Well, where to begin? So much has happened in the last few months. A few months ago feels like years ago. It is hard to believe 2020 is almost halfway through, but here we are.
In February we had posted our last blog update—we had just returned from Florida and participated in the SECONN New England Wreck Symposium, and we were working on the full season Gauntlet schedule, making plans for a great dive season. 2020 was off to an awesome start diving-wise. But in the background, things were brewing with COVID-19 and a few weeks after that life as we know it came to an abrupt halt. And with that, the dive schedule vanished, overtaken by uncertainty and the possibility we would be unable to run the boat for some time.
Like everyone, we stopped. We made our last dive in late March, after which we decided to stop diving for a little while. The situation was worsening, and as more and more places closed in order to force everyone to stay at home, we felt that it would be most appropriate for us to take some time off.
Our last dive in March at Peirce Island.
We decided to take some time off because we felt that it wasn’t appropriate given the circumstances to be diving, but we also found ourselves struggling to cope with being indoors, plugged into computers and without a way to process the stress of the situation through physical activity. So we waited, we took stock and determined how to move forward. And when the time was right, we decided to resume diving focusing on shore dive sites, and with relatively low-risk straightforward diving only. It felt good to do this. We ventured all over, discovering some new dive spots roaming around southern NH diving in lakes.
As we watched COVID-19 play out through the stay-at-home phase, and then move into the re-opening phases in Massachusetts, we have aimed to move forward with diving and dive charters. Our approach has been cautious, identifying risks and managing them as best we can. As late May approached and other states began opening up, we decided to venture away from home. Things were quiet up in Alexandria Bay, NY. There had been few COVID-19 cases, but everything was shut down. However, there was shore diving, and Blue Foot Diving was resuming charters. We devised a plan to go up there, minimizing our time spent in public places, and relying on ourselves for food.
We prepared a plan for everything from driving to Alexandria Bay, ensuring our hotel room was clean, having all our own food with us with the ability to cook outside in the parking lot, and of course having masks and protection for diving from a boat and being around others. We hoped our learnings would help us prepare for our trip to Presque Isle later this summer. Overall, it was a great weekend and we did learn a lot about how to have fun while staying as safe as possible.
We were also treated to some amazing conditions with 50+ feet of visibility on the Vickery. The Keystorm was also really good. To top it all off, we did an absolutely awesome dive in the river on scooters that was definitely one of the top non-wreck dives we’ve done. This area truly has so much to offer.
Out on the first charter of 2020 for Blue Foot Diving.
When we returned home, Massachusetts was in the process of reopening with the first phase for charter boats beginning May 25. And with that, we got to work writing an extensive plan, the Gauntlet COVID-19 Safety Management Plan (SMP). We implemented the plan for a feasibility assessment, made a few adjustments and officially resumed charters on June 6th, at reduced capacity and with modified processes and procedures.
As we move forward, we’re slowly increasing our capacity to a maximum we think is appropriate given the size and configuration of the boat. We have decided not to publish a full summer schedule versus roll out dates a month or so at a time. We need to be flexible. We know that as the situation changes it may be necessary to modify our procedures, or even reduce capacity. We just do not know, so this is a time to stay flexible. So far, it has been different, but no less fun. Spending time with friends going diving is really what it is all about, and we still have that. Not even COVID-19 can take away the special experience that is inherent in being out on the water having fun with friends.
Until next time–stay safe, have fun and be good to one another.