How will Selkie Explorers emerge out of Lockdown? Will she sail with a full crew and passenger list amongst Scottish Islands this summer? How will I safeguard customers, crew, family and community? It is all theoretical now as sailing holidays are non-essential and social distancing is all right if you are a stowed away gnat on a boat. The RYA has developed guidelines to ease away from the marinas and moorings and Boris will announce plans on Sunday regarding our confinement.
Last night I received my first enquiry for a sailing holiday since the lockdown commenced. You could have knocked me down with a feather! It was such a lovely surprise, like a postcard winging its way across the world from a long-lost friend. It was late when I saw the email, doing a cursory glimpse of the inbox before dropping my head on the pillow and half dreaming, half musing over future sailing adventures.
All day yesterday the radio was full of exit strategy bluster. As I walked up the zigzags to stand atop the northern ridge of Eigg my earplugs droned with debate. I surveyed the townships of Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig trying to spot my friends houses across the still blue expanse of sea. Away to the north, Skye’s skyline shimmered and to the west Rum’s Norse-named slopes panted dry and brown after a month of no rain. Someone in the government talked of staggering a return to work with manufacturing taking precedence and hospitality limping in last.
When I cancelled Selkie’s voyages it was a decision taken on the information available at the time. The government had yet to say “STOP” but it was clear that there was no safe way to knowingly avoid rubbing shoulders with the invisible virus onboard a boat. Though spacious for a 15m boat, we are unable to social distance while hoisting, trimming sails, tacking, jibing, helming, anchoring, taking the dinghy ashore, dining and living aboard. Being distant will always be difficult until a vaccine is developed. Until the possibly the marine and adventure tourism sector can only reopen for business when there are accurate and easily available testing and health check procedures.
Is that my conclusion? Yes, I cannot really see it being any other way for all those on and offboard to be safe and get out sailing on Selkie once more. I am missing discovering new anchorages, swimming in the Hebridean turquoise waters and watching the birds, cetaceans and ocean creatures. I miss sharing all these experiences with fellow explorers and I keenly look forward to being able to sail again. It looks like soon I will be able to do sea trials with my son for crew, sticking to the RYA guidelines, but that will be all for a while.