. I know testing is available at U. of M. Medical Center now and will likely be pretty easy in a few weeks.
  4. Going offshore and then returning may attract some attention, particularly as we sail into New York harbor to head up the Hudson. Prior to departure all states along the Atlantic Coast need to be accepting boats from other states so that we do not find ourselves either turned away or quarantined. I think this is not an issue now, but it needs to be confirmed in case we need to put in somewhere unexpectedly.
  5. The Erie Canal and New York marinas need to be open. The planned maintenance of the canal is on hold during the corona virus emergency. Thus the opening of the canal for the season is also delayed. No opening date has yet been established.

Because the logistics here have become more complex, when and if I can put something together, the passages will become a little longer. The next leg will be a passage from Charleston up to Catskill, NY on the Hudson River. I have to stop there to take the masts down for the Erie Canal and I will likely head home for a week or so at that point. Just an estimate will be five days at sea plus a day motoring up the Hudson. With travel and a day to provision the entire trip will be about ten days.

I believe we will be in the “shelter in place” mode for at least another month here in Michigan, so I doubt this will happen before late May. I spent some time discussing what happened since mid-March to (a) demonstrate how fast life is changing for all of us and (b) document this particular time in my blog just because I want to remember what we are going through right now. When another month passes everything is going to look a lot brighter and more normal for all of us. I, for one, will be ready for some adventure. And this is one time when Jill will not mind me disappearing for a while at all! So if you would like to join me, drop me a note.

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1 Response to Hunkered Down in South Carolina

  1. Leo Burns says:

    Makes perfect sense captain… as soon as you have “orders” we’ll make the necessary arrangements… heck think of the tale you’ll be able to tell your grandson! 😊👍

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