As we near the end of April, it’s more evident that things are not usual. We’re continuing to check in with crew about their experiences with COVID-19 and their current status and situation. Share your stories with us — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Capt. Bill Hipple of 128-foot M/Y Lady Kath, so far, the boat’s schedule has not been affected since they don’t leave Florida until mid-June and is hopeful things will open up by then.
Personally, his top priority are his wife’s parents, who are 94 and 92, so they spend a good bit of time ensuring they have food and necessities — buying what they need, sanitizing everything, and leaving it outside their home.
The greatest impact has been on his crew’s schedule. “We have three Filipino crewmembers and one was on vacation in the Philippines when this all started. We had to shorten his stay by two days to get him out of the Philippines before they shut down domestic travel. He made it back to Palm Beach safely before the travel restrictions began and we arranged a hotel room for him so that he could complete a two-week quarantine before joining the boat,” Hipple says. “He is fine and now back on board.”
However, their stewardess was supposed to leave on April 14, but all travel in the Philippines remains shut down. They looked into alternatives, so she could at least renew her I-94, but there weren’t any. His deckhand is scheduled for vacation in May but might face the same issue.
“Both of them have valid visas, but their I-94 allotted stay will expire before they can travel. We filed applications to extend their I-94s but the process normally takes four to six weeks, at best,” he says. “With things like they are today, there is no way to tell how long it will take; the office is closed at this time.” He’s also been unable to get an official answer on whether or not they’ll face a penalty.
Currently, the owner is on board and they’ve set up the boat as an isolation location for her and the crew, establishing a zero-visitor policy. “Everyone is restricted to the marina and area surrounding it for walks, dog walks, exercise, etc. and no stops along the way are permitted,” he says. “The crew is prohibited from visiting other boats, and everyone is wearing masks, gloves, and practicing social distancing when ashore.”
Other changes they’ve implemented are decreasing the amount of time spent on maintenance and repair daily and increasing the time spent cleaning — doing laundry daily and wiping down door handles, hand rails, counters, and heads throughout the day and any time they’re used. As for essentials, they’re well-stocked on goods like cleaning products, masks, and paper goods. Hipple is concerned for what will be available when they provision to go north in June but hopes things will have gotten back to “somewhat normal” and they can get their normal quantity of items. At the moment, the only shopping being done is for fresh dairy and vegetables when needed.
“While yachting has many unique aspects, I don’t think it is very different as far as the virus goes. We all need to practice social distancing, wearing proper protective gear and adjust our daily lives to increase preventative measures, [and] making it all part of our routine day,” he says. “I am surprised at the number of crew that seem to take this less seriously than they should. There are too many get togethers and hanging out together situations than I would like to see. We all need to let off steam, but we need to be smart about it. It’s a shame that some owners are taking this as a time to lay off crew, which increases the stress and adds to social gatherings.”
He expresses his gratitude he and has crew have to work for one of the finest owners in the industry, “As a team that is thought of as family, she is encouraging and supporting keeping things as close as possible to normal while keeping everyone safe.”