The 2020 season has been unique for all of us. The more we were denied the opportunity to hang out, work together and visit local businesses, the more we realized how precious it was to have a tightly woven social network and a self-sustaining, resilient economy. For us on board S/V GravlaX, it made the sharing of our salty knowledge a lot more complicated, but it forced us to redefine the way we work, like many of us did. We therefore decided to put the emphasis on quality instead of quantity, training only couples and members of the same family during our onboard courses.
To be financially viable in this new context, we were forced to increase our prices, and in order to increase the value for our customers, we had to improve the customer experience. We added to our already renowned onboard training little extras such as warm hors d’oeuvre between manoeuvres, a menu based on local ingredients with wine pairings, interpretation of wildlife and local history. Not only were our customers delighted, but so was the crew.
As for our race and delivery team, the fact that it was not considered prudent to live on board all together was devastating for all of us, as this fun teamwork is an essential part of our operations. To offer onboard training in Quebec City, Charlevoix, the Saguenay Fjord, Rimouski and the Baie des Chaleurs in the same season; taking part in a few regattas in Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands; then returning to Quebec City with a detour around Anticosti Island and the Mingan Archipelago, it takes a crew capable of logging hundreds of nautical miles. So we had to be determined and creative, like many of us were, in order to reach our objectives despite the pandemic puzzles…
The GravlaX team, who had been busy all spring preparing the boat (with masks on), had every intention to sail this summer, even if several of our favorite regattas had already been cancelled. We wanted to do it without bringing germs from the city to the remote areas we were going to explore, and without bringing germs back to our loved ones upon our return. The solution was for the crew members to be more vigilant in social distancing measures, with a quarantine before and/or after sailing to minimize the risk of transmission. We did not let onboard any crew members returning from abroad or showing CoViD-19 symptoms, and we improved our on-board hygiene measures. Like most of us at home, in essential workplaces, and on public transit, we adapted our habits to the pandemic.
No one got sick, we don’t believe we caused an outbreak anywhere, and we enjoyed an exceptional summer of sailing. In addition, we developed safer practices and shared together the science we had learnt about the spread of coronaviruses. Maybe having a microbiologist and retired nurse as part of our crew helped us take the pandemic seriously!