Ravenswing sits on her mooring ball and her skipper sits at the kitchen table under California’s Shelter In Place order. I was actually disappointed that no public health official during my travel home Friday either suggested or ordered me a duration of physical isolation due to international travel into the USA. So we’re following the Centers for Disease Control ‘suggestion’ of a two-week self quarantine at home. Of course I’ve come back with boat projects to do, and thus will have more stuff for you guys to read about in the coming days.
There was a LOT of apprehension about the airplane travel journey. Jeanne asked me to wear the face mask the whole time. At first I was annoyed by that, then I thought of RickH’s timeless corinthian advice about being prepared for the contingencies. The greying beard has been a badge of honor for the whole salty sailor theme during ’19/’20, but it really doesn’t work for the “do not touch your face in times of COVID-19” lifestyle. So there was a painful hack job for 30 minutes in the La Paz marina bathroom with a dull little disposable Gillette razor.
During our two weeks apart, the co-owner also hounded me to work on coming home healthy, unlike my prior two returns from MX with bouts of respiratory and GI tract ‘issues’. So eating well became a mission gladly undertaken. I’m not used to cooking for one, meaning it’s hard to throttle back to appropriate amounts. Steak fajitas for two, eaten by one!
It’s raining here this morning in the San Francisco area. Good, the summer water table needs it. Back at the boat, the weather is gorgeous. Wouldn’t it be nice to hang out at the marina pool, then paddleboard back to the boat for sundowners tonight?
It looks idyllic, and yet that’s what I really want to explain. This is a message to friends in Mexico. You are facing choices about plotting your course through the coronavirus pandemic; I was not sufficiently informed while in Banderas Bay or Baja and I’m compelled to share these words of observation and learning from my first 48 hours back home. cartersboat.com has been up and running for seven years and we’ve tried very hard to stay unpolitical and on-point about the boat life. This posting is about the safety of friends, not my feelings on the governments of USA or MX, so it should be fair game…
- I thought it might be OK to go ahead and contract COVID-19 and ‘just get it over with’. The reports in MX didn’t seem that bad, it’s just a kind of flu. BAD IDEA – this thing is a monster when it gets in you. CNN host Chris Coumo (also brother of NY’s governor) is video sharing his COVID fight and the his descriptions of a now 12 day fever battle are awful. 80% of the patients who end up on a ventilator due to COVID are dying. Yes most people survive it, but catching it now while you’re healthy or getting it over with as I heard in MX is severely misguided.
- “Social distancing” is confusing in another language. In La Paz last weekend the face masks were just starting to appear and businesses were beginning physical distancing rules. Everything was still open though. Mi Espanol is rudimentary at best, and I didn’t get a proper explanation of the need: Coronavirus is transmitted by physically pushing it from one human’s lungs to another’s, carried on the breaths one exhales and the other inhales. The connection is made when you pick up someone’s exhale within about two feet. So the medical guidance is staying 3x, or six feet apart. And the mask is knocking your exhale down to a shorter distance, helping to protect the other person from catching virus particles YOU may be exhaling (even if you don’t show any symptoms). All of this was totally lost in translation to a voyaging solo sailor who was very pre-occupied about getting my boat to safety and myself back across the threatened border shut down. Point is, I was focused on completely the wrong things! The border is not the problem, contracting this disease is. I should have been wearing the mask as I took “my air” to new places.
- Disinfecting what you take aboard: I also didn’t understand that the virus is staying potent on surfaces to varying degrees, and that everything coming on to the boat should be considered. Again in LaPaz, on Sunday a week ago I was proud of ‘social distancing’ by walking three miles from the marina area to the mega-stores, and provisioning at Home Depot and Wal-Mart because at least I could trust the American product safety protocols. Took an Uber back to the boat with my load, but completely forgot Griffin’s text about disinfecting the packaging as I brought all the food aboard. Besides, this sounded pretty much absurd in an idyllic Baja anchorage. But now knowing how easy it is for people to be infected and not know it, and they keep doing their grocery store stocking or delivery jobs in small towns, it makes total sense to wash down purchased goods. I had some chlorine-based disinfectant aboard, and in the last couple of days had mixed some in to a spray bottle with general household cleaner and gave Ravenswing a thorough wipe-down.
- Prepare the sick-room. I’ve seen some voyaging boats with excellent full medical kits. We made an effort last year in building out Ravenswing’s first aid supplies. But in retrospect, we do not have virus containment & relief equipment aboard. It is a tiny space, and if one person was aboard caring for an infected crew, what are the needed supplies? The boat should have masks, disinfectants, proper washing capabilities (bedding, clothing, etc). First aid kits are generally focused on injuries; I had barely considered long-duration illness care aboard. What’s in the box for fever management, for example? Do we even have a proper thermometer? For any boats reading this now, are you fully prepared in this regard? If not, let me know how we can help you supply up for it.
- The escape plan… friends, and friends of friends, are on their boats right now with perhaps some anguish about where to be located during the pandemic. I just spent a week in the state of Baja Sur, MX. It felt quite safe and generally isolated from coronavirus. But that was false security. For example, the lovely, remote Puerto Escondido Marina looks sparkly clean and the staff is now following COVID-fighting protocols. Yet Americans are coming and going through the nearby Loreto airport, and almost all of the food and service products come to mid-Baja from California distribution companies (I saw the trucks and spoke with store managers). The trends and odds are VERY HIGH the virus will sweep through the Mexican Pacific coast just as it is doing through the US Pacific coast, mostly because all the social practices and travel have been the same in both countries. The border won’t be stopping this. One can continue social distancing on a boat. Very easy out at anchor, and with more discipline in the marinas. But I would keep a sharp eye on the medical facilities current-capability resources for hospitalizing and caring for you within a realistic ambulance distance from your boat, should a bad infection occur. Sadly, it looks like many of the superficial government reports are complete bullshit; public medical information employees are overwhelmed in their jobs and the stats are not reliable. My front-line doctor friends and paramedic son are seeing much higher numbers of symptomatic patients than is being press-released. Do what you can to get real facts about the state of medical services near your boat right now, and consider repositioning your boat to be within reach of facilities you’d feel OK about trying to save your life from COVID-19. Maybe put on a mask and go take a look at the nearby hospital? I’m NOT saying west-coasters should immediately sail back to the USA or BC. Just please convince yourself that the resources nearby are truly adequate for your potential needs. The incorrect information mistakes being made by American and Mexican elected officials right now are staggering. Find the local truth.
It’s great to be home, re-engaged as a spouse, father, son and sibling again. Life here in the ‘corona hot zone’ of California is much harsher than hanging out on the boat in MX, and yeah, I severely miss that already. On the boat it is easy to work the program of unplugging (from sad news) and anchoring one’s self. It’s easy to recharge the body with enough sleep, exercise and good diet. For those of you on your boats, please keep living this healthy lifestyle and when you do go ashore, drop the self-conscious thing and put on the darn masks. And tell other cruisers to do it too. This should be on the morning radio nets (it wasn’t as of two days ago in Escondido, for example). The world needs everyone to do their parts in slowing the disease spread, and that all starts with speaking up and staying 2 meters apart for a while. I can’t wait until we can sail together and hug it out again :)
Peace to you good people, and sail safely.