Sunday, 31 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 10

Sunday 17 May to Saturday 23 May 2020

Hurray, we've entered Phase 1 of de-escalation from Spain's Coronovirus lockdown. So, what does that mean in reality?

For us it means that we can go sailing with friends, but staying in the boundaries of the Malaga province which is south to Duquesa (12 miles) and north to Malaga (50 miles).  It also means that we can go out on our friends boats, which is exactly what we did on Thursday to celebrate our friend Richard's birthday.

Back on the sea at last!
Richard and Edita are moored next to us and over the last year have become good friends.  They own a 26 foot motor boat so when they invited us out for a whizz up the coast and supper at sunset, we jumped at the chance to get on the sea. 

It was a beautiful evening, perfect for an evening cruise and oh my did it feel good to be out there, with the wind blowing in our hair, spray on our faces and grins that a Cheshire cat would be envious of.  It made us both realise how much we miss the freedom of the sea!

Birthday girl!
We also celebrated our granddaughter Millie's 4th birthday.  We video called early in the morning so that we could sing 'happy birthday' and see her opening her presents from us.  Apparently she'd been up since 6am, but was still going strong.

It was lovely to see her so happy and I think it's safe to say she liked the Playdough Kitchen we bought her as we had to watch as she made us cookies with it. 

I'm really hoping that we'll be able to get back to England sometime soon, as much as I see the grandchildren on facetime, it's just not the same as having those little arms around your neck giving you the biggest hug.

Estepona comes back to life 
Moving into Phase 1 also meant that shops could open, albeit with strict distance and hygiene rules in place and bars and cafes could open if they had outdoor seating and could maintain the 2 metre distance rule.

Monday morning I headed off for my usual walk, but this time I could legitimately go into the town centre.  There were a number of shops open, but for me the best sight was seeing people sitting at the cafes having breakfast and talking as if nothing had happened.  Back at the marina, that too was full of life as fishing boats came in and unloaded their catches and large motorboats arrived at the boat yard.

The marina was bustling and noisy and by the end of the day, I was a bit emotional after seeing our beautiful Estepona slowly coming back to life and feeling a sense of comfort that things will get better.

Getting ready for the off!
Back on Offbeat it was time to check out the repairs we had done to the Ghoster sail - our lightweight, light-wind genoa.  Luckily we had a number of days with no wind (although by mid afternoon the heat was suffocatingly hot) so Mark could get it raised and check it thoroughly.  He also took the opportunity to fiddle about with its fittings so it raises and drops more easily. This sail is 40 years old - we inherited the original receipts when we bought Offbeat- and still works well for us. It was a beautiful sight to see the sail up and spurred us on to sit down and revise our plans for the summer so that we can get our fix of sailing and sightseeing. 

Our highlight of the week has to be our long lunch at our favourite restaurant La Escallera.  It is a fresh seafood restaurant set just behind the fishing dock and fish market and is always packed full of locals and some tourists.  It is so popular that you can't book a table, you turn up, put your name on the list and wait! 

When the wind did arrive at the tail end of the week, it was blowing a Levanter.  This is a problem for us as it means that the wind blows the smell of cooking from La Escallera straight over to our boat.  You may think it would be a fishy smell, but I can assure you it's not.  It is the most mouthwatering combination of fish, shellfish, herbs and cooking which, in combination with the happy chatter of diners, makes the place irresistible.  As we hadn't been out for 10 weeks, we owed ourselves a treat and boy did we have one. Octopus, squid and baby sole washed down with chilled Albarino.

If ever there was food porn, this was it!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 9

Sunday 10 May to Saturday 16 May 2020

No pasa a la fase 1 😣
After the highs of the previous week and the eagerness we witnessed of people getting their boats ready to go out and a few bars getting ready to welcome customers,  the week started a bit of a low.  The Spanish Government had announced the regions that would be moving into Phase 1 of de-escalation and whilst the majority of Andalucia would start to open for business on Monday morning,  the provinces of Malaga and Granada were not included. We are in the Malaga province.

Come Monday morning, there was a real sense of disappointment and a subdued atmosphere around the marina, but also quiet resignation that if we needed to be protected for another week, so be it.  We would move into Phase 1 soon or later

With the prospect of not getting out and about just yet, we carried on with some of our projects.  Mark's on bit of a mission now to reduce 'the stuff' (my words, not his) in his project box and reduce the clutter that he has accumulated.

In the meantime,  I've found a cunning way of getting my morning exercise in and do the shopping at the same time.  There is a lovely little greengrocer's about a mile away, that sells fresh produce from Estepona and the surrounding area.  It's great to be able to buy vegetables that are freshly picked and are not prepacked, plus we're supporting local farmers and businesses. So, each morning I head off to the shop with shopping bag in hand, just in case I get stopped by the police again!

Just a small job!
After one of my little shopping trips,  I came back to this.  Mark had decided that today would be the day to fit the extra flexible water tank in the bilge area under our bed.  We've had the tank since before we left England but had never got round to fitting it.  To fit the tank, Mark had to remove the mattress, drawers, wall paneling and bed structure.  

The boat was in complete upheaval. Previously when I've come back to this I've turned round and gone straight back out again, but this time I couldn't.  I therefore became the plumbers apprentice, making tea and handing tools whilst he had half his body twisted in the bilge or under the bed.  And I'm very pleased to say, the new tank is installed and working and the boat has been put back together.

Gibraltar and Jebel Musa
Although we are allowed to go out for exercise daily between 6am-10am and 8pm-11pm, we haven't really taken advantage of it as we don't tend to eat until late now because it is still so hot until the sunsets. However, we did go out one night for a short walk to the viewpoint which is about one kilometre away and has great views of Gibraltar and North Africa.
Maintaining social distancing 
It was a beautiful calm evening,  the sun was setting, the Starlings and Wagtails were in the trees making the last calls of the evening and the Seagulls were perched on the crane, observing the rules on social distancing!

Oh how we love Spain!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV week 8

Sunday 3 May to Saturday 9 May 2020

With the entering of Phase 0 of the de-escalation plan (still can't understand why Phase 0!) we saw the gradual return of familiar faces to the marina as Isaac, Richard and Pedro all took the first opportunity available to come and check their boats.  Mark was in his element. And, if I'm honest, I was just a little bit emotional hearing the sound of mens chatter and laughter and the roar of engines as boats were kicked back into life. Perhaps the 'new norm' wouldn't be so bad after all.

Before and after
One of the improvements I've been suggesting ("nagging" in Mark's words) for some time is to have a splash back put in place on the worktop between the galley and the saloon.  You would not believe the amount of times I've been chopping veg or cutting fresh crusty bread, only to find that half of it ends up in the saloon sofa or floor.  

Well, my wish came true as Mark cunningly recycled a shelf from the galley and fitted it with brackets and installed it between galley and lounge.  It isn't permanently fixed, so we can take it out and clean and it still needs painting and varnishing, but I am so pleased with it and it really makes a difference when preparing and cooking food.  Funny how it's the little things that bring you pleasure! 

Another job that came to fruition this week was the unveiling of the cockpit sunshade.  Over the winter months I had spent hours sewing binding onto the edges to reinforce the strength.  As the sunshade is about 7 meters long and 4 meters wide, there was a lot of sewing but, when we put the sunshade up and saw it in all its glory, it was well worth the work.  It was also nice to receive compliments from other boat owners although we do think we look a bit like sea gypsies at times, especially with the washing on the line!

Our week ended on a real high as our new barbecue arrived just in time for the weekend.  Those that know me will know that I have wanted a boat barbecue since before we left England.  Mark had made the mistake of showing me a picture of one that sat in a stainless steel holder made by the same guys that made and fitted our grab rail.  But, we had never got round to buying one as our boat budget was always swallowed up by things like engine parts and nuts and bolts. I never gave up hope though.

Just one of many beautiful sunsets
Anyway, last year whilst on our summer travels, it became far too hot to have the cooker on in the galley, so we mainly lived off cold meats, cheese and salads. A barbecue would have been perfect for cooking whilst enjoying a chilled glass of wine as the sunset on another hot balmy Mediterranean day. 

Whilst planning for our travels this year, we did quite a bit of reminiscing,  talking about what worked well, what wasn't so good and what could we improve to make life better. The subject of a barbecue came up and Mark suggested that it would be great if we had a portable barbecue which we could use on the boat, but also take ashore if we wanted a barbecue on the beach. And, there was enough money in the budget to buy it.  I thought it was a wonderful idea. Eager to close the deal before he changed his mind or more engine parts were needed, I said let's get it ordered as soon as so that we have it for when lockdown is lifted.  Mark ordered it from a marine store in Malaga and it arrived within a couple of weeks. We have used it quite a few times already and the food is delicious.   

I think it's safe to say it was a good investment and will certainly see a lot of use over the coming months.

And someone certainly seems pleased with it!

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 7

Sunday 26 April - Saturday 2 May 2020

The week started to the sound of children's chatter and laughter as they gradually returned to the port to enjoy the freedom and sunshine and to ride their bikes or scooters and feed the fish.  After six weeks of eery silence, it was a beautiful sound. A bit like the dawn chorus on a spring morning. 

I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the children of Spain, especially those that live in apartments. At least as adults we could go out to the shops, but for some of the children their only escape would have been a balcony. And having witnessed first hand how sociable and family orientated local families are, this for them, would be like the first shoots of Spring.

Happy birthday 
Other joyous occasions during the week was celebrating our daughter Victoria's birthday (affectionately known as Pip) and my brother Glen's 60th birthday.  Both were celebrated via video call with a glass of wine to raise a toast.  We are dearly hoping that once the 'new norm' settles in and we have a better insight into how travelling by aeroplane is going to work, we can go back to England to see our families and do some partying!

Social distancing rules observed!

We also had a visit from staff from the marina to formerly thank us for choosing their marina to stay in.  I'm not quite sure why they gave Mark the wine, they obviously don't know me that well, but it was a lovely gesture and it made good headlines on their social media.  And you'll be pleased to know the wine wasn't too bad either.

Views from Playa del Cristo
In response to the falling number of new Coronavirus cases, the Government announced that as of 2 May, everybody would be allowed out for exercise or walking, but only within a given timeslot and for those walking, within 1 kilometre of their home. 

So, Saturday night, with masks and gloves in place we headed off to the mirador overlooking Playa del Cristo.  And what a treat it was. A beautiful warm evening, with clear skies and as the sun set, it illuminated north Africa beautifully. It reminded us once again why we love Estepona so much, with its pretty town, friendly people and views across to the next continent. 

Just visiting! 
On a final note, our week was completed by a visit late one afternoon by these gorgeous but bedraggled Swallows that we think were migrating north.  Sitting below in the cabin, with hatches all open, we heard the very loud sound of birds chirping away.  Tentatively getting up to have a look, I found these four, sitting on the guard rail next to the open hatch, singing away. They stayed there a good few minutes and I was so lucky to get these charming photos of them. 

Moments like that are so precious in these strange times.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 6

Sunday 19 April - Saturday 25 April 2020

I think we lost our mojo a bit this week as for us, it's been a relatively low key, lazy week.  No major projects, just admin and pottering around.

Happy Anniversary!
Except that we did celebrate our third wedding anniversary, albeit it very tame for us. No big night out, just a nice meal and a bottle of wine.  Crikeys, I can remember the days when we would party hard until the early hours but at the moment it all seems very sensible.  I know that they say life will never be the same, but I hope the spirit of some things return. Most likely when our Swedish friends Elisabeth and Tim return!

Admin took the form of preparing a shopping list of things to order now that some of the shops in Spain are open and Mark found out that his favourite Ferreteria delivers.  

We also had a serious look at what we could feasibly do cruising wise this summer.  Whilst we would dearly love to go back to the Balearics,  we were both in agreement that given that this was looking less and less possible.   Whilst there is talk of easing restrictions in Spain, we don't know what that will look like and when the maritime restrictions would be lifted.  Some say that aviation and maritime will be the last to be lifted, who knows!

So given the uncertainty and how the situation is in Spain, we have decided to stay in Estepona until at Spring 2021.  We have agreed that if we can go out sailing we would still like to do that, but no further than 100 miles (24 hours sailing time) from Estepona.  If there was to be a further lockdown  in Spain we would want to get back to Estepona where we know the lay of the land and feel relatively safe.

Cruising ground 2020
This still leaves us plenty of places to explore though.  We have mapped out that we could go as far as Cabo de Gata, which we absolutely love or to Melilia on the North African coast.  Then there is Morocco itself or even popping out through the Gibraltar Staits to visit Cadiz. Only time will tell where we'll end up!

Latest figures published for Spain indicated that the virus appears to be coming under control.  Whilst the totals are still shockingly high, with 223,759  confirmed cases and 22,902 deaths, the rate of acceleration of contaigon and deaths is slowing.  However, the Spanish Government are not yet ready to take the risk of relaxing lockdown as the extention to the State of Alarm was approved until 10 May.  The only concession the Government has made is that minors under the age of 14 can go out with one parent for one hour a day within a 1 kilometre radius of their home.  Eveything else stays the same for the time being.

On a happier note, we have been enjoying the company of our new friends, the sparrows.  I feed them twice a day, morning and early evening and even bought them some seed to give them a bit of variety. In return, we get a dawn chorus in the morning which, at 6.30am, I'm not sure if it's to thank us or wake us!

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 5

Sunday 12 April to Saturday 18 April 2020

Week five started on a high as it was Easter Sunday and although the weather was wet and gloomy, it was a day to enjoy.  Normally I would have gone to church as the mass on Easter Sunday is usually very joyous and uplifting.  This year there was no service, except for those being broadcast on the television, but the bells did ring out at midday.

I couldn't help but reflect on the difference to last year.  We had spent the Easter weekend in Estepona and Easter Sunday had been a wonderful day. I had gone to mass at our local church and seeing all the children, parents and grandparents in their Sunday best had reminded me of when I was a child and we would do the same.  Mark had joined me for the procession from the church and we had followed it for a while.  We then had lunch in a very local restaurant surrounded by lots of families all talking and laughing and we felt a real part of the community. No wonder we love Estepona so much! 

Easter Sunday treats
We did celebrate in style though with video calls to the grandchildren (who were bouncing off the walls with the sugar rush) in the morning, followed by a full roast dinner, nice bottle of red wine, delicious rosquillas from our friend Paci and Laphroig from our friend Peter (this was Mark's treat!). All in all, a lovely day. 

With the weather forecast for the week continuing to be unsettled we looked at getting on with a project inside the boat.  There were a number that we could have chosen, but Mark decided that he would 'crack on' with the aft cabin.  

Man on a mission!
First major project was to remove the foam/glue in the storage area.  This would involve removing everything that was stored there which is mainly sails, dinghy equipment and our sailing gear and as this had to go on deck, timing with the weather was critical.  Removing the foam/glue was a long tedious job using the heatgun, scrapers and the electric multitool.  As you can imagine, it was rather a messy job but Mark managed to get it done and together we cleaned the aft cabin storage area and got everything back in place before the next band of rain came through.

Second project in the aft cabin took a bit longer and involved having to sleep on the bunks in the cabin for two nights.

Back in winter,  before Coronavirus and lockdown hit us, we had decided to insulate our side of the aft cabin (where we sleep). We had made this decision based on our experience last year in the Balearics. Mark had already bought the insulation so we were ready to go.

Before we left England for our adventure,  Mark had insulated the ceiling in the saloon cabin with reflective lining which reflects the heat off the boat and keeps the temperature cooler than otherwise could be.  In the heat of summer last year and using an infrared thermostat, he took a reading of the saloon cabin ceiling and the heads ceiling, which highlighted a difference of between 5° and 10°, a lot when it's  35°+ outside.

🤔 no words needed!
In preparation, I had previously stripped the foam and glue off the walls, so it was all primed and ready to go.  The plan was to first glue on the insulation and then cover the insulation with cork, which could then be either varnished or painted. We set about removing the mattress and covering everywhere with protective plastic.

To cut a very long story short, we only got as far as putting up the lining as we ran out of adhesive and with everywhere shut, couldn't buy anymore.  The fumes of the glue from the lining forced us to sleep in the saloon, with the aft door shut but aft cabin window open and fans on to try and expel the smell.

As with all projects we do, why do one when you can do three!  Next day, Mark decided it would be a good time to fit an extractor fan in the aft cabin above our bed and do some plumbing ready to fit a flexi tank under our bed.  Unfortunately it wasn't possible to complete both these jobs in one day and as much as I love the idea of sleeping under the stars, I didn't fancy sleeping with a hole in the roof with possible showers on the way. Hence our second night on the bunks in the saloon.

I'm glad to say though that true to his word the work was completed the next day and order was restored. And boy was that bed comfy after two nights on cushions with little foam.

The Coronavirus situation in Spain this week has, if not improved, at least plateaued and people are hopeful that the measures put in place by the Spanish Government are working with the results being fewer new cases and less deaths than last week. As of Saturday, the total number of people infected with Coronavirus stood at 99,576 and sadly  the death toll had reached 20,043. There is still a long way to go before free movement will be restored, but hopefully we are heading in the right direction.

There was a semblance of normality returning this week in the fishing port with the lifting of restrictions on non-essential workers.  It was quite reassuring to hear the sound of the fishing boat engines and the voices of the fishermen as they set off early in the morning for their days fishing.  Watching them return was a treat too and I know the Seagulls were overjoyed!

Birthday celebrations 
The highlight of the week though has to be our grandson Finlay's 6th birthday.  How do you celebrate a birthday when the family can't get together? You have a party via videoconferencing of course. It was great fun and was really special, especially when we sung happy birthday whilst he blew the candles out on his cake.  True 21st century celebration.

I think he had a good time, but after an hour of complete chaos I had to have a very large glass of wine!

Friday, 17 April 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 4

Sunday 5 April - Saturday 11 April 2020

The week started on a positive high note. The marinero informed us that the postman had tried to deliver a parcel for us but as there was no one in the office they had to take it back.  It was waiting for collection from the post office in town if one of us wanted to go and get it.

That was it, the excuse I'd been waiting for to get out and have a proper walk. I would go and collect the parcel and there was no arguing!

Hair, makeup and decent outfit on I was ready to go.  But, before I could leave, Mark insisted I wear a mask. That seriously cramped my style. Never mind, I was not to be put off.  Out I went into the big wide world, clutching the postal notification in my hand as if my life depended on it.

Walking along the streets, it wasn't as quiet as I thought it would be as people were busying around doing their shopping. Arriving at the post office, there were several people in front of me and it was one out, one in. I ended up waiting about 20 minutes for my turn, but I didn't care, it was a change of view and a bit of people watching.

Parcel collected (Mark's new socks!) I decided to go to the fruit and veg shop close by to pick up fresh fruit and veg that's grown locally. Again there was a queue to go in, but the wait was worth it to be able to buy carrots with their tops still on, together with freshly picked avocados and oranges.

On the way back to the marina I talk a short walk on the promenade which is technically out of bounds but I was desperate to see the beach and sea.  It was really sad to see the beach cordoned off when only a few weeks ago families had been celebrating Dia de Andalucia. It was empty, except for somebody by the waters edge with a metal detector which was really random considering a) we're in lockdown and b) the beach is out of bounds. But hey, each to their own! 

As you can imagine, trying to keep occupied and motivated during lockdown can be challenging at times so we try to vary our activity as much as possible. For me, I've set myself a goal of walking 5 miles a day, which in itself isn't hard, but can be challenging when you only have a 100 metre path to use.

Mark is continuing with his fishing and has progressed to the end of the pontoon in the hope that he'll have more luck catching them as they swim past. He really hoped that he could catch some fish for Good Friday as it's the one day of the year I refuse to eat meat day (the Catholics amongst us will get it) but unfortunately he didn't catch anything so it was off pre-bought prawns and octopus cooked up in homemade paella!

As well as fishing, he's busy on a new race on the virtual regatta. This time they are sailing from Cape Verde to Cadiz, racing 16th century 'Caravels'. It's a 2,000 mile race and by Saturday he'd covered about 1,000 miles. As it's done in real-time, it's made him realise what a long slog ocean racing is. 

In between rain showers (don't ask, the weather is awful at times) we've managed to fit in a few jobs that were on the endless 'to do' list. Of particular note is the fridge fan, fitted next to the fridge compressor so that it keeps it cool.  It has the added bonus of having a light fitting as well, so we can have a funky illuminated sink if we want! He has also been busy adding a wifi AIS set, fixing a bad connection on the vhf radio arial and an exhaust temperature alarm so that we get a warning if the engine is overheating. For my bit, I've been polishing the stainless steel, removing rust spots and generally revitalising it all.   

As we entered the fourth week of lockdown, the extension to the State of Alarm was approved by the Spanish Government, so there will be no movement until at least 25 April.  Although Spain appears to have reached the peak of infections and deaths,  there is talk of a further extension until 10 May albeit some sectors may return to work earlier.  As of Saturday, the total number of Coronavirus infections stands at 163,027 and the number of deaths due to Coronavirus is 16,606. Social distancing in Spain is still a critical part of trying to get control of the virus and to this end, the police are taking a firmer approach to people who are recklessly breaking quarantine, with reports of hefty fines and for persistent offenders, a short jail term.

It's not all doom and gloom though, there have been some positive highlights to the week.  With the closure or restaurants and bars around the marina, we have noticed Sparrows searching for food so we've sort of adopted them and make sure that they have a daily supply of fresh. In return, they chirrup us in the morning which gladdens your heart in these uncertain times. 

Monday, 6 April 2020

Diary of a live aboard in lockdown - CV Week 3

Sunday 29 March - Saturday 4 April 2020

With the sun shining and another two weeks of lockdown in place, we have, for us, had quite a lazy week.  Well, when I say lazy, I mean we've been doing light work rather than hard physical jobs.

The week started with a beautiful sunny day and a 2 mile run on our pontoon. Being plugged in to Steve Wright's Sunday love songs helped me through.  I'd forgotten how much harder it is running in full sun!

At last, lunch in the sun!
It was such a lovely day that we took the canvas tent off Offbeat and had our first meal of the year in full glorious sunshine.   

Naturally it had to be accompanied by wine and beer!

The ever changing weather! 
Tuesday saw the return of the wind and rain and it's been like for most of the week.  We try and keep our spirits up with keeping busy doing project work, baking, playing card games, reading or updating the blog.  

Mark has been busy this week with his virtual race as it drew to a close on Friday night. He was leading in his group of friends and as they were only a few miles behind him and he didn't want to loose his advantage. 

Keeping the boredom at bay
So, Mr Competitive stayed up until 5am Saturday morning to make sure he came in first in their group.  Overall he came 4,080th out of 34,000 competitors which is good going considering it was his first time in a virtual race. The next one starts tomorrow from Cape Verde Islands to Cadiz, racing 16th Century 'Caravels', which will keep him busy.

We try and keep up to date with what's happening in Spain and the UK even though at times it can be hard going.

This week was a particularly difficult week for Spain, with the number of new cases and the number of deaths increasing every day.  Thursday was indeed a bleak day, when 950 deaths were reported in a 24 hour period.  This figure will most likely increase as it is currently counted by those who died in hospital. The current number of reported cases of Coronavirus are 130,759 and reported deaths stands at 12,418.  Sadly, these figures place Spain as the second highest country of recorded cases (second to th US).

Such is the strength of feeling across Spain to try and stop the virus spreading any further, the Government announced on Saturday a further extension to the State of Alarm meaning that the country will continue with its enforced lockdown until April 25.  For us that means no movement from Estepona at all, not that we would want to leave without saying goodbye to our friends. 

Speaking of which, we have made good friends with the ladies who look after the marina and clean the facilities. We tend to see them most days, either to wave and shout 'hola' or have a chat with them (observing the 2 metre rule).  It's a great way for us to practice our Spanish and for them to practice their English and we often share stories of our children and families. 

Friday morning one of them, Paci, was calling to us from the pontoon.  Mark went to see what was up, but nothing was wrong, she had just brought us a selection of homemade cakes.  Her mother is with her and loves to bake and we were the lucky recipients. 

The cakes were traditional Easter cakes that are made to celebrate Semana Santa (Easter Week) and as everyone is confined to their homes this year, what better way to celebrate than to eat lots of sugary cakes. Delicious! 

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Diary of living aboard under lockdown - CV Week 2

SUNDAY 22 MARCH 2020 - SATURDAY 28 MARCH 2020 (Week 2)

We decided on a change of format this week,  mainly because we weren't doing enough to warrant a day by day account of our life in lockdown.  If we were bored of trying to find something interesting to write about,  then readers would be even more bored reading it. So, here are the highs and the lows of Week 2 in lockdown.

It seems that since we have been in lockdown the weather has decided to reflect the mood of the country.  

The week started with high winds and rain and by Monday we had thunderstorms thrown into the mix too (called tormentas in Spain, love that word!). The wind was howling, the boat was rocking from the swell of the waves and the heavens opened up.  After a week of wind and rain we were getting cabin fever.

Pantalan 2
Our back garden!
I decided that for my own sanity I needed to get back to my running and walking regime, if for nothing else but to stop me going stir crazy. So, on with the trainers and up and down the pontoon I went.  I think people on the boats on the next pontoon thought I was mad, but I didn't care, it felt good to be out in the fresh air doing something.  Mark and I also try and do at least 10,000 steps a day (that's 100 lengths of the pontoon!) just to keep the circulation going and get some fresh air and he's now joining in with running as well.

Mark has also been trying his luck with fishing. One of the plus sides of the weather is that it supposedly brings sea bass in at sunset. So, with new lures on the line, he's been fishing off the side of the boat.   He hasn't caught anything yet, but he's been honing his skills for when we can set sail and want to catch fish for supper. He's also been busy with his online virtual regatta. He's really enjoying the challenge of sailing in the Pacific and it's good fun having a few friends in the race as well.  I'm not so sure though when he's up at 5am checking the wind and his position on his phone!

By Wednesday the weather had started to improve, but the sea was still as wild as anything.  From Offbeat we could hear the waves crashing against the breakwater so walked to the end of the pontoon to have a look.  Wow, what a sight as they came crashing over the wall.  At the same time we saw a small fishing boat heading out of the marina and we both held our breath as it made it's way gingerly through the entrance.  Once through, the engine roared and off it went to get its daily catch.

Thursday and the sun was shining, the westerly Poniente wind was blowing warm air so it was time to do a few jobs outside.  Washing done, dried and put away, I got on with washing down the decks.  The rain and wind of the last week had brought with an enormous amount of red dust so this needed cleaning off and as it gets in the ropes as well, they needed hosing down too.  Mark got busy washing and rinsing the ropes that we were using for mooring as they were covered in salt as well as red dirt.  

The day was rounded off with a beautiful sunset, clear sky and the sound of applause, music, flashing lights and sirens as at 8pm every evening people go onto their balconies to thank those that are keeping the country going.  Although there's only us on the pontoon, we join in too, Mark with his cow bell (oh how he enjoys this) and me with my flashing torch!

Living in your own little world on a boat, it's very easy to isolate yourselves away from what is going on in the rest of the world, so keeping abreast of the news in Spain is important to us and we check online news outlets on a daily basis.  On Wednesday it was confirmed that as the number of new cases of Coronavirus illness and deaths continues to rise in Spain, the country would extend lockdown until at least Saturday 11 April 2020.  

At the time of writing the blog on Saturday evening there have been 72,248, confirmed Coronavirus cases and 5,690 confirmed deaths. The Spanish government announced that all non-essential workers have now been ordered to stay at home. Its worrying that there are ever increasing restrictions to try and stem the spread of this disease.

I wanted to end this week's blog on a high and what better way than to share how we keep in touch with our loved ones.  WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger all play a big part in our lives at the moment and keeps us in regular contact with our nearest and dearest.  It always brightens our day when we get photos or videos of the grandchildren and their latest antics.  My latest means of communication is Houseparty, an app that allows you to video call with a number of people at the same time. The highlight of the week was, using this app, having all the grandchildren video calling at the same time.  It was mayhem but reminded us of what normality is for our family! 

Family time on
Mother's Day

Millie self isolating!

Olivia and Finlay digging the garden!

Monday, 23 March 2020

Diary of living aboard under lockdown - CV Week 1

Mark and I have been keeping a close eye on the developments of Coronavirus-19 (CV) for the best part of the week.  It was brought further to the front of our minds today when some very close friends who were due to go to England on Thursday cancelled their flights as they didn't feel it was safe to travel.
CV was something lurking in the background of our lives. We had read all about the devastation it had caused in China and Italy,  but as we watched the number of cases rise in Spain (second highest outbreak in Europe after Italy) we started to realise that the virus was getting closer to us. With confirmed cases in La Linea and Marbella, both 20 miles either side of Estepona, it was only a matter of time before CV would affect our lives too.
Thursday afternoon was the first inkling that radical action would be taken.  The Regional Government of Murcia announced that they were closing schools and colleges, banning the gathering of large crowds and recommended the closure of bars and restaurants. 
By Thursday evening the Catalunia region and Madrid had followed suit,  requesting that residents only leave their homes if it urgent or essential to do so. 
Based on our experience of Spain, we knew that it would only be a matter of time before the Regional Government of Andalucia did the same.  It was clear that the autonomus governments were taking matters into their own hands and not waiting for central government to make decisions for them. 

This was unchartered territory for us and we didn't know how it was going to pan out so, that evening, we made plans for all eventualities. 

Cases 5,232  Deaths 133

We didn't have to wait long.  

Friday morning we had an announcement from the Junta de Andalucia (Regional Government of Andalucia) that all schools and public services would be suspended until the end of the month.   By Friday evening they had further recommended that commercial and leisure establishments close and people stay at home. 
At this stage, these were recommendations and could not be enforced.  That would involve the central Government of Spain approving a State of Alarm by Royal Decree. 
Life in Estepona carried on as normal though. Bars and restaurants were still open, the port area still had tourists milling around, the fishing boats were still motoring in and out with their catches and boats were still enjoying the freedom of going in and out of the marina. 
We had decided on Thursday night that we would get some provisions in, just in case. We don't have the room at the moment to store lots of food, so no panic buying for us, just the weekly shop.
Luckily the Spanish don't do panic buying either. The culture is very much buy fresh on the day or for a few days, so the shelves were stocked and there was plenty for everyone.   It helped that supermarkets were one of the commercial businesses that were excluded from recommended closure so families knew that whatever happened in the next few days or weeks, food would still be available. 

Mark spoke to his mum and his sister, Jo about flying to England in case his mum needs help in the coming weeks. It really brought home the seriousness of the situation when the concensus was agreed that it was more dangerous to risk infecting her than it could be helpful.

Cases 6,391   Deaths 196
News spreads of central Government meeting today to discuss approving and implementing a State of Alarm.  They will be meeting in the afternoon and many Spanish friends see it as just a formality of rubber stamping the resolution.  However, given that it's a hung parliament, nothing is ever that simple.  
Whilst awaiting the news, we carried on with normal life.
We headed off to finish the last of the shopping (most important,  beer and wine which I couldn't carry yesterday). Our local supermarket is still fully stocked, but is considerably busier, most likely because news of recommended closures has filtered down and because it's the weekend.  People were taking it very seriously in the supermarket and respecting the 2 meter distance. As one lady explained,  she has an elderly parent live with her and so cannot take the risk of people getting close and potentially picking up the virus. 
Back from the supermarket and the first of our visitors arrive.  We haven't had anybody on the boat for weeks, and then as soon as it's isolation time, people have time on their hands and want to visit!
First off were Pedro and Tanya, a lovely young couple who have a boat on the next pontoon.  Unfortunately a couple of weeks ago when they were trying to moor their boat, their bow was caught by a strong gust of wind and went down the side of Offbeat.  There wasn't too much damage, just a bit of polishing and buffing needed so they came over to do the work.  Work completed,  they stayed about an hour chatting about life on board and the wonders of sailing.  Pedro also gave us the heads up on where to go dolphin watching. 
Next up was our friend Isaac who had been to check his boat and asked Mark to help him on a little job.  After coffee and a good chat, they headed off to Isaac's boat to complete the job.
Closure notice on the bar next to the marina
Meanwhile on the marina front, there were still a few bars and restaurants open, doing business. However,  by late afternoon they had all closed, washed down, pinned notices on doors and sent staff home.  Armageddon had arrived!

We decided that if this was how it was going to be for the next couple of weeks, we might as well get on with some jobs.  First up, seeing if the outboard engine worked so that we can sell it. 

Mark entertaining the marina 

Yep, it sort of worked and Mark provided entertainment for the marina as well! He thinks that the carburetor needs cleaning. Another job for the to do list.

SUNDAY 15 MARCH 2020 - Day 1
Cases 7,988 Deaths 294
Reading the news online, we find out that after a seven hour meeting and a series of delays, the Spanish Prime Minister announced the conditions of the State of Alarm that had been approved and that had gone into immediate effect.
The Prime Minister confirmed that people would be required to stay home and that all non-essential shops would close, along with bars, restaurants, cafes and cinemas.  Supermarkets, small food shops, pharmacies and petrol stations were among those that could remain open. 
The marina was eerily quiet.  Usually on a Sunday morning we hear soft noise as market stall holders set up for the day.  Estepona has a very popular and lively market on a Sunday that attracts a lot of visitors,  not just to the market but to surrounding bars, restaurants and cafes. 
This Sunday there was nothing, no noise at all. No distant murmur of chatter or vehicles, no noisy conversations coming from the local fish restaurant and most notably,  no people. It was like a ghost town. All that was needed was tumble weed blowing down the street! 

MONDAY 16 MARCH 2020 - Day 2
Cases 9,942 Deaths 342

One of the things we do on a daily basis first thing in the morning is to check the weather. Not only was the news of Coronavirus in Spain grim, the weather forecast for the foreseeable future was grim too!

Heavy rain and strong winds were predicted to arrive Tuesday morning so Monday was a day of preparing for a long week ahead.

The dinghy had to be stowed, cockpit and fore deck cleared, mooring lines adjusted cockpit tent secured and clothes washed, aired and put away.

Jobs done, we spent quite a while reading up on 'lockdown in Spain' to find out what it would mean for the ordinary people.  Basically  it meant that unless you were going to the supermarket, pharmacy, petrol station, laundrette or pet store, you were not allowed to leave your home.

Monday morning saw the closure of all parks and beaches, not just in Estepona but across the whole of Spain.  The police helicopter was active as well, flying up and down the coastline probably to make sure no one was breaking the law.  On the spot fines of up to €600 could be given to anyone found breaking the law, and the Spanish police don't do negotiation, so best to stay in.

Closer to home, the marina announced that it would be closed to the public but if you needed help or assistance the marineros would still be on hand to help. 

We were also hearing stories of marinas being closed to passing yachtsman although this wasn't actually confirmed until Wednesday. 

On reflection it was a strange day. It is very easy to get caught up in your own little world when living on a boat, life can be a bit surreal but reading information on the internet brought home to us just how vulnerable we can be to the virus as well. The one good side though is that for us, isolation means being the only boat users on our pontoon, living behind a locked gate and having sea views

TUESDAY 17 MARCH 2020 - Day 3
Cases 11,826  Deaths 533

I woke up in the morning feeling terrible. I had a sore throat and a really heavy head but thankfully no temperature. 

As the weather was due to turn on Tuesday I called a duvet day and went back to bed where I read and slept on and off for most of the day.

Mark is keeping watch on a few boats for friends that are either in England or locked down in Spain, so with bad weather forecast he headed off to check on the boats. He also ventured a trip to the supermarket for soup and fresh bread.

As predicted, the wind and rain arrived.  When you're on the boat and you hear the rain lashing down and the wind whistling in the rigging you can either feel exhilarated or thoroughly miserable.  For me it was the latter, but for Mark he was exhilarated. Although the wind can be very unpredictable, he loves that about life on a boat whereas I'm not a great lover of surprises, especially in these sort of conditions. 

We both realised that if we were to get through lockdown with our sanity in tact, we needed to find things to do, other than just maintenance jobs.

Mark's escape has come in the form of a virtual regatta that he's joined. It is a race from Panama to Chile via the Galapagos islands. The sailing is done in realtime and based on current weather conditions. Whilst not the real thing, it does test you navigating skills to try and get the best course for your boat.  As a number of his friends are also in the race it's getting rather competitive!

For me, I want to focus on learning Spanish and doing some research on the Spanish Civil War.  I've never really bothered with either of these things before, but now, being in Spain and making connections with my Spanish family I feel it's important to speak to them in their language and to gain a better understanding of what my Dad went through all those years ago.

We headed off to bed early, shore in the knowledge that it wasn't going to be a restful night, given the predicted winds would be near gale force. But, there was a sense of reassurance when we heard two marineros walking along the pontoon chattering away as they checked all the boats. It gave a sense of normality and comfort to the unknown world we were now living in.

WEDNESDAY 18 MARCH 2020 - Day 4
Cases 14,769 Deaths 638

Sure enough, by 2am we were woken by the sound of something dramatically flapping in the wind. 

Mark got up to take a look and sure enough, the Genoa on the boat opposite us had come loose, the wind had caught it and the boat was preparing to set sail! After a quick call to the marineros, Mark headed off to sort it out.

Boy were those marineros on the ball. They were there immediately and together they sorted out the sail. I was on the foredeck keeping watch and capturing the events on video!

Drama over, we had a cup of tea and took some time for the adrenaline to fade. It's reassuring to know that no matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, there are people around to help.

The wind and rain continued for the rest of the day, so it was another day of pottering about in the boat and keeping up to date with developments in Spain and by now the UK too.

In Spain, nearly all tourists had left. In Andalucia all hotels were closed on Tuesday, TUI and Easyjet had cancelled all flights to and from Malaga and Ryanair had cancelled 80% of flights.  The British Foreign Office were advising not to travel and the spectacular processions that take place during Easter week had been cancelled across the province including Malaga and Seville.   

This would have a huge impact on the economy with an estimated €5.5 billion lost in tourism.  

In other news, areas of Andalucia were put on Amber weather warning alert as forecasters predicted a return to winter conditions on Thursday with a possible Gota Fria (cold drop).  

THURSDAY 19 MARCH 2020 - Day 5
Cases 18,077  Deaths 831

Feeling a lot better and with the weather a bit calmer, I decided to take a walk up to the small supermarket for some bread and a few bits.  I would do the big shop at the large supermarket on Friday. 

As it was quite a nice morning I thought I'd stretch my legs and go the long way, which involves walking along the marina front, up a small hill and then walk back on yourself along the main road. 

Wrong decision. 

As I'm walking along the front past all the closed restaurants the police helicopter decides to fly over looking for all the naughty people who are not obeying the rules. 

I don't think much of it and carry on walking, along the road and then up the hill.  At which point a police car comes along.

Oh s**t thinks me and yes, the car stops.

The young policeman (who looked about 12) winds down his window and goes to speak. But, I get in first, waving my bags in his face and saying very loudly in Spanish "el supermercado", "el supermercado". The poor boy looks terrified, puts the window up and waves me off. 

I'm still not sure whether it was because of my perfect Spanish or the manic look in my eyes.  Needless to say, I took the quickest route back.

Meanwhile in the news, the Andalucian Government announced a €1000 million package of support to businesses and the self-employed whose work has been affected by Coronavirus and photos were published of the Gota Fria that hit the Sierra Nevada and Ronda!

Sierra Nevada 

Road from Ronda to San Pedro 

We've also been keeping an eye on what's happening in the UK as we both have family there.  Mark is in regular contact with his mum and sister Jo and I'm in  regular contact with my girls.  I think for them it's worse as there are a lot of statements coming out from the British government but for now, it's only advice and people will do what they want to do.  At least in Spain it is very clear what you can and cannot do.

FRIDAY 20 MARCH 2020 - Day 6
Cases 21,571  Deaths 1,093

Highlight of the day was going to the supermarket!

SuperSol Estepona 
Unlike the pictures that we've seen of supermarkets in England, our supermarket was fully stocked and very civilised.  Customers were asked to put gloves on and sanitise their hands upon entering and everyone kept a respectful distance.

Meanwhile Mark was busy in the engine room, fitting a fan that cools down the engine room.  This will be a godsend in summer when it is already unbearably hot at night and you've got the heat of the engine as well.  He's also been improving storage in the aft cabin and we can now hang things out of the way instead of just piling them on top of each other.

News wise the Andalucian Government announced checkpoints being set up on major roads in and out of the region to crackdown on the number of people undertaking non-essential travel and to stop those trying to get to summer homes in the province.

SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2020 - Day 7
Cases 25,496  Deaths 1,381

Early hours saw the return of the rain and this time it came down with a vengeance and was relentless all day.  I later found out that Estepona had 56mm of rain in 24 hours, the second highest recorded level in the region.

Moroccan Chicken, Cous Cous,
Aubergine and Chickpea bites and Banana Cake
It turned into one of those days where you just hunker down and bake. So, whilst I was baking Mark was trying to catch up on his sailing regatta as he'd fallen behind over the last day.

Reflecting back over the first week of 'lockdown' it hasn't been too bad. I really thought that I would go stir crazy as I don't cope well being cooped up for too long.  I knew mark would be ok as he quite enjoys solitude and pottering around.  When we were living on the anchor last summer he could quite happily go days without going ashore whereas I got very tetchy after the first day.

With regards to the virus, things in Spain have got predictably worse over the course of the week.  Even so, the number of confirmed cases from last Sunday rose by 17,508 and the number of deaths increased by 1,087.  Looking at the trajectories published, Spain is on course to eclipse Italy, which would put it at the second highest country in the world. That's scary and that's what is keeping people indoors and out of harm's way.

That and harrowing stories that are now coming out. One poor woman in Madrid lost both her parents within 15 days of each other.  Both died alone with no family beside them and the family being unable to say a proper goodbye to them.  There will be no family funeral and no family wake.  In a country where family is everything,  this is truly heartbreaking to read.