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

53. South of Rio

Back to my trip. I set off from London on Wednesday 9th October for a ten pm flight to Sao Paulo. I had to change here for a flight to Punta del Este: it was meant to be a five hour layover but the flight was delayed so I arrived in Punta at half four on Thursday 10th, with an hour’s taxi drive to the hotel close to the port. Thankfully not cancelled like Portimao! I didn’t know it at the time but there were at least another four Clipper people on the same flight. As I walked to the gate, I noticed this, with two of the five destinations being places I’ll be visiting. A long way round though, via Brazil!

Punta del Este airport is tiny, even thought International it’s not got any amenities at all. A shed is the customs and passport area. I had a walk around Punta in the evening and ended up having an early meal with a crew member from GoToBermuda at a self-service fast fish restaurant. Although he is a circumnavigator, he had to get off at Portimao and fly home for his daughter’s wedding in the USA. He’s not the only one, another circumnavigator had to do the same for his daughter’s wedding in Australia. These children are so thoughtless, interfering with their dads’ plans! Punta is a typical seaside town out of season, the view out of my hotel window seems to be a burnt out cinema. The summer starts in December and finishes in February so very short. Most of the tourists are from Brazil or Argentina, they have weekend apartments which are shut up most of the time. The Uruguayans are very friendly, nothing is too much trouble and the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. A new chap joining Unicef left his phone and cards on the bus: it turned up safely (but not, unfortunately, until he’d cancelled all his credit cards).

On Friday there was the excitement of waiting for the first two boats. There was a thunderstorm in the morning which blew over so I didn’t need my raincoat. I called into the Race Office to confirm that I was on the list for prize giving and other events, of which more later. Those of us who had arrived in time walked along the coastal path to see if we could spot the first yacht: as you’ll have read in Post 52 it was Qingdao. We waited to see them in, so we supporters had our lunch at about 3 pm. (They’d eaten before they came in, whilst preparing the boat and themselves for port). That evening we went to Moby Dick’s, a pub that seems to be the unofficial headquarters for Clipper. I also managed to book George into our hotel as he’d only booked an airbnb place from the 16th.

Spot Qingdao on the horizon

On Saturday there was an even bigger and noisier thunderstorm with fork lightening which lasted all day. George and I went out only as far as the next corner, where the Cuatro Mare restaurant was. Great food, a buffet with lots of salad which was just what George wanted after a month of tinned and dried food on board. As one of the first supporters into Punta I had been tasked with finding somewhere for us supporters to eat on Saturday night. Even though no boats were scheduled to arrive, I found us Le Marea, on the seafront just in case any sped up and arrived before they were expected. After that we had a post dinner drink at Moby Dicks.

Sunday was taken up with watching boats arrive and the celebratory beers in the Yacht Club. We waited at the Punta del Este Yacht Club and had lunch there. Each boat in the fleet has local “ambassadors”. We at Unicef are incredibly lucky with the Canepa family: Gabby, Norberto and their children Tito and Flopi! They are really looking after everyone and helping out with supplies, hospital visits etc. The hospital was for Angie, a RTW’er who managed to slip and break her wrist in the shower the first morning. She obviously hadn’t regained her land legs. Flopi is a photographer and a lot of the shots you’ll see on the official website were taken by her.

The Canepa family

John has a real beard, as you should have noticed in the last picture in Post 52. If not, here’s a close up. Whilst everyone agrees he looks like a real sailor now, they don’t have to kiss him! It’s very rough, like having a bristle brush thrust in your face. He’s allowed to keep it till next August then we’ll have another discussion. If he buys himself Crocs as well then I’m definitely not having him back!

Every day John had some task either on the boat (deep cleaning, sorting sails, showing local school children around) or near by (manning the spinnaker for signing at the Dome, sorting out the medical records and supplies for the boat). We managed to meet most days for lunch, sometimes with George, and had dinner together every evening. Tuesday night there was a tango demonstration which we felt was too short. Wednesday was the prize giving which of course was very exciting for Qingdao. Before that, in fact the first award of the night, was to Holly Williams on Unicef. She’s a paediatric surgeon from the USA who had raised the most money of all crew across the fleet. A great start! It was in the Yacht Club so not easy to get a good view. Here are the winning team with their pennant and Commodore’s Cup (which has to stay behind, I’m sure they’d not want that weight on board).

Spot the Joker

On Friday everyone had the afternoon off to go to an Asado hosted by the city. This is basically a meat feast. WHOLE cows, sheep etc are cooked on massive grills. I have some photos but thought you might be put off your chickpea stew. It was in a sculpture park around a lake and the weather, for once, was warm so no need for raincoats.

G&T at the Asado

Cast your minds back to Post 51. I mentioned that John had won the sweepstake for guessing the time they crossed the Equator. I think he won a Chupa Chup (he said “a lollipop”). That post was also where I said I’d bought something for Skipper Mike on Imagine Your Korea. I found him at the Asado and handed it over:

Mike’s Penguin keyring

If you’ve read his early blogs you’ll have seen he was desperate to see penguins. Now he’s got one to look at whenever he wants! Although I understand that some of the fleet saw Magellan penguins close to Uruguay.

On Saturday there was a beach clean which John and George took part in. I decided I didn’t have the energy to walk along the sand slowly digging things out so I went to help Holly in her new day job, as sail repairer.

I know it looks as though we’re all in bed, but we were doing a very important job. You can’t see the sewing machine behind the sail but we had to wrap the surplus material very tightly so it could pass behind the needle then feed it through whilst Holly sewed it up. You can just see Thom sitting behind us, he made sure the tension was kept steady. As the sewing machine only goes one way we had to thread it backwards and forwards. Prior to sewing, strips of material are cut and stuck to the tear. There are four to six lines of sewing per tear, so it’s a lot of work for each one. Then the sail is the size of a tennis court so it’s not easy to lay out and find all the damage. There were crew there every day for four days, on Saturday there were four of us supporters helping out to make sure it was finished. If you cannot mend it then it’s sent to professional sail repairers elsewhere. For ALL damage to the boat, any costs incurred are added up and if it exceeds £500 (across the whole race, not per leg) then penalty points are “awarded”. If you go into Race Viewer on a computer, under “overall race” you’ll see the penalty points in the final column before the total points. There aren’t any yet but keep an eye on it. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings.

That evening we had a birthday party for Alex, one of the Unicef crew. He and a few others had rented a “crew house” which was along the coast. We could not believe we weren’t back in the UK when we saw it. Maybe the colour of the sky is a giveaway.

This is in sharp contrast to George’s airbnb, which was a converted retail unit. The first hint of trouble was the railing he had to climb over to enter the block. There was then what looked like the ramp of a multi-storey car park to negotiate before he got to the unit, all glass so nice and airy. There was hot water, a bed, a shower with the toilet integral (I guess it was probably there first and the shower added when it became somewhere to sleep). However, there was no insulation and no heating so after one night he moved out to a place where other crewmates were, which was heated.

I’ve got lots more to write but other things to do so no more for now.

30. Four wee wheels and a handle

To misquote a film! I know, all my preparation seems to involve buying bags of varying sizes. I’ve realised that as I won’t have Sherpa John to carry them I need things I can manage myself. As well as the Clipper bag featured in post 5, I’ve got one that will go in the hold. Here the dogs are modelling it (to give a sense of scale). It’s of a type I vowed never to have, with four wheels, so it glides alongside when you’re walking. It is very light and I’ve tried it for real so I’m converted. I’ll need careful planning on what to take as I have my suspicions that I’ll be getting wish lists from MBB.

Can we come too?

Now that we know the main stops, I can sort out my jabs. I’ve gone onto the WHO website and looked at the Immunization Chart. To summarize, I will need yellow fever (with certificate), Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. I am advised to have Hepatitis B, Rabies, TB (tuberculosis), TBE (tick-borne encephalitis), JE (Japanese encephalitis) and Cholera. I’d best start now. There is one problem that you may have seen in the news recently, anyone over 60 (which I have to admit to being) has a greater risk of suffering nasty side effects with the yellow fever jab. A pal of ours has gone deaf and there was a recent death in the news. Maybe I’ll stay home after all. Oh, but we’ve got house-sitters coming in a month or so. Back to the travel clinic.

As for visas, I need them for the USA and China, possibly Panama, although I hear that the China visa has a time limit so I may have to leave that till later. In addition Australia may ask for a health check and proof of funds. They haven’t in the past so I should be OK. John did get a speeding fine out there some years ago which followed him back home, but we paid it so should be allowed back in!

Need to avoid this!

The languages are now known, I think. Spanish for Uruguay (which I’m learning how to spell) and Mandarin for China. The only hesitation is the first stop before Punta del Este. If it’s in Spain then great but if Brazil then I’ll need to add Portuguese. This does, of course, assume I have time to learn the languages as well as everything else I’m doing (mostly knitting hats).

I’ve started to look at the stopovers to see what sort of weather we can expect and what clothes to take. I rather wish I hadn’t. Ignoring the bit after Panama, which is yet to be confirmed, I’ve created the following table (at the bottom of this post). This is pretty simple but scary. If I don’t manage to get home between legs, then I’m going to need clothes that will be comfortable at 15 C up to 32 C during the day and down to 2 C at night. I think I’ll just copy John and George’s kit and have lots of layers. At least I won’t need ball gowns. I’ll put clothes on hold for another day.

As mentioned in post 3, I have a roll up keyboard which I can take with me. I found it the other day and unrolled it, only to find that half the keys were not doing anything. I’ve bought another as it was about two years old and I couldn’t find a warranty (nor for the new one).

What’s left? Oh yes, flights and hotels. The good news is that the official travel supplier to Clipper is also willing to help the supporters. I’ll be in touch with them next week about how to get from one place to another and which hotels to stay in. You never know, they may even be able to send bags of warm clothing to the right place so I don’t have to cart it around!

One last point for you all to note. Next Tuesday morning the Clipper website will be open to those supporters who wish to escort the Leaving Parade from a boat in the Thames at Tower Bridge down to the Thames Barrier. I wonder if it will be like Glastonbury and crash or be full within minutes? Most annoying is that I’ll not be home then so can’t sit on my computer pressing buttons. If I miss out I’ll just have to wave from the shore. This does have the advantage of seeing them slipping lines from the marina. Decisions decisions. I’m sure we’ll be having a farewell party in London before we go, but here’s the link if you want to see if you can get on a boat: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/clipper-2019-20-race-official-race-start-spectator-boat-tickets-tickets-63050263034

PlaceTimeTemp (day/night)
Punta del Este14 – 23 October22 / 13
Cape Town7 – 17 November23 / 13
Fremantle9 – 22 December25 / 15
Whitsundays9 – 18 January29 / 25
China (all)10 Feb – 26 March26-12 / 20-2 (yes, 2!)
Seattle19 April – 2 May15 / 6
Panama27 May – 5 June32 / 24