Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Going Home Again

Our home, Northern Star

It's been a long time since I've been home--since I've slept in my own bed on Northern Star.  Six weeks since I flew to Memphis for medical care and two weeks since Carl's arrival here.  Perhaps folks who live on land may find it odd that we call our boat "home" but that is the only one that we have at present and that is the place that conjures the feeling of belonging. 

Ardys, atop the mast
We know that someday we will live on land again, but as of this moment, we have no plan in mind for that.  I will admit though, that the past few months have given us pause to think about moving in that direction a time or two. One or the other of us has thrown out an idea here or there about where our eventual land dwelling might be. None of the ideas bandied about have taken root as of yet, however. 
Ready to cross from FL to Bahamas, 2015

We told our friends and family when we decided to live on a sailboat, that we would do it for "two to ten years, or until it's no longer fun."  "Fun" isn't really the right word to use when describing a cruising life though.  And I'm not saying that just because we were unable to leave the dock for two months this winter due to lightning damage; and not even because I had to be evacuated out of the Bahamas to the U.S. in order to address a very painful herniated disc requiring surgery and recuperation on land. Even if neither of those had happened, "fun" still wouldn't be the right adjective.

New cruising friends, human and canine, 2016

Oh, but there are many wonderful things about living aboard to be sure. Being part of the cruising community is really quite special. A bond develops between live aboard cruisers rather quickly, that is probably unlike anything that is likely to be replicated on land aside from such experiences as summer camp, college or military service, I would imagine.  

It IS exciting to explore new places--there are so many beautiful sights to see in this world.  And so many interesting places, historically and culturally.  To find these things just a short hop away from our boat, our home, feels miraculous at times.

Stunning clouds after a storm

Living on a boat where we are so close to the water, and so close to wildlife and the weather is such an elemental experience. We often feel as though we are living outdoors. We experience weather up close and personal.  We notice immediately when the humidity changes, when a breeze picks up and when it dies.  We live and plan our movements by the weather.  

There is something quite freeing about having vastly decreased the mountain of possessions that we lived with while on land. We do still have a storage unit in Duluth, MN so we cannot say that we "sold everything we owned" but we certainly have far less baggage than we have ever shared since our marriage in 1999.

Carl replacing a water filter, 2015

One of the appealing and at the same time, challenging aspects of a cruising life is the level of independence that is required.  When something on the boat breaks or we discover that we need something we don't have, we must figure out how to make do, or to make it work, or where to go or who to talk to in order to solve the problem. Carl has become quite knowledgeable about a wealth of mechanical, electronic and otherwise complex systems within our home on the water. Though this is certainly true, he takes no pride in this achievement, having learned of course, that he still doesn't know enough and says he probably never will.

Provisioning for Bahamas 2015

Planning ahead for our basic needs is way more critical now than it ever was when we lived on land.  Take grocery shopping for example. Provisioning the galley requires more care and is far more time-consuming than shopping for the kitchen on land. A grocery store run can take the better part of a day.  First there's the dinghy ride, then the walk to the store (maybe a mile, more or less) while bringing along several sturdy cloth bags and maybe a wheeled cart to pull our heaviest items. We must choose our groceries carefully to ensure that we have adequate space aboard to accommodate them.  And, we must consider the weight of our purchases as we will be carrying, backpacking, pulling or otherwise schlepping them back to the dinghy.

Sewing in the cabin of Northern Star

Frankly, there are many things about living onboard that are just plain inconvenient and/or unpleasant. There are plenty of times that Carl wishes my sewing machine and supplies didn't take up so much room of our living space.  Times when I would wish I could just toss my laundry into my own washing machine and walk away to do something else. Times when I am tired of fighting the good fight against mildew on the boat.  Times when we just don't feel like tackling one more grubby chore that is, unfortunately necessary for power or water or some other essential thing. Times I'd like to not have to pull up anchor and move because the direction of the wind is changing. Times when it is unpleasant to be motoring upwind, in the cold, or rain or fog.  
Jax waiting to meet us with our groceries

A rainy and cool day on the Intra Coastal Waterway
So, you see, "fun" is just not the right word to describe a cruising life.  And when a medical emergency rears its' head, as it did this spring, living aboard may not even be possible for a time.  We will never be able to thank Carl's sister and husband enough for opening their comfortable home to me, to get me through these last weeks prior to and following back surgery.  I left the Bahamas on April 19th not knowing what lay ahead, nor how long I would be away from home.  Carl was able to join me in time for surgery on May 16th and now at last we are looking at returning home.  My follow-up with the neurosurgeon is tomorrow and I believe I will be ready to travel with his blessing. 
Jax is ready to go home too

Getting excited for all three of us to return to our home with water below in just another day or two. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Sailor's Thoughts on Airplanes, Wheelchairs and UBER

Elvis' tomb at Graceland
I've been doing a lot of reclining recently.  It's painful to sit and standing is fine for a half hour or so, but at some point I just have to lie down again, a pillow under my left leg.  I've got a laptop laying across my upper legs and I've got some good pain meds. Those two things combined are responsible for this bad poem.

So here I lie in Memphis,
Day after day on my bumpkiss.
Is it time well spent?
Well, if that's what he meant
When my doctor said
Be kind to that tush bone
Afore pain knocks you senseless.
May 8 Monday.  I talked to Carl this morning by phone, from the neurosurgeon's office in Memphis and I told him that I need back surgery.  "When can you get here?" Northern Star is sailing north today from Jacksonville, along the Georgia coastline and on toward Charleston. Carl is hopeful that the weather will hold and given the benefit of having three sailors onboard, that they may be able to keep going until they get to Oriental, NC where we will leave the boat for a couple of months. 

Northern Star going through a lock on ICW
So we have a plan now and it's one that makes sense to me.  When I saw the MRI of my L5/S1 disc draped over the top of the sacrum, reminding me of the way a dog's tongue hangs out of his mouth, I thought, how in the world is physical therapy going to make that blob go back where it belongs?  I've been warned about knife-happy surgeons with regard to back surgery, but at this point, the microdiskectomy seems the most reasonable thing to do.  As my doctor said this morning, "You're already 6 weeks into this. If it was going to get better on its' own, it would have started to improve a little by this time. Instead it's getting worse. You've had an epidural without improvement. You're in a lot of pain; too much so to do physical therapy. You've lost ankle reflexes and you've lost strength in your left leg.  It's time to do this."  And I said, "How soon?"

But here's what I want to talk about.  I had some "interesting" experiences while being dependent upon others for assistance over the past two weeks.  I was a rehab social worker for much of my career but have had no experience myself, of being a wheelchair user.  It was very educational.  My readers will not be surprised to learn that I have a few observations to make.  I think that in our country, we could do a better job when it comes to making our cities and our services more user friendly for folks using wheelchairs. So, anyway,  here goes.
Our new primary care clinic in Memhis
April 19 Wednesday morning. My first wheelchair experience occurred when Carl was with me.  We flew from Marsh Harbor to Miami.  My ESL (English as a Second Language) female attendant was there at the gate with my wheelchair and I could see immediately that it was going to be trouble.  The seat was so stretched out and loose that it laid right down on the bar beneath it.  I gingerly sat down and immediately got up again.  "I can't sit on that. There's something wrong with the seat. I'm sitting right on the bar."  "Oh, no is fine," she said. "They all like this." Oh great. The Miami airport is torturing all wheelchair users as a regular course of business. Well, my attendant had a schedule to keep and there was no use but to go along with the schedule.  I slouched way down so as to avoid sitting directly on the bar.  As we parted ways, I attempted one more time to explain that the chair really was in need of attention. "The chair needs repair.  It needs to have the seat repl......" She was gone before it was out of my mouth.

One of the dog parks at Shelby Farms, a 4,500 acre park in Memphis.
April 19 Wednesday night. My next flight was to Memphis that same evening and I was alone. DAN made the arrangements including wheelchair assistance. I took myself to the airport by UBER, laying across the backseat per my request. The driver kindly gave  me his hand to help pull me out when we got to the airport. The Drop Off at the Miami airport is 3 or 4 lanes of traffic wide. I needed to cross two busy lanes to get inside the terminal.  Thankfully there was a police woman standing near me when I exited the UBER vehicle.  I asked her how I could get a wheelchair, thinking she would alert someone to bring one out for me.  Instead, she pointed across the lanes to the entrance.  "You have to go in through those doors. They have wheelchairs in there."  Well, so much for help from our officer in blue.  I hoped she was watching me as I limped and dragged my heavy backpack, my CPAP case and a large travel "purse" across the lanes, dodging taxis and limousines.  In retrospect I really should have been more insistent and NOT budged from the spot with all that heavy stuff in tow.

One of the pandas at the Memphis Zoo
I entered the terminal. I had about an hour before my plane would be boarding. A roving airline helper came to my assistance and got my boarding pass for me.  I pointed out that a wheelchair had been requested and one bag needed to be checked.  She took my bag and told me to have a seat in the area where all the chairs had large wheelchair symbols on them.  She came back eventually.  "There's nobody working this area right now.  I think she went to dinner."  "Can you find a wheelchair for me?" I asked. See, I was thinking I could push myself.  Wrong. She twisted up her mouth, squinted and said tentatively, "I'll see what I can do." She was gone a long time.  In fact, I don't think she did come back. Meanwhile, an ESL airport worker came by driving one of those motorized carts and pulling a load of luggage carts.  "Can you help me get a wheelchair?"  I couldn't understand what he said exactly, but it was something like, "I only drive deess," and smiling, shook his head. at me.
The Big River Crossing, at Memphis, the longest pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

A woman in some sort of airport uniform came by and I flagged her down. "Would you help me please.  I need to get a wheelchair so I can get to my gate."  She looked about, saw the empty podium nearby and said, "I don't work in this area.  I'll see what I can do."  She returned in just a few minutes, "The woman who works here is at supper.  She should be back soon."  She lingered, looking around us. We were at the end of the terminal.  Very little action was happening there. Finally, a man in a uniform (maybe a pilot, for all I know) came down the hall and she nabbed him.  "What do we do about getting this woman a wheelchair?" He turned on his heel, grabbed a folded wheelchair that was sitting across the way and brought it over to us, then continued on. The woman caught him again.  I could hear in her tone of voice she was thinkin' 'not so fast, Buster.'  Turns out she was not particularly happy to be saddled with me because it was not her job to push people in wheelchairs and the airport does not have job sharing. (ie. Okay, on Tuesdays I'll push passengers in wheelchairs but the rest of the week I get to fly the planes.)  They don't do that.  I got into the chair, waiting.  She returned and without saying a word, pushed me about 75 yards to a similar seating area with wheelchair symbols on all the chairs.  She said a few words to the young woman in charge of that seating area who had not abandoned her little clutch of wheelchair passengers by thoughtlessly going to dinner. Neither of these woman looked at me or said anything to me.  I was just parked there, helped out of the wheelchair and left to ponder my existence. Had being in a wheelchair rendered me invisible?

Mississippi at Memphis.  Memphis Pyramid on the horizon, now home to Bass Pro and boutique hotel.
Now, this was interesting.  I'd been there only a few minutes, when an elderly woman left her chair to come over to me.  She said, "Obviously you're in a lot of pain. I may have some pain medication that might help you.  Would you like something?"  I did not take her up on her offer, as I did have a little pain medication of my own, but I appreciated her asking.  She confirmed that I was not invisible.

There was just a half hour left now, until they would start boarding the plane to Memphis.  I looked across at the young woman at the podium. When I could catch her eye, I mouthed, "What's going on?"  She smiled and mouthed back what I think was, "Someone will be here soon." Sure enough, in another ten minutes or so,  a very frail looking woman was delivered to the seating area in a wheelchair.  Her ESL attendant helped her vacate the wheelchair and be seated.  The attendant then brought the wheelchair over to me. The young woman at the podium handed her my boarding pass, which had been taken from me earlier (!) by the first woman to give me a push in the chair.
One of several great museums in Memphis

And......... we were off.  Zoom--down the corridor. Right turn. TSA wanted me to walk, if possible, through the metal detector.  I obliged. Then zoom, down the next corridor, up an elevator, onto an elevated train car, then down an elevator.  As we were going, I wanted to report to her how difficult it had been to get a wheelchair.  I said, "Cuarenta minutos antes de recibo la silla." (40 minutes before I receive a chair.) She laughed and said, "Oh, no no no, ees fine."  Clearly my Spanish left much to be desired.  I tried again while meaningfully jabbing myself in the chest.  "Esperanzo cuarenta minutos para la silla." (I wait 40 minutes for a chair.)  This did the trick.  "Ay, no, Usted esperanza...lo siento." (Oh, no. You wait 40 minutes. I am sorry."  After a couple more straightaways, and turns, we were on the home stretch-- the corridor leading to my gate. There was nobody there! The plane had boarded. I was the last passenger to board the plane to Memphis.  First seat, first row, First Class.  The door was closed a few minutes later. Well, that was exciting. Not.
Beale Street
I was the first passenger to exit the plane in Memphis and there was my wheelchair waiting for me along with my wheelchair attendant.  The woman took her job very seriously.  She efficiently took me to the baggage claim area, all the while keeping a stream-of-consciousness monologue going.  It was rather nice actually.  At least I knew what she was thinking.  She grabbed my backpack for me and we headed outside.  I explained that I would be getting an UBER driver to take me to my destination.  She knew just where the UBER drivers picked up their passengers and picked her way across two busy lanes of airport traffic using all available curb cuts to make my ride as smooth as possible.  She turned one direction, and then reversed herself thinking she'd chosen the wrong way.  My UBER driver called me.  Where was I? he wanted to know. Hmph. Where are you? My attendant spotted the car first.  She made a dash toward him, no longer taking such care to avoid the bumps.  The UBER driver launched into what I thought was an ill-advised move--he backed up to get to us, perhaps a football field's length. There was much honking involved.

It was really rather sweet how the wheelchair attendant "reported off" to the UBER driver, the condition of her patient, er, passenger.  "She's in a lot of pain, so you want to drive carefully and help her with her luggage" which he was already doing.  As I said, a stream-of-consciousness monologue.  She wished me well and I thanked her for her attention. It's nice to see people take pride in their work. The UBER driver was careful and inquired about my comfort in the backseat.  His mama raised him right. When we pulled up to the house, he carried my luggage to the door and extended his entire arm for me to hang onto so that I could pull myself out from the backseat where I was sprawled.  What a gentle and kind man, I thought. 

Oriental, NC.  Known as North Carolina's Sailing Capital. A very cruiser friendly little town.

May 11 Thursday.  Carl called me this morning from Oriental, NC. Northern Star had already arrived after three days and nights on the Atlantic, going from Jacksonville, FL to Oriental, NC.  He is relaxing this evening and then making arrangements to rent a car.  One of the crew goes to the airport  on Saturday and Carl will drive the other crew member home to Washington D. C.  Then he will drive to our car (where it has been stored in Maryland over the winter) and then on to Memphis with Jax.  Arrival in Memphis, perhaps Sunday; more likely Monday. He'll be here for my surgery first thing Tuesday morning.

What a weird, weird winter and spring it has been for us. First the lightning. And now this. But you know, since arriving in Memphis, I have talked with a lot of people-- UBER drivers and nurses at the clinics, etc.  And every time I've chatted with someone and they find out that I live on a sailboat, they say, without fail, "You live on a sailboat?  How awesome is that!" Or words to that effect. And I smile and say, "Yup."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Surprise and a Decision Point

Dolphins  at the bow
"I was not on the boat when she made landfall in the U.S. last Wednesday morning.  I missed out on what was apparently, a memorably fast sail across the Gulf Stream.  I missed the beautiful overnight on the ocean, and seeing the dolphins race under our bow. I missed meeting the little hitchhiker that landed onboard.  And I missed good times with Carl's two substitute crew." quote -  Facebook > sailboat.northern.star May 5, 2017.

Carl replacing the port navigation light
At about the same time that our boat was nearing the completion of its extensive electrical repairs, another unfortunate event set us back on our heels yet again. This setback would come in the form of a crew malfunction.  The story goes like this.

March 22 Wednesday, Marsh Harbor. Yours truly spent the afternoon on her hands and knees scrubbing away dirt and mildew from the cockpit cushions and shade panels as they lay spread out over the docks.  Sometimes rather than kneeling, I did a sideways half-crouch, with left knee, foot and hand on the ground supporting my body weight, while my right leg was extended to the side and my right arm wielded the scrub brush. It was an awkward position and I knew it, but I'll admit to a degree of stubbornness that surfaces within me in situations like this; it was a vigorous, sweaty job that needed to be done and I was not about to let it go undone.
These shade panels were unzipped and spread across the dock for cleaning.

I noticed a bit of discomfort ("muscle strain" I called it) in the area inside my left buttock afterward. (It was a discomfort similar to what I experienced after doing "extreme" landscaping. When I lived on land, my gardening involved a lot of heavy labor--excavating hillsides, building stone walls, turning over large areas of sod, laying down river rock and so on. It was my passion and I did endure hip pain from time to time for it.)

Northern Star free of shore power at last!
March 28  Tuesday. "Pulled muscle pain" still noted with activity and occasionally a shooting pain down my left leg. Walking has become laborious but the worst thing is to sit. Taking 800 mg Ibuprofen every 6 hours.

April 2  Sunday.  We leave the marina for the first time in 59 days. Northern Star is mobile again!  Waking up with left hip pain in the night.

April 4 Tuesday. Sadly, I have to forego snorkeling with our guests due to increased left hip pain.  It would feel good to be weightless in the water, but I can't figure out a way to get into and out of the water.  I can't bend at the hip on my left.

The Green Emerald hummingbird
April 8  Saturday.  I couldn't pass up the chance to go on a birding tour with our guests.  Unfortunately, riding in the guide's truck to reach the birding sites was almost unbearable for me. 

 How painful the dinghy has become. 
April 10  Monday. Our guests have gone home and Carl convinces me it's time to see a doctor. I whimper getting into the dinghy to go to shore. I require Carl's help to get up and out of the dinghy. I lean on him to slowly walk the two blocks to the clinic where I stand in tremulous pain throughout the exam. Dr. Hull advises that if I am not improved by Thursday (the day before a four-day Easter weekend) I should be evacuated out to Nassau or to Florida in order to have an MRI of my lower back.  Marsh Harbor does not have an MRI machine. We were surprised to find that today's clinic visit cost only $129 and that included the muscle relaxant and narcotics sent home with me. Wow! Now THAT is a reasonable cost for medical care.

Back at the dock once again.

 Carl moves the boat back into a marina slip with the help of two cruising friends. Being at a dock allows me to get on and off the boat without using the dinghy which is torturous.

My comfy bed became impossible to use.

April 13  Thursday  I'm unable to sleep in our bed anymore because I can't get in and out without screaming in pain.  I fret about flying out for help because I would have to sit upright on the plane. I told Carl I was a little bit better and would hold out through the weekend.

No problem finding someone to take care of Jax
April 17  Monday  I was a fool to say I was improved. My left leg is on fire constantly with sharp pains shooting down the leg, my toes are tingling and intermittent numbness makes my leg weak and my gait feels off.  Pain meds provide little relief anymore.  I agree to fly out to Miami.  Carl began to work on evacuation arrangements with the help of DAN (Divers Alert Network) and Dr. Hull.  DAN will fly both of us out because I cannot travel alone. Our health insurance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will take effect in the U.S. A new friend and fellow sailor offered to take care of Jax while we are gone.
                       <A Surprise>
Marsh Harbor anchorage
The VHF radio was on.  "Northern Star, Northern Star.  This is SeaScape."  Carl and I looked at each other in surprise. SeaScape was anchored in the harbor nearby; the very same SeaScape that had towed us for miles in Long Island Sound last October.  I listened to Carl talk on the radio with Gary and Jan on SeaScape.  They had been traveling around within the Abacos of the Bahamas over the winter and just now, they noticed Northern Star on AIS.
Unfortunately, I was in no condition to receive visitors and Carl explained our situation and his task at hand--to get me to Florida.  Gary said, "I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I am a cranio/sacral therapist.  I'd be glad to come over and see if I can provide some pain relief for Ardys. And Jan is an RN." 
Lily pads in fresh water, Lake Superior

'Unbelievable', I thought, What are the chances of someone sailing into the anchorage bringing just the sort of skill set that might be of help to me, right at this time? I was quite willing to have them come as therapists, rather than as visitors to our boat.

Therapy provided some pain relief--like a rainbow after the storm.   Lake Superior, Duluth, MN
  Gary and Jan together gave me an hour-long therapy session unlike anything I have been exposed to in my past as a medical social worker. I found the treatment to be very gentle and calming to my overactive nerves that were constantly firing in my left leg. They left me quietly at rest on the bed and chatted briefly with Carl before leaving the boat.   They returned again the next day for another hour-long therapy session. I could not have asked for anything better from anyone at that point. Just unbelievable! 

April 19  Wednesday morning. Marsh Harbor to Miami  0800 Taxi to the Marsh Harbor airport with me lying across the back seat, head in Carl's lap.  DAN has arranged for Carl and I to fly First-Class to Miami to allow me a partial recline and for a wheelchair to meet me at the gate.  On to the Aventura Hospital ER where X-rays rule out vertebral fractures and confirm there is no subluxation (dislocated bone). No MRI was done however. I was discharged from the ER by 1500 with pain meds and orders to see an Orthopedist on Friday.

                      <Major Decision Point> 

Northern Star heading west across the Gulf Stream
April 19 Wednesday afternoon. Miami hotel. We still don't know what is causing my chronic pain and we have no idea how long it will take to get a diagnosis. What kind of treatment will be needed and how long will that take? Do we stay in Florida indefinitely, in a hotel?  Do I stay here by myself while Carl returns to the Bahamas to bring Northern Star back to the U.S.? Bear in mind that our boat (our home) will no longer be insured if it is not above the Florida/Georgia border by June 1. We are already paying daily for the boat to remain in a marina at the same time as we now begin to pay for a hotel room in Miami, with no known end point in sight for either. I cannot return to live on the boat until I can bend and sit and safely move around. Carl needs someone to help move the boat back to the U.S. but it won't be me. What do we do?
We sold this Duluth home before moving aboard Northern Star
.When we sold our house in preparation for moving onto the boat, we had many "what if" discussions between us.  One of the "what ifs" was this very kind of scenario.  What if one of us is injured or very ill or needs surgery and time to recuperate on land? What do we do then, with no house/home to return to on land.  
Duluth Yacht Club Wednesday night races. 

We talked long and hard about that and made some important decisions and preparations that would now guide us in our decision-making. We both love Duluth, and we love all our friends there.  Duluth feels like home, regardless of whether we own property there or not.  

West Lighthouse of Canal entrance, Duluth, MN

Several of our friends have extended us generous invitations to stay with them, even for an extended period of time, if ever needed.  One of them has an extra little house out back where we could stay; two of them have a lower-level living area that they have offered; another has an entire second home on a lake where we could stay! We could not be more fortunate to have those loyal friends who are so open and generous with their lives and willing to share their personal space with us. So, we would go to Duluth, right?

Rock of Ages Light, Isle Royale, Lake Superior

 But the rest of our "what if" discussion went something like this.  Between us, we have only one living parent, Carl's mom who lives in Memphis.  We want to be able to spend as much time with her as possible even though we are living on the water.  If some life event required a period of recuperation for one of us and we spent that time in Duluth, we would be missing out on time that could have been spent near her.
Carl with him mom, Karen on Lake Superior.  2005

Because we know that we will always want to spend time in Memphis with Carl's mom and sisters, we made the decision to move our medical care from Duluth to Memphis.  In fact, just last October was when we accomplished the transition so that now we both have a primary care physician in Memphis, along with our specialists: a  dermatologist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, internal medicine doctor and nephrologist.

 There were further discussions with Carl's sisters, too, for example, about maintaining a safe deposit box in Memphis with our most important documents to reside there.  Keeping these in Memphis as opposed to storing them with the rest of the things in our Duluth storage unit would make them available should any crises occur. 

Jax and Carl, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Documents such as our birth certificates, marriage certificate, long-term care policies, retirement funds and accounts need to be kept safely on land somewhere, not riding on the boat with us in case the boat, god forbid, catches fire or sinks. Carl's sisters have graciously accepted the role of primary contact in the event of a major disaster at sea.  They would be there to assist the surviving spouse in the event of a death.  So, that helped to shape our decision. I would go to Memphis for diagnosis and treatment. Once the boat is safely delivered to a place where it can be left, Carl can join me in Memphis or do whatever else we need to do at that point.

April 19  Wednesday late afternoon, Miami to Memphis
Carl's cousin, Dean
There was still a flight available for me to fly on to Memphis that same day. DAN's role in this whole ordeal was not yet over, in that they would be willing to pay for me to return to Marsh Harbor OR to my place of legal residence which is in Green Cove Springs, Florida. 
Carl and our friend Justin
As it turned out, it was less expensive to fly me to Memphis than to Green Cove Springs, so DAN arranged that.  I flew on to Memphis, First Class, wheelchair waiting for me at the gate. Carl flew back to Marsh Harbor, courtesy of DAN, where he quickly had two seasoned sailor friends fly out to join him for the sail back to the States.

Ardys. "I prefer the floor".
May 7 Sunday  Memphis. I am staying with one of Carl's sisters and her husband in Germantown. I have seen my primary doctor and a physical medicine doctor with whom I did not hit it off.  My MRI shows a herniated disc at L5/S1 and the two discs above that are bulging. That certainly explains the pain.  Tomorrow I see a neurologist.  And that brings us up-to-date for now.  Until later....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When You Least Expect It....

Newly met friends in Maine invited us for lobster dinner.

There are plenty of people out there that will surprise you!  People that will do all they can to be helpful, who will go out of their way to make life easier for someone else and will do it without expecting anything in return.  I dare say they find pleasure in this, even when they know they will likely never see you again.
Early morning on the bow of Northern Star

Once upon a time a slightly-past-middle-aged couple lived on a sailboat with their intelligent Border Collie, Jax. For the most part, the three were fairly contented with their lives aboard their floating home.  "Aren't we fortunate," they said to each other, "to be able to move our home from place to place, exploring wherever we go?  And isn't it something that we keep meeting really nice people?" And Jax agreed, "Woof."
Jax greets new people with enthusiasm, usually.

One beautiful morning last October while anchored in the New Haven Harbor Inlet of Connecticut, the threesome awoke to find that their boat engine would not start.  "What do we do?" Ardys said. Jax had nothing to offer. A call to TowBoat US by Carl enlightened us. As TowBoat US did not have a presence in the New Haven Harbor, we would be obliged to pay out-of-pocket to a local towing company to pull us out into Long Island Sound where ostensibly we could sail a few more miles closer to the Housatonic River, where TowBoat US then would tow us the rest of the way. The marina up in the Housatonic was the one that we had determined could diagnose the issue with our Yanmar engine. Considering that there was no wind for sailing, and that we kinda had some other plan for the several hundred dollars that the tow would require, this was not good news for us.
S/V SeaScape towing S/V Northern Star out of the New Haven River

As it happened, earlier that morning, we had been conversing by VHF radio with the one other sailboat at anchor near us in the New Haven River. There had been the usual introductions and general chatter about where we were headed next and what our winter destinations would be, etc. When the couple on our neighboring sailboat, S/V SeaScape  learned of our predicament, they offered to tow us out of the New Haven River to a point miles away in Long Island Sound where TowBoat US would pick us up! Carl and I looked at each other.  Northern Star was similar in size to SeaScape  but it would be no small task to tow us that distance. Did they recognize the load they were putting onto their boat? We accepted their gracious offer. They tossed us their lines for towing and we slowly set off downriver, against the flooding tide.  And deliver us, they did, until we were close enough for TowBoat US to take us the rest of the way.
Port Washington has a very large mooring field and anchorage in her bay

A couple of days later, after our engine problem was resolved, we met up with SeaScape again at Port Washington* on the south side of Long Island Sound.  We had told them that we would be using Port Washington as our staging ground to prepare for going through New York City. SeaScape had never gone through NYC and appreciated having someone to follow. We were very happy to be able to be of some help to this boat that had towed us for miles. We knew of some sensitive areas going down the East River, not the least of which was Hell's Gate. The Gate is a well-known quirky area with very turbulent, and confused waters, as a result of several waterways colliding in that vicinity. Equally important, however, would be planning around the fact that the United Nations was in session.
Tiny Roosevelt Island splits the East River in two in the vicinity of the UN

Whenever the UN is in session, security protocol precludes all water traffic on the East River in the vicinity of the UN.  Well-armed police gun boats patrol the waters to ensure this is enforced. It is worth knowing, however, that a narrow island called Roosevelt Island lies in the East River across from the UN. A schedule is available to boaters (who know to look for it) that there are times of the day on some days, when marine traffic is allowed to pass, but only on the far side of Roosevelt Island, the side farthest away from the UN.  This is very important information to be aware of and here is why.
Many bridges cross the East River to Manhattan, all of them tall enough for our mast

A boater, especially a sailboat heading south and wanting to get around NYC in daylight (and we would ONLY want to do this in daylight) will wisely plan the trip so that the boat is riding with the falling tide which adds a couple of knots to their speed.  But here's where knowledge of the river closings becomes critical. If a boater heads down the East River at a good clip, oblivious to the fact that the River will be closed to traffic at the UN, that poor boat will have hard work to run back upriver against the tide.  Now, if that boater knows that the East River will be open on the far side of Roosevelt Island, the trip can continue successfully the entire length of NYC in one day, and can anchor off of Sandy Point, NJ or at some other location south of Brooklyn.
SeaScape traveling south on the East River.  The UN Building is behind her, just beyond the tip of Roosevelt Island.

Northern Star
and SeaScape had a pleasant run down the East River, photographing each other with NYC as the backdrop. In fact, SeaScape continued to follow Northern Star the next day as well, all the way into a crowded anchorage in the harbor of Cape May, New Jersey after dark.  A long day's sail.  And that is where we parted ways with SeaScape the next day--wishing each other well with our respective travel plans.

Approaching end of the day on the Atlantic

The reader may now be wondering whether Northern Star will meet up with SeaScape again.  And that, dear friends will require that you follow us several more months and more than a thousand miles down into the Bahamas. But that is a story for another time.  So until then......we wish you fair winds and following seas.

Aqua water of the Little Bahama Bank
* Port Washington is a town on Long Island on the southeast side of the Sound which boasts a large mooring field. A cruiser can grab a mooring ball there and receive two nights mooring free. One can dinghy to shore or pay $25 to receive unlimited shuttle service to shore for groceries, laundry, restaurants, general shopping, summer entertainment in the park, etc. A 15 minute walk up the hill from the water takes one to the Long Island Line, the train that deposits one in the heart of Manhattan. We took advantage of all of these features when we made our trip north to New England earlier in the summer. Clearly, Port Washington is a very cruiser-friendly community and well worth a stop when heading north or south.