Dear member of the Call of the Sea community,
You may notice that the salutation for this week’s update is different: You are included in the Call of the Sea community. We hope that you feel part of our community–one that wishes that all of its members enjoy good health and wellness, and one that prides itself in serving the broader community in a socially responsible way.
This week, as California begins to ease restrictions on certain kinds of businesses, we are inspired by The Bard and ask, “To Sail, or not to Sail? That is the question.”
Our answer so far has been to do as much as we can while confined to the dock, to be as well prepared as possible to have high quality, on-the-water programs upgraded and ready to go when the time comes.
Sadly, we have no answer yet as to when, or under what circumstances we will be able to sail. Why not? Too much is uncertain. For example, it is difficult to predict when, or even if, we will have sufficient resources to operate as we would like. It will be a challenge to make up for lost revenue due to school cancellations and the suspension of our Spring educational season. We were also forced to cancel our major fundraising event of the year, the Tall Ship Celebration that had been scheduled for June 13 at the Bay Model.
Even greater uncertainty exists as to how we can operate our vessels safely any time soon. Many predict that we will not be allowed to have groups of passengers on our vessels until late Summer, at the earliest. Protocols for operating passenger ships safely during this pandemic have yet to be established. Not for us. Not for any educational tall ship around the country, as far as we can tell. There are national and regional associations that are working hard to develop safety guidelines. Members of our Board of Directors, furloughed captains, crew, and staff are actively participating in these efforts.
Recently, a helpful Latitude 38 article by John Arndt described how various marinas and sailing venues around the Bay Area and Delta were relaxing restrictions to allow more sailing. I found the headline, however, to be somewhat problematic for Call of the Sea. It reads: “If You Can Sleep Together, You Can Sail Together.” That’s true insofar as a few closely related people are on a boat. Just as members of a household share the same living space, the health risk of these same people sharing the deck, berth, or cockpit of a sailboat seems comparable: minimal and contained. The level of risk increases, however, when one considers other activities that go along with sailing. Unless one lives on board, traveling to and from the dock, getting on and off the dock, refueling, buying supplies needed for the outing, hailing for assistance if the boat becomes disabled or a crew member needs medical attention–all of these things can increase the risk of exposure to those on board and to third parties, and should be undertaken with great care.
For us at Call of the Sea, we must take care to protect both passengers and crew. Most of our crew members will be living on board under the same deck, much like members of a household living under the same roof. However, the introduction of third parties into crew living space may also transmit disease. The vessel itself could become a source of virus transmission not only to the crew, but to successions of passengers boarding on and off. It is very difficult to handle halyards, pull sheets, sweat rigging lines, and work in other ways together while maintaining a fathom’s length of social distancing.
In developing our protocols for safe sailing, we will rely most heavily on the advice of public health professionals; and we will strictly comply with their directives. Our actions will follow their words. We are very fortunate here in the Bay Area to have public health and safety professionals whose only interest is the health and safety of all of us. They are not running for elective office. Their orders are based on medical science and data. They have been courageous in their willingness to take proactive measures. On March 9, they were the first in our nation to curtail mass gatherings; and, a week later, the first to order us to shelter in place. Some have criticized their efforts as overkill. The opposite is true: infection and death rates in the Bay Area are lower than in other urban areas of the country, despite our high numbers of international air travelers arriving from Europe and the U.K. before the mid-March air travel bans, and despite being host to the infected Grand Princess that entered the Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge on March 9.
You may know these courageous people. One could be a neighbor, a colleague, a friend. I will mention three on whom I rely the most to give trustworthy, objective, public health advice: 1) Matt Willis, M.D. (Temple), M.P.H. (Harvard), Marin County Public Health Officer since 2013, and San Anselmo resident; 2) Grant Colfax, M.D. (Harvard), San Francisco’s Director of Public Health since January 2019, former Marin County Director of Health and Human Services, and Sausalito resident; and 3) Sara Cody, M.D. (Yale), Santa Clara County Health Officer.
Dr. Cody recently commented, “The actions we’ve collectively taken across the Bay Area have prevented a number of deaths, so, no, I don’t think we’re overreacting. With the economic and social destruction everyone’s endured, I for one am not going to squander the sacrifices everyone’s made. If we lift too soon, there’s no reason to think we wouldn’t have exponential spread. Our whole population is susceptible and at risk.”
Covid-19 is like a wave of fog cresting on Angel Island and then receding to reveal a beautiful tide pool, beach or inlet beckoning to be explored. Be not too quick to venture out. Be patient. The fog will come and go again, eventually to clear for days on end.