Tacking through a pandemic

Published on July 8th, 2020

As nations and regions grapple with how to handle the COVID-19 disease, recreational and professional sailing has invariably been snagged in their regulatory net. While denying boaters with some social distance, the marine industry has had to adjust too.

Gail Rice, International Distributor Sales Manager for Harken, explains how this leading provider of sailboat gear is tacking through a pandemic:


In my role at Harken, I speak with our distributors all over the world every day. If I don’t hear from someone for a while, I pick up the phone or write an email. Many of the contacts I have in a normal day were suddenly upended by the shelter-in-place directives that governments everywhere put in place in March.

Those lockdowns impacted all of us changing our day-to-day routine. I moved from a desk at Harken overlooking our shipping department to my home office with a nice view of our neighborhood. At the end of the workday, a walk or a bike ride along Lake Michigan is a welcomed break from the isolation. It’s been almost 100 days since I have been at my Pewaukee (WI) desk.

I have been able to stay in touch with most of my regular contacts, but their lives have almost all required similar adjustments. Many of our Harken offices and our Harken Italy factory were closed for a few weeks. Most were able to accept shipments from our Pewaukee factory, which has fortunately operated almost uninterrupted.

Many have rearranged the supply chain to keep customers supplied and projects on their timetables. There’s been a lot of creative problem solving—a lot of new navigating by people taking video conferences from an extra bedroom. Harken at its best!

As I write this, the story of this virus is evolving. I’m hearing more about new boats being launched and others going back into the water. In some places, kids are starting sailing lessons. In others, all boating is still prohibited.

Overall, from a global perspective, things seem encouraging. There will be at least some sailing in most countries, although almost every big event has been postponed or shifted to later in the year. Country-by-country, it’s quite a mix.

This Month’s At The Front newsletter provides a glimpse into what it’s like right now for Harken people around the globe: click here.

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