Milestones

I hesitated to post this today, but… exactly two years ago today I had a heart attack.  The following Monday (19 May 2015), I would be in cardiac surgery for open heart, aortic valve replacement “procedure”.  (Edited – I thought today was the day I had the surgery.  My wife reminded me it was Wednesday the 13th the attack occurred.  Oh well, so much for memory, right?)
I also hesitate to use the word “procedure”, but that was their term for it. It was a mind numbing, very humbling experience to have your chest cracked/sawed open in surgery and for people to be touching your inner workings, in particular your heart.  I honestly didn’t believe I was coming out of surgery alive at that point.  I’d said good bye to everyone I could, just in case.
JoAnne and I had previously set a date to leave Colorado and move aboard Adventure on 1 June 2015. On 11 May 2015 I had turned in my resignation.  On 13 May I was driving home and experienced a heart attack. Not a classic heart attack, but a sickening feeling, nausea, cold sweats and heart “palpitations”, along with trouble breathing. I pulled the truck over, knowing something was wrong (but what, I was not sure) and called JoAnne thinking I might never see her again. I knew it was my heart, but there was nothing “classic” about what happened, and nothing I could do sitting in the truck on Highway 94 outside of Colorado Springs, 40 minutes from home and ten minutes back to work (and worse, going through security to get back in.  Then, there was the issue with calling an ambulance and eventually getting my truck home…. but I digress).
The aortic valve was calcified, and deformed from birth (I knew that part and had for a couple of years, and also knew I had a “heart murmur” all my life). I also knew that some “day” I’d have to have that “procedure” but didn’t expect it for 5-10 years.
I think the stress of selling the house, quitting my job to “retire” and getting rid of all our “stuff” probably brought on the attack.  I was, after all moved out of the house and we’d already gotten a good price, signed on the dotted line, and had gotten rid of 90% of our “stuff”, bought the boat, and we were moving aboard soon.  It was a very stressful time for all of us.  The kids too, because we’d moved in with my daughter and son-in-law and their three children, into their tiny (at the time) house.
I was terrified of the surgery and honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but you can never say something like that is routine.  Many people die on that operating table for various reasons from the anesthesia to not being able to restart the heart.
But, here I am today.  Alive, and well, and very likely in better shape today than I was before the heart attack (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been in ‘bad shape’, never been overweight, I’ve always exercised and even exercised the day I had my heart attack).
I went on to recover in pretty much record time.  Six weeks after I left the hospital I went back in for a check up and they released me to go back to work (with a few restrictions on lifting of course) and I stopped to visit the nurses who had cared for me so well at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs.  One nurse hugged me and cried… she told me that it was extremely rare to see a patient return looking so well in so short a time, and most of them never saw the same patients again ever, or if they did, it was due to them returning to the hospital in even worse condition.
JoAnne and I went on to move on to the boat in July 2015.  Slightly over a full month from our originally scheduled time.  Since then, we’ve had a lot of adventures on Adventure.
Today, I racked our first batch of beer made on the boat.  It won’t be the last, and we’re starting a second batch in a couple of days. (We have an ulterior motive though, we’re entering a home brew contest through Check Six  (https://www.facebook.com/CheckSixBrewingCompany/) located in Southport, NC.  I highly recommend a stop there if you like beer.
We won’t stop living our lives because of medical issues.  We’ve been slowed slightly, but getting back up to speed has been fun.
JoAnne went through her own bad experiences with cancer prior to my heart attack.  It wasn’t a cake walk either, but she’s doing fine.
I suppose, in the end of it all, life is how you lived, and are remembered.  It’s not always about how you die.
I believe that people who want to do something with their dreams need to stop right now, evaluate just how much you want that dream to become a reality.  Think it over carefully.  Judge how difficult it would be to start that dream, or the realization of that dream and then write down a plan to make it happen.
It is very, very important you write it down.  Then read it every few days.  I’m serious.  If you have a written plan to follow, you will soon discover you can break it down into smaller, achievable chunks.  If you want to set sail into the sunset, go around the world, or visit the Bahamas, or fly to Europe on a vacation, then by golly, do it.  Don’t wait for “retirement” to happen.  Because, retirement my friends NEVER HAPPENS.  It will never come for some people, they won’t make it there.  Others will be infirm medically by the time they “arrive” at retirement.
Tomorrow is NOT the day to start. Tomorrow never comes.
Right now, this minute is the time.  Write your plan for your dreams.  One year, five years, ten years – and plot your course for how you will arrive at your dream.
Make the dreams happen.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Coinjock to Belhaven

Here are some notes I wrote the other day to put into the blog.  I’m just too lazy today to rewrite everything into a different set of notes.  But, it gives you an idea of my thinking a couple of days ago versus today.

Traveling

We departed early yesterday (Election Day, 8 November 2016) morning from Coinjock, at Midway Marina.

We dropped anchor at Tuckahoe Point, directly in front of the Alligator River-Pungo Canal entrance about 1525. JoAnne wrote “Anchor Down” at that time. We found 7-9 feet of water moving out of the channel to that particular spot. We spent the night on a quite anchor, occasionally hearing engines coming through the canal (I believe for the most part they were barges being push by tugs.

This morning (9 November 2016) we up anchored at about 0700. We went back down to the spot I’d entered the anchorage and we turned into the channel right after a barge went through past us in the channel.

Through out the trip we saw birds and occasional fish jumping. Did not run aground (that’s a good thing!) and managed to remain mostly in the center of the channel.

We were passed by mostly power boats, the majority of whom did not call us and ask, just usually blew past us leaving a large wake shaking us up pretty hard and usually before I get get the bow into the wake. A few called us. Every sailboat that passed (three I think) called us and requested permission, and asked which side to pass. A couple of power boats did the same thing, but generally the power vessels ignored us like we weren’t there.

One guy, who passed me as we entered into the very large area just out of the canal had been calling sailboat behind us all day, requesting permission to pass, and was polite all the way through. His boat name was “Trixie”. When he passed us, we had a very wide area and he didn’t need to call me, but I called him and told him to pass, and I’d slow for him. He thanked me and went on around with no wake. He was the largest boat we’d seen in the canal moving.

At Coinjock Marina the morning we pulled out, there was a very HUGE cruise ship sitting there I think called Independence. It was taking up 50% of the docks and honestly, I have no idea how they got in there or where they came from!

I have been checking the engine carefully either the night of the stop or morning before we pull out, and adding a tint bit of oil to keep it at the right level, and checking the belt, the bolt on the alternator, coolant levels and the fuel.

Tonight, we’re at about a 1/2 tank of fuel on one tank. Full on the other. We have good coolant. I’ll probably have to add a tad bit of oil in the morning.

I put up the enclosure tonight, cleaned the deck (mud from anchor), added gas to the generator and fired it up a bit ago so I can run the shortwave, and do this blog. We have no internet or phone service at all here, therefore I’m writing this “ahead” of being posted. I’ll post it as soon as I have service again.

Tomorrow, we will be doing a very short day and stopping in a small creek or river across the Neuse River (away from the “magenta line” and away from the crowd for the most part. A lot of people are heading south and the marinas and anchorages are getting filled quickly (the standard and well known anchorages). We’ve been looking for things slightly off the beaten path because then we don’t deal with dragging anchors and loud noises haha.

Tomorrow, we’re looking at two places. Either a very short run of about 25 statute miles or a 40-something run. I did not find a good anchorage at shorter distances.

I’ll write more later.

Now, is later…. so.

With plans to be out of here this morning I woke up early, and made coffee, JoAnne was putting things away and I went outside to take the trash and visit the head.  And then got to thinking.

Tonight it is supposed to rain.  And tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain all day where we will be on anchor.  And it’s pretty chilly and JoAnne is getting cold and can’t stay warm.  So, debating about getting 25 miles south of here to an anchorage where we sit all night and all day tomorrow in the rain with no internet connection, versus sitting on the dock an extra two days with electricity, wifi, access to showers, head, town (and I need to replace a propane tank) caused a quick discussion, and a go-over of the weather reports.

The final decision?  We didn’t leave.  We will wait out the chill and rain here on a dock until Tuesday.

Tuesday through Friday should be 60s (warmer than the frost last night for sure), no rain, plenty of sun, light winds (for crossing the next two large bodies of water) and we will have North West Winds on Tuesday for the Neuse River which should be pretty ok, since we will be motoring anyway.  The winds will be too light for us to sail starting today for the next week anyway.

So – comfort has been a major determining factor for us.  If it’s kicking up and good sailing weather, we’re ok with that, as long as it’s kicking up in the right directions.  Why go out and get our asses kicked trying to hold a course under sail when there are channels to worry about?

A friend asked me the other day, “In a do-over, would you chose a different boat?”

I believe at this point the answer is a resounding “YES”.

To travel the ICW in a full keel, deep draft sailboat isn’t fun or easy, and nothing about it has been simple.  I’ve had more white knuckle moments than sitting in a Jungle in Central America getting shot at caused me.  I could at least shoot back.  I can only adjust the sails in changing winds – which is great if you’re not constrained by the channel….

I’m certain that, somewhere down the line we will wind up sitting on an anchorage, in the wind, rain and hail or something and waiting out another weather condition.  So, why bother putting yourself in that situation?  When it comes right down to it, we’re honestly not in a huge hurry to go anywhere in particular.  We just want to eventually get someplace warm.

What is funny is, when I ask “Where are you headed?” to the other cruisers, all have the exact same response, “Someplace warm… south….”

We have met some very nice people so far along this part of the trip.  All of them save one or two are like us, first timers.  Many have only been at cruising for two or three months.  One person has been sailing forty years, but this is his first trip down the ICW.  Another retired a few weeks ago and started down.

In general, ALL of them have had almost the exact same thinking processes as we have.  Make a plan, get the plan in motion, move the boat south – and every one of them have had the same thoughts of “quitting”, going back home, the boat was wrong for the journey, and a host of other tid bits about this trip.

In other words, all of the people who’ve gone before us who had no issues probably had the same issues and they didn’t consider them to be “issues”, or just problems to be solved.  I think that is perhaps the best attitude.  Everything is a problem to be solved, and solving it is what comes to the forefront when dealing with moving the boat.

Whether it is plumbing, engine issues, alternator issues (as in our case), fuel problems, electronics malfunctions or simple failures, we all have the same problems with which to deal.  In my case, it seems like there are more problems to solve at once probably because I let them get to me and worry about them too much.

One problem we had was the charts we have.  For some reason, I don’t even recall why now, I picked up ALL the charts for the east coast.  And yet, did NOT pick up all the charts for the east coast.  I was missing a rather important set.  Florida and the Keys.  How I did that, I’m not sure.  Perhaps because I took one of the chart titles at it’s word and didn’t actually open it up and look inside until much later.

That chart (Maptech) says “Norfolk to Florida”.  I made a dumb assumption I suppose and thought it contained Florida charts.  Nope.  It should really have said “Norfolk to Florida: Not inclusive of Florida” haha.  Anway, I mentioned this and Judy Long and Stephen who were in Washinton offered to come and bring the chart.  When I said I didn’t want them to make a special trip, they said they were coming anyway.

Turns out, and I had not quite put the puzzle pieces together yet, Bentana, their boat is sitting nearby!  So they were coming to deal with some problems too, on their ship.  So we had a get together on our boat, with some wine and nibbles.  And they brought the missing chart for me.

I still need the one for the West Coast of Florida, but apparently Maptech is phasing them out now.  Everything is going digital.  Mark my words, that’s a BAD idea…. but that’s another discussion for another time.

Alright, time to get going to get some propane.  The hardware store opens at 1300 today.  I’ll take a golf cart into town (it’s four blocks, long ones, but I don’t want to carry that tank back all the way)!

Lastly, I’ve uploaded some images of things along the way.  Hope you enjoy the image dump!

Here’s some pictures of places along the way:

Sunset over Cole’s Point Marina before departure

ICW Canal

Norfolk Naval Station

Two very large ships… Aircraft Carriers (Don’t know which ones)

The same A/C carriers in the above picture, from Willoboughy Bay.  Adventure in the foreground.  We were aboard the s/v Acadia visiting and going over charts with Marcia and Jon

Behind us somewhere a couple of days ago

The Sailing Ketch Adventure in the back, Sailing Schooner Adventure in the front

Sailing Schooner Adventure

(Our neighbors one night)

The Great Bridge Lock

Great Bridge Lock, looking back

Taylor, from Atlantic Yacht Basin, Great Bridge

(Thanks for everything, Taylor!)

Me, JoAnne and the USS Sequoia – Presidential Yacht, Fishing Bay Marina

Some Right Piraty Looking Rigging

A visit to the Reedville area, and we discovered this ketch waiting for Kurt to come and get her in the water 🙂

Lo-Kee

Lo-Kee

Continuing Studies

Something I’ve learned over the years is that I learn better when someone shows me how to do something.  As a teacher I discovered that students had all sorts of learning idiosyncrasies and most of them learned either by reading, listening or seeing demonstrations.  I endeavored to  do all three for students in my electronics courses.  Some simply refused to learn and just ‘wanted the answers’.

Those students who just wanted the answers were the kind who simply wanted to “be done” with college and really weren’t planning on doing anything with their lives after getting finished with their degrees.  One day during a class, after a test, we were going over the test answers after I’d graded the tests and recorded the results in my record keeping.  That particular week we were studying how semiconductors functioned, very specifically we were discussing diodes and P-N junctions.  A diode is an electronic device which passes current in only one direction and blocks current flow in the other direction.  They are used as rectifiers to convert alternating current into direct current.  The concept is actually one of the simplest things you learn in electronics next to resistance, and Ohm’s Law.

One student had asked me questions all week, and I had explained several times verbally how a diode works, showing circuits with current flow, an oscilloscope (which shows the sine waves and the subsequently converted wave forms of half-wave rectification).  Just before the test, this student asked for a review of specific points.  We reviewed with the whole class.  The student expressed confidence that “I’ve got this” and I passed out the test material – basic 30 question tests with 25 multiple “guess” questions and five “essay questions” – asking students to, in their own words, explain some basic concept they had learned this week.

I generally studied my own materials while awaiting students to finish but something told me to look for the “visual feedback” you get from student’s faces and actions.

The confidence of the previously mentioned student began to falter; I could see him struggling with the test so I quietly began walking the room as I often did to get a glance over their shoulders to make sure no one was cheating (something that was very rare in my classrooms I discovered, but did occasionally occur).  The confusion of this student was apparent when he hit the question we had discussed just before the test.  I had actually covered almost every thing on the test before passing it out and I was shocked that as I scanned quickly and walk on that this person was completely lost.

What was *I* doing wrong, I asked myself.  How could I have explained this over and over in the space of a week and given these students essential information needed to understand the material AND pass the test and yet this student was going to fail this test.

Now, the quarter before this one, I had a similar problem with another student who has passed but was barely keeping his grades up in each of his courses.  Was there something happening here I wasn’t getting?

After grading his test – he passed by one question – we begin going over the test.

At that point I realized that the majority of the students in the classroom has gotten 100% on their tests.  To me, that was a measure of 1) How well I presented the lesson and 2) how well the students grasped the concepts.  All but a couple of people, and one in particular were doing very well.  Instead of chalking this up to “poor learning” or “poor teaching” I thought I’d turn this around on the students.

I asked, “Ok, some of you had issues with this concept (which I explained quickly) and I’d like to get an idea where you’re not understanding this.  Would anyone like to share with the class and me what sort of problem this is causing?”

It was enough to get the student in question to say, “Well, I don’t know the answer.”

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t know the answer’?” I queried.

“Well, it’s like this….” and this student regurgitated the exact process of how a diode works, not only from the beginning of the chemistry portion (where you dope different sections of silicone with boron or arsenic to make P or N junctions – but explained electron movement and hole-theory to the class in precise and professional terms).  I was shocked.  He could explain exactly what it was he’d learned.  I applauded him on his knowledge… then he said, “I just don’t know THE ANSWER!”

I prompted once again for an explanation of the “answer”….

So he said, “Ok, its like this.  If I am working in a radio shop for instance and someone gives me a radio to work on, if a diode goes OUT in the radio… what is the answer?  What symptoms does that diode show me that tells me it’s broken?”

The light came on for me.

What the student wanted wasn’t all the theory behind how electronic components functioned; he wanted a set of RULES that told him how to easily fix or repair something.

A communications gap the size of Texas was what we were having.

Today – twenty plus years later I can see this attitude in everyone around me.  No one wants to study a subject and understand it inside and out, they want a pat answers to a series of questions that allow them to move on to something else!  Email messages that contain more than three lines are rarely read.  Even this article will have 2 readers out of 100 who read the entirety of the article because, frankly, it’s “too long” for the limited attention span of most people.

Over the past five years of preparing for our voyage my wife and I have read a multitude of books.  I read, almost exclusively, technical texts containing scientific discussions of how to anchor and keep a vessel safe to operations of diesel engines, to repairs of water makers – among other things.  These books contain math, charts, explanations that put my verbosity to shame.  But I have come to the conclusion that there are those who will never venture offshore because they won’t read anything; worse they WILL venture offshore – without reading anything.

In my estimation today’s electronic communications technology–which has essentially made radio almost obsolete, has taken the fun out of learning, it has forced people who are in the midst of information overload in their everyday lives to skip over anything they deem “extraneous”.  I’ve found that this sometimes even affects me and I tend to ignore long emails, or skip reading attachments when I should probably at LEAST glance at them.

As a skipper of a vessel one must be aware of all that is going on, stand above panic and think through every detail of what one must do to make things work, keep the ship going and to keep the vessel and crew alive.  Fortunately, it’s not flying planes or space ships.  You’re not traveling at high speeds or falling from space (or high in the sky) if things fail on a boat.  However, shorelines get in the way, and winds and blow you into the weather shore, lines break, sails tear, engines get dirty fuel, anchors can get jammed in coral or rock, anchors can drag and winds can blow when you’re not expecting them because you ignored this morning’s weather report; or over slept and didn’t listen to it.

There are NO “pat answers” in anything in life.  There are jobs all over the country that require thinking processes and regardless of how mindless a job becomes (I picture someone installing lug nuts over and over and over and over in a car factory, but even there robots have taken over…) there is some thinking required.

You can make a list of answers for your students so when they are troubleshooting a robot, computer or a space station they can simply check off and when they have one left over that’s “the answer”

I suspect my former student never made it “to the big time” with his degree.  He grabbed some job somewhere that required little thinking on his part.

All to often today in conversations I have with random people I see his “lack of thinking processes”.  They can regurgitate what they hear on television, from a show, or their favorite movie, and can even repeat things they learned in high school or college courses.  But they can’t take two or more related (or even unrelated) concepts and combine those in a logical and reasonable fashion to come up with answers to their questions.

Is there an answer for this problem?  I’m sure there’s a list someplace that can help us “fix” the problem, right?