Thursday (12 March) we were picked up at 3am for the ride to Heathrow. We arrived in good time and checked in for our flight, navigated through minimal security queues and were soon ready to go. We boarded our Qatar Airways flight to find that economy passengers were in the minority with only 70 in total – so after takeoff everyone took multiple seats, we all stretched out and enjoyed the first flight into Doha (Qatar). A few people were wearing masks and gloves but they were very much in the minority. It was a great flight with tasty food and wonderful service.
At Doha we had a couple of hours to kill so just wandered around and took the opportunity of freshening up before boarding our next flight to Sydney. This was busier and we were lucky enough to get seated upstairs in the double-decker Dreamliner. Again great flight, more food, more wine and even some sleeping on this 15 hour leg.
Finally, after a mammoth day, we arrived into Sydney. For some reason we found ourselves fast tracked through immigration, customs and security and, with little effort, we found ourselves legally in the country. Woo hoo! We then simply crossed the road to our hotel for the night and checked in.
The room was lovely and comfortable so we just dumped our bags, headed to the bar for a few recuperative cold ones, and caught up on the news. Well, it was a different world we had landed into than the one we had left behind. The WHO had officially declared the Coronavirus a global pandemic and restrictions were starting to be implemented across the globe. Australia, however, had very little infection and the locals were carrying on their business as usual. Although we did overhear some loud idiot complaining that she had to self-isolate (having just returned from Bali) and we saw her wandering out and about with no concern for anybody else – we quickly got out of her way.
We had a good nights sleep and at 6am on Saturday morning we headed back across the terminal to the Qantas check-in desk for our domestic flight to Brisbane. We were able to check the bags in before getting the shuttle bus over to the other terminal. We then headed to the Qantas Business Lounge and enjoyed breakfast while we waited to board the plane. This will probably be our last business class flight for a very long time as we have now sadly exhausted our collection of air miles.
Again we took off on time and, by 9.00 am local time (as Brisbane is an hour’s time difference from Sydney) we were off the plane and met by our driver. He was an interesting fellow and gave us quite a commentary of the history of Brisbane as we drove to our apartment hotel. We arrived by 10 am and our apartment was ready for us so we were able to dump our bags straight away! That was a result….
The hotel was pretty empty and people had clearly cancelled at the last minute as the hotel had introduced a Coronavirus waiver on arrival. By this time we found out that the St Patrick’s Day parade had been cancelled….which was a shame as we had been looking forward to that. Anyway, we unpacked, then headed into town for a wander before returning for a breather. Brisbane is a mixture of old and new buildings plus some pretty up market shopping although, unusually, there was no Chinese tourists queuing at the Gucci or Chanel stores LOL. It was pretty busy and everyone was carrying on as usual – the only sign of anything untoward going on were the signs in all the pharmacies stating they had run out of both hand sanitiser and face masks.
In the early evening, after a rest, we headed across the road to the pub for a quick bite to eat before returning to our room for a quiet night in front of the TV catching up with the news. The world was changing so fast….unbelievable….although Australia still seemed to be immune to the crisis.
Sunday morning and we headed over to the South Side to catch the river cruise up to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which was formed in 1927 in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket.
We loved the sleepy animals – having never seen a koala, a wombat, a Tasmanian devil, a platypus, a dingo or even a kookaburra before. Australia certainly has its share of weird and wonderful looking animals! We had a great time in the sanctuary and particularly enjoyed petting and feeding kangaroos and emus.
Richard even took a selfie with a particularly friendly kangaroo – Richard is the one on the right of the picture LOL.
The 70 minute river cruise each way was also informative checking out the amazing old properties nestled alongside very expensive new real estate. We learnt about the devastating floods in 2011 and even heard the story of the historic (1886) Regatta Hotel which became submerged to its top balcony but continues to thrive to this day.
Returning to the City I was even allowed to drive the boat – check out my captain’s hat LOL.
Back to the city we wandered to the riverside pub and had another average meal before returning to our apartment for another quiet night in. The coronavirus news was getting more serious now with a State of Emergency being declared and advice not to use public transport, avoid crowded places, and constantly wash hands etc. Damn…. We talked it through and decided that the situation could only deteriorate from here. So we decided that we would leave on Tuesday rather than Thursday and return to Morpheus.
Monday we headed back into the city and the atmosphere was much more strained.
We couldn’t really explore much with all the museums, art galleries and theatres beginning to shut down. So we felt that we had made the right decision and we contacted the boatyard to let them know our change of plans. In the late afternoon we headed to a recommended Chinese restaurant but found the food to be average at best – oh well, never mind. We then headed back to our apartment and had a nice chilled bottle of wine in front of the TV watching the increasingly surreal coverage of the pandemic.
Tuesday morning we packed up and checked out. There was no refund for the unused portion of our stay but hey ho, our decision. By 11 am, we were on our way back to Morphie. We arrived around noon and checked into the boatyard where she was waiting patiently for us.
Back on board (in the long-term storage yard) we just unpacked our gear and made the bed in preparation for the night. Then we headed out in a complimentary courtesy car to try and get some supplies as the food cupboards were bare. Interestingly enough I had stocked up on toilet paper before we left so the empty shelves were not a problem to me LOL. We visited a few stores and managed to get enough dried and canned foods to see us through although the pickings were limited to say the least. Back on board we had an early night feeling quite weary.
This morning, Wednesday, and Morphie was moved from the storage yard to the ‘works’ area of the hard stand. While they were getting ready we had a quick look at the SuperYacht area of the Boatworks which was under construction when we left in December. Check out some of these big boys!
The crew were pretty efficient and we were securely in our new position by 10 am.
Looking at Morphie’s hull we decided she needed to be cleaned, cut, waxed and polished professionally as she was looking pretty dull having been stored in the strong UV here in Australia despite our hard work prior to departure. So we called on a few businesses in the boatyard and found someone who was willing to do the work for us called the Boat Butler. He expressed concerns about a future shutdown and wanted to bank as much work as he could in advance so we agreed a price and he is coming to us at 6am on Sunday. Great, thank you so much. We have also spoken to the sail loft and they are returning our sails on Friday (although we won’t be able to install them until we are back in the water).
We reinstalled our canvas to give us some shade; replaced the dead ensign; and Richard has just installed two lovely new LED stainless steel lights in our cabin. Here are the before and after pictures – I think they look much nicer than the originals. And yes the original would look much better if it had been polished post storage and pre-removal but what was the point?!? Will clean them both up before we stow them away as spares, promise LOL.
There are lots of boat jobs to be done so we won’t be idle or bored while we practice some social isolation.
Today the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all unnecessary travel for a month with immediate effect. Obviously we are concerned over where that leaves us – usually if you go against FCO advice, your travel insurance becomes null and void. But, unlike other countries like Canada, the FCO are not specifically advising UK citizens to return home. So I have sent an email to our travel insurance company to say that as our November 2019 annual policy pre-dated both the pandemic and the FCO advice it would make sense for us to stay here and sit it out to avoid unnecessary travel and potential exposure to the virus. Getting home with all the global restrictions currently in place on top of the ever diminishing airline capacity would be problematic and can only get worse. There would also be the threat of being quarantined as we can’t fly back without touching another country. The insurance company should be liable to fund this under the ‘curtailment / disruption’ clause of our existing policy. We think it is safer (and obviously cheaper for them) for us to stay onboard Morphie. After all, we can easily self-isolate if a “lock down” is instigated. We are waiting for a response – so have organised to stay put in the marina until we have further clarity on the situation.
In the meantime our thoughts are with all our family and friends across the globe who are living through this situation – some of whom have got locked down and cannot return to their boats, others have visa pressures. And then, of course, there are those who are in the ‘risky’ age group and may have to bunker down for many months at home in the UK. Lots of love everyone – just please stay safe and well!
Bye for now