71. The Best Laid Schemes

Well, I’m neither man nor mouse but my plans are ganging aft agley. I’ll be missing out on the promised joy but hope not to have the grief and pain promised in Rabbie Burns’ poem To A Mouse. I had been ambivalent about this trip across the three Chinese ports (Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao) with Subic Bay thrown in. As well as a seven week trip and all the preparation that entails, I would be going from temperatures of mid-30s in Subic Bay to just above zero in Qingdao. A normal trip to one zone has required two large bags, what would I need for this?

New (smaller) cabin bag

In preparation I bought a Kindle while flying home as a lot of my weight is books. The day after I arrived home I went to have my fingerprints taken at the Chinese Visa Centre. I found the phrase books I had. I bought a smaller cabin bag so I wouldn’t have to struggle so much (it fits on top of the big case without falling off everywhere). I bought some cotton dresses and trousers that were larger than I needed so that I’d feel cool in the heat of Sanya, having felt way too hot in Australia. I downloaded a VPN and the WeChat app for use in China: for the latter I needed someone who had been using it for over a month to “sponsor” me, luckily I have a Chinese pal who did this. Items that George had ordered arrived so I packed them ready to take. I bought some earrings to compliment my birthday necklace. I ordered Sealskinz socks and a Spinlock bag and Musto gloves that John had asked me to get for him. I received two birthday cards from families for crew members on other boats to take out to Sanya. An email from John and another Unicef crew member asked me to buy more socks so I did that.

Christmas present for John, yet to be seen!

My passport had not come back by the promised date (I paid extra for it to be fast-tracked) so I chased the agents. It was delayed due to Chinese New Year but would be with me the next day. They called me back the next day and said I had been issued with the wrong visa, valid for only 30 days, so I’d need to go back and have my fingerprints taken again. This was arranged for 31st January, still plenty of time before my flight on 7th February.

My birthday necklace plus earrings from London

Then on 28th January the FCO issued advice about travelling to Wuhan and the Hubei province in China. That was OK, I wasn’t going anywhere near the areas highlighted. The following day I woke to the news that BA had suspended flights to China, shortly followed by the FCO saying travel to anywhere in mainland China was not recommended. This was becoming serious. Even if we could get there, would we get out again? I spoke with Sue, who was meant to be travelling with me, and we decided to cancel the whole trip.

I have kept the hotel in Subic Bay for the moment, if the boats land there OBB may need the rooms, even if I don’t manage to get there. We don’t yet know what’s happening with the fleet, they are still on the way to Sanya. With luck by the time I do my next update I’ll be able to tell you. If they don’t go to China, Clipper need to find a port that can take eleven large (ish) yachts at short notice, when cruise ships and other shipping are also trying to divert. They need a port that has sufficient shops to allow the crews to buy enough groceries to take them to Seattle. Zhuhai (close to Hong Kong) is the end of this Leg, so there will be crew members needing to get off and go home, and other crew members wanting to join their boat. If the Hong Kong flights are cancelled then they’ll need an airport that is open and close to wherever the fleet ends up.

If only Unicef had seen this route to Durban!

Meanwhile I’m using the time to empty my in-tray, complete my to-do list and practice the piano. And the Chinese visa? Well, because my passport isn’t British, the visa wouldn’t last for two years so I’ll reapply when I need one. By then I might need to apply for one to live here as well, today is BREXIT DAY! Happy New World everyone and BYE until the next time!

45. Is there a doctor in the house?

This is totally out of sequence but who cares. Over the Bank Holiday weekend John and I went back down to Hamble School of Yachting to study for a four day MCA STCW Proficiency in Medical First Aid on Board Ship. (For description of acronyms go back to Post 40). This was in addition to the two day course John had done with Praxes, the official supplier of remote medical support to the fleet. See the video below for brief details of this, although you’ll not see John I’m afraid.

Back to our course. Someone asked me if there is any sort of first aid other than medical. It does seem tautological when you think about it but maybe we have engine first aid or sail first aid or some such. There were four of us, three Clipper crew and me. In contrast to the VHF course (see Post 35), John was in the minority with me, Michelle and Maite being the other attendees. Neither Michelle nor Maite are circumnavigators, they just thought it would be a useful course to do, like me I guess. We had a wonderful tutor, Sue Johnson, who has two boats of her own and pulls together the medical packs for other races such as ARC (the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) https://www.worldcruising.com/arc/event.aspx

I’m not going to give you gory details, I don’t want you fainting when I’m not there to administer first aid! Although it was mostly “normal” first aid, Sue managed to make sure we were aware of special issues that could be relevant to Clipper crew. We managed to have great fun whilst learning a lot and we all passed our exams at the end, both written and practical. I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting / amusing situations for this post.

Let’s start off with John, and one bad limb. We all had to show that we could bandage a limb and use two types of sling for the arm, depending where the fracture or other damage was. There was a shot of me looking equally glum (I was told to pull my “Daily Mail” face!) but it’s gone AWOL.

I put John in a sling after bandaging him

The first thing we learnt were the three Ps (not to be confused with the three Fs who keep popping up in this blog): Preserve life, Prevent the situation getting worse and Promote recovery. It is quite easy to make a minor injury or other problem worse, for example if you move someone with a simple fracture (not open to the air) you could end up with the bone sticking through the skin and a possible infection risk. We tried to handle each other carefully to avoid this.

Michelle with a bad arm AND leg.

Having started with one limb, we then went onto two. Michelle’s arm may look over-enthusiastically bandaged but it was in order to stop too much pressure on the limb, the bandage is actually wrapped around a blanket. I think it may have been a compound fracture (bone through to the outside) this time. Once you’ve sorted out the most immediate problem (which may not be the obvious one on view) you go onto finding out what happened and how, in case there’s an underlying issue you’ve missed.

Maite ready for evacuation with three bandaged limbs!

After Michelle’s injury of course we had to go for three limbs. It was great that there were so few of us, we could all have a go rather than having to stand and watch. I think Maite said she fell down the companionway to sustain these injuries. We remembered we’d have to monitor her for a possible head injury. All the situations (heart attack, stroke, hypothermia, burns…) seemed to involve similar signs (what you can see) and symptoms (what the patient or bystander can tell you about it).

I, of course, had to go the whole hog and needed to be Medevac’d off the ship. The first thing the sadists, oops sorry, first aiders did was to tie my legs together at the ankles with a figure-of-eight to stop me rolling around (or walking off). Then they put my head in a cervical collar to stop the top part of me moving. As you can see, once they’d done that they strapped me securely to the spinal board and went off to lunch. Oh no they weren’t actually that cruel, just my imagination. They all lifted me to show they knew how to lift a heavyweight safely (note to self, must go on a diet).

Sue and Michelle

All of the above can happen anywhere. More specific to the sailing was hypothermia and what to do. The Ikea-looking bag that Michelle is being zipped into is known as a TPA or thermal protection aid. It looked pretty flimsy but is very warm once you’re inside. If you’re really cold and need extra help, a buddy can join you: there was some discussion on whether you both needed to take your clothes off but we decided this was unnecessary unless they were soaked through. Maite decided to try being the buddy and after much manoeuvering we managed to achieve this. It could be difficult if the victim sorry patient was unconscious. It looks like Michelle is being strangled here but I assure you no-one was harmed.

There is another type of TPA that Michelle also modelled for us. No buddy warming here but you probably need to be a burly stevedore for it to fit snugly.

There was lots of other useful information which I hope never to have to use, but as I’ve run out of photos I’ll stop now. I notice I’ve given you three new acronyms, maybe if I get to Post 80 I’ll do another summary of the extra ones that have crept in. In case you’re wondering of the relevance of the header photo, it was my Grandmother’s. I’m not sure I can ever be that competent but you have to start somewhere!