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two months of cruising: what i’ve learned

It’s actually been 2.5 months, but whatever. It’s tempting to write several posts detailing everything that’s happened since I left. Where I’ve stopped, who I met, and what I did there. However, I want to run a different course. First, I am cherishing every moment of what I have been experiencing. It is perhaps a private moment in time for me, to be able to get to know my boat in every beautiful, terrifying, serene, and boring way possible. I’ve lived on her, I’ve worked on her, but I’ve not sailed her until I left. It’s so special, I don’t really care about recounting every detail at this moment in time. Plus, I’ve driven down the coast plenty, I’ve already been to these cities and that wasn’t really anything new to me. I’ve got the important bits written in my log book and journal, which leads me to my first thing I’ve learned.

-Keep a log book, yo! Seriously. It’s good to know how many miles you’ve gone, what the fuel tank situation is, what the seas and winds were like, and what the trip was like. I’ve really enjoyed filling this out on passages.

– The rudder to my self steering system does not float. Also, divers are awesome.

-Marina’s on the coast are legit. They’re open 24 hours, the staff are actually familiar with boating and safety, and they’re there to help you pull in at 4 am should you need to. Also, be sure to leave before the check out time, or else you’ll be charged a hefty fee!

– All the talk of “never enter an area you don’t know at night” sounds great, but is unrealistic. I’ve done it many times, partly because I am still learning how to plan my arrival, and partly because the timing didn’t work out to wait. C’est la vie. So far I have been fine, albeit with a higher heart rate and tense quads.

-I now know how to use Navionics. I’m embarrassed to admit I did not, and had not, ever used a chart plotter before. I knew how to zoom in and out when I did the ocean crossing in 2014, but it wasn’t until I was left on my own in Santa Barbara that I realized “Shoot. Uh, how do I plot a course?” It took me a few (yes, a few) separate trips to get the hang of it.

-When traveling and doing awesome stuff, you’ll typically invoke two responses. You’ll hear other peoples’ awesome stories of adventures (which is just so fun to hear what others have come up with as a way to just live their lives), or you’ll remind people they could probably do something to, you know, live their lives. Both leave you with a great feeling!

– The other not so typical response you’ll invoke I call the “doomsday docklubber.” Your alternator belt comes loose often? Well, then you won’t be able to charge your batteries and then you wont be able to charge your devices and then YOU’RE GONNA DIE! People who know their stuff do not speak or think like this, so ignore these marine grade a-holes at all costs.

– Which leads me to my next point. I really could do it! I find myself thinking all I need to do is move the boat forward, and not hit anything. And I’ve done it, for hundreds of miles! It is addicting, and a reiteration of all the hard work I did eventually paid off.

-You really will blow your budget! But it’s not a constant, it gets better over time as the boat gets equipped with all the things you didn’t know you’d need. Things are still going to break though!

-My alternator is hooked up to the engine bank for some reason. So to charge the batteries while motoring, I need to switch over to “both” battery banks. This is no bueno, as it defeats the purpose of absolutely not being able to deplete both battery banks.

-There is a “right time” for the “wrong things” to happen. It will probably be OK, but if you’re not entirely sure, it’s OK to poop your pants in the mean time.

-The Santa Ana winds can seriously f*@# sh&! up. I’m afraid just typing this out in fear they’ll hear me/see me/ sense me typing this and find me tonight. Please don’t.

– Things will rattle loose and will prevent you from moving forward. It’s not a bad idea to go around the boat and tighten everything up once in a while. Do this all the time, seriously!

-I really did need an Auto-Pilot. His name is JaLos, named after Jake and Carlos who installed it for me. They were super fun to work with, and JaLos has taken good care of me.

-The pups are phenomenal cruisers. Leaving SF just past the Golden Gate Bridge was by far the worst part of the trip. After that, mostly everything as been smooth sailing. The pups sleep while underway, and perk up as soon as we get into port. Bless their fluffy little bootys.

-Dolphins playing in bioluminescence is the coolest experience I’ve had, and watching the pups watch the dolphins play is the cutest. Moon rises are pretty phenomenal, too.

-Every sailing trip I force myself to do something sailing wise I haven’t yet tried, especially if I’m alone. This could be from trying the self steering system (still haven’t figured it out yet) to setting the (new to me) spinnaker pole.

-As soon as I get settled into an anchorage, I charge all of my devices. In case I need to gtfo quickly, it’s nice knowing my communication and navigation devices are 100% ready to use.

-Cruising in the winter time is actually pretty great. I have had no problems getting a spot anywhere, and was even given 5 free days at Catalina! I would not have been able to afford a week there otherwise.

-Invest in a good anchor as well as a swivel for the chain. You’ll actually be able to sleep at night, and sleep is really nice.

-I absolutely love the rocking sensation at anchor. I feel so free!

– My arms will hopefully look like Michelle Obama’s in another couple of months from all the rowing I’ve done to get back and forth to shore. 2x a day for the dogs, another time most likely for errands I need to run on public transit, etc.

– I bring oil with me because the lock to secure the kayak to the dinghy dock ends up seizing up after a couple of days. I also noticed everyone else did a loop around the dinghy dock lock rack (?) to prevent their locks from falling into the water, which mine had mysteriously done several times. Details.

-You really do meet people along the way, who are headed in the same direction as you, who know where the showers and laundry are, and can get you discounts at the chandlery, and give you rides to provision, or get mail for you. There are some really great people out there and I am so glad to have crossed paths with them!

-Having said that, I have been reminded to steer clear of those who feel entitled to my personal space. Single guys on the prowl are the w.o.r.s.t.

-I can hear when there’s a halibut under my boat. I was glad to know this noise wasn’t a random piece of electrical equipment going haywire.

– 200W flexible solar panels are doing great at keeping the batteries charged. Unless there’s clouds for a couple days, I may turn the fridge off. So far I haven’t needed to run the engine much to keep the batteries alive, yay!

-I should have stocked up on vino in Sonoma, I really wish I had something to share with everyone who has helped me along the way.

So, overall, I’m super pleased with how things have gone. It’s about what I expected. Amazing, beautiful, terrifying, expensive, tiresome, and I do not want to be doing anything else right now! Today I was painting up on the deck. My hair was flying everywhere as the winds picked up, I kept spotting the dog’s white hair in the brown paint and I’d stop to pick it out of the wet paint, subsequently getting paint all over my hands. A tour boat, or a small fishing boat, would cut through the anchorage and give me a wave and I would wonder if I look as awesome as I feel. Everything just feels right, even though I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing 6 months from now 🙂

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give me 4.75

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Today. I had dreamed for MONTHS to be able to do this with my fingers, I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to. Still hurts, but I’ve still got them.

Upon going through my old posts I’d written but not published, I found this one I wrote as I was healing from a traumatic injury. I wrote updates in Italics.

The injury itself and the path to recovery were pretty interesting having never encountered anything like this before.

I lost the tip of my middle finger and fractured/twisted my pinky in a boating incident. By lost, I mean I really had no idea where the tip of my finger was. So, here’s what I’ve got for you folks who will hopefully never have to go through this.

THINGS NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT LOSING A FINGER

  • Initially I was in shock and only felt a stinging sensation. The next day? It felt like my hand was suffocating and one by one my fingers were all going to die and fall off. Pain meds did little to ease the pain, I’m a red head and have a high tolerance. Morphine? Nothing. Alternatives? “Are you sure you gave me the meds, nurse? I don’t feel any different.” They helped me sleep, but did nothing for the pain.
  • It took about two and a half weeks for a scab to form, and about two months for that scab to fall off. There’s the shooting pains, throbbing, nearby fingers stiff as boards, coupled with intense tightness. 5 weeks after injury, my Dr. encouraged me to use my hand as much as possible. I’ve never been able to relate to Chubbs Peterson as much as when I was trying to hold my phone in my mangled hand.
  • Those phantom sensations are real. It more or less feels like the outline of my finger was still there. Got an itch on the ghost fingertip? Itch the opposite side, it’ll go away.
  • You can never smoke a cigarette again. Apparently microsurgery (which is what was done on the fingertip) is so complex for the blood vessels that nicotine can cause the wound to open up again, no matter how much time has passed. Thankfully I’m not a smoker.
  • Your fingernails won’t grow for a while. I didn’t need to trim the mangled hand’s nails for a month.
  • Your fingers will look like sausages for way too long. In my case, I lost sensation in most of my fingertips regardless of injury or not. My right thumb was spared injury and sausageness, but it quickly got sore from having to do the work of four out of commission fingers (holding handles of plastic bags, etc).
  • When my hand was in the bandage/splint, 98% of people wanted to know what happened to my hand. When my Dr. removed the bandage and didn’t put one back on my still bruised/stiff/scabby hand… 0% of people wanted to know what happened. In fact, I noticed people touching their fingertips to make sure they were still there.
  • Typing on the keyboard, using the scrolly mouse thing and snapping my fingers will be different. (3 years later I still type incorrectly, don’t use the scrolly mouse thing, and can’t snap my fingers at all.)
  • It takes about a year for the stub to fully heal. My doctors tried to cut back the nerves so I wouldn’t have any nerve pain, but whether I have nerve pain or not? I won’t know for quite some time. (3 years later: It still throbs, is still numb, tight, etc. It still hurts quite a bit.)
  • You’re going to have to let people help you. With my injuries I’ve been dependent on a lot of people, which is completely against my nature. Completely. I’m looking forward to the day I can move back onto the boat and do some greasy boat work! (This took almost 1.5 years!)
  • No matter how stable you are emotionally, seeking therapy isn’t a bad idea. No matter how positive you are, you’re going to feel disfigured. You ARE disfigured. Everyone notices right now, but I’m hoping not everyone notices a year from now. (3 years later: nobody notices. I got lucky and had amazing surgeons, there is no visual disfigurement in my pinky and nobody really notices my fingertip. PHEW! To add: it is hard to process losing a part of your body, no matter how small… dealing with this and the long-term physical pain has wreaked havoc on my life. Give yourself time, be patient, and allow yourself to grieve. Everything WILL be ok in the end!)
  • The medical bills were $90K.

BONUS!
THINGS EVERYONE WILL TELL YOU ABOUT LOSING A FINGER

  • You will automatically be advanced to Pirate Status.
  • Apparently there are many celebrities missing fingers too, and I now know who they are.
  • There are several other ways to lose a finger, especially on a boat… Yayyyy..

 

A collection of pictures from the injury and healing process.