What’s Missing?

I woke this morning with the reflection of bright sun bouncing off my face, a light breeze tickling my nose. I could hear the sound of tiny wavelets lapping the hull. Even before I opened my eyes, I began planning my day. Leisurely cup of tea while David awoke, then breakfast in the cockpit, a trip across the bay to the fishmarket, a half hour walk back along the waterfront park so I could be picked up at the landing close to the boat. A few boat chores are on my list, planned so I stay out of David’s way while he does some deck maintenance and adds some paint. In the afternoon I plan on a phone chat or two, maybe some writing or editing. Not much different from a hundred or maybe even a thousand other normal cruising days. But…Covid-19, self-isolation. Even before I climb out of the bunk I am reminded these are not normal times. My cellphone has a message waiting from a friend in New Zealand, “sorry, can’t send on your mail. In full lock down here. Can’t go to the post office, no stamps.”

We are currently at anchor in Sydney Harbour, slowly making our way toward the Great Barrier Reef. Over the past three weeks, as we voyaged from Melbourne the restrictions put in place have increased here in New South Wales, but are far less restrictive than across the ditch in New Zealand. People who can work from home must do so. On the other hand, if safe-distancing rules can be put in place most businesses, other than retail clothing, gyms and sporting venues, can be open. Café’s and restaurants can offer drinks and meals but the customer must go off the premises to eat. All entertainment venues are closed. Marinas are closed except for existing customers but fuel docks are open. On shore, everyone is urged to stay at home, on their own property other than for exercise. But exercise here includes walking, biking, going sailing, kayaking, surfing, in groups of two only. National parks and many popular beaches have been closed, but city parks and reserves are open, and a constant parade of walkers, bikers and dogs enliven the shoreside track that passes just 100meters from where we lay at anchor.

The reality for us, we can sail anywhere we wish in New South Wales and take advantage of the various anchorages throughout Sydney Harbor where dinghy landings are available at no charge. The harbor is amazingly quiet as ferry traffic is down by 90%. Nice, but strange compared to the Sydney I experienced last year. We have been able to purchase the new sail Sahula needed. In fact, the Sydney Sails team was delighted to have something to do. As soon as we arrived in port, they were alongside in their well-fendered runabout to take measurements for the light weight, high cut 150% genoa, a sail Larry and I always called a nylon drifter. The sail will arrive tomorrow, bright blue, fluorescent green and gold. Light winds are forecast so I hope we can test it on a sail past the Sydney Opera house bound for the Pittwater. No problem getting an electrician to update the electrical system as we needed new house batteries. Kale, from Master Marine Electrics is on board putting the final new wiring in as I type this.

I have lots to do to keep myself busy – a book I am trying to write, another I am updating.
So why do I feel like I am missing something, something more than the museums, films, live entertainment that makes being in a city special. After careful thought I realize it is something much more basic and personal that has me feeling out of sorts. I really miss inviting folks on board, feeding them snacks and meals and relaxing together for what sometimes turns out to be all afternoon. But we cannot invite anyone on board, nor can we join them onshore for a barbeque, a dinner at their home. What makes it more difficult is, David has family living within a long walk of where we lay at anchor. So do many friends from his university days. I have friends here too. And then there are the interesting folks on the dozen other boats that are anchored nearby – we chat to each other from our dinghies (legal if we stay at least 7 feet apart.) We can walk with some of our friends and family on shore as long as we do so in pairs. So we have had a few pleasant catch ups by changing partners every 15 minutes or so and keeping well separated. But since the rule says you must be exercising, I feel guilty if I want to stop and sit instead of walking onward.

But I keep reminding myself how fortunate we are compared to others whose sailing plans have been interrupted by Covid-19. I read of reports of friends stuck in the Bahamas, not allowed ashore for any reason at all, others who had left their boats to take care of family business and can no longer return to the only real home they have. We are where we always planned to be. Not only are we able to enjoy our boat, get provisions and water with little problem other than some shortages in the supermarkets, but we can actually voyage onward in Australian waters as long as we abide by the local rules when we land.

Queensland, where we are headed, is Sahula’s home so, though travel between New South Wales and Queensland is prohibited at this time except for returning residents, we can legally cross the state border to continue our voyage northward. And in September, when it is time to head back to my New Zealand home, we can sail there too as I am a citizen and David has residency. We will have to go through a 14-day quarantine period which means being confined on board on a police mooring. But because New Zealand is very aware that many citizens are voyaging sailors, they have agreed that time spent at sea will be considered part of that quarantine period. I doubt we can make the passage from Australia to New Zealand in less than ten days so that would mean only a few days of restrictions.

From friends calls and letters and from the response I received to a photo post I put on Instagram yesterday, (#pardeylin) I am well aware of how fortunate I am to be weathering the storm of Covid-19 here in Australia. The measures put into effect by the state governments seem to be paying off. I know the world of offshore sailing, the plans many sailors have, will be changed by the restrictions nations will put in place to protect their vulnerable societies. Hopefully these changes won’t be long lasting and I will see some of you sail in to anchor, then come ashore to share drinks (person to person accompanied by the hugs I miss so much) soon after we sail back to North Cove on Kawau Island.

Note - For those who need something to read during the current Covid-19 self-isolation times, Paradise Cay Publications has teamed up with us to offer all six of the print editions my narratives for just $50 plus $3.50 postage. This is a 46% savings over normal price. Or the individual books can be purchased for just $10.00 each plus post. Books will be sent the same day purchased. For those who prefer eBooks, the price for each of the six books has been reduced to $3.99 for the next month.