COVID Fireside

COVID Stories

Schelleen Rathkopf Community Features

COVID Stories

By Schelleen Rathkopf

WWhen I was kid, my Grandpa Scott told us great stories. Some were real, some imaginary, but they always provided a peak into someone else’s world.

To this day, one of my favorite podcasts of all times is NPR’s StoryCorps, where everyday people share their stories. As COVID-19 leaves no one immune to the disruptions caused by this pandemic, I thought it would be interesting to host a virtual fireside chat with our friends in the marine industry to hear about how they’re dealing with the new normal. I caught up with a few people to listen to their stories and share them here with you.

Sig HANSEN

Sig Hansen is Captain of the fishing vessel F/V Northwestern featured in the documentary television series Deadliest Catch.

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. When you’re an Alaskan fisherman dealing with the quarantine issues during king crab season (mid-April) and salmon tendering (June-September), the logistics become much more challenging. If you’ve watched the Deadliest Catch, you know that we put four to five people on the Northwestern. It’s a family affair for us as my daughter Mandy and her husband Clark are part of the crew, as is my brother Norman. But getting everything in order during a quarantine has definitely put a halt in our plans for this season.

Sig Hansen

“I get fan mail to autograph, and this is from ‘Colby,’ who wanted the picture of ‘Crabby’ autographed (my boat, the Northwestern, in the movie Cars 2).”

Many who have followed my career fishing in the roughest seas out there may think that I’m the most courageous person they know. But COVID has me terrified to leave my house in North Seattle! Due to some health issues involving my heart, I’m considered high risk to catching this thing, and I’m terrified that I’m going to catch this thing. If there is one thing that COVID has done, it has made me think about my own mortality.

Probably the hardest part for me personally is that my new granddaughter was born on March 17 and I have a grandson who is just three. Due to COVID, I haven’t been able to see and hold them. Sure, we talk on the phone and all that, but it isn’t the same.

The silver lining for me is the time I’m spending sequestered with my wife, June. She is absolutely amazing and I have an entirely new appreciation for her and my marriage. I really have shed a tear for those people who live alone or have no one.

June and I both have family from a small town in Norway named Karmoy, and it’s where we learned early on that family and community are important. After COVID is over, we want to get back there and visit our friends and family in the old country, and I have two new business opportunities I’m exploring in Norway. One is a dry bait for crabbing and the other is a device we’ve designed to retrieve missing pots and fishing gear.

JOHN ABEL

John Abel is a World Sailing International Race Officer (IRO), Sail Canada National Race Officer (NRO), Race Management Master Course Conductor (RMMCC), Club Judge (CJ), and Member of the Sail Canada Race Management Sub-Committee, Championship Coordinator, International Melges 24 Class.

I started out this year committed to 14 events as Principal Race Officer, including two world championships, and four of the largest multi-class keelboat regattas in North America, including Point Roberts Race Week. It was shaping up to be a busier year than usual. As of now, I have only one event left, and I expect this event to also be cancelled by the time this article is published.

Much effort goes into the staging of these events and, not unexpectedly, organizers are loathe to cancel unless the reasons are compelling. We now know that the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a compelling reason, both from the directives issued by governments and health organizations (that are out of our control), as well as simple common sense. But it was not that compelling in the early stages and there were widely held views of what this whole thing meant.

Event organization meetings became wrestling matches between those that favored a more liberal approach and those who were cautious.

Victoria BC

“Victoria is normally a tranquil city, but during this crisis, the downtown area has been especially peaceful. This is my neighborhood during the height of the pandemic.”

Clearly, the more significant events fell first due to travel restrictions and, as time wore on, the smaller events had to be cancelled due to restricted gathering size and the resulting social distancing regulations. In dealing with so many events, I definitely stood on the cautious side. The reality is that sailing regattas, while they provide great fun and competition, are entertainment, pleasant diversions. The question became, “Is it more important to go have some fun or to protect lives?”

My wife and I are retired, and we live on our Beneteau 49 on the docks in front of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria. It’s a pretty nice place to self-isolate, I must say. Of my two children and their spouses, three of the four have been able to continue working full time, one being a health care worker. All of us have remained healthy.

British Columbia has been very diligent in advising and addressing the needs of its people during this time. We had one significant advantage in that our school spring break was two weeks later than most other jurisdictions. That small amount of extra time allowed us to become more wary and proactively reduce travel, thus better preparing us for what was coming.

Despite being so lucky, I am no less cognizant of the challenges facing those less fortunate in this. There are some that I know who have suffered, but we have lost no one close to us, including my 98-year-old mother!

A winner in the COVID pandemic is the environment, no question. I was stunned by the before and after satellite images of China showing how clear the sky was over this normally heavily polluted country. The world has had a great opportunity to breathe cleanly for a change and I am very optimistic about the ability of the earth to recover from generations of neglect. I can only hope that governments have taken note and will change for the future.

I’ve learned some things about myself too. Like I’ve never washed my hands so often in my life! I think I’m going through as much moisturizing cream as I am soap. I’ve also learned that I’m able to self-isolate without going completely crazy. Living on a boat means my physical sphere is quite small, but I have been able to adapt. We learn quickly about the things we take for granted.

When this is all over, I’m most looking forward to being able to hug my kids and go to the bar for a couple of pints after a great day of racing on the water.

Nigel Barron

Nigel Barron is Project Manager at CSR Marine in Seattle and Boat Captain of Crossfire, a Reichel-Pugh designed and McConaghy-built race boat.

Like every business, operations at CSR Marine have changed as we learn to adjust to this new (but temporary) normal. Our primary concern remains the health and safety of our employees and customers. Because of this, we are running less employees per shift, and have temporarily closed our office. Like all essential and non-essential businesses, we have also had to make some pretty significant changes to our operations, and continue to evolve our operations as more guidance becomes available.

Zoom School

“This is a picture of my 5-year old son, participating in a Zoom call with his Kindergarten teacher and some of his friends. I love the picture, but at the same time, I struggle when looking at it. After the call ended, he started to cry because he misses his friends. I consoled him the best I could as I miss my friends as well. We both cried. So it goes.”

Obviously, we have hand sanitizer everywhere, and are wiping down surfaces frequently, but that’s just one part of the COVID-19 response. We have closed the office and had some people working from home. Currently, we’re taking turns by having just one person a day in the office to answer phones, take payments, and help customers. We’ve also temporarily closed the yard to customers and outside vendors, again to ensure social distancing, and have better control over the people coming and going. These temporary changes have allowed us to stay open and keep working albeit in a scaled back form.

The pandemic has also forced us to make some changes that we had planned to make in the future; just not right now. We’ve gone to an online calendar for our haul and block schedule. We’re communicating a lot more via text and email. Fortunately, we have a team that really helps each other out, and we’ve been able to make these and other changes surprisingly efficiently.

The hardest part of dealing with COVID-19 for me personally has been trying to balance work, and home schooling two kids. I lose sleep worrying that I am not doing enough for my kids and their educational growth, and I have a master’s in education! It’s not easy, and I know so many other people that are struggling with this.

Hopefully, we all have positives that outweigh the negatives in all this, or that can at least tip the scale a little. My yard looks great, and I’ve been spending a bunch more time with my kids. Seems trivial in the greater scheme, but we still have our health and our sanity for the most part.

As Aristotle said, man is by nature a social animal. And so when this is all over, I’m probably looking most forward to socializing with people again. Just being able to get together in a group and laugh, cry, and hug, and just have some cathartic release.

Dan Mundy

Dan Mundy is President of Alexander Marine USA Yacht Sales, New
Construction, Brokerage.

Our business certainly slowed immediately following the state government shutdowns as people tried to wrap their minds around what all of this meant and how to navigate what was next. Shortly after the initial concerns were reconciled, we began seeing more and more leads coming in through our websites and conversations resumed again about summer plans. We had little to no fall out from transactions that were in process and those people are out now enjoying their yachts.

Overall we have been very fortunate as our industry provides the best lifestyle opportunity that endures with a world crisis such as this. The owners can isolate themselves with their families and enjoy time on the water on their terms, without travel, and feel safe and secure in their environment.

SoCal Sunset

“I live in Southern California in the small town of Laguna Beach. I have now been home for over a month solid and have been able to enjoy the sunsets and a glass of wine on my patio each evening. To see things so peaceful and quiet each night is an amazing blessing.”

As with any business, the initial adjustments started with protecting our capital, analyzing expenses, fast thinking, and making the best decisions for our employees. Alexander Marine USA has been through many economic cycles, and we are well prepared to handle them and come out stronger. The biggest adjustment has been our team working from home and not engaging with one another. We are a family outside of our immediate family, and when you remove that interaction, it just does not feel the same.

The pandemic has been the most difficult on my kids. I have two kids who attend college and they have both been sent home to finish online. My youngest is a junior in high school, and the same is true for him. At this age, their world is very social, active, and they have a life away from home that has totally been disrupted. My wife and I are thrilled to have our family together, as we certainly could not have imagined a circumstance where we would get this time again. So it has been really nice for us!

From a global perspective, it has also been nice to see our world get a reprieve from pollution. Reading the stories about clean air, water, and thriving wildlife really brings about an awareness of our responsibility in being stewards to our earth.

This period of time has served as a reminder of what is really important in life. We all have had a moment to reflect on what really matters to each of us individually, and while it is different from person to person, this pandemic gave us all a moment to appreciate what we have. And perhaps some things that we might reassess to live a fuller life.

But I’m also looking forward to getting out again and back to a more normal work schedule. I love to work, and I love this organization. We have sales operations in California and Washington, service operations in Florida and Washington, and factories in Taiwan and Florida that I want to visit and help get back to work and thriving again.

Beekeeping Apiary

“I decided to try beekeeping last year but lost a hive over the winter. So, I got a new colony of bees, and since I have to be home, I’ve been able to watch them every day, which has been an amazing experience. That is why this is my favorite quarantine picture.”
Aaron Barnett

Aaron Barnett is the Boating Program Specialist at Washington Sea Grant, part of the College of the Environment at University of Washington.

Due to a directive at the University of Washington, the entire Washington Sea Grant staff is working from home due to COVID-19. My office was previously located inside the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend and is now set up in a yurt on my property.

The hardest part of all of this as a field agent is not being able to visit my many constituents in the ports and marinas across the state.

My family is actually doing pretty well. Slowing down our pace has been a positive and needed change and I’ve learned that I can be more creative.

What I’m most looking forward to post-COVID is getting back out and camping!

Bob Perry
Scott Truesdale

“This is a picture of my friend Scott Truesdale holding a Kauri wood bowl that had previously broken. The wood was brought back from New Zealand by my son, Spike, and Scott glued it back together for me.”

Bob Perry is a world-renowned yacht designer.

COVID-19 hasn’t affected my business at all. As a yacht designer, I like to work from home and have been social distancing for the past 10 years! The hardest adjustment has been learning to shop for groceries less often, and I really miss Taco Time!

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Schelleen Rathkopf

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Schelleen Rathkopf is Managing Editor of Northwest Yachting magazine and Owner and Producer of Whidbey Island Race Week (now Point Roberts Race Week). She is also the producer of the SHE Regatta, a new all women regatta in Seattle.

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