In these troubling times, many people have learned that being cooped up at home is not very much fun. That is, of course, unless your home is a yacht. We nautical nomads have generally suffered less from the Covid 19 outbreak than our land-based counterparts and there is a very good reason for this.
Yachts are almost perfectly designed for self isolation. Not only are most yachtsmen mentally equipped for, and accustomed to, long periods of self-sufficiency, a well-found sea-gypsy boat is actually designed with such an eventuality in mind.
Unlike the flashy boats you see permanently plugged into the mains electricity at the marina, a good sea gypsy boat should be self sufficient in electricity (from wind and sun without the need to return to the dock or rely on generators or starting the engine) and have some way of collecting rainfall to keep the tanks topped up. An over-reliance on complicated systems will also scupper any attempts to self isolate as you will need to continually return to shore to chase down parts for your washing machine (bucket is best!) or air conditioner (open a hatch and use a scoop). Once properly set up, a good sea gypsy boat can travel extensively and have a new view every day without actually coming into contact with anybody at all.
Living in a Castle
Unless you are lucky enough to have been born into the royal family or are planning world domination from your own secret island, the chances are that you do not have the perfect feature for self isolation. I am, of course, referring to a moat (preferably full of unpleasant beasties).
Here in the Pacific, anywhere you anchor your yacht is an automatic moat several times larger than most castles and anyone visiting must announce their presence from a long way off. They then have to get past the marine etiquette of not coming aboard unless asked. In over a decade of living aboard I have only seen one person broach this convention (a rather evangelical missionary who came aboard without being asked as he considered the word of his god to be more important than marine etiquette. He soon learned that is not necessarily the case). So, for sailors, it is beyond easy to maintain correct distancing without really changing one’s lifestyle or invoking new or unfamiliar habits.
In Get Real, Get Gone I quote the Hollywood actor and writer Sterling Hayden who claims that, apart from a few pounds of food and six feet to lie down in, a person really only needs some rewarding work for a happy life. I get the point, but only partially agree as I do not think most of us can go too long without some creative pursuits. I like to write and play music and if I do this everyday, I find it much easier to forgo, the second essential missed by Mr Hayden – that of the need for human contact.
Eventually though, we all need some of the old human stuff, but even in that department I think we sea gypsies have an advantage. For example, I have been anchored in the same three places for over a month now and have come to know those who have also been here for that period, largely isolated in their boat. So when I hear a rap on the hull and an “Ahoy Calypso” I already know who to invite aboard immediately and who to keep chatting to from the dinghy.
As the borders open up and yachts start to arrive from New Zealand, this lifestyle will continue to offer a protective shield. Those sailors who drop the anchor in Fiji will have already been self-isolating for at least a couple of weeks on passage. Furthermore, they would have had to pass the quarantine checks that have been routine for those arriving by yacht for decades before this most recent pandemic. So, as I have always suspected, largely restricting your contact to fellow sailors really is good for your health (assuming you can maintain proper control of your beverages).
Business as Usual
Having said all that, Fiji has not really had the virus, so life has not really changed that much – but it is good to know that, should the situation change, we have been unconsciously practicing how to cope with it for it for years.
This lockdown seems to have led a great many people to re-evaluate their lifestyle choices – or so it would seem if my book sales are anything to go by. Maybe it has been a close encounter with mortality, a reminder of how short our lives are or just a little shock therapy, but my inbox has taken quite a pounding since the pandemic took hold. Some people have already made the jump and are asking for practical advice, but the majority are first timers who have been spurred on by recent events to make the leap and are simply waiting for the restrictions to ease in order to make the jump to Nautical Nomad status. Many seem to believe that the restrictions are going to be a permanent fixture of the ‘new normal’ and are therefore keen to take this opportunity to leave the land before the next spike in infections. (I cannot see this happening personally, but I am, by design, increasingly out of touch with the ‘real’ world and only capable of answering nautical questions, so what do I know?)
Speaking of which, if you are considering leaving the lubbers to become a watery wanderer and need a push, I am happy to answer all questions (might take a bit longer than usual, but I will get there). I also do a very fine line in motivational butt-kicking, should it be required.
Even before this pandemic, there were an overwhelming amount of good reasons to embark on the life of a peripatetic puddle jumper (as laid out ad nauseum in my book). If it takes this virus to kick you into action and join us out here on the big blue wobbly thing, then at least some good will have come of it.
Good luck everyone – stay safe, keep calm and last one left on land, turn out the lights.