2021 SA A Walk in the Park

Wed 13 Jan 2021 09:45

A Walk in the Park

The prospect of another week in Durban, floating with the decaying rubbish in the marina and unable to even think of going for a short walk was playing on my mind so I looked once again at Windy, our weather app and saw to my relief that the weather window that we thought had disappeared was back and indeed, it looked good.

“A Walk in the Park” is how Des described the next two days down to East London, so we were back up to the office to complete our flight plan as quick as couple of squirrels with their tails on fire. Departure time was set at 5.00am the next morning “and you must go within 24 hours or you will have to complete another flight plan (and I might kill you).” Her beady eyes threatened. Incentive enough to clear out I can tell you.

After seven hours we were pootling along just over five miles offshore where Des said we would find the elusive Agulhas and suddenly noticed the gentle hand underneath us start pushing us up by first 2.5 knots and then up to three knots over our boat speed. The engine went off and with her poled out genoa full Zoonie entered the night at 8.4knots of delicious speed. We had thought the journey of 250 miles would take 48 hours, two nights at sea, but not if this wonderful ocean gift stayed with us.

“Remember to turn for the harbour entrance when you get to Cape Morgan, 40 miles north of East London or you will be set on past.” Des’s words.

Don’t get me wrong this is a tricky section of the South Africa east coast and has claimed many an experienced sailor but we take as we find having started out with due care and forethought and this is how it was for us.

Zoonie adopted a languid, gentle roll, the waves created the music and the wind sighed as it pushed us along and with the guiding hand beneath giving us four knots we were at times doing 10 knots over the ground. Once or twice the wind held its breath and the current pressed against Zoonie’s open quarter pushing her at right angles to the current so she was either facing the coast or the rising sun.

By the next morning Rob was feeling rough, our rusty throats seemed to be developing into something, could it be Covid after our 100% precautions of closely fitting four layered masks, repeated hand sanitising and keeping well apart? If so then it takes two to tango and a person is not protected unless everyone takes the same care!

Our second day was ageing and I took Rob’s temperature to discover it was 38.8; thank goodness we had only 20 miles to go.

Suddenly the wind dropped to nothing and within a few moments rose again from ahead to 25 knots. Just as quickly the sea became blue six foot walls of water ahead of us. The genoa was furled and engine on to battle this latest challenge. Fortunately it started to subside after a few minutes and our progress towards East London Harbour improved.

When just off the mouth I called up the Port Authority and explained our situation. The officer instructed me to stay outside until he had spoken to Port Health and naturally when they came back it was assumed we carried the Virus. We were allowed to pootle up the river to the mid-river mooring trots and tie up remaining on board until a test could be arranged the next day.

Our location was and is delightful, surrounded by a diversity of water birds with steep, wooded banks on either side and two bridges ahead of us, so we have plenty to watch.

The next morning Charles who runs a local shipping supply business organised a Covid test, the Port Quarantine Officer phoned to see if there was anything he could do to help and Conrad from the Buffalo River Yachts Club upon whose moorings Zoonie is sitting was ready on hand if we needed him.

I inflated the tender and Rob rowed us ashore for our tests. A woman in blue brandished the required forms in her hands “Shall I give these to your secretary?” She said to Rob……

So the symptoms are very varied. One of mine was mental confusion, I filled in both forms with Rob’s name and I remember not feeling quite right up top. Another was my finger tips became more sensitive to heat than usual, usually I manage the grill pan without gloves or the handle but I couldn’t do that for a couple of days. Nocturnal headaches for a couple of nights have now passed thank goodness and the general mild flu symptoms are passing. Rob is fighting his infection by sweating and sleeping. The doc is happy as long as his oxygen level stays above 90%. Rob’s is constantly 93%.

Twenty-four hours after the tests the results came through and we viewed them on our phone apps, both positive and we weren’t surprised. The next morning we were ashore once more to see Dr Sean Murray who prescribed a new inhaler for Rob to help with his breathing and some cortisone tablets.

So here we are, day 4 of our fourteen day quarantine. Three terns are preening themselves on our pulpit and the loving cormorants roost in marital pairs on the mooring buoys. Another pair reside on the port side spreader on a nearby yacht, a spot which is also a perch for a local giant kingfisher.

It has been reassuring, the fact that our little support group came together so quickly. Conrad and his little daughter, Willow, rowed out to us in a rickety tender with the drugs and a bag of goodies courtesy of the Yacht Club which is usually a bustling place.

Contrary opinions are a little worrying. Dr Sean said once we are no longer infectious after 10 days our future Covid tests could come back false positive for the next three months! Jenny who helps visiting yachtsfolk in all kinds of ways has said in her experience the tests usually come back negative after 14 days. I was thinking that is we move on to Port Elizabeth and they insist on another test then we could be stuck there for another fortnight. But it seems the Port Authority understand that 14 days of quarantine after a positive result is enough to render us non infective so we are clear to go. No need to test us then really is there.

What I would like to do as Des now knows is find a four day weather window and get clear around to Cape Town from here, just as the folk did who left the morning after we arrived. He is going to see what he can do.

A couple of days ago a 54’ cat arrived with three women, at least one guy and three children on board and I haven’t seen a mask between them. I was confused, had the rules changed so dramatically and we’d missed it, no they just weren’t taking this pandemic seriously. What if they infected Conrad and Willow? I just cannot understand the mentality of people who think the rules are not for them.

I have to tell you about another great author I have found. James Rebanks, a Lake District Fell farmer with a world view on agriculture. He also has read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and if you want an antidote to her haunting book his ‘English Pastoral,’ will work nicely. Herdyshepherd1 is his Instagram page and is well worth following for its magnificent photos of Mattadale where he lives with his wife Helen and their four children. He is going to be busy with home education, farm chores and writing for the next few months so he recommended following his wife on Instagram theshepherdswife. He has also written The Shepherd’s Life, his first book. They are an inspirational pair in these dark times.



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