92. Life In The Time of Covid-19 (3)

As you can see from today’s title, my imagination is not up to scratch this morning. I have a few items to cover from previous posts before I see if I can get into gear. It’s also getting difficult finding appropriate photos at times now that I’m not going anywhere, not even to the shops. You’ll get a lot of flowers, trees and sheep / lambs in the next few months. First though, for those of you who read this because of the sub-title (something to do with boats if I remember that far back), there are some items on the Clipper website you might like to read.

On Qingdao, with George, was another Circumnavigator known as Frankie. He’s one of the Chinese Ambassadors and sailed the first Leg of the last race (2017/18). His story is worth reading and there is a video in the article which features a certain George Dawson a few times. Here’s the link: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/a-life-changing-story-new-video-showcasing-the-story-of-qingdao-ambassador-frankie

Medlar tree

Back in Subic Bay, we left two of the professional crew to look after the boats: Jeronimo, the skipper on Punta del Este, and Hugo, the mate (AQP) on Ha Long Bay. They are there for who knows how long as current planning is that the fleet will sail mid-February 2021 (nine months from now). Here’s how they occupy their time: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/life-looking-after-the-fleet-in-the-philippines

A year ago this week was Crew Allocation Day in Portsmouth. Blog posts 24 to 26 (on 8th, 18th and 19th May 2019) cover the details as they were at the time, if you want to go back that far. Alternatively, the Clipper website brings back a taste of the event. See if you can spot OBB in the photo that heads the article (but remember, no beards!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/new-beginnings-reflections-on-crew-allocation

And before you ask, I can’t see them and I know roughly where they were.

…It’s now afternoon and I’ve thought of a Post title but it would mean going back and re-writing the first section so I’ll see if I can use it next time. Back in Post 90 (29th April) I tempted fate by showing a picture of our wisteria, which is about four years old, and referring to it as magnificent. Of course, that led to pictures of truly magnificent ones being sent to me. Thanks everyone, wait a few more years and we’ll be able to rival you! Maybe. Also in that post I referred to needing my five-a-day. One unkind soul (who shall remain nameless but has the initials JD) verbalised what you were all thinking: that I was saying I needed five spirits a day, as in the cocktail Bad Attitude. I’ve still not made that one as I was obviously talking about fruit and vegetables. Honestly, what do you think of me? (Don’t answer that). Luckily, as well as using the drinks in cocktails, one of OBB (again, nameless…) is using the rum in puddings (banana or pineapple) and the whisky in steak dishes, so the bottles are slowly emptying.


In the newspaper this week was an article telling us that cocktails and baking were no longer fashionable, we’ve been in lock-down so long and we’re bored with it all. We haven’t had a cocktail since the Bois de Rose in the last blog post, but I’m planning one or two for this weekend. We are rather spoilt for choice as the next two bottles are similar: bitters. These are used, like the absinthe, in tiny amounts as flavours rather than main ingredients. One is the classic Angostura bitters and the other a Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters given to me by George one birthday some years ago. I think I’ve found a recipe that uses both. More next time. As both are over 40% alcohol I don’t think they will go off. Unlike (possibly) the Hobgoblin stout I gave JD the other night. When he read the label he discovered it was best before 2017. I told him, that’s not bad in this house. That’s not “you will be really ill after this date”. However, I did play safe after making a ginger cake. The tin of black treacle I used stated something along the lines of throw the tin away once it’s been open for three months. As it was closer to three years I thought for once I’d better play safe. (It was almost empty). I’ve looked up on the Tate & Lyle website why it is such specific wording and apparently for this and the golden syrup cans, pressure can build up and it may explode. I wish I’d left it (outside) now, it could have been exciting.

I’ve knitted a new item this week, as shown in the next photo. It’s doubled over so there’s a pocket for coffee filters, tissues or whatever you feel best. We can throw them away after use as I can knit more quite quickly, although the I-cord was a pain to make. Oddly enough, I have some coffee filters left over from a Spanish holiday long ago: they are priced in pre-Euro currency. I’m sure they can’t go off? No best before date anyway.

This photo also shows my latest hair style. It’s beginning to remind me of when I had long hair, as a little girl. I hated it, the brush was always tangling it up and it hurt. My mum used to use Vitapointe, I wondered if it’s still going so I checked. Amazingly, it is still available and is THE product for curly (frizzy) hair. I think I should get some and report back, although at its current length my hair is not yet tangling. https://www.makeupalley.com/product/showreview.asp/ItemId=142646/Vitapointe/Unlisted-Brand/Conditioner

All seven lambs

As is now “normal”, a picture of the lambs to end.

28. China In Your Hand

George is on the Qingdao boat. Here they are coming into Liverpool last year, when they were placed third overall with 135 points (the winner, Sanya Serenity Coast, had 143).

Liverpool 2018

I have to start with George as he signed up before John, so I’m not showing favouritism. George was also the fourth name to be called out on Crew Allocation Day so he’s first there too. Do we already have competition? I know his boat would like to improve on their podium position of last time so there’s only one way John’s Unicef boat can beat them!

George is on one of the three Chinese boats (Qingdao, Zhihai and Sanya, more on the other two and on the destinations in future posts). Hence the comment about learning Mandarin last time. See post 05, we’ve already got two Mandarin phrase books so I need to start too. The crew of each of these three boats will include 16 Chinese members, chosen by the host ports after their training weeks. Qingdao has been involved with Clipper for 16 years and Zhuhai is making its debut this year. The current Clipper yachts were all built at Qingdao.

I am a bit concerned that George may do a Jeremy Hunt as he (George) is holidaying in Japan at the moment.

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen bullet train

For those of you who’ve not heard of him, Jeremy Hunt is a British politician who is currently one of the 12 people (at time of typing) hoping to be the next UK Prime Minister. In 2018, when Foreign Secretary, when visiting Beijing, he said his wife was Japanese. She’s actually Chinese! His excuse was that he’d been speaking Japanese at the time. See the BBC link if you’re really interested: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-45004765

On the Qingdao boat there are 63 crew listed, 45 male and 18 female, aged from 23 to 72 years old. There are nine circumnavigators. They represent ten nations but I can only find British, Australian, Canadian, American, Irish (our George), Swedish and of course Chinese. They flew over for the Crew Allocation Day and are spending four weeks over here doing their Clipper training back-to-back. George tells me that not all will be sailing (this time) as there aren’t enough places on the yacht. Here some of them they are on May 11th at the end of allocation.

Qingdao hopeful crew members

The skipper on Qingdao is Chris Brooks, a 33 year old Brit with 26 years’ experience racing yachts. He’s been sailing since he was seven years old. The AQP (First Mate) is Rhiannon Massey, a 23 year old Brit who also started sailing when she was seven and has represented GB at the International Olympic class level. Doesn’t sound like it will be too competitive a boat then!

The RTW’ers all have a job to do and George seems to have picked up the Social Secretary role. As well as organising the Team Building weekend in July this seems to entail making sure everyone is entertained when they are in port. I’m looking forward to trying beers from every country we visit. Or wine, as I think nearly all the places are wine-producing regions. Good planning by someone at Clipper.

Their official colours are red and gold, as you can see from the first picture above. As it’s not too clear in the picture, here’s another one of the lovely looking dragon on the hull. Or is it meant to be looking very fierce and frightening the opposition?

Qingdao 2019-20

I’m busy knitting hats for the Unicef supporters at the moment so I hope at least one supporter for the Qingdao boat is a keen knitter, or else you’ll get no more updates from me for a while. When I started it was a bit like Goldilocks, the first hat was too dull, the second one too green and the third just right!

Too dull, too green, just right?

However, it may be apparent from the photo that the bright blue one is rather small. I made a mistake on the length so it was only the fourth one that was suitable for the supporters.

The plan is that we have matching hats so that we can recognise each other at each port, and also the crew coming in can see us and feel cheered that someone has come to see them arrive! So we all need the same colour more-or-less. On last year’s Qingdao a different type of hat altogether was worn, as you can see on the right-hand-side here.

I’m not knitting one of those!

If you want more in-depth details of the Qingdao crew then here’s the link to the Clipper website page. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/race-skipper If you do check the website, you’ll see a red line at the bottom which is counting down the days, hours, minutes and SECONDS to the race start. Only just over 93 days to go!

Next time, John’s crew mates. And maybe more hats!!

27. We Didn’t Go To Sea!

Unlike the Walkers in the Arthur Ransome book We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, we had to think about mundane things such as insurance. Although to be fair I think fog had a large influence on their trip.

Straight from Crew Allocation Day we drove up to Heathrow and caught the plane to Glasgow where John’s brother picked us up for a week’s sailing around the Clyde. The week before, John had spent a day slicing what was left of the birthday cake featured in post 24 (the large bit at the bottom) into wedges and packing it up for this voyage. What the security made of triangular chunks of aluminium foil surrounding soft material I don’t know but it arrived with us!

Our sailing area

We had a 40 footer for six of us (I could have stolen another Arthur Ransome title and called this post The Big Six). What was confusing was that four of us have the same surname and three the same first name (which meant we kept thinking there were seven of us). This boat was very spacious compared to what MBB will face from September.

Seating as well!

Sunday night we had a good meal at Scotts on Largs Marina, just in case we were marooned during the week and never saw land again. We set off on Monday morning once all the food was aboard. If this is what six people need for five days (for two of which we ate ashore) then I cannot imagine how Clipper stocks up for each leg. I found out that you need constant infusions of tea or coffee and cake during the day, lunch on the move and something after dinner each night, even if you’ve been on land and had a good restaurant meal.

Largs Marina

We headed towards Little Cumbrae and practiced mooring alongside a pontoon, tacking and gybing. I learn to sail in Grimsby docks as a teenager, then many years later went to Poole harbour. My speciality is capsizing boats so I nobly decided that we could do without a dipping and the two Clipper sailors needed to practice things more than I did. Not sure how many pontoons they’ll find in the ocean though. After this we headed to Holy Loch then did a bit of night sailing up to Gareloch (Faslane). We’d seen porpoises and eider ducks along the way which was pretty exciting plus a number of naval craft but nothing big.

Moored up.

The next morning we set off for the Kyles of Bute and practiced some man overboard (MOB) with a couple of fenders tied together. I can now send a Mayday signal if necessary as well as spot the casualty in the water. A little while after, we had a real emergency HOB (hat overboard). Lucky we’d practiced! The hat was rescued but needed to dry out so the hat you first saw on post 14 came in useful.

Keeping the sun off

During the day I’d had a go at navigating (under supervision), I think that could be my forte with a bit of training. We’d had light winds most of the week so had to use the engine to make sure we arrived on time each evening (that is, on time to settle down for the night and have a meal). We headed to Portavadie for the night and had a great meal, so good that the only photo I have of us all is out of focus (hic!)

The Big Six

We then headed to Lamlash, inside Holy Island and moored up on a buoy rather than in a marina, so we didn’t go ashore that night. I had a little taste of going without a shower for a day or two. For a month? No thank you! As previously mentioned, after saying hello to my two at each port it’ll be straight into the showers.

John at the helm

On the final day we sailed into Largs to have a shower (thanks) then off to Rothesay for our final night, eating at Harry Haws, more casual than the photo above from Portavadie but just as enjoyable. We learnt from our amazingly informative waiter that the castle had been on the waterside but the Victorians had infilled such that now you can’t see the water from it. Next visit we’ll have more time there as it all sounded very interesting. I missed going into it, but there is a famous Victorian listed gentlemen’s toilet block (see the photo below).

Rothesay Gents
George at the helm (wondering what’s ahead)

Friday we sailed back to Largs, had a big fry-up on the boat to finish off the leftovers, handed the boat back and flew home. Great excitement on the way back to the Marina, we had to keep tacking around as a submarine appeared on the surface! (I have a photo but you’d not know what it is due to the distance, looks like a stick in the water).

Me reading!

Next time, more information about the Teams that George and John are in.