On Easter Sunday, as the noon sun bore down on New York City in bloom during what is surely its saddest spring in a century, a 50-foot white-hulled sailboat named Turning Point arrived in New York Harbor to berth in an otherwise empty marina in Brooklyn Bridge Park. On deck and ready to throw a line to the waiting dockhands was 26-year-old Rachel Hartley, an ICU nurse who had just sailed the nearly 250 miles from Hampton, Virginia — keeping watch overnight with her husband, Taylor, over the 34-hour passage — and ready to make the boat her home for the next two months. She is one of thousands of out-of-town medical professionals answering the call to provide reinforcements to the city’s hospitals.
Hartley, who has been a nurse since 2015 and spent two years working in an ICU, was working in surgical pre-ops in Lynchburg, Virginia, when, in early March, her hospital began to cancel all but the most urgent surgeries. Then, for several weeks, she said not a day went by when she was not “called or emailed or texted by one of the nurse-staffing companies” seeking people with intensive-care experience for coronavirus epicenters like New York: “Holy cow! There was such a need!”
She thought: “I’m not being utilized and I have training and skills to offer … [Because] my true bread and butter is critical care.” By then, she had already treated a few COVID-19 patients and her hospital was “bracing for a surge,” but she knew it would be “nothing like New York.” She gave her two weeks notice, and said good-bye to her colleagues. Since she and her husband, Taylor Hartley, a college recruiter and photographer (he took these pictures), owned a boat, they decided they’d sail up to New York in it to give her a place to stay.