Isolation: 25/03/2020 – ??


Plans in tatters

After bidding our involuntary* guests from Perth farewell, we started our self-imposed isolation last Wednesday. We thought we’d just have this one (out of order) post as a marker to capture some of this situation so, hopefully, we can reflect upon it in the future. We’re not planning to regularly blog our isolation, at any time, instead we will wait in fervent anticipation for the daily musings of our favourite waterways blogger Peter Hyndman (Fading Memories), who is talented enough to carry off the challenge of making the mundanity of isolation into an experience full of both humour and pathos.

Obviously we won’t be in France for our planned arrival on June 10th. We will probably either get our money back for our China Southern flights or take a raincheck. We have some medical insurance that cost a whack that will go unused. The VNF is suggesting that they will refund unusable portions of our annual cruising fee. So it seems that financially we have escaped fairly lightly. We don’t hold out much hope of a shortened, late-season visit, say September-October, but in the very unlikely event the opportunity presented itself, we would try to make the journey.

Twenty steps to our front door.

Catharina Elisabeth will be in the safest of hands, at Simon Evans’ shipyard at Migennes. The yard is presently locked down, like all France – and the Burgundy waterways, again like all over France, are closed to pleasure boat traffic.

Catharina Elisabeth as we left her in Sept 2019.

Some of our cruising friends have made it to France (“Hi, Neil and Karen” on Chalkhill Blue 2) or other countries (“Hi, Dave and Evey” on L’Escapade in Amsterdam) – perhaps they can keep up their blogs (Chalkhill Blue, L’Escapade) so we can see what we are missing by not being isolated on the waterways.

Here in Sunbury, we presently have plenty to do. Of course, we are linked electronically with family and friends and there is plenty of information and entertainment available on the Internet. We have a batch of household maintenance to do because we are hoping to sell this house and move to something with fewer stairs in the not too distant future.

While Ian is inside fixing computers, Lisette is renovating.

Lisette has dressmaking, knitting and crafts to provide some diversion, as well as a prodigious amount of reading.

The latest cardigan for three-year-old Shotaro.

Ian, of course, can sit at his desk with the computer for ages – which just benefited from a Coronavirus-inspired upgrade. He also has a new role in the DBA as a Director on their Board and, hopefully, some of his time can be used to contribute to helping the Association.

Meanwhile, Ian is renovating his Mac Pro by swapping the 4-core processor for an 8-core.

Of course, there are challenges.


The main one is winter.

We’ve never been aficionados of winter as a season. Perhaps this is because we grew up in Perth where the winters are mild and the summers are hot. Missing the long, dreary, cold (by OZ standards) Melbourne winter by spending the summer in Europe has been one of the best features of our cruising lifestyle. So, we’ve missed the last five winters with alacrity. About the only upside we can think of at the moment is that we will be able to use our fire pit to cluster around a roaring fire (if two people can be counted as a cluster) as we used to do on our winter camping trips before Catharina.


We’ve become dependent on the annual treat of goods from Europe – and these are going to be exhausted soon, with no prospect of resupply until next year.

Confit Duck

We only have four cans left and these are reserved for family dinners with each of our children (once the isolation relaxes). This is far less than our preferred level of supply.

The Australian product, which is available, even now, on the denuded supermarket shelves, is far inferior and to obtain the French tins as an import is prohibitively expensive – some five times the cost in Europe.

Belgian Beer

We only have the one large bottle of Chimay Bleu left.

This is actually not for drinking, but for cooking. It’s our essential ingredient in Flemish stew. We will have to see if some Aussie craft beers will be an adequate replacement because, again, the cost of buying imported Chimay is prohibitive. Coopers Dark Ale is a local, top-fermented beer we’ve tasted that seems like it might be suitable. We’ve managed to find some bulk supplies of Leffe Brune, at least, although the prospect of a beer on a cold winter afternoon is not nearly as enticing as a quaff of cold Trappist beer on the aft deck after a hot day cruising.

Dental Floss

Ian’s favourite dental floss comes from France. Who knew? Anyhow, supplies are running low. Hopefully, we can find an adequate unwaxed variety somewhere – supermarkets only have dreadful waxed stuff.

Andalouse Sauce

One of the marvellous additions that Europe provided to our culinary repertoire was that of Andalouse sauce as an accompaniment to frites.

Actually this is mayo, not andalouse sauce, but you get the idea!

We had supplies of this now essential enhancement to ‘Batty Ave’ chips (absolute favourite takeaway hot chips) sufficient to make it through until this season’s opportunity to forage for this common sauce in European supermarkets. This is not available here in any of the expatriate stores and shipping it from overseas is prohibitive. We’ll simply have to make our own but, fortunately, the recipe is pretty simple.


The other side of famine – more specifically, watching our weight! Somewhat ironically (given the opportunities for great food in Europe), but conveniently – from when we arrive on Catharina we start to lose weight. Each of us drops at least 5 kg. Unfortunately, when we return, we put it back on.

Each of the peaks corresponds exactly with arriving on Catharina.

Yo-yo dieting, if you will. The features of being in Europe are that we eat well but not excessively (no snacking during the day), tend to skip or have light meals for breakfast and lunch and we obviously exercise more. Walking around sure, from bow to stern of Catharina frequently. Perhaps with more impact is the fact that we have to go up and down the half-dozen steps into the salon from the wheelhouse 30 to 50 times a day. Add that to the bike rides and exploratory walks from each new mooring, and we are definitely much more out-and-about during our European summers than we will be this coming winter.

So, in isolation, we’re going to have to watch our weight – perhaps try the 16/8 diet as it pretty closely represents how we live aboard Catharina. Also, we can perhaps start taking trips from street level to the upper storey of our house, 38 steps in total.

Another 18 steps inside the house.


Perhaps most importantly, we won’t have the opportunity to catch up with our international community of cruising mates or, perhaps even worse, we will not be meeting and enjoy the company of new friends.

Sharing the ‘slowest rower’ trophy with the Budds. They are currently marooned in Spain unable to get to their barge in the Netherlands.

Instead, we’ll watch out for blog postings and haunt the various cruising Facebook pages. We’ve also started to make video calls to some of our overseas friends and if we have your contact details or you have ours, we are certainly keen to have chat to hear what you are up to and while away some time in conversation.

Of course, we will also have to work with these restrictions with respect to our local family and friends as, surely, we all are having to do. We are in voluntary isolation right now, with only video chats available to us to keep in contact with the grandchildren, but we are committed to this. It will pass.

Most of all, of course, we wish you all well, your families and all those you care about. Do all you can to keep safe and we hope that this COVID-19 pandemic is just an inconvenience, nothing more.

Now, to resume our regular programme …

– – – – – –

* Involuntary because our niece, Kathleen, and boyfriend, Preston, had spent a month driving from Perth towards Melbourne and were planning to continue around Australia. Their car limped into Melbourne and testing indicated something seriously wrong with their (diesel) engine. This, coupled with the closure of most state borders, meant they decided to fly back to Perth and await better times to repair their car and hopefully, restart their trip.


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    7 Responses

  1. We are seriously envious of the duck confit. We left our “emergency supply” on Oldtimer never thinking we might need it. Too bad we can’t invite ourselves over for a meal. Something about travel restrictions and long stays in confined spaces……????.

  2. Too bad on both counts Don! We’d love to share a can with you and Cathy-Jo. Raincheck until we, hopefully, meet on the waterways. Also hoping that you can weather the storm in California.

  3. Be very careful on that ladder ..!! You need to have less of an angle and block it or better still get someone to foot it for you .. OH&S would have a fit .????.
    Must be time for another hookup soon ????

    1. We have a story about just that, for our next hookup! Agree, that angle is a bit shallow, my fault. I was nearby and the gaps in the deck act as a bit of a brace. I (Ian) have to take care of the best thing about being isolated.

      1. You should see some of the ladders Ian has set up for me in the past – you know what our house looks like! If I wasn’t so sure he loved me, I would wonder about being hung from all sorts of dangerous spots so I could paint window frames.

  4. Oh what a change this is for us all. We are also marooned but in our own harbours. We cannot even finish the work on the Hennie H because everyone who could have helped us is also in isolation . I have a lift out booked for the end of April in Rotterdam, but I don’t know yet if that will happen. I can imagine you two will feel the loss quite keenly, as your post describes. You’ll have to feast on dreams and memories instead. I so hope the VNF itself manages to survive this and keep going. The loss of income for them will be dramatic. Anyway, thank you for your update and it’s good to see the photos. My life is currently overwhelmed with learning to teach classes of students in real time online. Who imagined I’d have to do this before getting to retirement? Stay well both of you?

    1. It is a shame that you have to put a hold on Hennie H’s work. Setting up remote learning might be a new experience, but I am sure there will be new skills developed as a result of it. I have a sister-in-law who is a Home Economics teacher, and she is currently working out how to give classes from home. The whole thing is quite bizarre. I will not enjoy having to stay home but I am not likely to run out of things to do – reading, craft, cooking, painting, gardening not to mention continuing to try to improve my French since I won’t be able to practice on the waterways this year. Ian will be fine – so long as there is power and internet! And he will be helping with the painting/gardening lark. We will keep working on the blog – thanks to Shaun Cullen’s idea, I tried to jot some diary notes down each day last season, instead of just relying on the notes I put in the log book.

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