83. Life in The Time of Covid-19 (1)

I’m not sure I’ll be able to think of enough punning titles, hence the number. Most of the ones I had ready to use were related to sailing, oddly enough!

Day 0. Thursday 19th March 2020. I’ve mentioned this in Post 81 dated 20th March. Our wonderful driver Denis bought some essential supplies. We got to the flat and took an inventory of stores: one bottle gin, twelve cans tonic, nine bottles champagne (left over from John’s 70th birthday party), some Portuguese and Uruguayan wines bought to remember the first two Clipper stopovers. And the almost obligatory open bottle of sherry, in possibly every fridge in England, left over from some Christmas or other. Enough to drink then. Two tins sardines (another British favourite), one smoked oysters (to go with the champagne, dahling) and a bag of porridge oats. Plus two packets of biscuits from one of the boats.

Three tubes of toothpaste, shower gel, deodorant, shampoo. We will not be replicating Clipper fleet conditions, I’m glad to say. Twenty five toilet rolls. Lest you accuse me of being a hoarder (before we even knew there would be a run on them), let me explain. After I returned from Punta del Este I realised that, without a car, I would struggle to buy all the usual household items. I therefore ventured onto the computer and into the dark arts of online grocery shopping. Gosh, that was exciting! Long-life milk for when I arrived home on a 4.30 am flight, bottled water, washing powder and conditioner, toilet cleaner, and toilet rolls. When I came home the second time, after Cape Town, I was so impressed with my new-found ability that I ordered other stuff like biscuits and Earl Grey teabags and goats cheese. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to press some button that also repeated the whole of my first order. A big shock and embarrassment at the time but what a relief now. If necessary I can become a black market spiv and wander the streets of London with a loo roll hidden under each arm. Just imagine me being George Cole as Flash Harry in the original St Trinian’s film. Or James Beck as Private Walker in Dad’s Army if you’re too young for St Trinian’s. Whilst we’re all house bound, why not get the box sets? Innocent films for innocent times, although somewhat at odds with modern sensibilities.

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, day 0. George went and did a bit of shopping and we coped with being stuck in a two bedroom flat with all the sailing paraphernalia of two Round-The-World sailors. Spread everywhere. Including the balcony and bedroom floor. Bought some lasagne meals from Cafe Society, at the bottom of the flats for supper.

Storage solution

Day 1. Friday 20th March. We unpacked and sorted stuff as best we could. Looked out at the view a lot. Did some exercises (George is taking this very seriously). Piano practice for both George and me. At 6 pm, it was announced that all pubs, restaurants etc would have to close until further notice, apart from doing takeaways.

Day 2. Saturday 21st March. I went down to Cafe Society and bought some cake to go with our afternoon tea. (There are scones in the freezer but we might need them in the future). The owner said he’ll stay open for the people in the building as long as he can. I suppose that technically I went outside, but only five paces. George went out to see what food he could find: there was a rumour that pubs would be selling off the surplus food they had bought in for Mothering Sunday this weekend but no trace was seen, all pubs locked up. He did very well though, one of the local supermarkets had enough for him to bring back food for a roast beef dinner. The only thing missing was Yorkshire puddings but we can survive. We ordered an Indian takeaway from Millbank Spice for our evening meal to celebrate, but as they didn’t deliver George had to pop out again. Exercises and piano practice.

JD exercising?

Day 3. Sunday 22nd March. Mothering Sunday. The first “event” that MBB have not missed since they set off last September! George gave me a card and mid-morning a box from the Hummingbird Bakery arrived, with a massive lemon and raspberry cake inside. What with slices of that plus the Sunday roast, you’d not think we were in lock-down. We skipped piano practice (sorry Caroline). All museums, galleries etc in London have closed. Typical, I’d bought memberships for the year. Even the London Eye has stopped. From the flat we could see a few people wandering around, nothing like the usual traffic but more than expected. The news showed queues of cars going to popular spots like Snowdonia and the beach.

Day 4. Monday 23rd March. Piano practice and exercises. We had a telephone conversation with our house sitters, who said they want to go back to the USA as soon as they can get their dogs certified fit for travel. We had resigned ourselves to remaining in London as we thought they’d want to stay in the depths of the country where they could bring up the drawbridge or batten down the hatches or whatever one does in deepest Somerset. Instead, we looked at going back imminently. George was happy with this decision as he was worried about going out and then bringing back infection whilst we were living in such close quarters.

Mother’s Day

JD had to find his car paperwork and get it back on the road. Although there’s a file called “car” it seems to have thrown out the logbook (actually one sheet of paper) in pique at being left alone. At 8.30 pm the PM came onto the TV (watched by 27 million people according to the statistics) and announced we would all have to stay at home. Not an order, but likely to become enforceable if we don’t start to be more sensible and “socially distance” ourselves. Would we be able to get home or would it be like The Philippines, with check points taking our temperatures and asking where we were going? If needed, we do have paperwork showing our home address.

And at this juncture I shall leave you for today. Will our intrepid adventurers manage to get home? Will the dogs and Captain Catt speak to them or sulk? Will Somerset be any different from London or will the pubs still be operating their own lock-ins (as opposed to lock-downs)? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

Monday morning rush hour

54. It’s Raining Again!

This song (by Supertramp) was played on constant loop at The Punta del Este Yacht Club (YCPDE) when it was raining. Heaven knows what the staff there thought if this happens every time, a form of mental torture. Whilst writing this post I’m listening to Supertramp so it didn’t put me off.

I really caused discussion with Post 53, I’ve never had so many comments. Go back and have a look: beard or no beard. A new B word!

Which do you vote for?

To return to the end of Post 53. Tito came and set up a mini-Asado on the parilla (grill) at the back of the crew house. Most of the crew and supporters were there, although I have been asked to shout out to two of them who wandered up and down the road for an hour looking for the place then went home bereft. Cheryl, now you know what it looks like maybe you’ll find it next time!

Unicef crew at Alex’s 30th birthday party

We had a great time, as you can see from the empty plates and beakers. On our way back to Hotel Atlantico, a great little boutique hotel where we were staying (with a resident sparrow in at breakfast time!), we walked past a heaving Cuatro Mare restaurant. As John hadn’t been there we decided to go the next night. In the morning, some of Unicef had a bus trip showing us the highlights of Punta. If I say the best bit was going over the wavy bridge very fast four times you’ll get a feel for the sights. Just to show there is more, here’s a shot of the lighthouse (which was closed). The buildings around are only allowed to go up to four storeys so they don’t block the light.

Punta del Este Lighthouse

We had lunch at Artico, the “fast fish” cafe where I ate on the first night. You take a ticket and join a queue: when you get to the front you order what you want. You then get another ticket and join a second queue whilst they cook it to order. If you cannot be bothered to wait there’s a cold counter with lots of fishy salads that you help yourself to. As you pay for these by weight and they all look so tasty, it’s not the cheapest option. We went there three times in all so we did enjoy the food. Early evening John and I went along to a caviar-and-champagne tasting on a private yacht belonging to the Vice-Commodore of the Yacht Club. Someone has to do it. The Clipper crew members were very taken with the heads, bilges and engine, as well as the fact that there were real beds with sheets and a door to close out the world! We then headed off to Cuatro Mare only to find it shut. The opening hours of all the restaurants were somewhat random, possibly as it was not high season. Moby Dick’s opened early in the season just for us, I’m sure it was worth it for them as every time we walked past it was busy. The music started at midnight or 1 am so I missed it all. Rumour has it that crew members picked up instruments when the bands were not in situ.

The view from the yacht looking at our fleet.

The next day, to ensure freedom from bias, I went on the bus trip again with Qingdao. It was shorter than the previous day: the church we’d been into was closed (scaffolding and hoarding all over it) and the rain was lashing down so no decent photos to be taken. We did, however, go over the bridge another four times! I’m not sure how it competes with being on real waves but everyone whooped as we went over. The rest of the day was taken by the sailors packing all their gear to go back onto the boat. In the evening we had a tasting of Garzon wines (one of the sponsors of the Punta boat). I’m not sure if we can get them here but greatly enjoyed the “Reserve” Albarino and Marsalan. (I’ve checked, if you’re trade you can order from Liberty Wines but not if you’re retail).

Tuesday was weigh-in on the boats prior to sailing on Wednesday then team briefings in the afternoon, first as the whole fleet then individual boats. Us supporters went along to Yateste (the old yacht club) and continued the wine tasting as we waited. Not sure what it was (we were offered red or white) but not as good as Garzon. Unicef did a deep clean as they’d had three school parties on board the day before, then we had a meal to say goodbye to Jayne, who only sailed on Leg 1 (but wants to join up again if she can). Unicef seemed to be doing much more cleaning than the others. They may not be the fastest (yet) but they have to be the cleanest! Half the actual boat seemed to be laid out on the dock being scrubbed.

Which bit goes where?

I’m not sure my picture of the sail loft gave you the right impression so here’s a better one. If you see a sail with red writing on it (“The Race of Your Life”) then I’ve been told it’s a Code 2 Spinnaker. An egg-shaped triangular sail that you can’t lie flat, hence us having to roll it tightly to feed it through that tiny gap you can see in the sewing machine.

And so to the leaving of Punta del Este. Just before we get there I need to show you two pictures of a brass compass that Donna is taking around the world with her prior to auctioning it off to raise funds from the Qingdao boat for Unicef.

I’ve undertaken to try and get a shot of it in each port so you can see it travel around the world. It’s tied to Donna’s belt so will be even more used (and scratched) by the time we get to London next August.

Although the race didn’t start until 15.00 all crew had to be on board by 10.00 so we said goodbye and left them to it. We were on a spectator boat which was also bouncing up and down so I can’t show you the fleet leaving as I did for Southend (it looks pretty much the same). Before they set off there was a band playing traditional navy music which we’ve not had in the other ports. Then speeches in Spanish and English before each boat slipped its lines to the sound of its theme tune (battle song?). You can watch this on Facebook live (it starts after the band and speeches). Unicef are on at about 12 minutes 40 seconds with John at the back (stern) in white sunglasses (which get mentioned by the commentator!). He waved at me but I can’t catch myself in the crowd, maybe you can see the two-tone tee-shirt? George appears at about 24.20 minutes, he’s in the cockpit (?) just under the letter D of Qingdao. https://www.facebook.com/ClipperRaceLIVE/videos/531849127360175/

When the race started, Unicef were first out of the stalls (or off the blocks or whatever the nautical term is) with Qingdao second. I’m not sure if my two skippers planned it but they were talking together at the prize giving.

Ian (Unicef) and Chris (Qingdao)

After we’d seen them off into the distance it was back to the Yacht Club for a celebratory, oops sorry, commiseration drink or two, then a last trip to Moby Dick’s for supper. Of course, on the way back to the hotel, ALL the restaurants were open, now that the fleet had left! A final picture, of Qingdao’s halyard with the two pennants they have won so far, plus two pennants from special yacht clubs.

Race 1 third at the bottom, then Race 2 first, then Chris’ local yacht club in Essex and Punta Yacht club at the top

Next time, a bit more about Punta plus what I’m up to back in Blighty.

23a. It’s A Small Small World (4)

There’s been a long interval this month, we’ve been away to Italy, France and Burgh Island. You’ve probably heard of the first two destinations but maybe not the third. It’s only an island at high tide, off the Devon Coast.

We went to Pisa, Florence and then Rome for a few days because we’d not been there together, France to pick up some Champagne for the Big Birthday parties (more at an appropriate time) and Burgh Island for a couple of days with some pals.

The last day in Rome, I started to read Dana’s “Two Years Before The Mast”. At the end of the introduction it mentioned that he had died in Rome and was buried there. Anyone who has been on holiday with me will know I am a taphophile (today’s word for those of you who’d never come across it), that is, I love visiting graveyards. Unfortunately we were on our way to the airport so did not manage to visit Richard Dana’s resting place. We did get to the Colosseum though. It is the most exhausting city I think I have been to, you walk all over, pausing only for an espresso or glass of wine (or two).

Old ruins

The other coincidence in the book is the mention of the Sandwich Isles. I’d never heard of these but on researching it, they were what are now known as Hawaii. These islands were “discovered” by Captain Cook in 1778 and named after the Earl of Sandwich. I’ve never been there but we are in the process of organising our house-sitters who will look after the house and home crew whilst we are away: one of them is from Hawaii!

This post was meant to stop there and not meant to be about Burgh Island but we so fell in love with it I need to tell you. Here it is at low tide, easily accessible on foot. If you’re staying there they’ll use a 4×4 to take you and all your luggage across.

Burgh Island looking towards Devon

And at high tide it’s a totally different place, with a unique way of arriving, the Sea Tractor.

Cut off!
Sea tractor to Burgh Island

The main interest is not in the position, although that is amazing, but in the hotel itself.

Burgh Island Hotel

It was built in 1929 and has managed to stay in that era. It was extended in the 1930’s and the Captain’s Cabin from HMS Ganges (a warship from 1821) was added. You can see it in the foreground in the photo above and in the next photo. During World War II the hotel was used for RAF personnel who needed to recover from their injuries. It was converted into flats for a time then restored to its current state.

On top of Captain’s Cabin looking out to Mermaid Pool

You are expected to dress up for dinner just as if you had gone back in time. There are no televisions and all the furniture is Art Deco inspired. The bar is an example of the whole place:


Agatha Christie wrote some of her books there and anyone who was anyone visited (including, of course, us!). Noel Coward reportedly came for a few days and stayed much longer. I can understand that, it’s such a restful place.

Where Agatha Christie wrote “And Then There Were None” and “Evil Under The Sun”

Next time, I think some technical talk to get you thinking about Clipper again!