There are some similarities in operating room nursing and sailing in emergency conditions, even if you don't know what you're doing.
Help in any way you can.
Don't drop anything (in the sea or outside the sterile field)
Don't get hurt.
And number one: hope that whoever you're with does the same, is good in a fight, and has the knowledge, talent, temperament and whatever else it takes to get you out of this mess.
I don't know if it was David's rapid footsteps above me on deck, or the violent, sudden movement of the boat itself that woke me, but for a moment I was disoriented. I heard David yell. "Mora get up!" and I was out of bed climbing the steps out of the companionway to see what was going on. I remembered where we were as I made out the small beach in the dark, flanked by rocky shore. The rain was driving sideways and the sand and rocks appeared closer than they should have.
We knew weather was coming and had sailed in to Portinatx to take shelter from a northerly bluster predicted to come the next day. David's service said gusts up to 36 mph, but I didn't believe it. It hadn't been accurate so far.
"We'll be ok" I said. "If we're not ok, it just means we're not done yet".
David seems to think I tempt fate with statements like this, and had remarked several times about me asking if his boat had ever hit another, a few days prior, as if the question itself had made boats around us collide. My superstitious sailor.
Portinatx appeared to have a more sheltered cove on the map than it actually did. We didn't like the first anchoring option and moved on to a second inlet. When we found an anchoring spot as close to the beach as a boat could get we decided to drop anchor. It's a pretty spot, with gorgeous water, and we hoped, just the right angle to protect us.
I got on some clothes and glanced at the clock. It was quarter to midnight. David rushed down and began dressing too. He had been forward, securing the dingy. Whatever gust of wind that had woken him had been so strong that it flung our dingy over the side of the boat.
I stuck my head out in time for the first lightning strike. In the electrical flash, as bright as day, I saw the catamaran anchored a couple hundred yards away slam into a monohull beside it, men scrambling on deck.
David told me to get the life jackets and then he buckled me in. The howling wind and rain where deafening. We had to yell at each other to be heard. He told me the boat was drifting towards the shore, driven by the gale and rising seas. On the violently rocking boat we climbed on deck and were instantly drenched. He told me to keep my eyes on him as he went forward to assess the anchor. Shalona was healing over in the screeching wind, and was laying at a weird angle. In my frantic attempt to keep my eyes on David I didn't pay attention to the boom and got a sudden crack on the head sending my face flying into a winch and got a bloody lip. Rookie move.
The force of the wind had lifted the boat so violently that the anchor was yanked out of the sand and the roller things on the prow were torn off. The only thing keeping Shalona, and us, from being crashed onto the rocks were the line of mooring balls surrounding the swimming area. The boat's rudder or keel seemed to be tangeled up in them. Thus the weird angle we were lying.
We scampered about the slippery, moving boat, first lifting the anchor, then attempting to see what else could be done. The lightning was awesome and terrifying. I found myself ducking instinctually and was sure some one would be struck as it lit up the sky and touched down right beside us. I could see people on the other boats moving about too, as we all got tossed on the raging sea.
David wanted to cut the line of mooring balls that held us, but I wanted to wait. He asked me to get the knife from the galley. He managed to yank the rope onto our cleat as I held the flashlight in the pouring rain. We both asked the storm to stop!
From what I could see the cat was still tangled up with the smaller monohull, and they seemed to be blowing closer to us. There was another yacht being pushed towards the rocky cliff, and the last crewed boat in our little bay looked like it was crashing into a small anchored speedboat. It was chaos and mayhem!
David asked me to come forward and hold the flashlight so he could find the line in the water, yank it up, and fasten it to our forward cleat. He reinforced the stays on the dingy. As I made my way back to the cockpit, gripping the shrouds, barefoot and fatigued, my vision completely blurred by the driving rain on my glasses, the boat lunged and I lurched over the side. But nothing was going to make my hand release its grip on that shroud, and I righted myself. Mistakes can happen when you're tired, I reminded myself, and carefully maneuvered myself into the cockpit.
I was making my case for staying wrapped up in the mooring line, yelling over the cracking thunder. I wanted to stay where we seemed not to be moving, close to the shore. If we cut the line and took off would it wrap the propeller? Where would we go in the dark stormy sea?
Suddenly the decision was made for us, or it was made for David, who had the experienced eyes that gave him a vision for what was happening that I couldn't see.
On the aft cleat, the line that he had dragged up and secured on to the boat, suddenly snapped. The cat seemed to be tangled in the same line and the strain and tension of both boats pulling on it was too much. David asked me for the knife, took it forward, and had me ready to put the engine in gear. I waited for his word, watching the instruments. I couldn't see what he was doing up there but as another lightning strike illuminated the sea, I saw our boat was turning, free of that line that had held us. The depth of the water was decreasing as we were pushed to the shore and I willed David to give me the word to steer us out of there.
I yelled at him that we were in five feet of water when I saw him coming towards me, screaming to put the boat in gear. I yanked the engine into forward and we both felt and heard the keel hit the bottom. 3.7 feet.
I learned later that David had cut the line, pulled it out from the keel and rudder, and somehow threw it far away enough so that the propeller was free. As Shalona moved forward we maneuvered our way through the other tossing boats, and further out into the bay. I was so relived not to crash on the rocks! But where would we go? In the darkness I shone the flashlight but could barely see a few feet in front of us. I was worried that our anchor wouldn't dig in over seaweed and grass, but David soon found a spot, dropped anchor and secured us with all the chain and rope the boat had on board. We were sufficiently away from the other boats, cliffs and shore.
When I next looked at the clock it was 1:36am. The wind seem to be decreasing a bit and the lightning was moving south over the island. The boat was still swinging dramatically, anchored in 35 feet of water, but we felt secure enough to go below and get some dry clothes.
I mopped up the cabin, made coffee and watched David change into his sailing weather gear. "Lord almighty!" he said in his best American accent, dimples flashing. He told me to take a nap as he kept an eye out on the other boats, our anchor, and the weather. I asked him to not go forward on the boat without letting me know, and he agreed. I didn't mean to, but I slept till 5am.
Now it's noon the next day. The sea is still angry and tossing us about, the wind howling by. But our anchor has held and David is finally sleeping. He has been on boats all his life and has worked on them in many different places around the world. When he says the wind was gusting at least 70 mph, I believe him. The famous Mistrael from France paid us a visit, and we survived!
If there's anyone I want in my foxhole when things go bad, it's Dave Gardner.
David's daughter Lisa is alright in Manchester. And his sister Sheena is ok in London. It's hard to imagine the upset and trauma that must occur when crazy violence happens so close to home.
David and I have been together on Shalona for about a month now, and every day is different so I can't describe a typical day. But here is what we did yesterday:
We had decided to leave San Antoni, the party town in Ibiza, after we bought fuel, water, and groceries. (The marina made us rent a berth for a half an hour to get water for the boat. Unexpected bonus was using the showers, yay!)
David was lifting the anchor in the morning before I even had my clothes on! We headed northeast and soon had the sails up. But the wind was practically on the nose so we had to motor-sail up the coast. Dramatic Stoney cliffs descending into clear blue-green water. I made David eggs with cream, chives and tomatoes, despite the rolling about. He called me up on deck when he spotted dolphins!
After about out four hours we sailed into the beautiful coves of San Miguel. High cliffs would protect us from the predicted wind and we looked for a place to anchor. There wasn't a good one so we found a bhey and laced our lines through. We had heard that the locals would start charging for the use of bheys by June, but no one approached us, so it was another free night in a beautiful anchorage. We were maybe 150 yards from a lovely crescent beach with pretty green sun umbrellas, and only another half dozen sailboats around us. Heaven!
We lazed about in the sun for a while, then had good, hard Spanish cheese with crackers and cold melon. I was about to go for a swim off the boat but David said why don't we take the dingy over to San Miguel? So we did. The "port" of San Miguel is not really a port, just a one street town with a few hotels, bars, restaurants, and a nice beach. We beached the dingy, walked around a bit, then had a cervesa overlooking the sea.
On the way back to our anchorage the waves where a bit choppy and we were both soaked by the time we got there. Again, we dragged the little dingy ashore, and spread out our towels on the pebbly sand. Surrounded by the muted voices of Spaniards and Italians we dozed in the warm sun and gentle breeze. After a brief swim and more lying around we motored to the boat and I started dinner as David attempted to find, what must be a tiny leak in the dingy. We ate a green salad with chicken, sweet corn, mushrooms and basil.
By by then a few boats were arriving to watch the sunset and a group on the beach had begun playing drums. We poured a glass of wine and watched the dramatic sun setting from the boat. Spectacular! Soon the stars came out and the gentle rocking of the boat put us to sleep.
David and I had reunited in London after almost four months apart.
In the weeks before there had been an exhausting flurry of activity and my son came and helped me with the last of my moving and fixing things around the house for the new renters. It was strange putting all my possessions into the the tiny storage room off the garage and handing over the the keys, and the dogs, to this family. I got choked up saying goodbye to Ryan, and it was all more difficult than I had anticipated.
I spent the night at a friends, took care of some banking, and the next afternoon I was off to the airport. The direct flight to London was no fun, but I was the luckiest one, with a row of three sets to myself.
David met me at London Gatwick and lugged my heavy bags back to his sister, Sheena's, lovely flat in a really nice part of London.
The next few days were a blur of spectacular sites and jet lag. We visited pubs, cathedrals, spent time with Sheena, and saw a production of Phantom of the Opera. Amazing!
Soon it was time to jump on a plane to Barcelona! The three days there were a whirlwind too, lots of walking the town and waterfront, a bus tour to see the sights, and the Sagrada Famiglia, Goudi's famous unfinished masterpiece. It was so beautiful. I'm glad David made me go !
The stress of packing up my life, quitting my jobs, and saying goodby to friends family and dogs, and maybe the uncertainty about the future was getting to me. Combined with the fast paced nature of our traveling ( oh poor me). and limited sleep, and I was a bit of a wreck. Badly in need of some rest.
A day at the beach and exploring the small costal town of Peniscola was just what the doctor ordered.
The beach hotel overlooked the old castle, which we explored in the evening. Built by the Knights Templar, it sat on top of a hill jutting out into the sea, for many centuries.
I loved relaxing Peniscola and there was excellent pizza at pizzeria Napoli!
It's been a tiring month of ups and downs, setbacks (my renter backed out) and ultimately success. I will be buying my airline ticket to Europe in the coming week!
David says I was tempting fate with my last post, but I like to believe that being grateful about good things that happen brings more good things. I renewed the ad for the house rental and got many new renters to choose from. I got a deposit and will be turning over the keys, and the dogs, at the end of the month.
Last year was very emotionally difficult. I lost a few pounds, my hair turned grey, and a lot of it fell out (!). But my remaining family seems to be doing well, and though I will miss them, I am looking forward to the adventure ahead!
As people, things like work, the media, and even apps compete for our attention it becomes clearer than ever that time is the one truly non-renewable resource. Knowing this I am happy to choose people and things in my life that bring me joy more often. It has been a lot of work, and some stress, to make this adventure happen, but I'm so happy to do it!
There are pleasurable things to do (FB, ice cream) that aren't always wholesome for life. Then there are pleasures that add greatly to the whole measure of a life. Preparing for quitting work for a while, dreaming up places to explore across the world, getting rid of excess stuff, enjoying the dogs and the house while I can, and envisioning a new life with David clearly fall into the later category.
It's amazing (almost eerie) how well things are going. I worry and sometimes get stressed out about all the things that could possibly go wrong. But everything has been so easy!
I just sold the Jeep for far more than I bought it almost four years ago.
Instead of having to give up my precious pups, I found a woman and her family that will not only rent the house while I'm gone, but will love the doggies in their own home too.
The new job I started has been a breeze and is paying me more than I even thought.
The price for flights to Europe are amazingly low.
I take all this to mean that I'm doing the right thing, following my heart.
I took a break from bagging my endless things for donation, to meet with a woman who may rent the house while I'm gone.
Despite my best intentions, I haven't been able to get my head around giving up the dogs. So, my latest genius idea is to put up an add stating what I need and see what happens! In this modern world things aren't always done like they were before, and I'm trying to think outside the box. So I said I am looking for a tenant who would look after the dogs when I'm gone for perhaps six months, in exchange for decreased rent. The rents in my area of California have skyrocketed and even at a discount I could rent the house and still pay the mortgage with a little of my savings. To my delight I got several responses!
So I met with a potential renter and we talked about the situation. She is going through a divorce, has two kids and a teenage sister who lives with her, and is a nurse at a local hospital. Shout out to all the hard working nurses out there! It's not an easy job.
It might be ideal for her because she needs a place to figure out her next move. And it might be ideal for me because she and her family love dogs. A win-win.
Mulling over these decisions after David had gone to bed (nine hour time difference), I was lurking in some of the sailing forums when I came across a post about The Schengen Agreement in Europe. I guess a problem with immigration and visas had never occurred to me because we will be sailing to different countries' coasts in our journey through the Mediterranean, and I didn't think we would be in any one country long enough to make it an issue. But immigration and visas are an issue!
According the the US State Department:
Kind of throws a wrench in our plans to explore for six months.
Interesting countries not part of the deal are United Kingdom, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. A big part of our plan was Croatia. David had spent time there years ago and has some contacts. It has been on my list of places I want to go to for some time, too. But I never had the intention of rushing from Spain to Croatia to avoid being thrown out of the European Union! David reminded me that we could easily sail to one of the countries listed above in the required time. Distances between countries are not far in Europe.
The alternative is getting a long term visa from one of the relevant countries. From what I read this is quite a pain and expensive. Still, I will call my local embassies and see what the requirements are.
David sent me a whale tooth for my birthday! All the way from Scotland. It could be a hundred years old!
I think it was the spring of 2014 when I got my hands on Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, like so many other people. It came at a good time for me.
I had some time off from work because of a hand surgery, and used it to purge my house, at least some of it. I gave away bags and bags of clothes and books. I am far from a hoarder, but I still had a lot to get rid of.
There are tons of resources on line about methods and strategies to begin sorting, donating, selling excess items you might have around the house. Along with the above mentioned book, I will say that I got some inspiration from a youtube channel called Love Raw Vegan, by Brianna Egglestone, and by The Minimalists Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (I just listened to one of their podcasts though. They spent at least ten minutes talking about the products you can buy to get better sleep. I think if you're making a podcast on minimalism you might run out of things to say.) I have read that one out of ten Americans rents self storage for these things, and that the number of these units is more than five times the number of Starbucks in the United States!
Why to get rid of your stuff? I won't try to convince you of the zen-like spiritual benefits of less clutter. I have my own practical reasons. I'm getting on a sailboat. Enough said.
If you take a real look at the amount of time you spend taking care of, cleaning, organizing, buying and laundering, your things, you might be very surprised, like I was. Not to mention the cost of accumulating things we don't need. Is that what a successful life looks like? Accumulating and then taking care of things? Not for me. But still, I have fallen into the web of consumerism that is all around us, and have amassed too much.
If (when) I have to come back to the states and work, I will need such things as a bed, winter clothes, pots and pans. So walking the fine line of modern minimalism is a challenge. I don't want to rent a storage facility! So, the next few weeks will be time to devoted to a systematic purging of things. I will be ruthless!
As I sit in my bedroom, the winter sun streaming through the window, my dogs laying next to me on the floor warmed by the sun, I know there are things I will miss dearly. Fortunately I don't have to give up everything. I'm sure I'll treasure the whale tooth David gave me forever.
I'm having doubts. Second thoughts. A crisis of confidence. About putting my life on the internet? YES! But no, about my plan to completely change my life and sail off into the sunset.
It's not that I'm risking so much. I have quit my job before and set off for indefinite periods of time. I am fortunate that an experienced nurse can find a good job easily in the United States. And the house can be rented to pay the mortgage. Most of my things I can do without, so I won't miss them. My son is grown now, and he and my other family and friends will be here, and can come to visit us.
I certainly don't mind spending my savings for this great adventure! I try to be balanced in my approach to savings, investments and retirement, but I decided long ago that the usual version of an "American success" wasn't my idea of success. I'd rather have time than toys and I have chosen freedom over security, financial and otherwise, many times and consistently.
I had my son when I was 19 years old. With help from my parents I graduated college when he was about seven, raised him on my own and have always had a job. I work hard and it's a stressful profession. If you think I wouldn't walk away from it for good, you would be wrong. But I'm lucky that it has allowed me to support myself well.
I know what it is. It's the dogs. My Georgia and Rikky.
I got George almost exactly four years ago. Went all the way down to southern California to a German Shepherd rescue because they had so many dogs and I wanted to get a good fit, temperamentally. Georgia was gentle on the leash, sweet and calm. They said she was about two years old.
I asked about why she looked so big around the middle and the lady said it was because she had just had a litter of puppies recently. But since then she had been spayed, and I could clearly see the fresh incision on her belly.
We took Georgia home and were not surprised that she seemed a little uneasy at first. She seemed to be looking around all the time and was not playful in the least. Well, maybe she had had a rough past, maybe she was just adjusting. She wasn't in any acute distress or anything so I didn't worry.
Then one night she was acting especially strange. She was wining and restless and started arching her back, so I thought "That's it. I'm taking her to the emergency vet." It was semi-dark in the office as I was trying to put her leash on, when she arched her back again and a small black thing went skidding across the wood floor. An ALIEN PARASITE!
I screamed! And then took a closer look. It was the first of elven puppies, small and black and wet, eyes closed. Georgia nursed her new pups as each one came out, licking them to revive them. Two were still born, but nine were healthy new puppies.
THAT was the adventure of a lifetime. We took care of the pups with Georgia until they were 9 weeks old, then found them new homes. All but one boy, Rikky. And that's why I have two dogs. He will be four years old in a couple of weeks.
I have often thought that they need more than a single woman, gone all day at work. But it will break my heart to let them go.
P.S. I contacted the vet who did the "spay" in southern California. He didn't want to know anything about it, not names, dates, nothing. He hung up on me. So we filed a complaint with the California Veterinary Medical Board, and after one letter acknowledging the complaint, never heard from them again.
There is much advice out there on the web, but here are my views on cruising with strangers. Please use your own judgement.
1. Decide on where, when, with who, and for how long you'd like to go sailing.
Do you have two weeks off from work? Or, are you quitting your job, selling your stuff, and taking off indefinitely (like I did in 2011)? Obviously if you have only two weeks you probably don't want to take a 22 hour flight to a remote location, and back, and use up your valuable vacation time. Also, depending on the boat and the weather, they might not be able to say where they'll be at precisely what day. You might look for opportunities closer to home, like I did, in the Caribbean and Mexico (or in the Med if you live in Europe). You will learn just by reading who is sailing where and when, based on wind patterns.
Also consider what sort of people you want to sail with. There are plenty of single captains out there, and also families that might need a hand with the kids, younger groups that might only want to sail with younger sailors, couples that need an extra hand or night watch woman. Who you sail with can be the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a nightmare.
Next, consider what kind of boat you would enjoy sailing on. Size and amenities matter. If you would feel uncomfortable without your daily 20 minute shower you might be unhappy you chose a boat at all. On smaller boats you can generally feel the motion of the waves more than on longer ones, and cats are the most like a floating house. Does the boat have a dingy with an outboard? Or are you going to be rowing to shore? Will you have your own cabin? Is there an autopilot? How many on board? Is there a refrigerator? Important answers to know. Assume nothing.
2. Put up your profile on these sites and look at others'. There are other crewing sites out there, but these are the ones I have used.
When you write your profile it's important to be honest about your abilities. If you've never been sailing, say so. Not everyone needs experienced crew, but you might see if you get seasick on a one day trip before you commit to a longer voyage.
Fill in the details with the info about where you would like to sail, how long you can go, and any other talents you might bring to a boat. A good cook, scuba diver, storyteller or engineer can be very valuable to a captain.
Also, look at the boat owner's profile. Findacrew has begun reviews and recommendations for both crew and captains. Seeing a positive review on David's page, from a woman, made a difference to me.
3. Finally, the most important part, if you ask me. Developing (if you haven't already) and listening to, your instinct and intuition. Do you trust your feelings? Have you ever made a decision based on them? Of course you have! If something feels bad you avoid it. That's trusting your feelings. When you rely on your instinct and intuition, you're looking at your feelings before anything bad can happen.
Let's say you meet someone new and something doesn't sit right with you. You don't know what it is, and it doesn't matter (in this case). It could be something big (like you feel so repulsed you think they might be a serial killer) or something small, like an incosistancy in something they said. If you were meeting someone face to face you might explore further to see what it is and get an explanation. "Oh" they say, "No, I meant to say I'm fifty-four, not twenty-four". And there it is, an explanation for your feeling.
But if you are just corresponding by email and phone at first, you have to be very sensitive to any red or yellow flag. If something seems wrong, and they can't or won't explain it, take it seriously.
Learn to be sensitive to your subtle and not so subtle feelings and reactions to people, places and things.
Just a few months ago I cancelled a sailing gig I was to go on based on an uneasy feeling. It was probably just that I wouldn't necessarily get along with everyone on board. But that's enough on a sailboat. On the crewing gigs that I have gone on, I have made peace with the risk factor, and the fact that I may have to walk away at any moment if it didn't feel right or safe. I am fortunate that I have had mainly very positive experiences so far.
I have also had a captain back out last minute on me. I was very disappointed, but he said that his wife didn't like my picture (?!). Both parties in this arrangement have to feel comfortable.
In the end you are responsible for yourself. Due diligence on the web (you can google boat and captains' names, look at recommendations) and in yourself (notice and value your own intuition) can go a long way. Pay attention to the information you gather. I hope you have great experiences out on the seas!