Bad Luck?

I’m the most not-superstitious person ever to live on the planet.  I don’t believe in Black Cats being bad luck, and in fact think Black Cats are pretty cool cats.

I’ve walked under ladders.  I’ve broken mirrors, and even cut them (doing glass cutting).  I’ve spilled salt and the only time I ever had bad luck was when I took the salt shaker and tossed some over my left shoulder like you’re supposed to do, and the lid of the salt shaker came off pouring an entire shaker full of salt down this biker guy’s neck behind me.  He laughed about it, when I explained, just before he was about to kill me dead…. But… bad luck? No, it’s BS.

Or is it?

JoAnne and I have been having a run of bad luck.  We’ve had engine troubles, gotten beat up in the Bay, lost our engine, had sail and rigging issues, toilet problems, stove problems, heat problems, cold problems, electrical problems.

A logical, non-superstitious person would say its par for the course.  Until Tuesday night, 4 days ago.

On Tuesday evening, the boat’s mast went back up.  We had met Pierre and his wife Anne-Marie from France and because the mast was going up, they invited us over to had a drink and celebrate the boat being put back together.  That evening, we walked over with some cake to meet them and go aboard their boat, MiHiwad  (An acronym for “My Home is where anchor drops”) .

Unfortunately, it was not going to be a great evening for JoAnne.  When we got to the dock, it was the old, rickety dock that is being replaced.  The tide was out.  The difference between the dock and the boat deck was between 18 inches and 24 inches.  No problem for me, but JoAnne wasn’t happy with it.

My job as Captain is to help people.  To improvise.  To adjust.  To give a way to accomplish a job, mission or objective.  To make things work when they can’t work.  To give people encouragement.

I gave JoAnne encouragement, I said said, “You’ve got this…” and stepped aboard to show her how easy it was.  I took her hand, handed off the cake and watched as she stepped forward, lost her footing and fell.  Both Pierre and I tried to catch her and failed.  I kept her from falling harder, but I didn’t stop her from falling so hard she pulled muscles in her back.
She stepped with one foot and her other foot (the one on the dock) slipped causing her to fall forward.  I feel terrible.

At this point, there is little we can do now.  She’s not really capable of doing anything on the boat, not even standing around and cooking, let along pulling lines, or driving for any length of time.  She can’t stand for very long and she can’t really lift anything.

Xrays say no broken bones.  According to the ER doc.  However, this morning they called her and told her that a technician (or perhaps a radiologist) said there is a good possibility of a hairline fracture and they now want an MRI.  Might happen Monday, or maybe not.

Either way, I refuse to put her at risk.  As of this minute she’s no longer travelling with the boat without other crew members to assist me.  I can send her back to Colorado to rest and recuperate there rather than subject her to chilly nights, windy days, bouncy waves and shaky cockpits.  We’re going to wait until Monday to see if they call us to do the MRI. If not, I think she’s going back to Colorado.

I’m going to remain with the boat and move it south alone, or find a crew member to assist me.  At this point our destination has changed to Marathon Key or Tampa Bay. If neither of those, then at least Green Cove Springs.  (I have a friend near that that is recommending the Green Cove Springs Marina, and I’ll determine the location based on phone calls later).

So… good luck, bad luck or no luck at all.  I’m not sure, but JoAnne’s life and health are the number one priority for me.  I know she wants to be someplace south and in the warm, but it’s probably not going to happen for another few weeks, if not months.

I’m open to suggestions for locations, ideas on how best to move the boat, and/or medical information.  MRI will come soon enough.

 

 

 

Fixin’ to begin to commence to start….

My mother used to berate my Dad sometimes with the phrase “Imagonna” when she wanted to remind him of something he said he would do, and had not gotten around to doing it just yet.  She’d be upset with him and would be the one to remind him that he wasn’t doing whatever it was with this caustic remark of “Imagonna”.

But Mom had a way of telling us kids she was going to do something, eventually, if we asked her. She used “I’m fixing to begin to commence to start…” meaning to us, she’d get around to it when she was damned good and ready.

On Wednesday last week I spent the better part of eight or night hours actually sitting on an aircraft to head to the location of the boat I’m looking at.  On Thursday morning I sat at breakfast with the surveyor and discussed our attack plan.

By Thursday evening, I was convinced.

It was cold, negative 10 degrees below zero when I arrived and looked at the boat for the first time in person.  I’d “driven around the area” using Google Street view, but couldn’t quite see the boat from the location the Google car had turned around.  So, no sneak previews for me.  Only the images the seller had sent to me via the broker, and those on the various ads I could find.

There was ice on the deck.  The deck covered with tarps.  Did I mention it was cold?  Colder than Colorado, that’s for sure.

I had a “Wow!” moment when I first saw the boat.  It was just as beautiful, if not more-so than the images told me.  In fact, Confucius had it wrong when he said “One picture is worth a thousand words”.  The images tell a lot, but when you’re in person and all you can say is “Wow” I guess that says something too.  A lot.

My second “WOW” moment was on deck.

My last one was when I climbed down the ladder to the cabin.  That was more of a “Triple Wow!”

Basically, the survey went well, everything we checked out was good.  There was some “bad” too though, but mostly things I can deal with without having to resort to professionals.

The most important part was coming away from the survey having watched a professional examine the boat, taking notes and taking pictures and knowing his evaluation would give me the confidence to go forward.

We stand awaiting the survey report and in a short time we’ll “be fixin’ to begin to commence to start” our trip to the Islands.

More to follow….

Headed for a Dock

Well, kind of.  We’re headed down soon to Florida to look over some boats.  Since I’m a little wary about putting travel data out I won’t say when or exactly where yet.  But we’ve got a bunch of boats lined up, one confirmed appointment and the type of boats are all falling in line with our basic requirements.

Each of the boats will be between 34-41 feet long.

Among the top choices were:

Allied Mistress (a 39′ full keeled ketch with an aft cabin)

Morgan Out Island 41 – similar to above

Hallberg-Rassy 35

Morgan 36

O’Day CC

Westsail 32

Those are our absolute top, go-to boats right now.  Among the second place was a Formosa (Actually it’s a CT 41, but based on the same designs as the Formosa 41), a couple of different Irwin models, another Hallberg-Rassy (33′), a couple of larger boats (a 45′ and a 44′) and too far away to look at, but would be on the top of the list if closer to our destination, would be two Gulfstar sloops.

We’ve been aboard a Westsail 42 in the past (if you watching the banner pictures, you’ll see the actual boat, the Kataboo eventually) – but not a 32.  We’ve clambered all OVER a Morgan 41 in the Bahamas that was for sale at one point.  The owner wanted too much money, and we didn’t want to fiddle with trying to get him to drop the price at the time.  The boat was sold later, I hear, to some folks who wanted it to move Haitians off their island, most likely, illegally.  He didn’t get anywhere near what he was asking originally.

I’m partial to a slightly smaller vessel – perhaps 35′ in length.  She is looking for something a bit larger.  We might, or might not have extra crew join us (family members) from time to time and for unknown lengths of time.  There is nothing set in concrete for that and we’re honestly not sure when this might happen, for how long or if the persons in question will do this often or not very often.

Thus we’ve been torn on buying the larger boat and ending up spending more money in repairs and maintenance, or going smaller, more budget-minded and have the extra crew “make do” with the space we allot them.  We feel like they really should come along – they are young and could be helpful, but also at the same time this is really for me and my wife, not to accommodate others.  Don’t get me wrong, we love them dearly and would welcome them.  But you know… decisions, decisions.  Oh their part and ours….

Anyway, truthfully, if we locate a boat that is 34-35 feet long and still has an aft cabin (we have a couple of those) to allow my wife and I privacy and a larger cabin area for the galley and an extra space or three for sleeping, it will be fine.

I really, really, like that Hallberg-Rassey we’re looking at.  I also really, really, really like the Allied Mistress.  Boat good boats, both of them are in our price range.  Both of them have the things already on them we want.  One is a bit much on asking price, the other has some work that is required before you can sail off.

But, we’ll figure it out.

The Broker we’re working with has told us several times to “sign a S&P” form… basically it’s an offer letter.  I don’t want to do that until I SEE boats personally, touch them, look inside, sniff around and do my own mini-survey.  Once I do that, I’ll be in a better position to determine if we’ll have a surveyor come out and do the rest of the job for us.  So – not getting pushed into making an offer on a boat sight-unseen, not buying a boat JoAnne and I both don’t have 100% agreement on, and won’t buy one that isn’t really what either of us want.  We each can veto the others final say on a vessel.

From a practical aspect this is about to be our new home.  We don’t want to live in a camper.  We don’t want to be “camping”.  We want to have some comfort, a nice place to sleep, a dry boat, places to store food, a water maker (eventually), extra power (solar panels and wind generator) and a way to move the boat without an engine (sail, sculling oars, outboard) and a dinghy.  HF radio is part of our lives now (we’re hams) and we’ll take our radio gear with us when we finally leave Colorado.

She has another doctor’s visit in October.  We’re waiting for that appointment to make the final decision on the house.  We’ll likely put it back on the market at the end of October if all works out.  If not, we’ll continue on, regroup as we have in the past and continue keeping on….

Fair Winds!

Cancer

I’ve been very lax about writing here, for a lot of good reasons.  Mostly, this is our cruising blog and simply put, we’ve not been cruising.

Last week I posted why I had not put anything up in a year.  It was busy, hectic and we were pretty frazzled all the time.  Then January came around with the bad news.

On Tuesday, 12 August 2014, seven days after our anniversary she walked into the doctor’s office and saw the physician’s assistant, Candice.  Candice was happy to inform us that there are no visible signs of cancer left in her body.  The CT scan can detect no remaining tumor.  Obviously, it can’t see at the microscopic level but as far as they can tell at this time she is “cancer free”.  We both know and understand the ramifications of this; and that it can return, and if it’s going to might happen within a two year period.  The longer we get away from this time without recurrence, the better chances it won’t.

We also understand that time in this world is limited and we’re given an opportunity to see and do things inside of one lifetime.  For many that lifetime is cut short when they are young.  We’ve made it over a half century.  We plan to hang around as long as possible.

She told me moments after we were all wiping the tears of joy from our eyes, “I can go sailing!”

And you know what?  She is going.  We’re leaving to look at currently available boats in Florida in a few days, as well as visit her brother who lives in the Largo area.  We’ll let you know how things turn out.

One more appointment in October for her, then one every three months thereafter.  We’ll locate doctors on the East Coast where we can go and have her tests done, and examines performed.  After that October appointment, if all goes well, the news is still good news, we will put the house back on the market and sell it as soon as humanly possible and get ourselves to our boat.

Throughout this whole thing JoAnne has been the bravest, strongest person I have ever known.  She’s still been Mom to the kids and Grandma to the little ones, and remained my “Sweetheart” through it all.  If anyone can sail around the world and has the tenacity and fortitude to do so, it’s her.  But we’ll leave that trip for another time.  For now, the first part of our voyage through life has ended, and the second leg of the trip has finally begun.  We’re both better prepared for adversity than before I think – I hope.

Until next time….

One Year Ago

Almost one year ago – 8 August was my last entry, and this is 28 July – we were messing with, dealing with a new old RV.  It’s still sitting in the driveway, or rather I should say back in the driveway.  But, let me start back then.

Last year around end of May we pretty much finished doing the repairs on the house, getting it prepared to go on the market and about July time frame we did so.  The RV was moved to a friend’s place for storage, we moved out of the house and the Realtor we’d hired came in and argued with us to drop the price, stage the house, and to drop the price.  But, I said that didn’t I?  So did she, over and over and over and over and over.

Long story short on that, she didn’t see eye to eye with my wife and I on things.  We KNOW the house is worth more than what she was trying to force us to drop the price down to.  She wanted it staged, we didn’t, but we thought “Ok, why not”.  So she brought someone in, then wanted to charge us for the staging.  We refused to pay for it.  Wanted the house simple, empty and easy for people to examine.  She wanted it cluttered with crap.

The Realtor ended up paying for the staging.  We didn’t.  Along about October, as Fate would have it, the lack of an understanding between the parties caused us all to part ways.  JoAnne and I moved back into the house with almost no furnishing.  The Realtor vacated the contact.

In November, we hired another Realtor – and I won’t post any of their names here; but when the job is done, I’ll name names. 🙂

November, December and January brought more people in the first two  weeks than we had the WHOLE three months with the first Realtor.  Amazingly enough, there were ZERO complaints about the house (when ALL we got were complaints from the first few people that looked at it with the first lady).  We believe the first one wanted us to just sell to someone who couldn’t really afford the house (hence the constant browbeating about dropping the price even below the appraised value)!

Then January came along.

JoAnne felt ill a few times, went home from work early a few times – something she NEVER does – and finally toward the end of the month she was beginning to be tired, having all sorts of strange problems so she went to the doctor.  Our doctor saw her, then told her something wasn’t right.  She sent her early next morning for CT Scan across town.  On Wednesday evening, 29 January 2014, Doctor Robison called to tell us the bad news.  Cancer.  Ovarian.  We were sitting at our normal “watering hole” with some of the family, as it was my youngest son’s 28th birthday and we had bought him a beer.

It was devastating.  Completely.  Cancer?  Not her.  Not my sweetheart.  And yet, it was true.

In February she had surgery, but not before she got sick, her kidneys shut down and we almost lost her from that, her blood pressure dropped dangerously low more than once and she stopped working and went on medical leave for the time being.  The tumor was huge – bigger than a grapefruit.  They took out a lot of parts, including lymph nodes, lots of them.

The good news was the tumor was not completely cancerous, only a small portion from the way the doctor explained it.  And the better news was that it had not spread any further, lymph nodes were clean.  The bad news was it was at “Stage IIc or IIIa”.  The doctor couldn’t really give us a good staging.  We think we went with worst case – because, you know, doctors don’t like to be sued for giving the truth… but that’s another story I guess.

She has since had a port installed for the chemo, undergone 6 chemo sessions, each 21 days apart, lost all of her hair, we’ve both cried a lot and held each other a lot, the kids have been visibly upset, scared and just worried.

On 11 July 2014 at about 2:30 PM the last chemo was finished.   She’d had a doctor’s appointment just prior (day before).  Her CA-125 tests have been pretty low (11 or so) consistently.  On 4 August she has a CT scan – to do, we suppose, a baseline check afterward and for future reference.  Ever few months a CA-125 test will be done.  And she has to make a decision whether she wants her port removed (every few weeks she has to go in to have it flushed).

She’s leaning toward having it removed because frankly it’s a pain in the ass to have to keep going back to have it punctured (along with her skin) and flushed and it was a 20 minute surgery to put it in.  She will probably decide that sometime prior to October.  In October she will have enough information to decide whether we will put the house back on the market.

In the meantime, she’s diligently searching for a boat to carry us around the world.  After we pay all the bills. And maybe sell the house.

Colorado

We moved here in N0vember 1989 on a whim.  We had five children and I left my military career to start a business in Colorado with some friends.

We bought a house and I got a “temporary” job in my normal field of electronics and radios.   The business never worked out, the first job didn’t work out and we struggled to keep our home; but we did.  I rejoined the military as a Reservist to finish my 20 years (I did 26 years total with the military).  In the mean time I have been a teacher, electronics technician, computer systems administrator and a “security engineer” (unlike “sanitation engineer” this doesn’t mean I do “security” and I’m not a “security guard” – instead I use my electronics skills and other skills to maintain an electronic security system and keep the customers happy.

JoAnne didn’t really “work”; she was “just a mom” – a phrase which I am sure pisses off a lot of moms.  Moms are some of the hardest working people on the planet.  They are cooks, finance managers, taxi drivers, food provisioners and do many, many other jobs that those of us who do not stay home with the kids on a daily basis have no clue about.  JoAnne has worked in fast food restaurant management and retail sales now for many years.

Both of us are tired of working for someone else, spending so much time apart and so much money taken from us in taxes to pay for those who live on the “Government dole”  After thirty seven years of working for the government and having them take and take and take from us, we’re tired of giving.

In our nearly twenty five years here in Colorado we’ve lived in the same house–a record for both of us now, to have lived in one house, in one city, in one state for so long a time.  We made friends and lost friends, had many jobs, climbed mountains, camped by lakes, traveled the Western United States from here.  Our children were raised for the most part in this home in which we live.

Last night it suddenly hit me, even after planning and working for the past five years to accomplish our goal, that we were actually about to accomplish our goals.

We have an incredible view of the mountains and a pretty house.  Over the years we let a lot of maintenance things slip simply because we were both working long hours or just too tired to do much when we got home.  I suspect we’re both going to miss that view of Pikes Peak out the back windows, sitting in the hot tub as the sun sets on Friday nights having a glass of mead or a beer, chocolate covered strawberries and awaiting the stars to begin twinkling.

A lot of memories are in that house, some good, some bad, but they are our memories and the good part is we can keep those memories.

Our children are all grown up, moved away; they all still live here in Colorado and have their own children and lives to live now.  We think that none of them want us to leave because they will miss us and yet they all have come to accept the fact we’re going.  JoAnne and I have accepted that we’re starting a new life now one where we will count on each other even more than we ever have.  A life that will, if we do things right grant us vistas that will rival the view of the mountains out the back yard.  This life will have dangers and it will have it’s moments of safety.

We plan to leave this life of working constantly and just enjoy the years we have left together.

When we first came up with the idea of moving to a sailboat and cruising around the world or just to some foreign port there was a little trepidation.  Though we are both world travelers now and can handle “culture shock” and not speaking the language we do get along well with people and enjoy traveling so putting the two things together was perhaps more difficult in our minds than it will be in fact.

I don’t think either of us is quite ready for an offshore passage yet, but we’re ready to try it.  In the coming months we have to sell our home — with luck that process will start in less than a couple of weeks when the finishing work is competed.  After that the next part of the process is locating the boat that is right for us to begin our travels.  Once we do that we still have a long journey to “get there”.  We have to fit out the boat, use it and practice sailing some more, get used to the “Rules of the Road” again (been some time since we were on the ocean now) and we have to plan our first few months out.  Many cruisers will tell you not to plan too far in advance and we do understand this, but we want at least to know where we’re starting and have an idea where we need to be in hurricane seasons and winters now.

We are going to miss Colorado but we will probably be too busy to miss it much.  Our grand children are another story.  We will miss them immeasurably.

 

Troy Donaldson, my Father

Dad passed away on the 15th of September.  He was born on 6 Feb 1936.  We were called last May to come visit because he was ill and in the hospital.  JoAnne and I drove to Michigan on an emergency basis, taking emergency leave from both our jobs to get there.  We visited with him over a few days and he was improving slightly.  My brothers and sister all showed up along with many other family members to pay their respects and well wishes to him.

On my last day before we had to head back to Colorado I had a 15 or 20 minute private conversation with him, just him and me.  It was his wish that he be left to his own body… in other words, he knew he was ill and wasn’t going to live much longer.  He told me a few things; told me he was proud of me for my own life’s work (such as it is) and told me that retiring early was the BEST thing in the world and he should have done it as well.

He cared very deeply for his family and knew they cared for him, especially his wife, Gail.  He wanted me to make sure before I left that Sherry and myself worked with her to ensure she was going to be “all right” when his time came.  That was around the end of May this year, 2012.

I told Dad he was my childhood hero and I wished that he could have been Superman in disguise and live forever.  He laughed and said, “No one lives forever.  None of us.  We can only live as long as God lets us stay here” and wished me a long and healthy life myself. Told me to get back to Colorado and make sure I completed my plans to head out cruising.  Said it would probably add 10 or 20 years to a person’s life.

He wanted his kids to be happy, healthy and grow up to be intelligent and wise.  He said that for the most part we’d accomplished what he hoped for us.

When I discussed coming back for his funeral, he laughed and said, “I’m probably going to be cremated – you remember me how I was, not how I am now.  I hate being weak and unable to get up and move around on my own any more.  This kind of life is NOT for me any more.  Don’t waste money trying to get back up here and just remember me.”

When Bobbi Jo called (my Sister-in-Law, who was chosen to do the notifications) on Saturday morning Dad had passed about 10 minutes before her call. We were on our “Second Honeymoon” in South Padre Island, scheduled to depart on Monday.   I wasn’t shocked, I expected it. But I was saddened because my father was there for me as a child as he should have been.  He never came to Colorado to visit us, or to DC, or Virginia or even Oklahoma I suppose because that’s the way he was.  He didn’t like trying too many new things and didn’t really like traveling all that much.

That’s ok, I got back to see him as often as money and time would permit.  Most of the family was there when he passed, though I don’t think they were by his side.  I understand only Gail was with him which is as it should have been.  I’m glad we made it back to Michigan last May to visit with him and sorry we couldn’t get there in time for the Memorial service, but I understand it was good for family to get together to remember him.

Death is as much a part of life as children being born to a family.  I’m confident now that me, my brothers and sisters have accomplished the most important thing, passing on our name, something that some families can’t do as the last of them die off.

Since my wife and I have raised five children and they’ve given us around thirteen grand children now, we have accomplished the most important thing to the family, passing on that name.  It’s time for us to move on to the next and probably final stage of our own lives before death comes knocking at our doors.

I expect my Dad is in Heaven now, guarding the Pearly Gates for St. Peter, in his Marine’s Uniform.  I hope my family can remember him, not as he was sick and weak in the hospital.  The only thing left now is our pictures, and our memories and even they are fleeting things.

I posted this on Facebook the day he passed away.  Thought I’d share it here:

My Father, Troy Donaldson passed from this world today. He was 76 years old. He lost two wives, my mother and his second wife Betty. He was married to Gail when he passed. He raised five children, one of those he survived, my dear sister Robin. Dad worked in a factory, as a trucker, wine delivery man, and drove a bus back in the mountains of Kentucky for doctors and nurses giving shots and examining the needy. 

Dad’s most important job was as a United States Marine. But he went AWOL for a couple of days to marry my mother Jean. When he came back in he was slated to reenlist and stay in another few years. But they had to punish him for going AWOL. But, he chose to get married on the Marine Corps birthday, so they decided to let him finish out his term and get out. Busted him to the “Permanent Rank of PFC” (from Corporal and he was to be promoted to Sergent when he reenlisted).

Dad sometimes didn’t make great decisions, but at least marrying Mom was a good one… The number of grandkids proves that.

I know Gail is going through a lot right now, but our family loves her too. She’s not my mother, but she was dad’s third wife and Dad cared very much for her. I want her to know how much we will all miss him, right along with her and we support her and she can call on any of us if she needs us.

Dad taught me a lot of things – from how to lay concrete, to wood working, metal working and how to do a good job. He also taught me how to mess things up sometimes, but also taught me how to fix things. Until a few years ago I didn’t even realize how much he taught me.

He never said “Come here, let me show you this or that”. He just did things and made sure I was paying attention. If he yelled at me I deserved it. If I got a spanking as a child, I certainly had done something to probably have my ass kicked for. I learned either not to get caught being stupid, or more likely NOT to do something stupid.

Dad taught me how to fight. Mom didn’t want him to teach me that stuff. Dad said “I don’t want a son that can’t throw a punch, or not be able to defend himself.”

Dad had a black belt in karate but stopped practicing when I was a little kid. Dad was a SCUBA diver when I was a child. He lifted weights. He did a lot of other things I suppose my brothers and sisters won’t remember, being pretty young.

In short, my Dad was my main childhood hero. Oh I liked Superman, Neil Armstrong and the typical kid heroes, but Dad was my hero and he still is.

He taught me all I needed to get through life. He taught me to stand up and fight like a man, to love like a man, and to be an American.

Without Dad my life would have been… mundane, and I’d likely have ended up like so many other kids out on the street, hanging with gangs or whatever.

But because of my Father I’ve been blessed with fantastic sisters and brothers, I married my awesome wife, raised five children with her and now we’re blessed again with — so many grand children, thirteen now.

My friends – life is short. Dad was 76. I knew him for 55 years. My time on this world, if genetics holds up will only be another twenty or so years. With luck…. maybe 30. Who knows? Only God knows.

All of you, call your mom, your dad and your close relatives and wish them well, tell them you love them. Tell them you miss them when you do and go see them when you can. And for the love of God, enjoy life while you can.

Good bye dad. I love you.

My Father

My Father