In Lockdown/On Passage

I have started this blog post a thousand times in my head, late at night, as I lay on the sofa listening to the wind slap and clack in the loose wire rigging of the boat next door and feel Kate shudder strangely in her cradle. At those moments it feels like I should write something, as if there is some obligation I have to keep everyone in cyberspace up-to-date with how things are going for me, alone in lockdown in the Philippines.

But, during the long, bright days I have no desire to add to the noise.

It is the noise that I find most overwhelming. The constant and, at times, exhausting collective stream of information that is bombarding us all day and all night about this global pandemic. Adding to that noise makes me recoil.

In fact, these days I often find myself getting quieter.

Turning off not only my internet connection but music as well. I spend long moments being still, looking at a patch of blue sky under the bimini, that is just visible through the companionway from my spot on the sofa. When I do yoga, I stop in child’s pose longer than my usual routine dictates, listening to my chest heave, feeling my forehead press against the mat.

I realize that I also do this on passage, when I am feeling seasick or when the boat is being tossed around by a confused sea during a long, dark night. When I am off watch I tuck myself into a corner, close my eyes and lay very still. My body is usually in motion, being rocked and swayed by the sea, but I try to keep my mind quiet, my breathing easy. “It will be ok,” I tell myself, “the storm will pass.” My stillness is not paralysis. My stillness is a comfort.

And, like being on passage, I am not concentrating on all the long term unknowns– When will lockdown be over? When will international flights resume? When will Steve be able to return? When will I be able to get to an ATM because I am running out of cash in a place where it is impossible to pay with a card? Instead I focus on the tasks I need to get through today – meeting a writing deadline, doing my laundry by hand, getting a drinking water delivery, cooking myself a good meal.

Laundry Day

Overall (in case anyone is wondering) things here are good.

I have to admit that a few days in mid-April were a bit rocky. A series of small events, insignificant blips on a good day, got to me. When I got up from child’s pose, tears stained my yoga mat. But then there was mangoes and buttery sunset light and kind words from a few old friends. The next day I got up, decided what I needed to accomplish, and got to it. Simple. What else can you do?

As for the details, the area is still under enhanced lockdown and I haven’t strayed more than a block away from the boat in almost 2 months. Although food supplies were looking a little sad 3-weeks in, it seems that supply lines have been figured out. The shelves of the little corner shop are no longer bare, and the bakery is making limited items. Happily, the pop-up veggie stand is now stocking vegetables that look fit to eat and is restocking with more regularity. An old couple down the road have started selling local fruit; mangoes, bananas, papaya and coconuts.

Earlier this week the only other boater in the bay went to town and offered to pick me up grocery store items. I got some cooking oil, soya sauce, rolled oats, butter, a jar of peanut butter and a big, whole chicken. A couple weeks before I traded a packet of yeast for a few kilos of flour.  I am set for another month or so. (Only 15 people a day are allowed to leave the community and the lines for the daily passes start at 0400. The lines in town to get into the grocery store are sometimes an hour long. His offer was more than thoughtful.)

I can’t complain. Nor, do I want to.

If sailing has taught me anything it is that even the worse storms eventually ease, and conditions always improve. Complaining about it will not make that transition happen any faster, but it will make you miserable. In the meantime, all you gotta do is be still and tell yourself it is going to be ok.



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Julia says:

    Hang in there and stay well. It sounds like the Philippines are doing the right thing for dealing with Covid-19. Its kind of cliche but we are all in this together and your post reminds me of that.

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Thanks Julia, It is a same storm different boat kinda world. I hope you stay well yourself.

  2. Hans van Rijn says:

    I enjoyed reading your self reflecting story. It reminded me of why the hell I spend so much time on writing a story for…my friends? That is part of the motivation but you reminded me of the other aspect…
    When you are on your own, the urge to write comes naturally as you describe!

    I am in more or less self-quarantaine with 3 other yachts at PSS shipyard in Satun. Situation here is quite ok as we are free to travel to Satun where the two supermarkets are well stocked. We can even get pizza delivery from Bobby’s Pizza!
    I hope for you travel restiction will be lifted soon so Steve can join you again! Regards from Satun, Thailand. Hans

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Hans, Glad all is well in Thailand. Pizza delivery…what a treat!!

  3. Mary says:

    Your story is a reflection of what’s happening in most places at present. Slowly we are all getting through this but I think it’s made worse for you because you are on your own.

    We have been in Lockdown for 6-7 weeks (one loses track of time) and we are moving into Level 2. It is unsettling when you don’t know the outcome.

    Just hang in there and stay safe. Love reading your articles. :))

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Not sure what Level 2 means, but hoping it is a move toward safer, healthier public spaces? Thanks for the kind words, things onboard are well, if momentarily lonesome now and then. Hanging in and keeping busy. Thanks for reading!

      1. Mary says:

        Sorry Heather, should have explained. Level 4 was complete lockdown. NZ then moved to Level 3 which was slight freedom to move about with Seniors still in lockdown- now at Level 2 since we’d had only 2 cases of the Virus which gives much more freedom with shops open but with social distancing still in place. I guess as long as there is no rise in the incidence of the Virus we shall be at Level 1 in a few weeks. Still a bit worrying though.

  4. Hans jansen says:

    Many yachtys stuck in places round the world.Some alone others couples and fam.hang in there.Time will change.

  5. Daphne says:

    Hello, I hope that you are doing well. I just actually read this as I have suddenly become curious about how people in this lifestyle has been coping with the lockdowns / restrictions. I became even more curious about those in my country.

  6. I feel like sailing again. Thanks for an inspiration! I have been into boating for almost 15 years but due to the pandemic I had to sell all my boats. I own a web directory about boating and would be happy to share your article. Would you mind if I do that? Thanks!

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