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Logs & Stories - February 2005
The following updates were received via email from Karryn, February 19, 2005
December, 2005 - Mazatlan
Since the last web entry, we moved back to the boat for two weeks at the end of May, got it ready for hurricane season, flew to the states in June, spent four months with Bill's mom in Bellingham, flew back here in October and started working on all the projects so we can leave Mazatlan in mid-January. I have begun a more detailed account of the time between May and now, but I'm not betting on having it ready for publication, as it were, until well after the new year. So this is an update on what's happening now.
We arrived back about a month too early, heat-wise, and it wasn't cool enough to start the outside projects involving epoxy until towards the end of November. However, the chainplate replacement project is nearly done, and the vast majority of time has been spent working on the headstay chainplate. The bow of the boat was actually constructed around the chainplate (all the others are external), so Bill had to saw off the front of the boat in order to remove the old chainplate and install the new one. It's nearly finished, though, and then he'll be on to repairing deck dings and hatch cracks (one of the joys of owning a wooden boat, even if the wood is encased in epoxy and fiberglass).
My projects (beyond the normal boat-keeping chores and home school for the kids) were put on hold for the chainplate project, as Bill needed my Spanish skills at the machine shop and my assistance removing and installing the chainplates. (I let Jackson handle the running backstay plates, as he fits in the aft end of the amas much better than I do!) Fast hardener in the epoxy can make for a lot of excitement and – rarely - for a mixing cup steaming with rapidly solidifying epoxy. Most of the time, though, it just means that Bill needs an assistant who knows which box has which item he needs right now.
However, I'm hoping that he'll be able to use Jackson in this role for the next project, as I have my own list of projects, mostly related to buying things, and I want to get as many of them done in Mazatlan as possible. At this point, this is the place we've spent the most time, and I know where to buy most stuff and what bus to take there. From what I've heard, the stores in Puerto Vallarta are further from the marinas there, so I'd prefer to have as much as possible purchased and on the boat when we leave here.
Bill's mom Yvonne is flying to Guadalajara towards the end of January to visit friends there. She will take a bus to PV (about a 3-hour ride) around the 1st of February. So we want to be ready to leave here no later than the 15th of January. We could be in PV in two days, but we'd like to do some cruising, as it's been nearly a year since our last time out, plus we have to test the watermakers and other items that we don't or can't use in port. I'm looking forward to being out on the hook again. Docks are useful if you need to work on the boat (or if someone's injured), but it's not the way I prefer to live.
And, of course, there's Christmas in just a few more days, as Jackson and Naomi keep reminding me every chance they get. Most of my shopping was done before Yvonne's cousin and her husband flew down a couple of weeks ago, and they brought a duffle bag full of boat parts and presents. I have to buy a few more things, but nothing terribly important. This is the first year that I have been relatively relaxed about presents and not running around trying to find something on either of their lists. It's enjoyable, although at the back of my mind I keep wondering if I'm really as prepared as I think I am.
And the big status update should probably be on Bill's recovery and current physical status. He's definitely not at the 100% mark; he still has nerve damage, mostly related to the muscles in his lower legs and feet. While he still seems to be undergoing improvement, there's really no way to tell what his final state will be, but both of us are assuming that he will continue to improve, albeit more slowly each month, and that eventually he will be able to do all of what he wants to do, if not exactly as he used to. The muscles on the outside of his calves are the weakest (the ones that lift the outside edge of his feet up), so his feet still slant down to the outside a bit. His ability to walk around on the boat and short distances off the boat while carrying things while he walks is such that he does everything but more slowly. He can walk barefoot without worrying about stubbing toes on his left foot, which was an issue when he could only lift his big toe. He still uses a walking stick or cane when going any distance, and I can tell when he gets tired by the way he walks.
I was afraid, the first time he cleaned off the bottom of the boat, that he would find it really difficult. However, he's only aware that his legs are weaker when he's actually diving for something (like the tool he dropped overboard). I suspect that swimming on a regular basis would make this less noticeable, but Seafire is currently moored in an icky estuary, a long way from the relatively clean water at Mazatlan's ocean beaches. In fact, he's been so busy replacing our twenty-five year-old chainplates for the past three weeks that PT has not been a regular feature of his life. However, he's been using his body in ways that he hasn't since he was hurt, and I can tell his core strength is returning but how his muscles are showing up on his back and by how often he needs his back massaged at the end of the day.
We are definitely planning on heading off to the South Pacific in March. We're not entirely sure of where we'll go first (somewhere in French Polynesia), or when exactly we'll be back in the states. Eventually I need to return to work, and in a bit less than two years Jackson enters high school. However, the Bush / Cheney team seems to be heading in a direction that might result in more political and economic instability, so we're aware that we might be somewhere in the middle of the Pacific and find it the best place to hang out for a while. Who knows? We continue to make plans and work to make those plans happen, but we've given up on thinking that we have any real control of our lives. Life happens, and usually in a way that we weren't expecting. We just try to make sure we can have fun along the way with our family and friends.
January, 2005 - Mazatlan
Bill here, with my two cents. It's now January 3, 2005.
I guess I wanna cover two topics: 1) my back injury, and 2) our future plans.
On broken back, my advice is simple: try to avoid these sorts of things.
Actually, I've gotten lots better. Thinking back, until we returned to Mazatlan in October I was really afraid to use my body. I mean, think about it: my skeleton spontaneously failed right in the center. One moment, I'm getting up to take a leak; the next, I'm trying to get up off the floor, but my body isn't responding the way it normally does. Whoa: reality shift.
Virtually all of the time since leaving Seattle three years ago, we haven't had access to a car, and the rigors of moving getting about, shopping and running errands car-less has tended to keep us in pretty good shape. During our summer in Bellingham, though, we were treated to the many conveniences of the automobile, courtesy of my mother, so my physical activities centered on driving to the pool for swimming and driving to the park for walking. Our return to Mazatlan brought on quite the change in routine: the boat is moored a third-of-a-mile walk from the bus line. We returned in early October, the end of summer here, when temperatures are frequently over 100-degrees F, and we had a lot of errands to run in town. Imagine the shift: from a temperature-controlled van carting you around in a place where things are easy to find (the US), to walking around in the blazing sun, hoping you might luck into the thing you're looking for magically appearing before you in the teeny store you've just entered.
Once the weather cooled a bit, we started working on the plethora of boat projects that awaited us. There have been a number of these: repacking the items stored in the outer hulls, greasing the winches, cleaning the bilges, replacing the chainplates, diving to clean the propeller and hull. Since I hadn't had much exercise since March, my muscles had atrophied quite a bit and I had to be fairly careful what I took on and how I went about it, being very careful with how I used my body. Just a few days ago I finished replacing the chainplates (the pieces of stainless steel that attach the mast's rigging to the deck and hull), the most ambitious of the projects we had planned out. One of the tasks involved cutting off about six inches of Seafire's bow, using a handsaw, standing in a pram-type dinghy. I was able to do this without losing my balance and falling in the water, so I must be doing okay.
When I first got injured, in the period when I could move across a room only with the aid of a walker, one of my friends asked, "Are you going to sell your boat?" "I hope not", I said, but it really wasn't clear how things would play out. As I mended in Bellingham, I gradually came to believe that it might be reasonable to return Seafire to the Northwest during the summer of 2005.
When we'd left Seattle, we'd planned on sailing to the South Pacific, and stopping in Mexico was only a minor part of the plan. At this point we've spent three years in Mexico, but only half of that time has been spent cruising – we were hit by lightning in July 2003, and our time since then has been focused on repairing Seafire and my body.
As I've strengthened while working on the Seafire, my ambition level for our remaining travels has expanded. When I was a ten-year-old living in Hawaii, one of our neighbors was a sailor who subsequently sailed through Micronesia and came back with wonderful stories, and since then I've wanted to visit. Micronesia is a band of islands, mostly atolls, which stretch perhaps 5000 miles from nearly the Phillipines to an area south of Hawaii. By way of reference, the typical South Pacific cruiser will enter the region in the Marquesas (about six hundred miles south of the equator at the same longitude as Southeast Alaska), proceed southeast through French Polynesia, onto Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in the southern central Pacific (all about 1200 miles south of the equator), finally to end up in New Zealand six months after starting (to weather the South Pacific hurricane season). The route we've been most interested in following is to enter Polynesia similarly to others, but to stay with a more equatorial route, passing through some of the least visited, least populated of the Pacific islands -- the island nation of Kiribati, the Marshalls, and finally onto Pohnpei and Kosrae in the Caroline Islands (about 2000 miles due north of Australia's Queensland coast). The attractiveness of this route is a function of the remoteness of the islands as well as the fact that hurricanes don't form in the thousand-mile wide equatorial band (only north and south of it). Our plan at this point is to spend the fifteen-month period between March 2005 and June 2006 cruising, then be on our way back to the Northwest in the summer of 2006, just in time for Jackson to start high school. However, we recognize that circumstances could create other possibilities.