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The Mast-Head: Safe at the Rail

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 19:21

Some people just will not wear masks. This struck me on the Cross Sound Ferry on my way back from Massachusetts. I had gone over on a day trip to close a deal on a project sailboat I was buying, which is a story for another week. Aboard one of the smaller vessels in the Cross Sound fleet, it was difficult for me to find a spot where the airborne virus wouldn’t reach.

Earlier on in the pandemic, the ferry received special dispensation from the Coast Guard to allow passengers to remain in their vehicles during the trip. Now that it was hot, that was no longer allowed. Going up the stairway I was surprised at the tight quarters. People at bench-seat tables ate or talked without masks. Others walked around with their noses poking out. I headed outside to the upper deck.

We were steering about dead ahead into the southwesterly wind, which would have probably dissipated any airborne virus particles before they could infect anyone. Still, I was uneasy and wished that I had taken one of those N-95 masks that are supposed to be superior at keeping out other people’s germs. Still, by myself, face to the wind at the starboard rail in a handmade cloth mask, I felt safe enough.

Any concern that I had was not universally shared. I watched as the froth on two plastic cups of beer blew from a couple onto some people sitting nearby. None of the players in this brief drama were masked. Just up the bench toward the ferry’s bow, a guy in business casual spoke loudly on a cellphone call. No mask. A former marine (or so I assumed from his T-shirt) came over to lean on the rail, also without a mask. Below, when I went to use the head, a man in the portside cabin without a mask appeared to be engaged in some kind of video conversation. Back upstairs, I saw masks go on and then come off again for no reason that I could tell.

The Cross Sound crew was scrupulous about keeping their face coverings on, and every now and then an announcement would play reminding passengers to maintain distance from others. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t. I wanted to ask some of the no-mask people their thoughts on the matter, but decided against it. I did not want to get that close.

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