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.

70. Leg 5

I’ve not mentioned much about this Leg, over 6,000 nautical miles (nm), so here’s a brief rundown to keep you up to date (possibly). Contrast this with Unicef’s Leg 3 from Cape Town to Fremantle, with the detour to Durban, of around 7,000nm and five weeks at sea (as their alternative 12 Days of Christmas has it). Yet more Christmas music! I don’t think I’ve given you the link to John’s crew diary with all the words, you can find it in the list below, number 773. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to them “singing” on arrival into Fremantle last month here

Leg 5 (also known as The Asia-Pacific Challenge) consists of three races from Airlie Beach to Zhuhai: first to Sanya (Race 6, about 4100nm or roughly 3 weeks), to Subic Bay (Race 7, a short one of 750 nm taking 4 to 5 days) and then to Zhuhai (Race 7, an even shorter one of 650nm or 3 to 4 days). They (should have) started on 18th January but were delayed (see Post 69) and and have arrival windows of 10 to 15 February for Sanya, 25 to 26 February for Subic Bay and 2 to 3 March for Zhuhai. The first race involves going through The Doldrums (see Post 48 from September). As before, they are allowed to motor for a set amount of time due to the lack of wind, here it’s no more than 36 hours and 4 degrees latitude.

The yachts have between 14 crew (GoToBermuda) and 20 crew (Qingdao and Dare To Lead) on them, with the male:female ratio being close to 50:50 on Seattle and Punta del Este. Zhuhai lost skipper Nick in Airlie Beach and now have the first female Skipper, Wendy Tuck, who won the last Race in 2017/18 and will be with them until Qingdao. This is the fourth boat of the fleet to change skipper, with Seattle, Imagine Your Korea and WTC Logistics all having replacements along the way.

All lined up for Le Mans start

There are a few more crew diaries from OBB so in no particular order here they all are from the beginning in case you missed them, first George then John.

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/206 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/381 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/545 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/637 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/776 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/955

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/294 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/759 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/773 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/920

In George’s last crew diary he refers to an incident his dad had. I can reveal here that John, aged 70 and 8 months, was refused entry into a bar! He needed ID regardless of his age. The same will happen in the USA.

As you might have picked up by now, there’s not a lot going on. The delay due to the water maker spare parts not turning up was very worthwhile if you read the Skipper Reports and Crew Diaries for this race, with the heat and sweat being mentioned in almost every one. A more recent entry has been the rise of the coronavirus in China, with Clipper letting us know that the Sanya celebrations are going to be very muted this time. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/update-regarding-coronavirus-outbreak-in-china

I feel maybe I’m under a bit of a jinx (or Jonah?). First we had the Unicef diversion, then the bush fires, the Taal volcano in the Philippines on January 12th and the virus, first reported at the end of December and spreading rapidly. Will I get to China? Read on for the next thrilling instalment. OK, maybe thrilling is too strong a word.

50. Leg 1 Race 2 (b)

I promised some more photos of Portimao, there are some dotted around this Post. Also, before you sailors get too excited, despite the title, this is about life during Race 2, both theirs and mine, so it’s a pretty long post. Grab a cup of tea and sit down.

Sardine sculpture

A correction to Post 49, it was not Cyclone Garry but Jerry. This was replaced by Karen then Lorenzo. Some of the boats in the fleet were hoping to hang onto the tail coats of Lorenzo and get a faster push into the Doldrums, but this didn’t happen. A good feel for this is given by Jody on Qingdao in the crew diaries. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/278

Portimao dome

The first two to start motoring in the Doldrums Corridor were Qingdao and Unicef. In addition, Qingdao had a problem with their generator so were burning fuel too quickly. Ha Long Bay and Sanya were diverted to perform a boat-to-boat transfer to them. They practiced this during training weeks: at that time I gather a tin of baked beans went from one boat to the other. Josh (skipper on Ha Long Bay) said he was going to ask for jam, peanut butter and Nutella in exchange for the diesel. What he actually received was some jam and a few Smarties! (Sanya had the promise of beers in Punta del Este when they arrive). Unicef are a bit more upmarket in the snacks they want us to bring out.

Back on Unicef, there’s a crew diary entry from John dated 27th September (day 12 of Race 2). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/294

Eventually every boat motored for a spell, the last one being Seattle. As they can only motor for a limited period, there isn’t necessarily an advantage to starting at the beginning of the Doldrums Corridor and getting ahead of the rest if you then get stuck at the end and wave to the latecomers motoring past.

Bridge in Portimao!

And while they’ve been battling the elements I’ve been enjoying London. Ironic really when you consider that John was the one wanting to live here and savour the sights. I’ve been to the V&A to see the Mary Quant exhibition, a bit of a disappointment after the Dior, but of its time. At Tate Britain the William Blake has just started so I went to that, the surprising thing is that his illustrations were so small as they were intended in the main for books. The development of his art was interesting as was the involvement of his wife and patrons. Imagine commissioning an artist to paint you 200 works of art these days! Although not commissioned, I did receive a personal journal made for me by my pal Sue (who also made me the amazing push-me-pull-you hat you saw in Post 44). This picture shows you the construction of the hat. You can see how it’s either Unicef or Qingdao depending how I fold it up.

Talking of which, in addition to the dual beanies knitted for the three Fs I now have two unique tee shirts supporting Qingcef and Unidao.

Well, the way the scissors cut it’s Qinef and Unicgdao but that’s too difficult to say. Look out for me at the start and finish of the races!

By Monday morning 30th September the first three ships (Sanya, Qingdao and Ha Long Bay) crossed the Equator and presumably held their ceremonies. I hope to hear about it in Punta del Este and let you know more, although some details are on the Clipper website in the Skipper reports or crew diaries. A lot of visits from King Neptune and sins recounted with baked beans and flying fish featuring in the punishments. There is a suggestion that some on Unicef had their head shaved. Will we recognise them?

Unicef supporters tried to have a glass of bubbly as Unicef crossed the Equator, we weren’t quite sure of the correct time so I think we started on Friday and continued until Tuesday, just to be on the safe side. My toast was during Sunday lunch with some other Unicef supporters at The White Hart, a pub about two minutes stroll from Waterloo station.

The rest of my weekend consisted of brunch at Bill’s in Victoria (I think my next brunch will be at Browns, as they offer Lobster Benedict), followed by a doggy birthday party which ended up in Mazar, a Lebanese restaurant in Battersea. The host of the party was Milo, a three year old Golden Retriever who is best pals with Clint, who you saw in Post 39. The owner of Milo, O M Faure, has recently published some books and very kindly gave me three. I started the first one on Sunday and have been reading the series in every spare moment, including on the Tube. The first is called “Chosen” and you can find it on her website, https://www.omfaure.com/.

This Monday morning I received a communication (my first) from JD on CV31! “Thinking of you, can you buy me a head torch (exact type specified, an Exposure RAW Pro) and a water bottle to attach to my life jacket (Spinlock)”. I’d already sorted out the head torch, Exposure suggested I go to Arthur Beale, an amazing chandlers close to Covent Garden on Shaftesbury Avenue. They had to order one so I said make it two as John has already gone through two and it’s only one month into the journey. Should I place an order for another 18? They don’t stock Spinlock and I couldn’t find said water bottle on the internet.

On the way to Arthur Beale I was waylaid by a cosmetic shop selling lovely hand and body lotions. I bought some for myself and an appropriately named hand cream, Ocean, to take to Punta for the workers. On the way back to the Tube I called into Brigit’s Bakery in Chandos Place for brunch. Wonderful looking cakes but I avoided them (this time!).

Sam’s travel Journal

I mentioned the travel journal above, I’m sticking little mementos in it as I go along to remind me of the events, both abroad and in the UK. I’m sure it will appear a number of times over the months, here it is from the outside. It’s created from the book “Global Challenge”, a 1997 business management book based on the BT Global Challenge round the world race. The bookmark you can see poking out at the top is from Volume 1 of the Admiralty Navigation Manual 1938. It is the most incredible work of art.

Back at the race, the first three boats (Sanya, Qingdao and Ha Long Bay) are through the Ocean Sprint (Thursday morning 3rd October). As this part of the race is not first-past-the-post but the fastest passage, the points are not allocated until the last yacht is through, which may not be until Monday 7th October by current estimates. Imagine Your Korea has just entered the “course” and they could still win if the wind picks up for them. I gather that Unicef have squalls which are not helping their speed.

We are lucky enough to have thoughtful people back at home. Jane-the-gardener sent us some shots of John’s greenhouse. Look back at Post 36 in August to see a photo of the plants John put in before heading off to the wide wild blue yonder. These are from last week. Thanks Jane, a wonderful reminder of what we’ll be coming back to next summer.

burgundy palm
Variegated palm

It’s looking as though Sanya and Qingdao will be first and second into Punta, but we’ve been here at the end of the first race. We were wondering why Qingdao seemed to be so much slower than Sanya for much of the time, Captain’s Log Star Date 2nd October gives us a glimpse of what happened:


I’ll be in the air whilst the last part of the race is being run so I may not be able to tell you who won until I’m in Punta. The next dispatch from your own correspondent should be from sunnier climes than London, let’s hope it’s not another saga like the trip to Portimao! If anything exciting happens in the meantime, such as the Ocean Sprint Results, you may have an earlier post.

London October 1st

49. Leg 1 Race 2 (a)

As I’m sure you know, this race started from Portimao on Sunday 15th September and is due to finish at Punta del Este in Uruguay around 12 to 16th October (the arrival window). I am flying out a couple of days before to make sure I wave them both in this time (as long as they don’t come in at some unfashionable hour when I’m fast asleep).

The highlight of this race is crossing the Equator, making Shellbacks out of Pollywogs (those who have never sailed across the Equator before, flying around the world doesn’t count). You should just be able to see a dotted line on this shot, below the Doldrums Corridor End, which shows where the Equator is. A long way off yet.

I know that the youngsters who have signed up as Junior Crew Supporters have been practicing this event for a while, but as I’ve not been sent any photos (I wonder why?) then you’ll have to make do with this, John’s father’s certificate which has pride of place in his childhood home. I doubt the Clipper crew will get anything anywhere near as attractive.

Crossing The Equator

In Post 48a, Qingdao had gone into Stealth Mode. They came out ahead of Ha Long Bay (who had been in Stealth the day before, but unfortunately came across Qingdao so the secrecy was lost). Qingdao were second over the Scoring Gate, with Sanya first and Ha Long Bay third.

Two more points to Qingdao! Now on 14 points at the top of the table with Punta del Este.

It’s now Tuesday 24th and Unicef were the third to go into Stealth Mode last night, we won’t know where they are until tonight. The front runners of the fleet were passing the Cape Verde Islands, with Unicef taking a different route through them. This shows their last known position so you can see where they went offline. They are the mid-blue blob in the middle of the Islands on the left of the shot.

I hope you understood, from Post 48, the horrible place that is the Doldrums and how boring it is with nothing happening for days on end. Well, things do not always follow the expectations. Here’s a shot of the Doldrums now, with Tropical Cyclone Garry showing up in deep orange to purple. The fleet look to be using the outskirts to get some wind to push them into the Doldrums more quickly, especially Punta del Este (the yellow blob). We should know in the next couple of days who was able to benefit from the cyclone.

BUT, I hear you cry, this is all about the fleet. What is our favourite landlubber up to all this time? Fear not, gentle reader, I have been busy and not just with washing and injections (ref Post 47). OK, so some of the time has been taken up with getting stuff to take out to John, although the compression straps are proving elusive. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the painting by Mark Wiggin, father to the Unicef Skipper Ian. He was asked by Ian to create a picture to commemorate this race. At the time only three boats had been branded, Unicef, the yellow one (Punta del Este) and the red one (Qingdao), and Mark chose to include the red one. Well, my two boats, it was written in the stars! It was in the Unicef tent at the Fanzone at St Katherine’s Dock and anyone could put in a bid, but not many people did so I managed to outbid them. Last week I popped over to Unicef UK to collect it and it’s now got pride of place in my home! I can follow the Race Viewer and look at the boats at the same time.

I have been doing other things as well: walking in Battersea Park with Rene (friend) and Clint (Welshie), going out to dinner at Moo, an Argentinian restaurant up the road and meeting neighbours in the block. In the next few days I’ll be getting some culture at the V&A and Tate Britain, possibly the Tate Modern too. I finally got around to turning the television on, the first time since July, and seeing what Netflix has to offer. Most of all I’ve been practicing the piano (Grade 4 scales and simple classical) and looking at the view in gloomy London. Portimao seems a long time ago already.

48. Don’t Bring Me Down

I finally found the picture of me bandaged up (refer back to Post 45) and it’s this header. To be in the Doldrums can mean to be low or depressed. As both MBB are away for the best part of a year many people expect me to be in this flat place. I’m actually enjoying the novelty of eating when I feel the need and popping out to a museum or random cafe when I fancy it and seeing lots of friends as London is easier to get to than Somerset (or so they tell me). I’m treating the year as a series of business trips. I’ll probably be seeing George more often than when we’re all in the UK. Possibly I’m just a hermit or recluse by nature, although (unlike some people we could name) I’m not neglecting my personal hygiene nor stockpiling my waste or throwing it over the side of the flat.

Before I get to the meat of this post, I forgot to tell you that, if you’re eagle-eyed, you can find Jane and me at the Portimao wine tasting on the Clipper website, well spotted Julia! Note that Jane is not holding a wine glass (but she did have one). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/crew-explore-the-sights-and-tastes-of-the-beautiful-algarve

Shot from Clipper website

…and on Facebook Live, in the 18 minute video showing the fleet leaving Portimao on 15th September, a brief interview with George. https://www.facebook.com/ClipperRaceLIVE/videos/516330142456305/

Enough frivolity. Today is a technical blog post. Another definition of being in the Doldrums is to make no progress. This could be happening to the fleet in the next day or two.

Race Viewer

They are just out of the picture here at about 08.10 Thursday 19th. The screenshot of the Race Viewer shows the Scoring Gate that they are all racing towards, the Ocean Sprint and, in the middle, the Doldrums Corridor. In case you’ve forgotten (or I forgot to tell you), the white line is the shortest distance between start and finish, known as the rhumb line. The dark blue wavy bit in the centre is (are?) the actual Doldrums. The darker the blue, the less likelihood of wind so VERY calm. The area is also referred to as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (pronounced itch).

As you can see, this band goes all around the world either side of the equator, but for this race we’re only interested in the bit between Africa and South America. Put simply, the northern (red in the slide above) and southern (blue) trade winds clash and effectively cancel each other out. Remembering the last day or two of race 1, where the leaders (Qingdao and Unicef) ended up third and sixth due to lack of wind, we may be waiting a long time for them to cross this part of the world. In a past Clipper race some boats were stuck for four days. We may even get fed up with checking Race Viewer!

The race has a reasonably tight arrival window so we can’t just leave them to wallow around on their own without cleaning their teeth or showering or changing their underwear. They cannot avoid the Doldrums. Clipper have therefore defined an area over which the fleet can elect to use their motors.

There are strict rules though. The Skipper has to tell HQ he’s going to do this at least three hours beforehand. They can only motor for a maximum 6 degrees of latitude (roughly 400 miles) and must stop motoring at 03 degrees North (just above the Equator). They have to send a photo of their position when the motor was started and when stopped to show that they’ve gone the 6 degrees. If it takes less than 60 hours they have to hang around and cannot start racing again until the 60 hours are up, possibly having to go back to where they stopped the motor. Thus, if the wind picks up, they may have been better off sailing. They can’t change their mind once they’ve said they’re going to use the motor.

Here endeth today’s lesson. If you’re looking at the Race Viewer (and who isn’t?) you may be confused as to who is in the lead. You need to take into account how far away from the rhumb line they are as they’ll need to get back there at the end. If you’re reading the Skipper and Crew Diaries on the Clipper website you’ll see how they are getting on. It’s interesting reading them all, not just “ours” as they are all having different experiences. Some are interested in wildlife, some (most) in the food on board, some give details of the issues they’ve encountered. Talking of food, here’s what I had for my first “proper” meal in Portimao (after the room service sandwich on arrival).

Ooh, Friday morning and Ha Long Bay Viet Nam has deployed Stealth Mode. This means that for the next 24 hours we won’t know where exactly she is and neither will the rest of the fleet (she hopes). They must have a plan to beat the others to the Scoring Gate. Once through the Scoring Gate her position will become public. Stay tuned!