|Confusingly, having a car is both liberating, and confining, when you live and travel on a boat.|
We haven't owned a car since we left Annapolis in 2013. We've just relied on public transportation or rented when we needed, because really, when you're as mobile as we are in the boat, or spending summers sailing with El Galeon or Santa Maria, owning a car is a bit of a liability. It needs to be moved while we move the boat from one city (or island!) to another, and stored and maintained while we're off adventuring. So instead, we rent while we're in a new area, to explore and to do basic maintenance like provisioning or getting boat parts.
Not having a car, especially in a historic downtown like St Aug, has always felt a bit freeing and European... until now. With so many things in unsettled circumstances, and Dan's lungs so fragile that we don't dare put him in a taxi, uber, or bus, we needed a long-term rental.
The good folks at our local Enterprise office know us and our preferences well. They lined us up with an almost-new Chevy Spark -- simple, small and agile, perfect for the narrow streets of the ancient town. It was delightfully reminiscent of the kind of cars we generally rent on Aruba. Unpretentious, youthful, and fun. Unfortunately, with Dan so isolated and fragile, there weren't many places we could take it! Storage unit, pharmacy, once or twice to parks where we could go for a walk until those closed down as well, and that was about it. All dressed up with no where to go; we couldn't even buy our own groceries and had to rely on favors from neighbors. (There turns out to be something surprisingly intimate about sharing grocery lists, but that's a story for another time.)
As the weeks went on it became apparent that we were in this for the long haul. We went online to extend our car rental, only to see that our local office had closed, though there was another one 15 minutes away that could serve our area. That, I think, was when we realized it was time to buy (gasp) our own car.
If not owning a car feels like a defining feature of a lifestyle of traveling on a sailboat and open to any adventure that comes along, then what does buying a car imply? The beginning of the end of our floating lifestyle? A commitment to stay in one area for a while? Having a much more predictable life, where the boat is just a floating condo? Was it the first step to moving ashore? Committing to buying a car just felt like accepting defeat.
It felt like the virus had ended our cruising dream, and maybe for others as well, as we see the fragility of this lifestyle. All over the Caribbean, Bahamas, and East Coast, our friends who were traveling on boats were reporting weird situations. They were trapped, couldn't move freely or get back north before hurricane season; marinas and ports and borders were closed or closing. I'm not sure what we want either. Early on, when we realized the Spanish ships and tall ship festivals were out for us this summer, as was our plan B of playing in the Chesapeake, we decided that St Aug was a smart place for us to be. We had a great infrastructure here, and many people who could help. We were known, and we knew the area.
The good news is that we had the money available, and were quickly able to find a vehicle that met our needs and wasn't too expensive. With the practical logistics solved, settling our heads was more challenging. Owning a car again simultaneously symbolizes freedom and an anchor or tether. We can go anywhere we want, independently, road trips!; and we're not traveling by boat any time soon, we're staying in this area for probably the next year.