Quarantine Cruising Weeks 1+2: Life on the Hook

We’re one to two weeks into quarantine cruising, and not really cruising as much as just living at anchor. We “cast off” this year on March 20, a little earlier than normal – accelerating our plans due to the coronavirus spread in Seattle.

In the cities, the fear and anxiety was palpable. Now that we’re out on the water, that’s fading away – routine on the water is ruled more by weather than the news cycle. Outside, nature is still proceeding as normal. The sea is still the sea, the birds still the birds, seals still seals.

After finishing our haul-out on March 20th, the choice was between either living at anchor (“on the hook”) or in a marina where we’d be crowded closer to many more people, having more surface contacts and also paying a lot more for moorage. For these reasons the choice was easy – we like life on the hook anyway.

A few things have made it more difficult this first week though: weather (cold and rainy – it’s still March after-all) and the closure of WA State Parks (to all uses including hiking), and the San Juans to all transient overnight moorage.

We had planned to spend a week at Blake Island, but the closure of WA State Parks threw out that idea. That was a big loss because Blake Island is one of our favorite places and has great hiking for exercise in dutifully socially distanced manners (we usually see more deer and raccoons on the trails than people).

Departure Prep / Provisioning

Every year when we prepare for extended cruising starting in late March / early April, it’s a stressful time because there’s a lot to get done – provisioning, last minute boat projects, storage, mail pickup, etc. This year it was extra stressful though because our timing coincided with when coronavirus was just starting to get serious in Seattle.

So at the same time we were doing our provisioning, everyone else was too. This made it a bit harder to find a few things (toilet paper, flour, canned goods) and more stressful in the grocery stores trying to stay sanitary and properly distanced.

We’re now fully prepared to live off-grid self sufficiently, and things have gotten a lot more peaceful. After the stress of the first week of preparing / beginning cruising, we’re settling into the routine of life on a boat and the main challenge is avoiding going stir crazy (like everyone else) due to being limited in where we can go.

Holding Pattern – Going Nowhere Slowly

We’re not really cruising much yet, being in more of a holding pattern waiting to see what happens. We’ve just been anchoring in different anchorages around Bainbridge.

The closure of the WA State Parks (till Apr 8 at least) was a big hit. It was sad for people on land who love the outdoors, but at least they can still walk around their neighborhood. For us, WA state parks are the neighborhood, and our backyard, in many cases. With their elimination it rules out about 40% of our favorite destinations in the San Juans, so we’re holding off on moving north for now.

Marine state parks are especially important to cruisers because often they’re the only way to get ashore to stretch the legs. Staying inside a small boat for weeks with no reprieve can quickly lead to cabin fever and depression. The Governor in his Stay-at-home order said people can still go outside to exercise and get fresh air.

Some of the changes happening now have been hard to understand because they don’t always seem rational or logical. Many of the marine parks that are closed are so scarcely visited this time of year that you could easily be the only human in the park at times. At Sucia Island last April, we were the only boat in Fossil Bay for some time, and only rarely saw people (always far away).

April last year – the only boat in Fossil Bay, Sucia Is.

Organizational decisions aren’t going to be perfect in a time of emergency though – with little time to carefully design the rules, they’re broad and don’t account for all the nuanced edge cases. Hopefully if the closures need to be extended, it can be done in a way that allows park users to still visit safely, following proper sanitization procedures.

Projects

This is a good time for finishing up some inside boat projects. I installed a new galley sink faucet (partly because our old one was semi-broken, and also because we wanted to try a pull-out / retractable faucet). We went with this faucet model:

The only tricky part was finding one that wasn’t too tall to fit under our galley cabinets (many of the home kitchen U-style ones are more than 12” tall). If your existing faucet has standard home faucet fittings, then putting in a new one is really easy – it’s basically plug-and-play. It took me only about half an hour to remove the old faucet and install the new one, and we love it.

The spray mode (“shower” spray) gives us a new option when cleaning, and being able to detach the head will come in handy for cleaning the sink or filling pots.

Coming Up

For now we’re living on our little floating island and hoping the world kicks this coronavirus thing quickly. We’re still coming to terms with it – grieving all that the world is losing. It’s hard to watch community openness disappear in many places nearly overnight. We also know that many of the small towns we visit in BC are 100% reliant on tourism – if they don’t reopen for the spring/summer season, they might not exist after this (or in a very different state).

We’ve been reading a lot, and trying to find a balance between the bad and the good. On Facebook, I’ve seen community coming together (donating masks or making them) but also breaking apart – public shaming, judgment and condemnation. Facebook has never been known for bringing out the best in people, so this isn’t too surprising.

But I think in some cases people are lashing out because they’re stressed but also socially isolated. Many people have never spent 2 weeks or more not seeing a single human other than their partner or kids. We do that every year at least once or twice in the cruising season, and know that it’s not easy. The key is living in the present; but the fear and anxiety being created by current news works counter to that.

We also know that when isolated it’s important to get outside every day to hike or exercise. Unfortunately the closure of the parks makes that more difficult for people in the time when they’re most needed.

I’ve read a few good articles recently which offer hope, and will leave you with these:

    • The Port of Poulsbo’s declaration of support. Instead of raising the bridges (/ stopping the ferries) and telling people to go elsewhere, anywhere else, they recognized their role in supporting the community.
      “In Washington State, ports are the bridge between water, air, rail, road and are run by the public. It is our responsibility to maintain these essential access points as a governmental agency for the public.” … “Second, a number of responsible citizens in our region have chosen to socially isolate on their boats primarily on anchor. As a port, it is our responsibility to ensure these citizens have a safe place to access food, medicine, fuel, and dump their waste.”
    • That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief – Great article, and it explains a lot of what you’re seeing in online communities now.
    • SalishSeaPilot.com – the folks at SalishSeaPilot (who write digital cruising guides) have done an excellent job of compiling a list of marina/port statuses.

8 thoughts on “Quarantine Cruising Weeks 1+2: Life on the Hook

  1. Viki Moore

    Hope the cruising goes well. We are all locked in here in NZ. Not even allowed to go sailing! (Although liveaboards are still out there) it is autumn here now, so the days are getting shorter and colder which is making it easier for us to stay inside. Stay safe! Happy sailing.

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  2. stuartsw522

    Nicely done as always, Patrick. Especially the grieving piece.
    Our head began backing up yesterday, traced to a blocked sanitation hose (10yrs old). So we’re glad to still be in winter moorage mode. Of course it occurred just as we were planning to cruise for four days.
    The Life is what it is.

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  3. Bruce Kilen

    The faucet is for regular house water pressure, and if it is how does it function with the water pressure generated by your water pump? – Bruce K S/V Helios

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    1. Patrick Post author

      It seems to do fine. Our water pump says it ranges 10-25 psi (25 is “shutoff pressure”) and the faucet says it can handle 60 psi.
      Most household faucets have limited max flow – this one is 1.75 gpm – to save water. That was good for us because we want to stretch our water supply.

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  4. Tami Strohecker Florer

    Hi Violet Hour –
    Thanks for your stories – I hope you will continue despite the current tense situation. I was disappointed to read social media overreaction to some of your recent sharing. Our time spent with you two was such to know your hearts (and minds) are in the right places. We hope we will get to see you sometime/somewhere along the line as we all (underline the all) can settle down and get back to a semblance of normal. Take care – WAIOLA

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