And We Thought Blood Clots Sucked

Well, of course, blood clots suck especially when they are huge honking big ones in your lungs but they suck even more when you find out you’re in the 1% of patients who go on to develop chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.  CTEPH is a complicated disease and Mr. Google can tell you all about it if you are so inclined to ask him.

For Steve, it means his lungs have not been filling up with air the way they’re supposed to and he’s terribly short of breath.  We think it’s because his blood clots did not dissolve the way most blood clots do and that’s what clogging his pulmonary arteries.  Steve’s heart has been working really, really hard to pump oxygen into his lungs and left untreated, he will die of heart failure.

So that’s the sucky bad news.  The good news is that some patients with CTEPH can potentially be cured with a surgery called PTE – pulmonary thromboendarterectomy – where they go in with a high tech Roto-Rooter and remove gunk from clogged arteries.

We found all this out after a pulmonologist at Duke put Steve through a slew of tests on September 1.  Needless to say, the last week and a half has been tough.  Biding time gives you way too much time to think.

Steve was admitted to Duke on Monday.  More tests were done on Tuesday, the results of which indicated that Steve – THANK, GOD – was a surgical candidate.  Surgery was performed on Wednesday and, I am beyond thrilled to report, that it was successful.

This was a huuuge surgery.

Steve’s chest was cracked open.  He was placed on cardio-pulmonary bypass and his body was cooled to about 65°F.  They had to make him that cold because in order to roto-root his arteries they needed a bloodless surgical field.  In order to get a bloodless surgical field, they had to stop his circulation.  In order to stop his circulation, they had to turn off the bypass machine thereby depriving his body of oxygen.  In order to protect his body from lack of oxygen, they had drop his body temperature.  And…they had to stop his circulation TWICE for a total of 47 minutes– once to roto-root the right side and once to roto-root the left.  If you are grossed out by yucky stuff, don’t click here.

He’s in ICU on a ventilator now and will be there for two, maybe three days.  Once he’s stable and breathing on his own, he will be transferred to a “regular” room for the remainder of his stay.

Of course, we expect Steve to kick the crap out of all of this and Young Son is taking bets as to the first sarcastic remark out of his dad’s mouth when he wakes up.  We have been told to plan on two weeks in the hospital.  Steve’s goal is to be discharged in one.  Kind of makes you wonder who’s going to be happier to see him walk out those hospital doors – us or the staff at Duke?

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Kudos and eternal gratitude to Jeffrey Sparks, MD for knowing something wasn’t right, to Pulmonologist, Victor Test, MD for the spot-on diagnosis and to Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Jack Haney, MD for the life-saving surgery.

Beaufort to Myrtle Beach to Homeless

We spend 3 nights in Beaufort, SC. This was a “planned” stop. A fellow blogger was staying there and I wanted to meet him, his wife, and Honey, their dog.

I’ve been following Mike’s blog Bimini Dream shortly after he and Pam moved aboard their Pacific Seacraft 34 late last summer. They were up in the Chesapeake and had plans to go south. While Steve and I were complaining about how awful the weather was, Mike and Pam were dealing with one boat catastrophe after the other. I can’t tell you how many times I’d start reading one of Mike’s posts and just shake my head in disbelief. It took them about 6 months to get from Cambridge, MD to Beaufort, SC.

In one of his blogs, Mike mentioned (as a good husband should) Pam’s blog about Honey, Something Wagging This Way Comes. Honey became my virtual dog and I enjoyed reading about her adventures.

We have a nice visit getting to know one another “in person”. We are impressed by their commitment to the cruising lifestyle

Dinner with New Friends

Enjoying dinner with new friends

Steve and I aren’t so committed. Living on FNR is hard. Making the bed is hard. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night is hard. Flushing the head is hard. Explaining how to flush the head is even harder. Getting into tight places to fix things when you are 6’2” is hard. Having to remember where you put things so you don’t have to tear the whole boat apart looking for them is hard. Watching the stock market put a dent in the cruising kitty is hard. But to be honest, it’s probably not harder than we thought it would be.  It’s just harder than we want to live.

So, a year in, FNR goes on eBay and sells to someone who has never seen her and who doesn’t know how to sail.

Steve patiently answers all the guy’s questions and believe me, he has plenty. They talk so often that I accuse Steve of having an eBay wife. No, he says. This guy has our money in his pocket and I’m trying to get him to turn it loose. The negotiations start in Stuart and finally end in Myrtle Beach leaving us officially homeless. Luckily, our children feel sorry for us and we have 2-week stays scheduled at each of their 3 houses. That should give us enough time to find permanent housing in the Raleigh area.

Folks ask Steve if he’s sad to see FNR go. No, he emphatically answers and then goes on to explain that cruising has been a dream of his for 30 years. He needed to live this dream. He’s glad he did it because he got it out of his system. And, just in case you’re wondering, he will tell you that it’s him and not me who cut this adventure short .

Once we get settled, we plan to find part-time jobs and replenish what we now call the adventure kitty. Life’s always an adventure with Steve Fisher but I have an adventure or two in me. I know a Morgan 38 that needs some loving and after that Zen on a Boat may get rebranded. Stay tuned. Zen in an RV is just an RV away.

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FNR waiting for her new owner

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Swallowing the anchor

Stuart to Beaufort

According to Wikipedia, “a logbook (a ship’s logs or simply log) is a record of important events in the management, operation, and navigation of a ship. It is essential to traditional navigation, and must be filled in at least daily.” We don’t have a traditional ship’s log and if we did, it definitely wouldn’t be filled in on a daily basis.

So how do we know when to change the oil or how long a tank of water lasts or how far we’ve traveled?  Why Google calendar and Excel, of course.  Scheduled maintenance tasks go on the shared Google calendar. Everything else goes on a spreadsheet.

Man, I love a good spreadsheet. There’s the Monthly Expenses spreadsheet, the Water Utilization spreadsheet, the Passwords spreadsheet…in case I forget my Active Captain login.  But my favorite spreadsheet is the Travel Log.

As the trip planner, I use this spreadsheet A LOT and when we’re underway, I use it multiple times a day. I’ve posted a small section of the log below and as you can see, it’s pretty straightforward but there’s A LOT that goes into maintaining this spreadsheet.

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You literally have to go with the flow when traveling the ICW. Tides, currents, weather, bridges, skinny water, winding rivers all dictate how fast and how far you go in a day. That’s why we start each day with a 40 mile, a 50 mile and a 60 mile travel plan. When planning, I mostly use the Waterway Guide and Active Captain to check distances and marina prices. Underway, I open either the iSailor app or the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net app to track our progress. Once I know where we are, I figure out how many more statue miles we have to go. That number and our current speed gets plugged into the spreadsheet, and VOILA! We have an ETA…at least for that point in time.

And that’s why I use this spreadsheet A LOT when we’re underway. We may be barreling down one stretch of water at 7 knots but after rounding a point, we’re crawling along at 4 knots. At 7 knots, we can cover 40 miles in 5 hours.  At 4 knots, it’ll be closer to 9.

Since leaving Stuart, we’ve taken advantage of a good weather window travelling 10 out of 12 days. We’ve covered an average of 47.9 miles a day and have been on the water an average of 7 hours and 15 minutes a day. Man, I love a good spreadsheet!

But, I’m loving these last 12 days on the waterway even more. It’s not too hot during the day, not too cold at night. There’s been more sun than rain. The water’s been calm. Bugs aren’t out in full force yet. The sunrises are refreshing. The sunsets are relaxing. And to top it all off, Sunday was our one year anniversary of living aboard FNR. It’s been quite a year…one that I couldn’t schedule with Google calendar or graph in Excel.

Having spent most my life planning for how things “should” be and then being disappointed when they weren’t, I think I may finally get it. There’s no room for time frames or expectations on a boat. Life is good but it’s awesome and rarely disappointing when you just let it happen.

I’ve complied the pictures taken on this leg of the trip into a slide show.  If you have time, click here to take a look.

 

 

Go North, FNR. Go North!

Yes, the weather could have been more pleasant, but overall, our time in Stuart has been really enjoyable. We’ve made lots of new friends and reconnected with old ones. We’ve taken a couple of daycations. Family and friends have visited. But mostly, we’ve settled into a routine. Our days are predictable. We get up in the morning and then next thing we know, it’s time to go to bed. My brother-in-law says that’s how you know you’re doing retirement “right”. I will even admit to getting a little better at doing nothing. And, as luck would have it, I have about 850 miles in which I can get even better. That’s right! It’s time to head north.

There’s lots to do to get ready. We each have a list.

Marci Steve
Clean FNR Get FNR’s bottom cleaned
Plan meals Check batteries
Provision Crank diesel and generators
Laundry Fill gas, diesel, and propane tanks
Fill water tanks Mount dinghy engine on stern rail
Defrost freezer Find a place to park the truck
Update travel log Study charts
Set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than Steve’s so you have time to dilly dally before you leave Don’t get up when Marci’s alarm goes off. She needs those extra 15 minutes so she won’t feel rushed.
Don’t dilly dally when Steve says it’s time to go because it will only annoy him Don’t rush Marci when you’re ready to go because it will only annoy her

Ah, yes. Even when you’re retired, some things – like making lists and annoying one another – never change. But some things do…dramatically.

As I write this, FNR is motoring down the St. Lucie River toward the ICW.  We have a 40, a 50, and a 60 mile travel plan. The ICW is so winding that it’s almost impossible to know where you’ll end up at the end of the day. You may start out going with the tide but before long you make a turn and you’re going against it. We’ll know by mid-afternoon if we’re going to make 40, 50 or 60 miles. And then, we’ll stop.

We will not travel hard. We will not travel fast. We’re just going to travel. Leisurely. Mindfully. Intentionally. If there’s something we want to see, we are going to see it. If we get tired, we are going to rest. If we find someplace we like, we are going to stay for a while. We are going back to North Carolina one 40, one 50, and one 60 mile travel plan at a time. Yes, these waters are charted but our journey is not.  Here’s hoping we can enjoy it!

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Sunset Bay Marina

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Sunset Bay Marina…another view

 

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Sunset Bay’s Mooring Field can accommodate 60 boats

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Mooring Field on a dreary day

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The Clubhouse and Dinghy Dock

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And I thought two dogs were two too many to bring aboard.  These folks have FOUR!!

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Downtown Stuart

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These little guys are everywhere!

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Do you mind if I join you for breakfast?

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Guess where this was taken? 🙂

 

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Key Largo

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My little sister, my brother-in-law, Steve and me on Stuart Beach

 

I drag our visitors to yoga…

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Steve takes them for a sail!!

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Weather Always Wins

“The sun did not shine.  It was too wet to play.  So we sat in the house.  All that cold, cold, wet day.”

Dr. Seuss gets credit for the quote.  A strong El Nino gets the blame for below normal temps, lots and lots of rain and way too many storms.  NOAA says that “given that the previous eight winters in Florida experienced storminess much below normal (with no strong-to-violent tornadoes), the likely transition to a very active season may come as a surprise to those who are unaware.”  Thanks, NOAA, for ruining the surprise.

We started this adventure fairly well prepared and definitely aware enough to know we’d be dealing with the occasional surprise.

I mean really.  We took a cracked Electro Scan in stride.  We incorporated removing jellyfish from our raw-water intake strainer into our daily routine.  We appreciated the exercise we got when the dinghy engine died and we had to row it back to the boat…not once, not twice, but three times.  We didn’t flinch at the three flawless refrigeration installs.  There was no mutiny on the bounty when a huge wave crashed over the bow and soaked our bed.  We didn’t let a freshwater leak get the better of us.  Mildew?  That’s what bleach is for.  We’ve flinched but we haven’t faltered even in the face of a huge-honking, life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Be that as it may, saltier sailors than me readily admit that Weather always wins.  We’ve been pummeled with front after front since September.  We put up the good fight determined to find warm, happy and dry but Weather is the reigning champion.

Defeated?  Hardly.

Aware?   Keenly.

Done?  Of course not.  FNR is simply staying put.  No more toddling down the ICW dodging fronts and waiting on weather windows.  No more looking for warm, happy and dry.  We’re happy and kind of warm and mostly dry.  We’ve found our Zen in Stuart.  FNR may not be going further south, but we are.

We spend a couple of days exploring the Everglades and the Keys and then take back US 1 through Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.  Steve sees his crystal clear water.  We hike a lot, hoping to see an alligator or two but the most wildlife we encounter are a few birds, a swarm of mosquitoes and a camel on the side of the road at some sketch wild animal rehab center.  Still, it was fun and don’t tell FNR, but it was good to get off the boat.

I read today that El Nino is strengthening and likely to last into spring.  I imagine that means we’ll be dodging fronts and waiting on weather windows as we begin our 850 plus mile journey back to North Carolina next month.  But I remember what a really smart cat once said.  “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”  Yes, Weather always wins, but that doesn’t mean that losing can’t be an adventure.

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Closest thing to a real alligator we’ve seen

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Mangrove forest

 

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Say whaatt??

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Skeeters!!!!

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Not sure what I think about this…

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Yes, that’s a zebra back there.

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What are YOU looking at??

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I think I’ve been here before

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A stranger enjoying the sunshine while he can. I know how he feels.

My Captain is Handier than Your Captain

Yes, most captains are handy. They’re either handy or they’re rich because most cruisers can’t afford to not DIY.

Still, I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again. Steve is the handiest man I know. Engine maintenance? Check. Electrical issue? Check. Plumbing? Check. Refrigeration? Check. Carpentry work? Check.

Living with a handy man sure comes in handy and I take Steve’s handiness for granted. If something needs to be done, I just assume Steve will do it. Most times, I’m right but I have learned that if Steve puts off a project, then 1) he’s studying on it or 2) it’s going to be aggravating or 3) both.

“Both” is why Steve put off a project I added to his Honey-Do list back in July.

At one point in time, FNR had a diesel generator on board. When we bought her, the generator was gone but whoever removed it, left the controls in the bulkhead. I wanted the controls removed, because 1) they didn’t control anything anymore and 2) they were unsightly and 3) they were attached to a tangled mess of wires in the cockpit locker that were always in the way.

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Those contols gotta go!

It took Steve almost all day to run down all the wires in the cockpit locker and snip the ones that weren’t needed anymore but it took him 6 months to get around to finally patching the holes left in the bulkhead.

Handy2

And, I thought the controls were unsightly…

Admittedly, Steve attempted to patch the holes a few times but couldn’t find a piece of teak plywood at a reasonable price. After studying on a couple of other approaches, he finally decided to go with teak veneer applied to a very thin piece of plywood.

With his poster board pattern in hand, Steve goes to work. Cutting and sanding plywood with one of those multi-function oscillating tools appears to be aggravating so I go to yoga. By the time I get back, Steve is ready to cut out holes for the electrical outlet and the propane control switch.

M: Want some help with that?

S: Well, unless you want to cut the holes, I am not sure you can help.

M: I don’t want to cut the holes. I want to hold the vacuum while you cut so you don’t get sawdust everywhere.

S (rolling his eyes): Okay. Great. That will be very helpful.

Handy3

How’s that for some clean hole cutting?

Once the holes are cut, Steve uses contact cement to attach the teak veneer to the plywood and then glues the plywood to the bulkhead with construction adhesive.

Generator controls removed? Check.

Handy4

What generator controls??

Yes, most captains are handy. I think mine just happens to be the handiest!!

 

Sunshine State? What do you mean I can’t anchor there?

We’ve been in Stuart for 10 days. Love the town. The weather? Not so much.

Since we’ve been here, the average high temperature has been 67°.  That’s 7° colder than it’s supposed to be in January. It’s been windy. Two tornadoes have touched down in neighboring towns. We’ve had more than 5” of rain in 10 days with localized flooding. It seems that Florida has forgotten that it’s nicknamed the Sunshine State because there’s been way more clouds than sunshine.

The locals are not in love with this weather either. They can’t apologize enough and are quick to assure us that this is not normal. This is supposed to be the dry season. February will be better. They promise.

I like that about Floridians. They are happy we’re here. They want us to have a good time. They want us to come back. They want us to love Florida as much as they do.

That’s why I don’t understand why the Florida legislature is considering a bill that will ban overnight anchoring in several areas popular with cruising boaters. I’m not politically savvy. I can’t even pretend to understand the political game that is being played here, and I can’t imagine what will happen if the bill passes. Still, I have to wonder how many Floridians are even aware of this bill because I get the impression that Florida needs and enjoys Cruisers as much as Cruisers need and enjoy Florida.