I woke on Tuesday morning in a bit of a panic.
Or rather I woke up on the sofa at 0213 in a bit of a panic.
I had been sleeping on the sofa because it has been a particularly windy week and the vee berth being at the very front of the boat is both noisy and a bit shaky in the wind while we are up on the hard. It was already a bit of a broken sleep, but this felt different than just three days of restless rest. I laid there in the dark wondering why I was wide awake, and why I felt so anxious.
Manila had been placed on lockdown 2 days before, but I was well outside the city. The Manila International Airport, however, was inside the city. Steve was due to fly back through Manila. Although there is another international airport just north of the city flights and passengers were heavily restricted there too. And seeing that many major airports around the world were instituting the same type of restrictions, I was unsure how or when Steve could fly back. Other than that, big uncertainty, life was normal.
Then I checked my phone.
A few hours earlier it had been announced that the whole island of Luzon, home to Manila and the boatyard we are at, would be blanketed by the lockdown order. All public transportation had been banned. Military stops were installed on roads throughout the island, and people now need an ID to move around. Only essential personnel would be allowed to travel for work. All malls and stores would close except grocery stores, pharmacy’s and others deemed necessary. Some 57 million people, roughly half the population of the Philippines, would essentially be under community quarantine.
Obviously, I did not get back to sleep.
Instead I laid very still and tried to make sense of things.
I reminded myself that I am not in immediate danger. I am safe on my boat, in a boatyard that has round the clock security. In the large bay that is Hamilo Cove, where the boatyard is located, there is just one small community, 75% of my horizon is open ocean and green forest. Being on a self-contained vessel means that if I don’t want to I don’t need to come within 5 meters of anyone, for days at a time. I have pretty much been socially distanced and self isolated for the past 3 weeks without trying.
I am well provisioned. The advantage of living on a sailboat is that at any given time I am probably preparing for a passage or a few weeks sailing in a remote area or for being away from major urban centers where the shopping is good, cheap and easy. Since we’d gotten back in January I have been doing just that. Besides food stuffs that provisioning includes enough toiletries for 2 people for 5-6 months, cleaning supplies, soaps and detergents, toilet paper and a few bottles of good rum.
Last week, with the announcement of Manila potentially being quarantined I took the initiative and travelled the 40 minutes to town by motorcycle taxi to stock up on a few things I can’t get locally. I also made sure to hit the ATM. The next day I went to the veggie market 2 km’s away and filled the fridge. All that was left was a few consumables like flour and sugar from the little corner shop nearby, and to make sure that the tanks and every available container were filled with drinking water, which I get delivered. I ticked both those items off the list before 0800 later that morning.
We carry a full medical kit so that we are self sustainable for 3-4 weeks at sea. Yes, this is a virus, and no there is no medication for it, but it means that any other incidentals that could creep up will not require a trip to town and a visit to the pharmacy. I can temporarily fix a chipped tooth, splint a broken toe or take a round of antibiotics for a cut that has gotten infected.
I felt ok to hunker down for the month, but Tuesday was still a little rocky.
Hours of being ok punctuated with moments of dread because, let’s face it, I am alone. Safe but alone. Then the announcement from Canada urging traveller to hurry home. Then the announcement from the Philippines that as of Friday, March 20th, foreigners will not be permitted to leave, the airports are being shut for a month as well. I wondered if it wouldn’t be prudent to shut up the boat and head home.
Then I realized that I AM home.
Kate has been my home for over a decade, Canada is where I am from. Travelling back to Canada for me would only mean 2 days in busy public spaces where my risk to being exposed to covid 19 is higher than where I am right now. It also means putting my family back in Canada at risk, I would have to crash with someone when I arrived. And that is definitely not an option.
Steve is safe in the Seychelles where he has been working since last month. In case you don’t know where that is it is a small island 700 miles east of Madagascar. I realise that nowhere is 100% safe, but a small and remote island that is has already banned cruise ships sounds like a fairly good bet to me. When the airports of the world open, and they will, he’ll be on the first flight home. When exactly that will be is still unknown, but it will happen.
There is an old nautical saying that says you should always step up into your life raft.
It means that you never leave the Mothership until absolutely necessary, because even if your vessel is disabled you always have a better chance staying onboard than getting into a flimsy blow up life raft. I have no intention of abandoning ship, because when I take stock of the situation so far, the life raft hasn’t even been deployed.
I am alone in a country that is on lockdown, but I am safe. I am able to practice social distancing and self isolate and have enough soap for a year’s worth of hand washing- all the main things health officials are telling us will hinder this pandemic. I have food and water and sunshine and a list of boat projects to keep my mind and hands busy. I have no doubt that I will have more anxious moments as the weeks unfold, but today a sense of calm settled over the boat.
At the moment the world reminds me of being at sea during a storm.
Often during stormy nights, I feel scared because I have no control over the situation, no way to exit. Scared because I realise that as a human I am fragile, and nature is so very, very mighty.
During those long days and nights at sea all I can do is control how I react, how I think. It is not easy to find equanimity when the world is in such turmoil, but it is essential. The only way forward is through calm.
So, stay calm…and wash your hands.