In the maritime business during a pandemic, the last thing anyone wants to see on the water is a vessel flying the “Yellow Jack,” the nautical Lima flag — worst yet, having to fly that flag on your own vessel. It signifies that you are shut down and in quarantine.
Here in Homer you could see it being flown on our own state ferry, M/V Tustumena, tied to the Pioneer Dock. Even though it is listed as an “essential” service, it has been taken out of service and sits idle, costing the state money and generating zero revenue. Since the pandemic began, were all crew members and passengers required to follow the advice of Dr. Anne Zink and the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci? How much is it costing our state in terms of dollars and lack of services when our ferries sit idle?
Gov. Mike Dunleavy made a wise decision when he listed fishing and transportation-related businesses as essential. The largest economic driver in Homer and the greater Kenai Borough for that matter is the harbor that provides haven for our fleet. Our boats provide us an opportunity to make a living, spread dollars throughout the community and contribute to the tax base. The economic health of our community depends upon fisheries, water taxis, kayaks, barges, tugs, pilot boats and other service vessels. The privilege granted by Gov. Dunleavy by listing us as essential should not be abused or taken for granted.
When the virus strikes, if mitigation measures are not fully employed, we will be shut down — regardless of being listed as essential and regardless of our affiliation with any political party. The virus cares not whether you are Republican, Democratic, Independent, Libertarian or Socialist; it does not discriminate, but it is insidious. If we don’t follow the guidelines from the experts, we are welcoming it as a guest, and it wants you as a host.
Good leadership is critical during any crisis. People emulate leaders they respect and admired. Whether it is the president of the United States of America or a 31st House District representative, people follow their lead. When I used the Forrest Gump quote on my sign at Rep. Sarah Vance’s rally on June 14, “Stupid is as stupid does,” I did not intend to use it as a slight or insult. The basic meaning of the phrase is “judge not on appearances but actions.” This virus is invisible to the naked eye, and from what I can recall, Mr. Gump never used the phrase to insult anyone. He helped people because he cared about them and became extremely successful in the process.
My attendance at the event was intentionally brief. The motivation was if I could change one mind, maybe it would prevent one person out of the estimated 125 attendees to alter their behavior. It may prevent one person from unwittingly spreading the virus to five, 10, 20, 40, 400 or more people. Am I being selfish? Maybe, but I don’t want to see the “Yellow Jack” flying above my vessel, or anyone else’s. What we do matters. It is the virus that doesn’t care.
Greg Sutter is a charter boat captain who works out of the Homer Harbor.