Trying to leave…. Hotel California

JoAnne and I have been here in Southport going on Three years.

Don’t get me wrong, we really LOVE this town. We love the people, we’ve made a million friends. We know almost everyone.

But, we also spend last winter in Colorado. And the winter before here on the docks. And this winter is upon us now….and… we’re still here.

Every time we try to leave, something weird happens.

Engine issues. Cancer. Engine issues. Fuel issues. Fire extinguishers. Engine issues. Did I mention ENGINE ISSUES?

Last Tuesday we were supposed to leave. JoAnne woke up coughing, sneezing and feeling like crap. Ok, she has a weakened immune system from the two separate chemos (each lasting 6 months) she’s had to go through.

I cancelled the trip.

The week before we found out the cleaning on the boat bottom wasn’t really as well done as it could have been. And the prop was severely fouled. I dived the boat myself and the prop was clumped. It had been cleaned a couple months before. Should NOT have had LARGE barnacles, but it did. Ok, I didn’t clean it, but someone else did. They came out, checked it and said it was “VERY FOULED”.

Company said “Oh, in two weeks it can get that way….”

I don’t believe that. I have sat in these waters for over two years and WATCHED the accumulation, so I know the amounts. Beside the point though.

This time, after cancelling the trip, I started the engine in the afternoon to run the prop (to keep it clean). The boat moves fine under power, still tied to dock, I could move her forward and back.

Ten minutes in, the engine ran away.

I ran below, tried to kill with the kill cable, no luck. I removed the side panel to engine, grabbed a tupperware lid, ripped the air filter off, was immediately splattered with black, hot oil, and slapped the lid over the mouth of the air intake, shutting the engine down.

After cleaning up the oil and checking the oil levels I found the oil was WAY over the amount it was supposed to be.

Now… let’s go back exactly one year, in September 2018. One of the reasons we didn’t leave then was… you guessed it, an “Engine runaway”, then a hurricane which gave us pause, and finally, JoAnne having to go back to Colorado for her Chemo after her recurrence of cancer.

I’d called in a mechanic that I knew. Charged me quite a bit of money, told me the “lift pump” was shoving diesel into the crank case. Removed it, and “rebuilt it” supposedly. ALSO, removed and pressure tested the injectors (supposedly).

Back to a year later, in the here and now. The oil levels were at TWO GALLONS. And it was full of diesel. Not good.

I immediately suspected the lift pump. You know, the “rebuilt one”. In checking I found it is difficult to get the parts to rebuild one (and why, because they cost 25 US dollars!!!!)

Ok…..two gallons of oil, mixed with diesel means I literally have about 3.5 quarts of diesel in the crankcase. I pumped it all out, and disposed of it (properly, at an Autozone near by). I ordered a new lift pump, which came yesterday.

I installed it today. I’ve since changed oil. Run the engine up to temperature. Put it into forward, reverse and left it under stress for 1/2 hour while engine came up to temperature of 160 degrees.

I check the oil levels and they are normal. Before heating, after heating, and I’m about to check them again after cool down to ensure its not collecting diesel.

There are a few places the diesel can come in. 1) Lift Pump, 2) Injection/Governor pump, 3) clogged fuel return line, 4) injectors themselves, 5) a ‘ball valve’ in the heater unit.

I have replaced the lift pump, because the more I look at the old one, the more I do NOT believe it was touched, repaired, replaced (it’s the original one) or refurbished.

The injectors were removed, cleaned and pressure tested (supposedly, did I mention that?) a year ago. Shouldn’t be leaking.

During my study of this engine – remember, I am NOT a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination – I found the stuff above. I also think I have found I do NOT have a pre-heating unit, not anywhere I can see it. AND while I do NOT think I have a clogged return fuel line, I’m remembering a certain mechanic asking me where my “return lines go, and where’s the valve” at one point. I do NOT believe I’ve checked that….

Since the TIME BEFORE LAST when he visited. So, to morrow I will be checking all of that.

It occurred to me, if the return line valve was closed before, it would explain why the engine ran away, not once, but TWICE now.

So, I learned a lot. Never trust anyone else on your engine. Always know everything about it yourself, even if you pay someone else to do the work. Always CHECK everything yourself (which I KNEW, but was too lazy to do). ALWAYS know your own stuff better than anyone else.

Also learned a lot about diesel engines. Actually, pretty simple creatures. They need air, and fuel to work, along with compression. Not much else. Ok, oil in the sump and coolant in the tanks, working, moving parts and all that stuff, but it all works together so neatly!

Two books I’ll recommend though, “Troubleshooting Marine Diesels” and “Marine Diesel Engines” by Nigel Calder and Peter Compton, respectively, if you want to know how diesel engines work.

There’s no book to tell you to do things a certain way in life. How to deal with mechanics or riggers. There’s no book out there to tell you how to know in what order to do everything you need to know how to do on a boat.

Oh, there’s LOTS OF BOOKS on various subjects, but there is only ONE thing that is going to teach you the right way to do something. To prevent screwing up, you need experience. You get experience by screwing up a few times.

s/v Adventure: 7 Oct 2019

Found and replaced some missing nuts and washers this morning on the engine. One set on one of the engine mounts had “rattled” off apparently, down inside the pan. Had to hunt with a flashlight and reach into the deep, dark recesses beneath the engine to retrieve them.

Had purchased a couple of sets of spares yesterday, and wound up using one of the new nuts. Found the other, can’t reach it at the moment, my arms don’t fit down there.

Tested the transmission levels today, started engine, brought her up to operating temperature, put the engine in gear and stressed it forward and backward… pushing water very well.

Shut down engine, and tested levels, and they are right.

I believe I’m losing transmission fluid through the oil cooler assembly at higher operating temperatures under pressure. It’s not a LOT at a shot, but it’s enough that after many hours, I need to add fluid.

I think I will end up having to replace the cooler (a double cooler set up).

Hopefully, we’re going to get our provisions together in a couple of days, take care of some things in the area like our storage locker, and a tire giving me fits, and then do a test run of the engine.

Might just come back, drop our temporary crew member off at the docks and kick off and keep going if we have everything ready for the trip by the time the weather is good enough to do an engine test run.

Watermaker:

Just ran the water maker. Last time was a nearly empty tank (a couple gallons left in it) on 28 September 2019. Filled the tank in about 5 minutes under three hours.

Today, we started the maker at 1350 hours local. The machine ran for 1 hour and 40 minutes and the tank “popped”, letting us know water was full. The tank makes a noise when it is full, I assume one of the sides bulging out slightly. JoAnne also observed noise at the air pressure relief behind her seat, and the over flow began flowing into the bilge.

So… 21gal/hr * 1.66666 hours = 34.99986 gallons of water

It took us 9 days to use 35 gallons of water from our tanks. That’s pretty average for us, when not taking showers on board (which is extremely rare for us to do). The calculation is for the amount of water produced per hour (nominal 21gph) and the time is the number of hours in decimal format for how long it actually took to fill the tank. So, 1 hour, 40 minutes is roughly 1.66666 hours. Multiplying those numbers gives me the quantity of water produced over the time period.

(At some point, I’ll calculate the exact amounts of water, gasoline, wattage used and probably soup up the solar panels a bit along with the generator! Actually, the solar isn’t used for the process, but, I like being able to keep the batteries charged using them, and I know the DC side uses almost 10 amps. So, that was almost 20 Amp hours!)

High pressure side ran at just under 700 psi

Low pressure side at 8 psi, and went up to 20 psi as the process continued.

A check of the filters shows they need to be pulled out and cleaned. I’ll use those a couple more times (after I clean them tomorrow and do a system flush with fresh water) and then when we arrive in clear water, I’ll swap the filters out for new ones. Not sure how long they can be used for before you are supposed to change them.

We did keep popping a breaker for the lift pump for some reason. But after I started up the high pressure pump it stopped. I assume the lift motor was working a bit too hard.

Electrical:

Today I ran the engine, mentioned above, and used the bow thrusters to check them, pushed bow out a bit. Noticed that the battery charger has kicked in, I assume due to the use of the thrusters. Also, as a result of the low pressure pump doing it’s thing. It draws about 10 amps while running.

The fridge draws five pretty constantly.

We also run several DC fans on warm days like today, so the power draw adds up. The system is currently charging at about 80% and it’s not “ready” yet, like normal.

I did check the batteries a couple of days ago, added water to them, and checked a few random cells for charge (they were good).

I also have replaced a double pole, double throw toggle on the battery meter, which I thought was broken, showing low readings on the meter. When I tested the output on my digital meter, it read normal (at 13.5vdc) so I assumed the wires or switch bad. Replaced several connectors, cleaned some connections and replaced the switch and things were fine.

Last night, I noted the meter was reading low again, and yet with a digitial meter, it was reading fine.

Checking things a few minutes ago, I noted the power system is charging, and the meter reading is normal, showing a charge on-going. The secondary (old) Xantrex meter still in the circuit is also showing 13.70 vdc, which means the system is charging.

Not sure yet if we have a flaky connection back in the battery bay or what yet. I’ll find it eventually though.

I’ll double check the voltages on the batteries, and probably test all the cells before we decide to do a shake down next week. Shake down will likely be next weekend or just before or after the weekend (to avoid the fishing vessels and the guys who don’t know how to drive their boats).

Bimini and Dodger, More Varnish and Sanding

Bimini:

Just prior to Hurricane Florence last year, I made an error on leaving my solar panels and bimini in place.  Well, sort of an error.  I knew that the windage would be high and the bimini was mounted under the solar panels, and the posts holding the solar up went THROUGH the bimini.  I also realized how damaged and aged the bimini was.

Leaving it up was a recipe for disaster if things got bad.  Taking it down was a recipe for disaster because of age.

I left it up.  We “lost a solar panel” off the top.  The wind ripped it loose and dropped it, fortunately, on the deck of the boat where it remained until I returned after the hurricane in October last year.  I easily repaired the small amount of damage and observed the bimini wasn’t in great shape, but survive.  It had a couple of small tears in it.

This time, as Dorian approached, I removed EVERYTHING from the deck.  We pulled Adventure into the marina, deep inside up near the containment bulkhead and positioned her inside a shallow slip at high tide, so we settled into the mud when the King Tide fell off.

Dorian hit with a whisper of winds (40 knots perhaps on shore here), the eye wall missing us by a good 30-35 miles.  Adventure came through fine.  The bimini however, as well as the dodger have seen better days.  So, I never reinstalled it.

About a month ago, I ran into a canvas guy, David from “Custom Canvas” out of New Bern.  He gave us a quote for lowering the bimini, creating a new bimini and dodger (no enclosure this time) and adding a few extra pieces.

The steel was lowered at one visit.  Another visit resulted in several more measurements, some grab rails and the bows over the top of the bimini top on which to mount the solar panels.

David was here a few days ago, installed the bimini, and subsequently, I installed the solar panels in a preliminary location – which, might move slightly back soon.  I am not sure I like them exactly where they are, and I want extra room for the boom to swing by the top of the bimini.  I’ll work that out later.

Dodger:

He is returning today, to bring the dodger, which for the uninitiated is the part that covers the front of the cockpit, and “dodges” the spray and waves that can wash over the front of the boat at times.  We had the top of the dodger lowered as well, so that I can now re-learn climbing in and out of the companionway getting whacked in the head.  But, the point was to allow JoAnne to actually see over the TOP of the dodger now.

Before, when driving the boat, she could never get a clear view in front of the boat.  She had to duck down and look through the dodger window, or stand on her tiptoes to see above it, while leaning over to see past a sail.  Not fun for her, I assure you.

We dropped it down about 5-6 inches and had her stand behind the wheel.  When she was happy with the height, we stopped cutting.  I’m concerned I’ll have a few knots on my head, climbing in and out in the next few days once installed, but eventually, like Pavlov’s Dogs, I’ll learn.

Sand and Varnish:

Over the course of the past months, I’ve spent roughly 30 hours sanding wood, washing it, and varnishing.  I have about 90% of the teak done – on the top of the boat.  I haven’t touched the rub rails, or the plaques on the boat topsides yet.  And I haven’t done any varnishing to the aft deck (the whole aft of the boat is a raised, teak platform which covers a large storage compartment, containing our propane tanks and extra “stuff” we don’t want to leave on the deck, like pumps, parts for the emergency tiller, etc)

That deck will likely take a third of a quart of varnish alone for a single coat.  I’ll likely finish that first coat today or tomorrow.  After it hardens, I’ll be hitting the wood all the way around the top of the boat, once over, a complete boat wash, taping and varnishing the second coat.  I plan, if time and weather permits, to get some of the deck paint done and to fix a couple of leaks so the outside of the boat should be ready in less than two weeks.

Given the heat of the day, and humidity, I’ve tried to apply varnish in the right time of day, temps and humidity, but I’m here to tell you, this is an impossible task unless the boat is moved inside a building in a controlled environment.  So… it’s called “going with the flow” (of varnish, which flows off things, down tape, drips everywhere and is constantly being cleaned up).

After all that work, the boat looks amazing though, and in the end, it makes JoAnne smile at how pretty the boat is.  I makes my muscles ache when I see it….. But, I still like the varnished wood.

I plan to get about five coats on if I can, with fine sanding in between, and then do “touch up” coats after a few months to keep it looking nice.  It’s less work to do that, than to let it get down to bare wood.

Someone asked me the other day about sanding the boat and then varnishing it, then sanding again.  They have an all-Clorox-Boat, so I explained that it is supposed to take down the bubbles or ‘nibs’, and raised rough spots, and give the next coat something on which to cling.  They were impressed I knew so much about varnish (HAHAHA, little do they know, I just had to look it up to explain it to them!)

Side Note: Our friend Jason has also been sanding and sanding and vanishing and washing and sanding and varnishing as well.  I believe he completed his last coat last night.  The boat rails look amazing.

Storage Locker and Provisions: 

We have a storage locker.  I pay for it a year in advance.  It’s due in November I think, so I’ll be going over to write them a check for another yet, and going through my locker to pull out a few things and bring to the boat, as well as remove a few more things from the boat we won’t need.  I want ‘parts’ that I can use to repair things, even if makeshift if necessary, and I want heavy things off the boat I can’t use while under way (certain electrical tools).  We have little A/C power available except for the generator during cruising, and I’ll reserve that for the water maker most of the time, but will bring my battery drill, a saw and my small electronic tools, and the engine tools.

Also I have a sail in storage I need to bring back, and we need our water, diesel and gas cans back on the boat.  Need a way to carry extra water if we can’t make it or catch rainwater, diesel because I HATE docking at fuel docks and gas for the genny.

In a few days we will need to being picking up food to provision the boat.  We’re going to get a month’s worth of things, mostly long term storage items like canned foods, along with perhaps a week (whatever JoAnne decides can work for us) of fresh items and we will refill things as we go down the coast this time, instead of having six months worth of stuff on the boat this time.  Before we hope to Bahamas we’ll do a big food, beer and soda run (yes, we drink soda!) and stock up on things that are expensive in the Islands.  (Toilet paper, paper towels, etc)

We don’t use many paper towels (instead we buy cheap white cloths from the hardware store and reuse them) and tend to use the marina heads when we stop in them instead of the boat, but offshore… well, anyway….

JoAnne had her medical check up on the 9th of September.  We’ll have to work something out for one in December, and I think we’ll be calling back to her doctors here in NC to get advice on that subject when we get closer to the time.

My last obstacle is the Borg-Warner Velvet Drive Transmission.  Over the past couple of years, it’s given me fits.  Seemingly it stops “working” and then “works”.  We have determined that its simply a lack of transmission fluid, but where it is going, we’re unsure.  It’s not in the bilge, and I don’t think it is mixed in with the few drops of oil in the catch pan under the engine.

Someone suggested it is going out under pressure in the heat exchanger perhaps, once the engine reaches temperature.  I tend to agree since I’m not finding leaks anywhere else.  If so, then the solution will be to remove and replace the heat exchanger that is connected to the transmission.  I’ve identified the unit, and the hoses, but am not sure it there is a way to “test” for leaks at this point.  Meantime, I need to keep extra transmission fluid on the boat.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. I usually do.  But, that’s ok, I’ll figure it out when I come to it.

In the mean time, I rarely if ever do this, but I want to remind folks that I’ve written some books and I’d love it if some of you would take the time to read and review the books on Amazon.  I’ll drop the links at the bottom of this page.  One book is a couple of years old, and is about “Survival and Communications” and is a primer for people who don’t know much about radios and radio communications.  Call it a “Prepper Book” if you like.  It’s in Digital Format ONLY and I won’t be doing it in hard copy because it’s simply too expensive.  And if you’re a Prepper, then you know you’re NOT going to grab 200 of your favorite books and stuff them in your bug out bag.  You need to KNOW the information, knowledge is power. Don’t carry a book, carry your brain around with the information inside.

The other book is a SF Adventure/Thriller, “Aftermath’s Children” set in the not-too-distant future, and you can read the description online at Amazon.  That book is in both digital and hard copy formats.  You can find all three versions of the books at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Rick-Donaldson/e/B00Q514LD0

I invite you to buy it, read it, review it and if you get the hard copy, and we pass by, I’ll sign it for you.  The second book in the series is being completed soon.   Please, drop me a line at Adventure.Rick.JoAnne@gmail.com or r.daledonaldson@gmail.com if you buy a copy!  Thanks!!!

 

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!!!!!!!!!

 

 

The Dance

limbo

noun (1)

lim·bo | \ ˈlim-(ˌ)bō  \
plural limbos

1: often capitalized an abode of souls that are according to Roman Catholic theology barred from heaven because of not having received Christian baptism

2aa place or state of restraint or confinement trapping travelers in an airless limbo—Sam Boal

ba place or state of neglect or oblivion proposals kept in limbo

can intermediate or transitional place or state the adolescent occupies a special human limboNew Republic

da state of uncertainty The graduate was in limbo for a while, trying to decide what to do next.

e: a dance or contest that involves bending over backwards and passing under a horizontal pole lowered slightly for each successive pass

Last month I spoke about our lives in the last few years, the boat, JoAnne’s cancer and right after that we were put on alert watching Hurricane Florence form off the coast of Africa and make the long trek across the sea, to finally visit the USA.

In the few weeks after publishing that entry in August, I spent a lot of time cleaning up the boat, getting her ready for the fall trip to the Bahamas.  Then Florence formed, and it appeared to be heading right for Southport, NC.  The news was all over the place on possible hit locations, the NHC was all over the place, the Spaghetti models were everywhere.  The only thing that was accurate was my own predictions that it would hit somewhere between Myrtle Beach and Beaufort, NC.  And I was accurate about that part.

JoAnne and I started preparing the boat for a hurricane, and finally on Tuesday just before it hit, we also received a call from her oncologist’s office back in Colorado.  We had four weeks to return to begin a treatment plan.  A PET scan had been ordered and taken care of the Friday before.  The doctors read the scans and decided she had some “area of concern” which the oncologist believed to be a recurrence.

On Wednesday morning, of “official, mandatory evacuation” and in light of a probably Category Four hurricane hitting full on in North Carolina, near to us, we packed the last of our belongings we’d not place in storage and I started the car, looked to JoAnne and said, “Where too?”

We had no idea where to go, which way to run or who would take us in for a few days.  With the car running, we called her Brother down in Florida and told him the situation, and he had us come to stay with he and his wife for a few days.  We knew we wanted to return to the boat before heading back to Colorado, and probably hit our storage locker once more for cold weather clothing, usually kept in storage in the summer.

We spent a week in Florida visiting with friends and her brother.  When we attempted to return to North Carolina, the rivers were just cresting, roads were out, flooded and bridges damaged, roads closed, and basically those who got home to Brunswick county were already close in, and had an idea of which roads to take avoiding the dangerous conditions (and road blocks).

Many made it home, but we could not. Our time was running out.

We made for Colorado.  Friends are caring for our boat, which suffered only minor, external damage.  Lost a solar panel, the bimini and it was damp below.  I have plans to head back there once we get JoAnne settled into a routine.

This past week was a mess with the doctors and insurance.  We argued with both for hours, until finally, the insurance company told the doctor’s office what we’d been saying all along; we do NOT need a referral to her oncologist (since she has been seeing him for four years) and we’re on Tricare standard which does NOT require ANY referrals for ANY outpatient care.

The doctors also told us, that there were two areas of concern, not one.  One area on her lung, and another somewhere between kidney and liver, very non specific.  We will find out how specific that is on this coming Tuesday.

Another CT scan was performed a few days ago, after the battles with Insurance and the Dr. office, and we now have more information.

Friday she was called and told that she will be commencing chemotherapy soon, after a port is installed and we see the doctor once more so we can work out a schedule and plan to fight this.  He told the caller to tell JoAnne that the lung issue is a “recurrence” rather than a new form of cancer (lung cancer perhaps).  He was unsure prior to the CT scan, but is more confident of his diagnosis now I suppose.

(Personally, I am NOT more confident yet, and have questions.)

At the beginning I put up a definition. The definition was for the word Limbo, a word I used in the previous blog entry from August.

Limbo, from the definition is a place… without a destiny or destination.

It’s also a dance…

Kind of like life.  Life is a dance or journey.  You never know when you’re young how the moves go.  You have to be taught.  Some of us, like me, never learned how to dance, I just listen to the music.  But, there are times when bending over backward to accomplish something important is how you get it done.  Going in the wrong direction to reach your destination can get frustrating.

Our destination is, and always will be, to sail the islands, from the Bahamas on to the rest of the Caribbean.  We have found that life isn’t really a “dance”, but a journey without a true “destination”.  The “Dance” part comes in at successive times in life, when you’re worried, when you’re up against some seemingly insurmountable task and just about ready to give up and quit, you Dance.

It can be a jig, a limbo, a foxtrot, or the twist.  Whatever it is, at the end, you will come out stronger, better, and more in tune with life.

JoAnne and I had a dance the last few days with Life.  It wasn’t a journey, it didn’t turn out to be a destination, merely a diversion.  We talked and discussed this dance, and found that we have decided that we will no longer live our lives around medical issues, we will deal with them around our lives.

After we get the plan in place, we’ll have about three weeks before the next chemo session.  This will give us time to travel back across country, see our boat, repair the damage, prepare her for winter (by dumping water, checking engine etc) and collect the Colorado Clothing we’ll need, and then return to our family and support system here.

Adventure has proven she can and will survive whatever Nature throws at her for now.  It’s not her time, and it’s certainly not OUR time.

So to our friends in Southport, Kevin and Debi, we thank you for looking after our home, Adventure, and WE WILL BE BACK SOON!   To our family, Especially Nick and Levi, thank you for your support.  To those we left behind in the disaster, you will rise up stronger.

And for us…. We’re going sailing again, very, very soon.