Coronavirus

Nurse Sails From Virginia, Lives on Boat in East River as She Helps NYC COVID Patients

The nurse and her husband sailed about 260 nautical miles from their home in Lynchburg all the way to Brooklyn, completing the trip in about two and a half days during winter on the Atlantic Ocean

NBC Universal, Inc.

Rachel Hartley never imagined she’d be living on her sailboat, docked in a marina in Brooklyn. But Hartley is a registered nurse, and when she heard about the suffering in NYC she knew she had to leave her home in Virginia to help.

“Having the very specific training that they need and not using it where I was in Virginia, but knowing they need that training and those skills here, it was getting to me,” Hartley said. “It was definitely eating at me and I knew I had to go.”

So Rachel and her husband Taylor decided to pick up and head north, but both knew flying was risky. Then a thought came to them: “Why not sail there?”

They sailed about 260 nautical miles from their home in Lynchburg all the way to Brooklyn, completing the trip in about two and a half days during winter on the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was cold though, definitely. So we had to prepare, we had to layer up and just took shifts,” Hartley told NBC New York.

She said that docking a boat at the Brooklyn Marina would usually cost about $10,000-$12,000 per month. When she reached out to the marina and explained what she was in the city to do, they waved the fee and thanked her for coming.

Now Hartley is working in the ER at NYU Langone Brooklyn, helping save lives as she works on the frontlines fighting COVID-19.

“It’s been the hardest working environment that I’ve ever been in. There’s so many factors contributing to that – but the mortality rate, seeing so many people die,” Hartley said. While she knows she is risking both her mental and physical health to be working here, she said she has no regrets about it, saying that it’s her love for the city and her faith that keep her going.

“She’s definitely a hero,” said husband Taylor. “She’s a hero to me to our family to our friends and she’s one of many heroes who are going in these hospitals every day.”

Hartley’s contract will keep her in the city until June, but she’d like to stay as long as she is needed. She has to complete her nurse practitioner degree Cedarville University at some point, but beyond that is a mystery.

She and her husband say they’re committed to doing good in the world, and plan to set said on whatever path helps them do that.

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