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

79. There and Back Again

I thought I’d manage to travel to Subic Bay relatively lightly as I’d not been back in the UK for long. Ha! A request went out for “someone” to bring out gluten-free cereal bars for the long trip across the Pacific. How many “someones” were coming out from the UK? One! I bought a load then sorted them into GF, GF with chocolate (so eat first as they might melt) and not labelled well enough to tell. Plus some lemon and ginger tea bags in case they had run out too. I ended up, as usual, with a heavy case (but only one this time) of 27kg. It will be interesting to see what it weighs going back (assuming that I’m allowed out of The Philippines and into the UK. The coronavirus is keeping us all guessing what the different countries will do next).

Essential supplies for Unicef crew

As this was a race of only three to four days, it was not worth flying anywhere, so Becca and I (her husband is on WTC Logistics) decided to go and see a beach. About an hour’s drive, almost impossible to find as our local driver found out, is La Jolla at Bagac Bataan. Fairly new and still bedding in (cocktails start March 15th, we left 13th, rats) but so relaxing and perfect for self-isolating (see header photo, on my website page). We were almost the only guests there but it did not feel at all strange or threatening.

La Jolla Beach Bar

I should have mentioned that, in addition to the second place for Unicef in the last race, Danny Lee (one of the RTW crew on Unicef) won the Media Prize Pennant (green, I’m sure you’ll see it in some of my photos from now on if you look carefully). Danny’s prize winning crew diary (I think, all of his are worth reading to bring a smile to your face): https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1120 oops no, I’ve checked, THIS is the pennant-winning one:

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/995

I have discovered a huge advantage of my Kindle: you can enlarge the font size if sleepy and your eyes are tired to the extreme of about six words per page! Takes rather a long time to read a book, though it might come if useful if I have to self-quarantine. Maybe I should have hung onto those cereal bars. Back to crew diaries. Bruce’s crew diary mentions what JD gets up to during the day: (I don’t think it will be a huge surprise to those who know him) https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1220 and a new crew diary from George: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/1260 but you’ll need to read Chris’s skipper reports of 12th and 13th to find out why their track looked a bit odd on the first side of the race and their reaction. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/skipper-reports

La Jolla Infinity pool and hot tubs

Now we’re back in Subic Bay yacht club. The fleet are all due in tomorrow, I’m happy to say, and not just because I’ll see OBB. As this was such a short race and a hot one (the Pacific will be long, cold and wet), I was asked if I’d mind storing “a few things” that various crew of Qingdao and Unicef didn’t want to take this race but would need for the next. No problem, although as I had to move rooms the chap who moved me must have wondered what on earth I was planning next! It’s also difficult drawing the curtains.

Crew baggage

One final photo, this fruit was in our rooms for us on arrival at La Jolla. We hadn’t a clue what it was, I’ll leave you puzzling it out (if you don’t know) and try to remember to reveal the answer to you next time. It was incredibly aromatic and juicy but fibrous so not easy to eat.

Mystery fruit

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

76(a) It’s A Small Small World (9)

Two in one day, both before I left for Subic Bay the first time. I was off to dinner with some pals and forgot that they were also going away. There’s a lovely looking old fashioned florist (Van Twisk) opposite the flat (see header) so I went there to get a bunch of flowers. I got chatting whilst he made up the bouquet. It turned out that he had a pal visiting half an hour later who not only lives in Somerset close to us, but also did some Clipper legs a few races back. Needless to say, we were introduced to him last year when JD signed up to go.

Qingdao

Then, that evening, at my pals’ house. As they were not going to be home they handed the flowers to their daughter-in-law who was over that evening. We got chatting and it turned out that she attended All Hallows, George’s prep school, in Somerset a few years before he was there. It’s quite a small school so meeting another alumnus is not that common.

Unicef

And in other news: JD crew diary https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1196

I’m now about to leave for the Philippines again, not only are OBB running first and second still (but watch out for wind holes) but they also appear to have nabbed first and second place at BOTH scoring gates! I said it couldn’t be done as the race would be so close there would be no time to dodge from one to the other. Shows what an armchair sailor I am! Before they finish the race, I’ve given you pictures of them setting off. Let’s compare their grins when they arrive, with luck just after me.

Taken one scoring gate, onto the other….

76. Subic BayWatch

Let me rephrase my question from the earlier Post: if it were your husband / wife, would you go back to Subic Bay? Aha, you’re thinking differently now, aren’t you? As far as I can see, coronavirus (CV, like the fleet!) is now widespread across the globe. I was thinking of visiting a pal in Switzerland but they’ve got cases. The hospital across the river from me had all the London cases. Where is safe?

Well, when I look at the Race Viewer, it seems that Qingdao and Unicef both have a good chance of getting on the podium, so I’ve booked to go back in time for the prize giving on March 4th. Not that I wish to jinx them but if neither are on the podium blame me! Of course, the day before booking I’d gone out and bought a load of fresh food, so I’m now creating day bags for myself so that everything is eaten before I go.

Post 75 detailed some of the reasons not to go. I forgot to tell you about the wine. You all know how much I enjoy wine. Well, the choice in Subic Bay was red or white. If you were lucky, there was also premium red or white (although that never actually seemed to be in stock). There were some good times there though: Ha Long Bay (HLB) organised a pub quiz in aid of Unicef (the organisation not the boat, silly. Just because they were last didn’t mean they were a charity case!). Our team was very diverse: one supporter (me), one Qingdao crew (George), two Unicef crew (JD and Bruce) and two Clipper office staff (Sarah and Karla). If I tell you that the only round where we got full marks (thankfully) was “identify the member of the Clipper office from the photo” you’ll know we didn’t come near the top. (I really must have a lesson on how to take selfies, or get a wretched selfie-stick).

Dawson’s Clique team

We went into Olangapo, the main town attached to Subic Bay, to see a bit of SE Asia. They have buses (sort of) called Jeepneys which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been on holiday there. I hadn’t so found them fun (to look at, I wasn’t going to risk using one). There’s one below somewhere. There were some lovely old buildings but in general the whole place was pretty rundown. In this picture you can see the electricity cables, all tangled up in one big mess.

An American we met in Airlie Beach told us not to go to Subic Bay, saying he’d worked there and it was like the Wild West. We didn’t really believe him, but then I saw this shack. Hmmm, maybe he had a point.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Manuela, donated to HLB for their Nav Station. Before they set sail Josh very sheepishly confessed she’d not lasted the course: see his skipper blog of 26 February for more details. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/ha-long-bay-viet-nam/race7-day3-team43

Here’s a race update before I forget what this is all about. No-one played their Joker. I forgot to say there is no stealth, so keep watching Race Viewer to see how they are doing. Although it’s not much cop this race, partly because it’s a loop and partly because all the hills and islands interfere with the signal that’s beamed back to the office. Ignore the DTF (distance to finish) and look at the pretty picture at the top of the screen with the colourful counters. Regardless of the table below the picture, it does look as though our two (red Qingdao and mid-blue Unicef) are in the lead. I think the system is not able to distinguish whether they are heading out or back. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

As this race is a loop, it does not count towards the circumnavigation so some RTWers have taken the opportunity to have medical issues checked out or to go and visit family where they’ve not seen them since the start of the race. To compete with my Unidao / Qingcef tee shirts, this race we have “Unizhu del Puhai Logistics“: Zhuhai has two crew borrowed from Punta, one from Unicef and one from WTC. GoToBermuda has two from Imagine Your Korea but have not (yet?) rebranded themselves “Imagine You’re Going to Bermuda” or “Go Imagine”. In the Ocean Sprint, Qingdao and WTC Logistics opted for the South sprint (heading south back to Subic Bay) but the other nine are all going for the North sprint (heading away from Subic Bay). Thus both WTC and Qingdao are guaranteed bonus points in this race. The rest will have to battle it out as usual. In contrast to the lean mean machines that are the Clipper yachts, the Philippines has bikes with side attachments that are used to transport the whole family or goods for the market. Here’s one.

All of this is on the bike!