‘Off the grid’ might be the way to go during the coronavirus era … if you have a boat

PUNTA GORDA — In the age of coronavirus, living on a boat might be one of the best ways to social distance.

Punta Gorda resident and regular Charlotte Harbor liveaboard Warren Thames has been spending his recent days in waters around the Florida Keys.

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“We (as liveaboards) feel like we are actually safer than those ashore because of the space, fresh air and (are) away from crowds and people,” Thames said. “This is a great time to be living ‘off the grid’ as most liveaboards are self-sufficient with solar energy and water makers.”

Thames owns a 1991 PDQ 36 yacht with a 47-foot mast. The yacht is 36 feet in length and just under 19 feet wide. The vessel has a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, among other features.

“Those of us with sails do even better (since) fuel is not as big of a deal as with trawlers (powerboats designed for long-distance cruising living aboard),” Thames said. “So all in all, we feel pretty blessed to be out here (on the water) rather than ashore. (I hope) that everyone on and off of land fare well and stay healthy until this (virus) passes.”

Thames typically anchors in the harbor north of Gilchrist Park along West Retta Esplanade in Punta Gorda and west of the U.S. 41 bridges that stretch over Peace River and Charlotte Harbor in Charlotte County.

West of the bridges

West of the bridges is the marina at Fishermen’s Village. Fishville representatives have noticed people leaving their marina early compared to previous years.

“Our seasonal boaters have left us in light of the ongoing concerns with their families (and the virus) in their home states,” said general manager Patti Allen. “Typically, our seasonal residents leave us late April. We are always sad when they leave and typically have an end-of-season party, but this year we had to say our farewells quickly.”

For boaters who may be coming into the area, Allen said they have a COVID-19 questionnaire for potential new boaters to fill out prior before they allow them to stay at the marina.

“If for any reason they have been exposed or (have been) around someone who was exposed,” Allen said, “we are requiring them to quarantine outside our marina until such time that they are cleared.”

Allen said that most boaters who use their marina have their own vehicles and bicycles to get around, but Fishville has been providing boaters with the education needed to adhere to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

East of the bridges

At the Laishley Park Municipal Marina, city officials say they haven’t noticed much of a change as far as liveaboards during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Laishley Marina currently has 20 liveaboards, which (shows) no change compared to last year,” said City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert. “The virus has not caused a drop in moorings at this time.”

Riechert said there have been some reservation cancellations, but no one has left the marina because of the virus. Marina staff members have taken precautions in light of the virus.

“Marina staff keeps outer doors locked with instructions (to liveaboards) to call or knock on doors for assistance,” Reichert said. “Staff is also performing extra cleaning precautions throughout the entire day. Printed regulations have been posted limiting group activities and reminding people to practice social distancing.”