Canvas, Bimini, Monthly update

A few days ago, I ran into a man who does canvas work.  He also bends and cuts the steel. Had a chat with him about things, and decided to make some changes.

We’ve not been terribly happy with my “makeshift” solar panel mounts because they were made partially of aluminum, on stainless steel (not a good combo in a salt air atmosphere, but it was what I had at the time).  Also, the ancient bimini wasn’t in the best spot, and I ended up putting holes in it first with a soldering iron (to melt the threads together) and washers and screws through it, to hold the solar panels above the bimini.

Another thing that has bugged me since day one on the boat was the fact the main boom was so high up.  In looking at other vessels of my type, with similar in-mast furling, I noted most are lower than mine (significantly) and I can’t find a reason for the boom to be so high other than missing the bimini.

As it turns out, the height on the steel was close to 7.5 above the sole of the cockpit.  About 2.5 feet above my head.  Also, mounting the panels there put them in danger of the boom sweeping them off, so sailing on  run was something I was extremely cautious of doing, ever.  An unexpected Jibe would have ripped the panels off, perhaps the bimini and bent the steel.

After consulting with JoAnne, and Dave (the man who runs Custom Canvas, out of New Bern) we decided to go ahead and hire him to assist.

The changes will be as follows:

  1. Lower the boom (in a good way! ha ha) several inches, actually almost 18″ to be exact.
  2. Lower the bimini top to a few inches over MY head (I’m 5’9″).
  3. Rebuild the dodger and bimini
  4. Add stiffeners to the dodger, bimini
  5. Add grab rails to the bimini which will double as a holder for two new bows over the top
  6. The bows will give me a mounting point 2-3″ above the bimini (no more holes in bimini)
  7. The dodger will cover the hatch correctly
  8. Bimini will have a window (had one before but was unusable due to age)
  9. Stiffener will be at Mizzen mast
  10. Dodger will cover the lower part of the cockpit, with an Esenglas panel to cover the upper part to bimini

Lowering the boom will give me a bit better sail shape than I was able to get.  However, I will have to definitely add a preventer and consider using the topping lift to prevent a sideways SMACK across the bimini.

Solar panels can be moved around now more forward or back as needed.  My alternate/backup small panel will remain movable from side to side of the ship hanging from the mizzen rig to keep it on the sun-side most of the time.

We’ll finally have some new canvas on the boat.

Over the past few months, I’ve done little things here and there. JoAnne and I have gone through most of the “Junk” we have and pulled some off the boat and placed in storage, and pulled things from storage and put on the boat.  We still have “too much stuff”.  We get to do a very good going-through of the boat in the next couple of weeks to empty anything we simply don’t need or can’t use, place in storage and ensure we absolutely have parts we CAN use on the boat for repairs and emergencies.  I am down to one tool bag (and a small one for small tools for electronics stuff).

JoAnne has pared down the other things like cooking utensils and so on.

But we have shade and a water-maker.  I want to have the forward cabin usable for a guest or two – though we don’t foresee that any time soon.

Other items:

Someone went by and it appears they have punctured the dingy (one of the tubes).  Why?  Not sure, but it’s kind of impolite to do such things.  And expensive.  So, one of the things I had to do was locate the repair kit for this dink (I have a couple of repair kits, one for rubber dinks and one for the hypalon dink we currently own) and I’ll need to hoist the boat, soapy-water-the-hell out of it to find the hole and clean and repair it.

Transmission is an on-going pain in the rump.  Borg-Warner, Velvet Drive.  Moving the boat before Hurricane Dorian, I discovered (too late) that the transmission wasn’t quite right and I think the fluid has gone where ever it goes, again.  Had a devil of a time trying to get the boat into the slip, ended up pulling in forward, and not backing like I wanted to do.  Going to dig into that tomorrow morning and see if it’s simply a fluid issue.  Friend Kevin says his does exactly the same thing; leave it sit without running for a few weeks and you have to re-add fluid.

This one didn’t USED to do this.  But it does now.  /sigh

Today is Friday the 13th of September 2019.  I get my first “Social Security Check” next month on the 9th of October.  (I thought it would start this month, but they apparently don’t think they should, so whatever).  When that check starts, we will have our “income” doubled. haha  JoAnne gets to apply for February.

Where are we going?

We don’t know honestly.  Marsh Harbor was on our “sail to” list, but due to a Cat 5 Dorian – not now.  We aren’t setting plans, destinations or schedules.

We’re going to provision for a month and a week or so of perishables.

Our plans are to go somewhere, cruise like we were before, head south(ish) and head for some islands somewhere.  We do have places like BVI, USVI, Turks and Caicos in our sights.  Whether we get there or not, remains to be seen.

The challenge has been thrown to us to go.  So, we meet the challenge!

Let the Winds of Time blow over our heads

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Hurricane Florence

Back in September, we had to deal with two life threatening conditions.

The first was a possible Category 4 hurricane (Florence) headed straight for us.

The second was JoAnne’s CA-125 numbers rising.  The CA-125 is a particular cancer antigen they use to determine if there are ovarian tumors growing in her body.  The previous June we noted the numbers had begun to increase.  I think it was late August or early September we had another test performed (it’s a blood test).  The numbers were trending upward.

When we start prepping for the hurricane I doubled-checked our insurance, then removed sails, stowed things, removed important-to-us items, stored things in a storage locker on shore, packed the car and prepared to run.  The night before or the morning of our departure JoAnne received a message from the doctors telling her she needed to come back to Colorado and begin chemo within a few weeks.  Sooner if possible.

We had a PET scan done here in the North Carolina area, and it was determined she indeed had two areas of concern.  One, the one that frightened us the most was a nodule on her left lung on the upper lobe.  The second was a small area that lit up the PET scan, between liver and kidneys.  The lump on her lung was about 1 cm in size.  Significant in that it seemed to be growing rapidly.

We departed on Wednesday morning, with no particular destination.  She called her brother, Paul, down in Tampa Bay area and asked if we could visit for a time during the hurricane and he was more than happy to see us.  So, we headed east and south along the pre-staged hurricane evacuation routes;  there was no turning back once we got out of town.  We had to leave.

We basically had said good bye to our home, Adventure, unsure if we would ever see her intact again.  We figured insurance would help us replace her, or something similar if it came down to that.  But, we have no allusions about such things.  Insurance companies are notorious for NOT paying out on such claim, even with full replacement insurance like we have.  (Note that after being hit in Cobbs Marina by a power boater, while we were docked, we no longer carry just liability insurance.)

The trip south was uneventful.  We arrived. visited with Paul and Cathy, and waited with bated breath as we watched the weather applications on our computers and tablets.  The forecast Cat 4 never happened.  Florence did, however hit at a category 1 and destroyed several marinas to the north of our marina.  We lost a few pieces of the marina (and there is still some damage to this day).  Our own boat suffered minor damage (I could not easily remove the bimini as it has solar panels over the top of it, and I didn’t have enough time.

I had double and triple lined the boat to the pilings and dock, extra fenders and strapped the dock box down to the dock.  It didn’t move and was fine.  Adventure exploded a fender or two, stretched some lines and we got a couple tears in the old bimini.  Minor damage considering some people lost their boats north of us.

We tried to come back… but, roads were out, blocked, bridges were washed out, floods were everywhere and getting back to the marina would have proved problematic with a lack of fuel in the area.

So, onward to Colorado it was.  We saw her doctors, and set up appointments and a chemo schedule.  Finally, we heard people were getting back to Southport, and we had a three week down time before chemo began.  We hightailed it back to Adventure to clean up, repair the damage we could and prep the boat for the long winter of being away from her.

We simply left the boat in “hurricane prep” mode, and I dumped water tanks, and ensure nothing would freeze inside (the weather here rarely gets to freezing and when it does, doesn’t stay low enough for long enough to freeze the water).  With the boat cleaned and ready for winter, we secured her once more and drove the 2000 miles back to Colorado for the fifth trip since June (For anyone keeping track, that’s 10,000 miles in three months, not counting the side trips, and the hop down to Florida, which was roughly another 1600 added in there.)

JoAnne began the chemo in November.  Her chemo would be different this time.  On “Day One” she’d have all the medicines to prevent nausea, plus two chemicals to fight cancer, one was carboplatium and the other gemzar (and I don’t know if I am spelling the two correctly, I’ll fix that later).  Then on “Day Eight”, a dose of gemzar only.

Unfortunately, things began to go wrong.  She had a tooth infection, and wound up having an extraction, and going on antibiotics, thus preventing the Day 8 chemo session.  Instead three weeks later, the session and count down began again.

Day one of the second chemo session went well.  Her blood counts however, did not do well.  Again the day eight session was cancelled.

Each “session” was three weeks apart.  By this time it had been several weeks.  Session three was supposed to go as a Day One chemo infusion, then Day eight would be gemzar followed by Neulasta.  (Neulasta is a chemical they give to kick your bone marrow into high gear to produce white blood cells, and because they were so low, she really needed to get that shot).

Unfortunately, her numbers were so bad, her platelet count was extremely low, red and white cells very low, that it was dangerous for her to be out in public even.  So, they gave her the Neulasta shot, which is actually administered by a tiny robot module stuck to her arm.  It is loaded, armed and placed, then sticks a person with a small needle, to inject the drug 27 hours after the chemo is completed.  So, we have to monitor the device for beeps, lights and infusion.  When it is completed it was my job to remove the robot.

Her blood cell numbers began to look better, but her platelet count continued to spiral downward and would not recover.  We were very concerned.

Platelets, for those who are not well versed in medicine are required for clotting your blood.  So a small cut can bleed profusely, and a larger would could become fatal in moments.  You need to get the platelets back up to a normal number.

We watched the numbers, as she had tests weekly now, so another drive to the hospital, 45 miles round trip sometimes twice per week, we were at the hospital.

On Session Number Four, things start to appear normal.  We went in and her infusion went well.  She did not receive her Neulasta shot yet, as they wished to do the Day Eight Gemzar infusion.  She did get red blood cells.  We did that eight days later, on a Wednesday.  On Thursday we went in for blood work and she wound up receiving platelets as those numbers were still extremely low.  They gave her two units and then checked.  Then gave her two more.

Earlier that morning she had noticed a small blemish on her face.  It had gotten larger.  Then we noticed numerous small, red dots, resembling measles on her arms and legs.  We showed the nurses who then became very concerned.

At five PM, when we should have been out the door on the way home, her doctor ordered her admitted to the hospital.  She was “Neutropenic“.  This is a condition that results in low blood cell counts.  Her platelets were practically missing, and a hematologist was called in.

She was put on bed confinement because if she fell or was bruised in any way, should could hemorrhage.  The lack of white cells may have resulted in sepsis and could have killed her.  She was in danger.

Four days in the hospital later, they had given her some drug to prevent her body from killing off the blood cells they were giving her.  Apparently, her “Super Power” is killing foreign matter inside her own body.  Except cancer.  Her immune system was killing off the platelets they were giving her.  They had to give her red cells and platelets once they stopped the body from killing it off.

In a couple of days she was feeling better, color had returned, the spots were gone and she was ready to go home.

The Gemzar was the culprit.  They stopped giving that to her altogether, and stuck with the carboplatium.

Session Five and Session Six went without a hitch, other than lowered blood cell counts, and receiving the Neulasta shot on time 27 hours after each chemo session.

Three weeks to the day after the last chemo, like our regular clock-work schedule, we visited the hospital for a blood draw.  Fourty minutes later, we were in the PET scan area.  The numbers were back in 20 minutes.  All great.  Everything back to normal.  Except her red blood cells.  We think she is a bit anemic from all of the chemicals and she’s working to fix this with diet, supplements, and so on.  Tomorrow, on Friday, we’d get the PET scan results.

On Friday… we saw the doctor himself.  He was stern.  He didn’t smile.

Then he said, “Well, the PET scan results came back.  We see absolutely no sign of the cancer.  The nodule on your lung is just gone.  The other area isn’t light up.  We DID see some cells around your lung, but, they are not lighting up as if they are cancer.  It looks very good.”

JoAnne and I high-fived.

Wednesday the following week we were packed and were headed out.  First stop was going to be Omaha area, to visit our son Jeremy, who had moved up there and was working.  The car was completely packed and we sneaked out to avoid waking Nick, who had graciously allowed us to stay there for the whole medical adventure.

We left the key inside, went out the garage, secured the door with the electronic system and got in the car.

I put the key in and …. absolutely nothing happened. The car was dead.

We went ahead and got some assistance from the guys, and jumped the car.  Left jumpers on for 20 minutes, and the car started right up.

We drove to Nebraska without killing the car once.  That night we stayed with friends, and the car was fine.  Started up a couple of different times.  Next day we left for Missouri, pass through all the flooded areas, but no car problems.  Checking the car that night when we arrived in Richmond, MO, I found the battery voltages were not at a normal 13.8 after running all day.

I assumed the battery had a bad cell.  I went to Walmart because, as it turns out, some engineer is sitting there getting kickbacks on battery changes in the Dodge Journey.  The battery is NOT under the hood.  It’s not in the trunk.  It’s NOT in the back seat.  It’s under the left, front fender, kind of inside the engine compartment, but to get it, you must remove the wheel, the shroud covering the inside of the fender and then reach WAY up inside to unbolt the battery holder and cables!

Ok… 4.5 hours later at Walmart, the next issue happened.  All of the mechanics except one young kid, had walked off the job leaving my car sitting on the lift, tire off, and battery not looked at.  I, needless to say, complained.

At the end of it all, I personally reinstalled the wheel, taught the kid how to drop his lift, and made sure to Quality Control check his battery installation (because, he didn’t tighten the cables, and didn’t install the bracket to hold the battery down… which might have turn the car into a dangerous missile…..)

I went in to pay for the battery, and the lady at the counter apologized and said “No charge today, Sir, have a good day”.  Just like that.  Free battery?

Cool.

Unfortunately, nothing in life is free.

On Wednesday two days ago, we left Asheville, NC en route for Southport North Carolina, about a six hour drive, give or take.

Everything went very well, except the construction, the crazy drivers and accidents scattered across the region.  JoAnne routed us down and off some of the freeways to avoid accidents.  Somewhere around 501 near Myrtle Beach and a couple of miles before the turn to highway 17, the car began making horrible noises.

Then a “battery light” came on.

Uh oh….

I pulled into a random parking lot.  I grabbed my multimeter which I am going to start carrying around on my belt like a TRUE Nerd from now on, and measured the out put of the alternator.

11.5 volts DC.  Hmm… that’s not normal.  Should be 14.6vdc or so.  Yeah, alternator is NOT charging.  Also some ‘grindy’ noise was coming from the engine.  I listened carefully, and decided it was either an idler wheel, or the tensioner, along with probably the alternator failing.

With the battery at under optium voltage, and after discovering that it would cost 200 bucks just to tow the car around the corner, and have it “diagnosed” (not fixed, just tested), I thanked the lady I’d spoken too and said, “We’re going to try to make it to the marina.  It’s only 52 miles….”

We killed all the power inside, anything charging inside was removed, radio killed, and I illegally ignored my turn signals and avoided stepping on the brakes.

This battery was brand new, and free.  I was going to drive it into the dirt.

And we did.

We arrived a few moments after 5 PM, an hour later than we thought.  At the corner of Fish Factory road and Long Beach Road, I again broke the law.  The light was red.  But, the car was freaking out.  Weird lights on the dash were coming on.  Beeps and buzzes from the dashboard I’d never heard before met our ears.  I made an illegal left turn against a red traffic light.  Of course, there were no cars, and no traffic as the bridge is still closed…. I then, for the third time that day, broke the law.

I went 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

The car died as I backed into an open space in the lot.

The last bit of momentum took us to the curb.  The car died.  We were home.

That evening I came down, checked the boat, batteries and put the bed together.

Next morning I called the place that had worked on the car last June on the alternator (see, wasn’t the FIRST time we’d had issues). They have the car now, it was towed there yesterday afternoon at 2pm.

He called me three times this morning.

Diagnosis:

  1. Alternator shot, but under a lifetime warranty.
  2. Tensioner wheel is failing, bearings coming out

A new alternator is on order and will be installed Monday morning, along with a new tension wheel and mechanism (probably the spring).

Should have the car back by sometime Monday afternoon.  The cost will likely be 300 bucks, give or take a bit.

(That’s all labor, and perhaps a bit for the parts).

I will NOT be surprised if the brand new battery isn’t shot too.  We’ll find out soon enough.

 


Today is Friday, 5 April 2019.

Nothing in life is set in stone.  Not even those “Death and Taxes” people talk about.  You might avoid both if you’re smart, careful and even, at times, courageous.

One thing in life is certain though… if you don’t try, you can not do.  JoAnne is a tough chick.  She’s a lucky lady and she’s extremely courageous. She is my super hero.  Used to be my Dad was my “hero”.  But, after 40+ years with her, I’ve seen her face death with a smile and overcome it.  I’ve seen her pick up a margarita a few hours after chemo and say “Why not have a little fun? I deserve a margarita!”

I’ve watched her cry quietly over this awful disease. Not for herself but for, the perhaps “missed chances” at things.

I watched her face light up when she holds our newest grandchild, Lincoln, and hug the other grands, and the great-grand daughter.

I have spend sleepless nights myself worrying about her, caring for her, getting her things, bringing her coffee in bed in the mornings and just being there to hold her when she wants me to.

Life changes, but you can either accept things as they are, or you can make your own plans and make your wishes come true.

Cruising life isn’t always about pretty anchorages, great sailing days, and seeing dolphins.  Yes, those things happen.  But, so many other bloggers and video bloggers show you all the “good stuff”.  No one shows you, or tells you how much work it is to get ready for a hurricane, hoping it misses you by a long distance, and how much worry it causes you when you can’t be there to “protect your ship”.

We live our lives now around this boat and each other.  It’s not always positive.  Broken cars, engines, plumbing, leaks, hard rains, strong winds and sometimes broken facilities where you’re visiting, poor service at places (See Walmart above, there’s way more to that story than I actually told you) and even things like “uncontrolled dogs” that some cruisers bring ashore all work to dissuade a person from continuing.

We’ve been LUCKY on a lot of issues.  We’ve also probably paid out a LOT more money than we had to at times.

But, I don’t think either of us would trade this life for a sedate house on a hill in Colorado again.

The best thing?  Coming “Home” to “Welcome Home” messages from our dock friends.  Our extended family.

And to that end, this little thing goes out to Kevin, Debi, Jay, Tina, Pam and Charles – a few of that extended B Dock family.  Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and looking after our boat, worry for us, staying in touch, checking my batteries in the boat (Jay), and watching over Adventure during the hurricane (Debi and Kevin).  We can’t thank you guys enough.  (By the way, I’m probably gonna need a ride to the place to pick up my car Monday… anyone? LOL)

This weekend and week coming up, I will be getting the boat ready for an extended trip.  At this point, we have Abacos and Marsh Harbor in our sights.  JoAnne, more than anyone in the world right now, deserves a break, an island, an island drink, a beach and a vacation.

I’m going to give it to her.

 

 

December 7th, 2018

Today is also Pearl Harbor Day.  I suppose it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  At least here.

I’ve posted on other blogs, facebook, and our FB groups, but not here.

So, here’s December’s post.

Tonight, we go see our Granddaughter, Cassie, in a play, Death of a Salesman (I think).  High School rendition, so should be interesting.

JoAnne has been through two chemotherapy sessions.  A portion of each of those two were cancelled due, mainly, to low blood cell counts.  The first session was about six hours long. The second part of that session was supposed to last an hour, and was a week after the first infusion.  Unfortunately, she was suffering suddenly from a tooth ache, which turned also into an infection… likely due to lowered white blood cell numbers.

The second session last week on a Thursday went well.  But her blood work on this Wednesday (5 December) showed her white, red blood cells and the building blocks for those things (along with other chemicals I’m not as familiar with) were at a very low level.  Thus, they cancelled the second infusion (which should have been yesterday).

They want to give her a drug, called Newlasta, which will help to regenerate white blood cells, but it takes 14 days to function, and they need to give it after the second infusion.  So, that’s become a problem.  Now, she gets one more blood draw in a week or so (next Thursday), and then a doctor’s visit on the following Monday at which time we will be asking some questions, and hopefully there will be a “new plan” to get this accomplished correctly.

The next infusion will be after the doctor’s visit.  The GOOD news in all this, is the CA-125 blood test (Cancer Antigen test) is showing a drastic reduction in count.  It went from just over 70 to 50.  Her last tests over the course of time have been, June 2017 the CA-125 was 21, and a year later, this past June was 50.  This caused concern with us and the doctors.  In August it shot up to the mid-60s, and therefore the PET scan was ordered.

The PET scan showed not one, but TWO areas of concern.  An area somewhere between her liver and kidneys and a node on her left lung.

The next CA-125 tests were 68 and then 71 in September and October respectively.  (I might be off on the dates, exactly, but you get the gist of it).

In between all of this (September to Present), we’ve made three trips across country, back and forth, ran from a hurricane, visited Florida and came back to Colorado, where the chemo has commenced.

Two sessions are through, with some complications, but still plugging along.  We’re still very much alive, and still “Adventuring” when we can.

20 December should be our “half way point” on Chemo.  Meaning she is starting the third session.  Whether or not we get some stuff tacked on at the end, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to be checking on that when the doctor’s visit comes to pass.  That will, if things go well, give us 3 more sessions or nine more weeks with chemo in those nine weeks, healing and doctor’s visits, blood work and dozens of miles on the car back and forth to the hospitals.

In the mean time, we miss our ship, Adventure, very much and find ourselves wishing for the house to rock us to sleep at night.  Instead, we have cold, snow on occasion, next door neighbors who can be loud (in the middle of the night for some reason….) hundreds of people everywhere, and us trying to avoid germs. HA!

Tonight, as I mentioned, we’re going to a HS play, where we will likely be exposed to a lot of germs again, because people always cough, sneeze and aren’t the cleanest of creatures.  JoAnne will bring a mask just in case, but hopefully won’t have to use it.  Not, that we honest believe that a mask is going to actually STOP germs from getting into your system anyway.  Doesn’t seem to help at hospitals where there are super bugs…

In the mean time, she’s been crocheting, reading and helping run the various Sailing and Cruising forums she is Admin on, and I’ve been re-learning Morse Code (I’m very rusty at it), and have built two radios to work on Ham Radio frequencies (20 and 40 meters) but haven’t an antenna to connect, and I’ve also been writing a complete role play game campaign for “Stars Without Number” ( a role playing game, set in the milled of the year 3200, in space for some friends in the Southport area).  All of this to “keep busy”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have room, nor the time, to grab my charts and sit down and work out courses for the Bahamas and beyond, but I figure it’s likely better to do that just before we go.  At this point, we’ve decided that if we can get back in late March, we will plan a trip down to Bahamas for the Spring, and head back before Hurricane Season hits… and we have a couple of friends who want to go along, who are both sailors.  It will help immensely to get us all there safely, and through that big hurdle of “several days of sailing”, so we can head home on our own when the time comes.

Last thing, I’m personally working on is my Celestial Navigation again.  I really want to grasp that stuff.  I think I’ve mostly got it, but now, I really need to practice it.

That is all for now, friends.  Until next time, Fair Winds!

 

 

September/October/November

I have already related to you the mess we had with insurance over medical problems.

We came back to Colorado, and then after getting that straightened out, we saw JoAnne’s oncologist, and dates were scheduled.

As luck, or perhaps fine tuning, would have it, we had a three week hiatus in which to make another trip across country.  We wound up traveling back from Colorado to Southport.  We stopped (as usual) to visit our friends, Mike and Cindy, as Cindy is preparing for her starring role in “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” in November.  (As of this writing, she did opening night and the second night’s play.  This Friday night and Saturday should be their final curtain.)

We stopped around Tennessee and we wound up at Southport late on the evening of our arrival.

The boat was pretty much a mess.  Books and other things not nailed down flew around during the hurricane.  A solar panel pulled loose from the top and fell to the deck, ripping wires from the connectors.  Fortunately, it wasn’t much of a mess, the books were cleaned up, the batteries checked, and we stayed with our friend at her apartment for a couple of night until I could clean the interior of the boat up.

We spend the next week doing minor repairs, and prepping the boat for the winter, dumping our water tanks and removing any remaining food stuffs to the car, to return that with us to Colorado.  Why not use it there?

I repaired and tested the solar charging system.  We had a major water gusher under the sink where our Seagull Water filter system resided, and had worked itself loose, releasing pressure when turning on the pressure water system.  We move a few things to storage, removed a few winter clothes and after about a week on the ground there, set out again for Colorado.

This time, we took a few extra days, as there was no rush.  We stopped again with Mike and Cindy and spent a full day assisting in the set build for the play at the local VFW Hall in Richmond, MO.  I helped Cindy with her lines and we had a good time hanging out with them.  The day we left, we both had colds, and were kind of miserable.

So, we stopped in Kansas for the night instead of making the long, eleven hour run from Richmond back to Colorado Springs.  We spent the night got up late, traveled and arrived back here.

Over the course of the last week, we’ve been to multiple doctor’s appointments, been in and out of two hospitals and visited most of our kids.

A couple of days ago, our fourteenth grand child was born.  His name is Lincoln Alan Dale Donaldson, and he was 5lbs & 15oz.  He’s have a few breathing issues apparently though, and is still in the hospital until they can get him breathing correctly, even perhaps giving him some  red blood cells to help as he seemed slightly anemic.  Otherwise, he seemed healthy.  His mom and dad (Lana and Patrick) are quite proud!

Baby Lincoln

 

Yesterday was the beginning of JoAnne’s chemo.  She has six sessions.  They are 21 days long (scheduling, not that many days in a row!.)

The first day is a lot of chemicals, drugs to prevent nausea. etc.  The second set in the first session, will be 7 days out from the first day, and will be a short session to give her another dose of one of the chemicals.  Then it starts over again on Day 21.  This will go on for six total sessions, or about 18 weeks, interspersed with doctor’s appointments, blood work and other tests as needed.

We are hoping this particular chemotherapy doesn’t make her lose her hair like the first one did, but we’re prepared that it will, just in case.  She has some hats and scarves, like last time.  The chemicals are somewhat different this time as well, and her doctor said that people do not lose their hair “as much” with this type.

JoAnne is a tough cookie.  She fought this last time and managed to beat it back for four full years, she never really even got ill as some do, through chemo, and she worked the whole time last time.  This time, we’re completely retired and have nothing to keep us from fighting this all the way through.  She’s going to get plenty of rest in spite of herself! ha!

JoAnne, the First Mate of the Sailing Ketch, Adventure!

 

We both want to tell you folks, those who are already out there and follow us, and those thinking about it, as well as our friends who are comfortable in their homes, snuggled up by the fireplaces, drinking their hot chocolates, or martinis by the fire:

Stop living life the easy way.  Don’t pass the opportunities that come your way.  Don’t live day-to-day and Check-to-Check.

Do NOT let life pass you by while you’re “waiting for retirement”.  Don’t sit on your butts, thinking about all the things you’re going to do “When I don’t have to work again”.  Do NOT wait for “enough money” (because you will NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY!) to do the “RV Thing”, “buy a boat”, “go horse back riding”, “Mountain Climbing”, “Paragliding or skydiving”.

Just don’t wait.  Do it.  Sit down and make that list of things you want to do, and then check them off, one at a time.  Save some money, go do one, pick a date, do another.

Life isn’t lived while you’re “waiting on it to catch you”.  Life is lived when you grab that bull by the horns and wrestle his big ass down into the mud and hog tie him, then jump up and win that trophy.

The day JoAnne gets her walking papers from chemo, we’re headed back to Southport without meager belongings, and we’re going to empty out the Vee Berth, put everything we don’t need in storage (winter clothing, parts, junk pieces, extra crap that we “might need one day” and all the stuff that weigh us down, collect a couple of friends as crew and we’re setting sail for the Bahamas.  Yes, it will be near the beginning of Hurricane Season.  Yes, it might be the BEST sailing time.  Yes, it will be relatively spur of the moment, pretty much “unplanned” and absolutely not the “right season”, but you know what?  It’s well past time to do it.

We made a decision awhile back that we were going to live our lives, and do the “medical stuff” around life, not live our lives around the “medical stuff”.  I’ll keep JoAnne safe, and healthy, and make sure she sees the doctors when it’t time, but we’re not sitting on our asses waiting for a “day, date, season or proper time” any longer.

To our friends Kevin and Debi – skippers of their own ships, be prepared, we’re coming for you, we need a crew! (Don’t be surprised if you get shanghaied!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Cruising, without going anywhere

I suppose the idea of cruising in a sailboat (or any boat for that matter) entails travel, seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences and generally involves the movement of your boat.

As JoAnne and I have discovered though, cruising the world at a SLOWER pace than most, we find that we make friends easily and tend to keep them, and we don’t have to move too much to do so.

Over the past three years we’ve traveled a lot, both by car and boat.  We’ve been to places we’d never been together, made a lot of new friends, and found places we really enjoyed being… including Southport, NC.  When we landed here, we thought we’d be moving further south as soon as possible, and that never happened due to a variety of problems.  Everything from medical issues in our family, including my youngest brother, to engine issues, car problems and general circumstances conspired to keep us tied to, and in South Harbour Village Marina.

We’ve become so accustomed to being here, that when we were requested to leave the really nice slip we were in (due to the private owner selling it out to someone else) we felt like we were being evicted.  We moved only a few slips down and remained on B-Dock where many of our friends live on their own boats.  We even have a B-Dock group on Facebook for all of us to post things and to help one another if necessary.

Over the past year and a half here, I’ve worked for the marina.  There were three reasons I took the job.  The first reason was because I needed to take up some of my time, the second for the fun of it, and the third was for a little beer money or to offset the cost of the slip.   The last doesn’t really do both, but, it’s sufficient I suppose.  I left a job that paid me over 5 times what I make a dock hand here at the marina (including tips), so if I wanted a job that made a lot of money, I might have found something different.  Mostly, this was for fun (and I even explained to the Dockmaster, “When this is no longer fun, I quit!) and it has been a lot of fun.  But it’s really not my life, nor my lifestyle, nor is it something I will continue to do.

I don’t feel like I want to “die at work”.  The truth is, I think we’ve heard Mother Ocean calling to us again.

We do have a deadline too.  JoAnne has been cancer-free since August of 2014.  We bought Adventure in January 2015, one year after her diagnosis.  She spent months going in every three weeks to chemo, then the following Sunday morning to get a shot to help her white blood cells regenerate.  She worked through all of it, albeit, with a few less hours than was normal.

She found this boat in November of 2014 after she was declared cancer-free.  We did the survey, and eventually I wound up having my own medical issues after buying the boat.  We still managed to beat mortality for a bit longer, and got to the boat, moved aboard and starting moving the boat south.

We spend long periods of time in places that we like, moving around only when necessary or when we truly HAVE to sail.  We like it here, but again, we both need more, and to move on.  And we’re not getting younger.  In fact, JoAnne is seeing a rise in her blood work numbers about cancer.

Over the past few months, since June, her CA-125 blood test has been coming back elevated.  It spiked, and in fact, doubled since last year’s test.  The oncologist ordered a CT scan, and found nothing.  Other tests have been performed, all showing “no problems”.

Right now we are working with local doctors, and they with Colorado doctors to set up a PET scan to determine if there is a recurrence of cancer.  We will have three choices then….

  1. We go back to Colorado if there IS a recurrence and go through whatever necessary treatment is available, designed to combat this hateful disease.
  2. We take crap off the boat we don’t need, put food and water aboard that we do, and we set sail for the Bahamas.
  3. If the “recurrence” isn’t great and it’s not time for chemo or other treatment, we still go (and this is what’s really up in the air at this time).

What we don’t know is how long we get to go for, how long treatments take (we can guess of course), or the outcome of such treatments.  We don’t know the outcome of the PET scan, since it hasn’t been accomplished as of yet.

So, we’re hanging in Limbo right now, waiting for doctors and hospitals to arrange things and get going on this, get it done and let us know the situation.

Right now, I’m ready to quit my job to be here until she gets her medical tests done, so I’m always available for her.  But, I don’t think I’ll do that yet.  We also know she’s in good health, and good spirits, and has no issues at all, so we’re at the point of thinking this may be the place here blood work is going to “settle down” and stable for now.  At least that’s my hope.

No matter what happens in the next few weeks, we will be making our trip to the Bahamas somehow.  We prefer it to be IN our boat, under our own power, without the help of airplanes, or cars, but we don’t know yet.  We also want to go back to the British Virgin Islands, again, in this boat rather than by plane.  It’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of when.

I have a few things to do with the boat, nothing at all critical.  She’s ready to go now, with the exception that I have a slight exhaust leak in the manifold, which probably is a relatively easy fix I think (gaskets most likely) and I want to work on a water maker system I have purchased, but haven’t even unboxed it yet.  We can likely get away without using it, but, I’d like it on the boat for “just in case” at this point.

Other than that, a simple clean sweep of the boat, stowing things, and getting the deck mostly cleared is all we really have left to do to get out on a long voyage.  We can leave here in minutes if necessary, though somewhat unprepared for a long trip, but short hops maybe.  We’ve hesitated on starting provisioning again, due to the above medical issues keeping us waiting.

I guess, in a way, long term cruising or “extended cruisers” have to make a lot of compromises about everything from readiness to weather, to their abilities to medical problems.  We are, I suppose not what some would call “cruisers” because we’re not constantly moving with the boat, but we are in so many other ways.

This town has captured our hearts.  We love it here, so even if we run down the coast, or down Island we will be returning here, no matter what.

I hope all our friends, family, fans and followers will keep JoAnne in their prayers and thoughts for good a good medical report.  Thank you all for reading.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Rick

Failure, Disappointment and Frustration…. or was it?

We were set to pull out of the marina as the tide was falling.  I had 15 minutes to play with before the water would be too thin for us.  We waited for one of the crew’s family to come and say good bye and to meet us.  We had cut it pretty close, but we were getting out.

The morning was chilly, but nice.  The wind was clocking around though in the afternoon and I wanted the last of the north winds to take us down the coast as rapidly as possible under sail.  I knew if we waited until the afternoon we would be tacking a LOT to go to the Southwest.

At 0905 I put the engine in reverse and some friends tossed the lines to Nick, our new crew member.  He put the lines away and I began backing out and hit a bump.  Mud, and the water was thinning.

“Crap,” I thought.  Then there was a horn behind me where there had not been a boat a few moments before, and a shout from one of the marina guys, Norm, asking me to pull back in the slip.  I yelled back, “Trying to get out before I can’t!”

He said, “Pull in, they are going for a pumpout!”

Katy B, a large power vessel wasn’t stopping, so I pulled back in.  In a parking lot, the guy going behind you has the right of way.  So, I treated it like a parking lot and pulled forward, knowing full well we weren’t getting out now.

They cleared us, and I began backing and slammed into the mud.  Too shallow now.  Cut it too close.  Darn.

A quick check with the crew, JoAnne and Nick, told me we were going to try again.  But as tide was coming back in around 1300.  That didn’t set well with me because, honestly, I knew the winds were going to clock.  They really wanted to get going on our journey.  So, we ate some lunch, and waiting for Nick’s family to return once again this time to see us off the docks, and bring a friend who had come to visit them.

At 1315, we backed out on a rising tide.  I still hit the “bump” behind our slip and after a moment of hesitation, I brought the bow around and we motored smartly out of the marina with people waving to us, yelling “Fair Winds” and “Good Luck!”

The ICW was quiet, the winds were beginning to drop, but I hoisted the main as we got a little ways out of the marina to use what there was, about 7-9 knots to help propel us down the water way, along with the engine chugging along.  Engine was just fine.  No overheating issues now.

A couple of miles later we rounded a bend and headed into the Western Bar Cut.  I’ve done it a few times now in both my boat and Jay’s “Knot Working” so have learned it better.

Before we go on…. let me tell you another short story.

One week before, on a Friday (bad luck they say) we departed and wound up with overheated engine, rainy morning, crappy weather, and made it to the lighthouse when the engine overheated badly.  I called for a tow, from SeaTow who brought us home to our slip.

So, we’re not really unfamiliar with bad luck.

Back to the story.  This is the third or fourth attempt to get out of here and head south.  Each time, something odd has happened.

On this day, things were going great.  We were in the channel headed out, but now, by the time we hit the Western Bar and were under main sail and engine, the winds were turning against us.  We needed to go directly Southwest.

We sailed on, passing our friends Jay and Kevin who went out earlier in the morning when we pulled back into the slip.  They waved, took pictures and wished us luck.  We kept going.  After 30 minutes we were almost to the light house, to the place we’d had to turn around last time.  Winds were now fully in our faces on the bow.

I can’t change the winds, so I did what any sailor would do, I tacked and adjusted the sails and we took off at almost five knots.  I pulled out all sail, and managed almost 6 knots.  Good, faster than I though.  Course looked good, but we would be going right towards the shipping channel entrance, so I worked out a tack in the other direction and tried to gain as much SW direction as I could.  Not going well.

When we got to the buoy out there, we tacked back and headed toward shore. At the end of the tack we’d gained roughly 1/2 nautical mile.  Winds were picking up too.  Tacking back in another 30 minutes gained us another half mile.  On the third tack I realized while we were sailing well, it was not going to get us very far.   I started considering going back in.  Or going down the ICW.

Neither one sounded appealing.  And everyone voted to go on.  I restarted the engine and aimed south, figuring our computer applications told us winds would finish clocking back out of the north soon (by about 1600).  Motor sailing against the wind is not really my favorite thing to do, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Except today.

We were making 2 knots most of the time.  So I started “tacking off the wind” and trying to use the sail, doing shorter tacks so we didn’t head into shipping lanes or too close to shore.  We watched a gorgeous sunset and the Southwest wind had a long fetch before us.  After another hour, we were pounding into and out of waves, as they built first to 3, then 4 feet.

JoAnne began to get ill.  I’d sent her down to rest (she’d taken medication that was making her sleepy, so she was laying down).  Nick had gone down to sleep for a couple of hours so he could join me in the cockpit at 2100 or so that night.

I put the boat on autopilot, looked around and seeing nothing went below to double check on the engine.  Oil smoke was burning off the engine and filling the cabin.

At that point I decided it was time to turn around.  So about 2000 hours local time I awakened them and told them my decision.  I suspect they were both disappointed, but neither let on.  I brought the boat back around and Nick joined me in the cockpit to help me watch for traffic.

We slogged against currents coming out, and falling tides (again), into a bright, moon-lit night, looking for markers.  At the last moment I decided against attempting the Western Bar in the dark and headed for the secondary shipping channel, giving me plenty of water, but adding 3-4 miles on our trip in against the currents.

I contacted Jay and he and Kevin would meet us at the transient dock (after they determined there was a slot open).  We arrived about 2340 and tied off on the T-dock for the night, hoping to move in the morning.  Nick decided to go home, called his parents who picked him us, I connected electricity and we still had SW winds.  They never switched to come from the North.

The temperature was beginning to drop, but wasn’t uncomfortable yet.  About 0145 Sunday morning something awakened me.  It was the wind.  It had finally clocked around out of the north and was blowing hard.

It was the wind I was hoping would be there about 1400 the day before to propel us south.  I’d have taken us in at Little River or on to Charleston, SC.  Alas, that didn’t happen.

The next day early on, one of the other boats was coming back in under tow, the marina was a bit mad at me for taking up the only slot, but I couldn’t get in at low tide (and I was NOT going to get up at 0500 to try to bring the boat in after what I’d just been through, exhausted, bringing the boat back in the ICW in the dark).

Fortunately, we came up with a solution and put him on the inside against the bulkhead.  Apparently, they didn’t want to try getting him into his slip.  Though, a week before, SeaTow put me in MY slip….

So… there are some lessons here.  But, I’m not going into them all right now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll make my own decisions from now on about moving the boat, no one tells me.  We go when *I* know it is ready.  Not before, not after.  I’ll wait for a good weather window, not an “OK” weather window.  I won’t start off again without having the right tides in the right places… and so many other seamanship things I already KNOW I should do, and discounted some of them.

Never again.

Today, it’s 18 degrees here.  We’d have been near Charleston, SC, with no heat (very little, propane heater, wood stove are insufficient at sea).  We have electric heating on the boat right now, but requires AC power.  Only have that running generator or shore power.

After all was said and done, I made the correct decision to come back in because had I not, three of us would have been exhausted, tired and freezing, and perhaps a danger to ourselves and others.

Apparently, some delays are simply meant to be.

Delay… Again

Sometimes life throws things at you and you fall down and get up and try again.  Sometimes, people just give up and quit.

JoAnne and I have been at this marina a whole year.  We’ve made wonderful friends, traveled by car everywhere, and we’ve sailed out in the Atlantic a few times now.

Last December I was ready to quit and sell the boat, and move back to Colorado.  Then my brother got very ill, so we kept the boat on the transient docks here and went north to Michigan where he was in critical condition in ICU.  We waited around about 10 days until we knew he was getting better.  Then we came back.

We’d had major engine issues, gotten our asses kicked, sea sick, had to deal with travel and a sick relative.  We were exhausted, tired, and really not ready to continue.  So we stayed here.

In October this year we thought we’d get out.  Then the “Great Fire Extinguisher” recall started.  Technically, it started before that but we didn’t hear about it, except as a fluke through someone else’s blog entry.  So, I made my calls as soon as I knew (which was early November).  A month later, we’re still awaiting at least one of them.

Over the past two months we’ve had three aborted attempts at heading out.

Once because of weather.  The second time due to fog and light winds.  Today, 7′ plus waves and small craft advisories (and listing to the commercial traffic in the shipping lanes, I’m glad we aborted this morning).  Big rolling waves coming in.

JoAnne, who can and does get sea sick in the wrong conditions (short period waves)  said “Nope”.  So, that was a nope.

Nope means Nope.  So, for all my friends giving me crap for “Still being here”… understand that I’m not a cruiser so I can put myself through hell every few weeks.  I’m a cruiser because I live on a boat, I DO move the boat (however occasionally that might be of late) and we are going to continue cruising.

It wasn’t in the cards.  Winds are right, the waves are too big for us in close right now.  Once we get back out there, it will be fine, but until she is 100% ready and I don’t have to worry about her being sea sick, then we’ll go.

We have a couple of requirements.  The first one is we want to SAIL, not MOTOR all the way to Florida. So the winds have to be mostly right, and the weather has to be conducive to get us out of Cape Fear.  They don’t call it “Cape Fear” for nothing.  Listening to some of the ships talking about 7 foot rollers was enough for me.

ICW is too shallow, I hate it.  At some point we’ll get out and go south, but today is not that day.

There’s always tomorrow.  Or Karaoke.