Jen Elliott and Colin Telfer did not make the decision to travel to Florida this winter lightly, having thoroughly researched and investigated their options before heading south.
Likewise, they have done their research before deciding how they will return home in April.
“We weren’t at all cavalier about making this decision,” she says.
As owners of ESkoot Niagara, which is shut down during the winter months, the couple’s lifestyle lends itself to wintering in a warmer climate.
There would be little to do for them at home, says Elliott, adding they don’t consider their trip south a vacation. They have two different homes, one in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and one in Florida, and they felt they could be just as safe wintering in Florida.
“We spend half our life in Canada and half our life here. It’s not like we go crazy like young people on March break.”
They live on the Audrey-Joan, a 44-foot boat named after both their mothers, and don’t interact a lot with others, going out mainly for groceries.
“Isolation is really easy for us on the boat. We gave this a lot of thought, and decided it’s actually healthier for us to be here, outdoors, in isolation.”
They left in early November, and although they would typically drive, with borders closed, they had to fly south.
They had ebikes waiting for them at the marina, which they can use to get around on land, but they don’t go far, says Elliott, using them mostly to get groceries.
Their boat is moored at a marina in Clearwater, on the gulf in an area of the state where COVID cases have been low, says Elliott. “We’re nowhere near the hotspots. We looked at every angle and at the end of the day we decided to do what suits our lifestyle.”
They have moved recently to the smaller community of Cortez, which they are really enjoying, and can use their ebikes to do a bit of sight-seeing.
But again, they have little interaction with others, spending most of their day outside on the boat.
Restaurants, along with other businesses, are open, but people wear masks until they sit down to eat, similar to what they experienced at home last summer.
With about 600 square feet of living space on the boat, and most of their time spent in fresh air, she says it’s a healthier lifestyle than they would have had wintering at home. “There isn’t much to do here either, but it’s better than looking out at the snow.”
But the best part of being in Florida may have been the opportunity to be vaccinated, which Elliott and Telfer both jumped at. They were surprised to be invited along with all those 65 years and older, with snowbirds being considered part of the community, making it safer not only for them but for those around them.
“We didn’t dream that would happen,” she says. “But we’re living here, amongst the locals, and Florida was happy to give them to us.”
She says they may feel “a little braver, a little more relaxed” when going out, “but we are still pretty cautious. Our whole demographic here is pretty cautious, and our lifestyle makes it easy enough to steer clear of people.”
Other years they have participated in events at the Clearwater Yacht Club, but this year, they haven’t been in the club house.
Elliott says they hear a lot of news about what’s going on at home, including travel restrictions, from a Facebook page for Canadian snowbirds.
In the fall, the discussions were mostly about whether to go south or stay home, and now, the chatter is about how to get home safely, the many different scenarios people are choosing, and the restrictions they will face on their travels.
Throughout, there has also been some animosity on the Facebook site between those who decided to stay home and those who carried on with their plans to move to their winter homes in the sun.
They have decided to drive home toward the end of April, having discovered they can rent a car from an agency that allows a one-way trip, and a drop-off in Canada.
They had made that decision before they knew about the extra travel restrictions, she says, because they much prefer the drive, and feel the restrictions make it as safe, if not safer, to travel in a car on their own. They know they will require proof of a recent COVID test before crossing the border, and they will quarantine when they get home, happy to follow all the rules, as they did last year. They also expect to have another test toward the end of their quarantine in Niagara.
And they look forward to another good summer, and a busy one, in Niagara-on-
the-Lake, despite the pandemic.
“It was really surprising how busy we were at eSkoot,” she says.
“At first we weren’t allowed to open, but when we were, everyone wanted an outdoor experience. We had a phenomenal summer.”
And their winter, as their friends know from their Facebook posts and photos, has been pretty amazing as well.