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Shelter in Place

J Caruso at the wheel with his father, Tom

J Caruso at the wheel with his father, Tom

What do you do when you have to run a boat north from Florida to Connecticut and your three teenage sons are on an extended break from school due to the coronavirus? You bring them along and spend some time bonding.”

That was the Facebook post I read on March 23, the day my home state of Connecticut went on partial lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was written by Tom Caruso, a friend and marine industry professional who owns Total Marine, a boat dealership and service shop headquartered in Norwalk. I’ve known Tom and his wife, Robin, for years and have spent time with the couple and their three boys TJ, Michael and Nicholas in anchorages around Long Island Sound. They are an adventurous and close-knit family with a wry sense of humor. I laughed out loud when I read Tom’s closing lines in that post: “This trip should take at least a week, probably more. We’ll see if we can make it without killing one another.”

As it turns out, their 1,400-mile trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Norwalk took 15 days for two reasons: to conserve fuel burn on the Fairline 65 Flybridge they were delivering; and to allow themselves the time to appreciate what would become a trip of a lifetime.

Michael connects to school from the stateroom of the Fairline 65.

Michael connects to school from the stateroom of the Fairline 65.

Tom has made the run up the East Coast more than once, but this was the first time his family made the journey. They were excited about the opportunity, but also had concerns about their safety. They loaded the boat with provisions for onboard meals to avoid social contact at food stores; stayed at marinas each night while keeping their distance from other çrews; were careful not to explore too much in any one port; and became as handy with a Lysol wipe as they had always been with a Chamois.

At the end of every work day I checked on the family’s progress via Facebook. I’d then tug on my sneakers and my coat and walk the two miles down to the small yacht club in my town and take a good look out over Long Island Sound. In those early days of lockdown, after too many hours spent inside and staring at the same walls, the view was even more spectacular than usual. Standing on the shore, I’d think about the Carusos picking their way up the coast. During one of their stops along the way, Tom posted a photo of a sailboat at anchor in a blazing sunset in St. Simons Island, Georgia. He captioned the picture: “Moments like this make all the work worthwhile.”

Nicholas and Robin

Nicholas and Robin

And some of it was work. The farther north they drove, the longer and colder the runs got. One 12-hour day covered the 175 miles from Virginia’s York River to the C&D Canal, and another 12-hour day took them from there to Norwalk.

There were many satisfying times aboard, including the opportunity for father-son bonding. One of Tom’s goals for the trip was to teach his sons more about navigation. The boys have been capable boat drivers and line-handlers for years, but after finishing school work at the big desk in the stateroom, they’d stretch their charting and seamanship skills in the afternoons. It looked like a very comfortable way to shelter in place.

Of course, there is no good location to be in a global pandemic, but it seems to me the Carusos made the best of a tense, surreal situation, and created an unforgettable experience aboard a Fairline 65.

Jeanne Craig

This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue.


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