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. FRIDAY 13 MARCH 2020 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.
SATURDAY 14 MARCH 2020 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!
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!
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.