86. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Remember me telling you about our garden produce in Post 85? Here’s the meal we had on April 2nd: rhubarb and ginger cocktail (R&G gin, lemon juice, R&G jam, shake with ice and decorate with a tiny stick of rhubarb), mackerel with rhubarb, then rhubarb and marmalade sponge pudding. Interestingly the original cocktail used marmalade instead of rhubarb and ginger jam so continuity across the meal.

Making the rhubarb and ginger sour

Going back to the original purpose of this blog for a moment. On April 1st, with no joking, Clipper published an updated schedule. The plan is to re-start the race from Subic Bay on 21st February 2021, with Leg 6 resuming and taking in Sanya (arrival on 25-26 February), Zhuhai (arriving 5-6 March) then Qingdao (arriving 19-21 March). This will be the new end of Leg 6 (instead of finishing at Zhuhai). Leg 7 will then be to Seattle (arriving 19-24 April) and Panama (27 May to 1 June). Leg 8 includes Bermuda (arrival 15-17 June) and Derry-Londonderry (8-12 July) then finishes in London on 24th July 2021. Those of you with long memories (or plans to travel to this stop) will notice that we have lost New York (very careless) and will finish roughly two weeks before (but one year after) the intended finish date of 8th August (2020). Obviously this is all subject to change but that’s the route and timing for now. I’m not making any plans until nearer the time.

And drinking it

Day 16. Saturday 4th April. Finally finished all our unpacking. Still to go round the house and replace all the blown light-bulbs. They seem to delight in keeping the light-bulb manufacturers in business. I have four boxes of spares: small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw and large screw. I still seem to always be missing the one that JD wants when we need a replacement. Made the marmalade sour on which the above cocktail was based, with plum and clementine gin. Having sorted all our spirit bottles, from absinthe to whisky (Scotch), I’ve decided to make this a cocktail blog for the time being. If I become increasingly incomprehensible you’ll understand I’m sure. I’m ignoring shots as they don’t last long enough. Looking back, I see that without realising it, this has been an underlying theme for some time.

Marmalade sour

Before I get onto the alcohol recipes, the bird life here is expanding, even if I cannot take photos. A long-tailed tit tried to fly through the (closed) window, offering a good view of its undercarriage. JD saw a charm of goldfinch (I think that’s the correct collective noun) in the orchard. As usual, we have constant buzzards mewling and being mobbed by the rooks. In addition, we are beginning to embrace modern technology, with JD resuming his physio with his personal trainer via the computer. He says it’s much better than being in a class and it saves about an hour travel time. Good job I “mended” the internet last week.

Absinthe to whisky (Scotch)

As well as unpacking, I’ve audited the kitchen under-sink cupboard and the freezer (after defrosting). I went onto the local council website and discovered that the recycling centres are closed, so reminded myself what I could recycle at the kerbside (not that we have kerbs in the wilderness). I told you this blog would become boring.

So, to the first bottle in our store: absinthe. You only use drops in most recipes so yes, thanks Chris, it is still the same bottle for my birthday xx (I forget the exact number) years ago! I did make Midori and absinthe sorbet not long after receiving the bottle, it didn’t freeze and tasted aniseedy and melony at the same time. Not bad but maybe not to be put on the favourites list.

For those of you who have never heard of it, absinthe can be a vivid green spirit classically made with wormwood. As with so many spirits, it started life as a medicinal product, curing malaria. It tastes of aniseed and when water is added goes cloudy. Its main association (to my mind) is with Toulouse-Lautrec, with his hollow walking stick full of absinthe, and the Belle Epoque in France in the late 1800’s. You prepared it for drinking with a special absinthe spoon, on which you placed a sugar cube and let water drip through into the glass of absinthe. According to an exhibition at The Tate, it was apparently known as “the Queen of poisons” and the name comes from Greek meaning undrinkable. https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-5-autumn-2005/drink-fuelled-nations-art

Are your salivary glands watering? It could be up to 80% alcohol, definitely lethal, and was said to cause hallucinations due to the presence of thujone, a chemical in wormwood (or maybe the alcohol content alone?). It had such a bad reputation that it was made illegal. I’m happy to say that mine is clear (no contaminants) and a mere 53%. If you want to try some, look here: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/c/358/absinthe

Putting all that aside, I have a great app on my phone called Mixology so I consulted that for absinthe recipes. I chose ones where we have all the ingredients and shortlisted 14. NO, I’m not going to try them all. Well, not all at once. I then reduced the list further to those that used a reasonable amount of absinthe, not just a couple of drops. I dismissed two due to their names: Death in the Afternoon (although champagne and absinthe doesn’t sound too bad) and Corpse Reviver (gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, vermouth and absinthe). Not suitable under present circumstances. The names in general tell you something about absinthe: TNT, Hiroshima, Earthquake, Monkey Gland, Flying Fortress, Peep Show. I’ve decided to try two, purely because I like the innocuous-sounding names: Maiden’s Dream and Rimbaud’s Left Hand. No, checking the cupboard, Rimbaud will have to wait another day as I’m out of pineapple juice.

What, you want to know what it’s like before you rush out (or to the computer) to buy your own bottle? Tune in next time.

Proof that we also eat: rhubarb sponge

82. Race 8 and 9 Results

There was no Race 8, it was combined with Race 7, but I don’t want anyone (including me in months to come) thinking I’ve missed something out. There are some random pictures from Subic Bay here. The header is Romeo calling Juliet, early one morning. I was too asleep to get the zoom to work so JD is tiny! The next few Posts will be rather limited I suspect, make the most of seeing these exotic shots.

Race 9 was Subic Bay to Subic Bay Number 2. As well as the main race, there were three Ocean Sprints along the triangular course with each boat being allowed to enter two of the three. There were no Scoring Gates and no Stealth mode. As you may have read, the race was stopped early due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. In addition, there was no prize giving or party (except on the boats stranded behind the gate during quarantine). Is it coincidence that this was also the only race where there was not a Dawson on the podium?

The last few Ocean Sprints have been announced during the prize giving ceremony. It has been pointed out by an eagle-eyed reader that I transposed the North and South Ocean Sprints from the last race (Race 7/8). The results stand but Qingdao and WTC entered the South and the rest of the fleet the North Sprint. This is what happens when your husband comes home unexpectedly and actually reads something you wrote. In addition, I have been informed that I need to give better links to my previous Posts when I refer back. As I’m under house arrest for a few weeks or months I might find time to do this. If you get update emails you can ignore them, this is all I’m doing (and possibly correcting typos).

Unicef arriving for the last time

This time, for Race 9, the Ocean Sprint results went out on the Clipper website after we had all flown home. Assuming I don’t get these muddled, the results were as follows. Ocean Sprint 1 was entered by eight boats, namely Seattle, Punta del Este (PdE), Ha Long Bay (HLB), Dare to Lead (DTL), Sanya, Qingdao, Unicef and Zhuhai. The winners were PdE three points for being the fastest, DTL two and Qingdao one.

Qingdao ditto

Ocean Sprint 2 was entered by seven boats: Imagine Your Korea (IYK), GoToBermuda (GTB), Seattle, WTC Logistics, HLB, DTL and Zhuhai. The winners were HLB (three points), GTB (two points) and Seattle (one point).

You should be able to work out who entered Ocean Sprint 3 from the names above but I’ll save you the brain work, we all have enough to ponder these days (where will I find the next toilet roll seeming to be the main issue of the day). Seven entries: IYK, GTB. WTC, PdE, Sanya, Qingdao and Unicef. Winners: IYK three points, Qingdao two points and PdE one point.

Managed to get the zoom working for George!

Adding all of these up we have seven boats gaining bonus points: PdE four, HLB, IYK and Qingdao three each, GTB and DTL two each and Seattle one point.

Now to the overall race: HLB were first over the line and scored eleven points, PdE second with ten, Sanya third with nine, Seattle fourth with eight, Unicef fifth with seven, Zhuhai sixth with six, WTC seventh with five, GTB eighth with four, DTL ninth with three, Qingdao tenth with two and IYK eleventh with one. Interestingly, for the last two races, the last over the line was first the time before. Relaxing too much? Also of interest was Qingdao, who not only missed a Mark and had to go back (see Post 80 dated 16th March 2020), but also misread the new finish line and so cruised over the correct one in the penultimate position.

Final meal in Subic Bay (thankfully)

To the final results for this year. There is a possibility of penalty points being issued for Legs 5 and 6 but what we know is that Qingdao are still at the top of the table with 102 points, HLB second with 91, PdE third with 74, Sanya fourth with 65, Unicef still fifth with 58, then IYK with 54, WTC and DTL both with 47, Zhuhai with 40, GTB with 39 and Seattle with 37.

Seen outside a church!

Next time: who knows? Nothing to do with boats I think but I do need to keep myself occupied. Maybe I’ll start spouting controversial opinions? Sharing my knitting patterns? Become an entertainment critic? Or just carry on as normal.

78. Race 7 Results

Today the fleet set off on the second Subic Bay circular race (Race 8? The Clipper website is calling it Race 9, I must have fallen asleep) so you really do need the results of Race 7. Before we get to that, I thought I’d give you my cultural hits for this month. On my flights over I watched the whole of Gemini Man (about clones with Will Smith, young and old, which I’d started on the way home last time), Judy (about Judy Garland on her last UK tour in 1968, the year before she died, starring Renee Zellweger) and Blinded By the Light (featuring the music of Bruce Springsteen). All easy to watch so maybe not too cultural. I am finding that reading on a Kindle is not as enjoyable as a real book, so I’m not devouring books the way I normally do. I had been looking forward to some real culture during my seven weeks in China but thanks to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak the nearest we made to it was drinking Tsingtao beer in the Chinese restaurant in the yacht club. In case you didn’t know, Qingdao is an alternative spelling for Tsingtao, China’s second largest brewery set up by German settlers in 1903. (I may have told you this earlier, my memory is not so good with all this time travel I’m doing).

At the Prize giving we all had great fun, beer balancing, swimming in the pool and dancing, both before and after swimming. I have lots of photos but I’m planning on using them as blackmail material when I fall down on my uppers (a saying which has something to do with being so poor that your shoes are worn out?) so I’ll only share this one. Very impressive when you consider they probably haven’t even lost their sea legs yet.

The next morning, we saw that someone had climbed the mast of Qingdao and placed an unusual item up there! If it’s not too clear in this photo: it’s a chair.

Before I tell you the results, I don’t think I mentioned the penalty points incurred on Leg 4, which were announced last week. IYK had two for sail damage, Unicef one for a lost sail and DTL one for winch damage.

Remember that this race had two Ocean Sprints (North and South) and boats had to opt for one of them. Qingdao and WTC Logistics were lucky in that they were the only two to opt for North. WTC scored three points and Qingdao two. The rest of the fleet opted for the South Sprint: PdE came first with three points, IYK second with two and Sanya third with one.

The pool where we had the prize giving

The race itself was cut short due to lack of wind. Two alternative finish lines were set before the official one and at some stage, when it looked as though few would get back in a reasonable time, one was chosen as the finish line and everyone could then motor in. The results were decided by where the boats were at a certain time (based on a photo they had to take of their Nav Station). Qingdao, Unicef and IYK had already passed the line so they were first, second and third. Sanya was very unlucky in that both IYK and PdE overtook them, so PdE was fourth, Sanya fifth, Zhuhai sixth, followed by DTL, GTB, HLB and Seattle.

There were two Scoring Gates, either side of the rhumb line. To my amazement, as already mentioned earlier in Post 76a, the first three boats went through one then the other, resulting in Qingdao getting six points, Unicef four and Sanya two. Great work from them.

Bye bye Unicef

Final total points: Qingdao 97, HLB 77, PdE 60, Sanya 56, Unicef 51, IYK 50, WTC and DTL both 42, Zhuhai 34, GTB 33 and Seattle 28. Qingdao have increased their lead but there are still seven races left (ah, this is Race 9 so that the numbers of the remaining ones stay as they were originally). Unicef have gone up from sixth to fifth but IYK are very close.

When they set off this morning, I noticed something else that had happened to Qingdao. In case you can’t spot it, compare the back of the boat (stern?) with that of Unicef above.

Bye bye Qingdao

The majority of the supporters and Clipper staff have left The Philippines to go back to normal life. There are three of us (that we know of) still here. Two of us (Becca and me) are going off to sit on a beach for a couple of days while this race is on. This is the view from my hotel room now.

Eleven empty berths

75. The China Syndrome

We’re not getting away from here any time soon. The rest of Leg 5 should be a race from here to Zhuhai. We’re already one race down, as the fleet should have gone to Sanya and then to Subic Bay. As a consolation (?), the next race will have two Scoring Gates and two Ocean Sprints. It goes from Subic Bay to … Subic Bay! The length of this new race is roughly the same as previous races 7 and 8 at 1600 nautical miles. As it’s not a “proper” race in the scheme of things, a number of crew are taking the time to go off and do other things, and a call went out for crew to volunteer to switch boats for this race to make sure each boat is fully crewed.

Each boat has to opt to compete in only one of the Sprints and realistically only one Scoring Gate can be reached so it is only one race with probably six boats getting points for the extra challenges. They will leave Subic Bay on Sunday 23rd February and should be back by 4 March for the next prize giving and start of Leg 6. The race start date for Leg 6 has to be confirmed: not before 10 March “probable”. My big dilemma is, do I fly back for that prize giving and race start or wait until the next destination? It would be the first one I’ve missed. Answers on a postcard please (or to the comments page here so you can all see how you’re voting).

Waiting for the first lunch

I have to confess that staying here until 4 March on my own did not appeal. You can see from the header photo (on web page) that they are big on Valentine’s Day so it might be interesting to see the place once all the celebrations have ended. It’s about 13C and wet in the UK, versus 33C and sun here. However, I’m not enamoured with the food. The main choice seems to between American fast food and local Asian food. Lots of burgers, pizzas, noodles and rice. We went to a place called Magic Lagoon the other night and asked them to give us local specialities. (Confession, we left our specs behind and could not read the menu!). It was a lovely setting looking across the lagoon but the dishes set before us were pork bowels (yes, that e should be there: intestines) and very bony kid goat. The other interesting aspect is that dishes, including drinks, come at random intervals bearing no relationship to the order in which we normally expect to eat them. Timing is also elastic. You eat when your dish appears as the others could be another half hour. We had our pre-prandial cocktails in the middle of one meal and the prawn tempura starter (with unexpected chips and onions rings) at the end.

Magic Lagoon

The next stop has not yet been decided, thanks to the coronavirus. The crews have been totally unaware of the developing situation whilst sailing other than being told they couldn’t go to Sanya. The options we were told about were (1) still making it into Qingdao. In my humble opinion this is not going to happen. Coronavirus is still actively with us and until mainland China returns to “business as normal” we don’t know what will happen. (2) Korea (South of course!). This makes sense as one of the boats has a Korean sponsor. BUT they were not due to come on line until the next Race, in 2022, so how prepared are they? I know the Chinese built two massive hospitals in ten days but that was very different. Also, the coronavirus seems to be getting a hold there, it’s Saturday morning as I post this, overnight the cases have doubled with one town (Daegu) in lockdown. Although nowhere near the coast, it is troubling. (3) Japan. An attractive option. Clipper have been to Japan previously, to Okinawa. That was with the 68-footer fleet though, fewer boats and a shallower draught. Okinawa apparently cannot accommodate the current fleet. Yokohama was mentioned as a possibility but they have the (small?) issue of cruise boats hanging around in quarantine. Yokohama was a stop in the very first Clipper Race of 1996, involving eight 60 foot boats.

The only certainty in all of this is that (at the moment), the dates for Seattle will not change. My bet, for what it’s worth, is that they will set off not knowing and sometime in the first fortnight will be told they are sailing direct to Seattle. There’s a full crew brief going on upstairs from where I’m typing so I may have updated news before I send this out. Sorry, they have all just come out and no news on next destination. The increasing cases in Korea were mentioned but also the fact that the cases in China are decreasing.

Sail repairer Holly and her assistants JD and Steve

In addition to not enjoying the food here, I’ve not been victualling this time. I have got a new job in the sail repair department: making wool ties! Normally each crew member just has a ball of wool and breaks off an individual length as needed. These are used to keep the sail tidy when not in use, and as they are wool they just break (and fall into the sea? Oops) when the sail is hoisted. If my system works I may sell it to other boats! You can see my creative method for mass production then them in use around the necks of the sail repairers.

Spot the wool ties around their necks

If you read Skipper Reports at random and not just our two, you will have noticed that on board Ha Long Bay they had a flamingo pen named Manny for recording data at the Nav Station. I read that Manny was dying (ran out of ink) so I found a flamingo pencil and presented it to Josh Stickland, the skipper of HLB. We decided it looked female so have named her Manuela. I look forward to seeing her being used on the boat.

Josh and Manuela

There was, as usual, little rest for the crew of Unicef. In addition to the sail repairs and victualling, the two rudders were swapped around. There had been some issue about their balance and it is hoped that this will help to address it. We shall see what result they get in the next race. Then this morning it was all hands on deck at 0700 to bring the main sail on board and rehang her (technical term??) on the boom. After the crew briefing, each team has a briefing on board (the Skippers and AQPs having had their briefing prior to the crew briefing). They may get last minute jobs to carry out on the boat before sailing tomorrow. All go!

The starboard rudder out of the water

So, having finished this, whilst waiting to see if MBB will be free this afternoon or have tasks to be completed on their boats, do I continue to sit in the air conditioned crew quarters and read my book, or go down to the pool and read my book? I don’t need answers to that one, I’m off to get my bikini and top up my Vitamin D.

73. Make A New Plan Sam

My flight to Sanya would have been on February 9th, maybe I would not have made it out of the country anyway as Storm Ciara was affecting transport across the UK. I booked my flight to Subic Bay for 13th February and have a flight coming back to the UK close to the end of February, but as yet (Wednesday 12th) we do not know where next nor when. If they go straight from Subic Bay to Seattle I’m all sorted, back to the UK in the interim. However, the latest update from Clipper says that crew changeover will be “either Zhuhai or a port outside China” on March 6th, a few days later than originally planned. I’m OK, I can afford to be flexible, but what about the poor souls planning to join their boats for the beginning of Leg 6? Where do they fly to? The coronavirus is changing plans for everyone.

The ETAs are up on the Clipper website, the first one on 8th February, it’s possible I’ll miss not only Qingdao and George (Thursday morning) but also Unicef and John arriving (Friday morning). Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books? On the positive side, they’ll both have time for a shower before I see them. No news yet on the next stop so keep reading, I hope we’ll know before this is posted live.

The welcome beers they get on arrival

ETAs keep getting updated, it’s now Wednesday 12th and after all the excitement of the first boats possibly coming in today, the wind holes have appeared and currently the first ones (Visit Sanya China and WTC Logistics, sneaking along a different line and leaving Ha Long Bay and Qingdao standing) are due in on Friday morning. In all, six of the fleet are possibly arriving Friday morning, including Qingdao. Unicef, at current estimates, are due in on Saturday morning, so I should see them arrive. However, all is up for grabs so keep checking whilst I’m in the air and unable to update you. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/subic-bay-etas

I’ve had a few more get-togethers with pals whilst I’ve been in London and had two dogs to cuddle on different occasions. I received yet another email from JD. He’s so pleased to hear that I’ll be going to Subic Bay, could I just pop out and buy him…What did his last slave die of I ask! Despite this constant need (has he not heard of travelling lightly?) I have managed to get everything into one big case and one smaller one this time. I just hope that, wherever I travel to next, I won’t be needing warm clothes as they have all been left behind. I’ve emptied the fridge, paid all the bills, washed all the laundry and dishes so I’m ready to roll!

P.S. The change in plans referred to? Well all the above was written a few days ago so it’s already out of date and meaningless if you try to look at the fleet’s progress. They are all in port now. You’ll have to wait for blog post 74 for more details.

Glastonbury Tor? Or on the way to Subic Bay?

72. Just Another Manic Monday

Post 71 attracted more readers than ever before. Sorry folks if you thought I had the answer to what’s happening with the fleet. It’s like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to see where I get diverted to and have I enough fuel or time to get there? I’ve decided to get on with my life until we have firm news from Clipper on where the fleet are going to land up, then I’ll decide whether I’m going there as well (whether it’s possible as much as whether I want to).

What have I being doing, you ask? Apart from emails from the boss asking me to buy yet more socks, I’ve been enjoying London culture. I’m starting to have a routine: piano practice (yes honestly, but I had to start at my Grade 1 book again as I’d forgotten where Middle C was. Oops!) then a 15 minute or so walk in the fresh air. The Garden Museum is about that far and I love it. The latest exhibition is about the Royal Parks. I hadn’t realised that the pelicans have been in St James’ Park since 1664, a present from the Russian ambassador. Nor that there were piggeries in Hyde Park and potato fields in Richmond and Bushy Parks during World War II. It may yet happen again now that we need to be self-reliant and not rely on imported food.

Parade of Sail, Sydney Harbour, New Year’s Eve

After my walk it’s a free day. So far I’ve been to see Touching the Void play and Mitsuko Uchida play (and conduct) Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall. These were both amazing. I’ve had six days where I’ve met up with pals, some pre-existing and some from Clipper. I’ve had a hair cut and done a bit of shopping for JD (oh, have I already mentioned that?). I have had a complete blank in my diary for three days of the first fortnight back. Bliss! The laundry and shopping don’t do themselves (although I’m working on it. Anyone want to be my valet?).

If you’ve read the book or seen the film of Touching the Void you must wonder how on earth they managed to put it on stage. It was visually fascinating, set in a pub with imaginative use of tables and chairs up the theatre sides as climbing walls. On one part, where they were falling into the crevasse, they were lying on tables facing the audience but it looked as though they were falling down into the darkness. It’s soon to finish but if you have time to spare then it’s well worth the trip to London. Very intense though so be prepared.

View from my seat (before the performance)

The other performance, at the Royal Festival Hall, you can’t see, although you might be able to see a similar performance. Mitsuko Uchida, DBE, who will be 71 this year, is a highly talented classical pianist and is currently the Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Here they played Mozart’s Piano Concertos 17 and 22: she conducted the orchestra from her piano as well as playing. The music was sublime, I bought my seat at the last minute and I’m sure it was one of the best in the hall. It made me realise that my piano playing is like painting-by-numbers versus Manet or Turner. If you think she merely played the score as written, then I found out that Mozart played a lot of his own music and often didn’t leave a proper score to follow. The concert was about two hours but I could have listened all night. It’s not music you hum along to like Abba or Queen (well, I don’t) but you get lost in it when they’re playing. One thing I’ve yet to work out: the drummer (sorry, percussionist) kept resting his nose gently on the drums. Testing for vibrations? Answers on a postcard please (or via the comment section of this blog).

View from my seat (after the performance)

Talking of the comment section, thank you to all who commented either this way or off line to say how relieved you were that I’m not going to China. The trip was preying on my mind so I’m glad the decision was made for me by the FCO.

I guess at some stage I need to mention the Race. They are now through the Doldrums Corridor and have passed over the Equator again so are back in the Northern Hemisphere. Those new leggers who had not crossed the Equator (pollywogs) had a visit from King Neptune and all are now shellbacks. I still don’t know how tadpoles become turtles, must be something to do with evolution. However, the Trade Winds have not yet appeared (Sunday night) so if you look at Race Viewer they seem to be milling around with no obvious line of sail. (If you’ve forgotten where to find this, go to https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings and click on the windsock to see wind speeds (or lack thereof)). Blue is bad and has been there for days. A few boats have been in or are in Stealth mode. The boredom on the boats has been relieved by them playing Assassin, not a game I’d come across but a bit like Cluedo. Each crew member has a weapon, a place and a fellow member to murder. If successful, you get the victim’s “cards” and so have another murder to commit. I guess you need to be in an enclosed space to play it well.

Which way should we go?

The Scoring Gate has been passed and the results are: Ha Long Bay (HLB) three points, WTC Logistics two points and Dare to Lead (DTL) one point. This is great for DTL as it’s their first bonus point. It’s not so great for Qingdao as HLB is now only two points behind them. It’s getting exciting!

…It’s now the Manic Monday of today’s title. I started off with trying to sort out finances. Having gone to the bank on Friday without some of the documents I needed, I went back today with everything, I thought. All went well until he asked “security” questions like what direct debits had been cancelled in the last year and when did I open the business account (I didn’t even know I had one). After an hour all seemed to be sorted but I now need to investigate this business account, apparently it has money in it!

Are we there yet?

That wasn’t the real manic bit though. At 1300 today, the Clipper office announced that the fleet would not be going into Sanya (think we’d worked that one out) but they WILL be going into Subic Bay early and staying there for “a minimum of nine days”, with the arrival window estimated to start on 13th February. NEXT WEEK! Much liaison between supporters as it’s recommended you don’t stay alone out there. Yes, dear reader, I’m about to be your foreign correspondent again, not from China though. I managed to get the last room in a hotel close to Subic Bay marina. Also, the fleet now have a bit of orange and red to the winds so should speed up. Just not too fast please, I need to be there first. You’ll also see that the race end has been updated to Subic Bay.

If you’ve read enough from me, here’s a crew diary from Angie that mentions JD’s culinary skills. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1046 and one from the man himself https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1048

Philippines, here I come!

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!