Thursday, 6 August 2015

Summertime Blues

While the rest of France is under a heat wave, the north coast of Brittany seems to hover around 20 degrees and we haven’t had more than 3 consecutive days without rain.  Last week, the early morning temperature in the boat was 11 degrees C (that’s 52 F if you’re playing along in Fahrenheit).  I don’t care what anyone says, we put the heat on the next night. 

Gales every 48 hours (note the high-wind warning:  little sailboat being pushed over...)
The barometer says it all:  1004 hPa to 1020 hPa and back to 1004 hPa in 48 hours.  This is a gale coming through.  This hump is a permanent feature of the barometer since we get a gale every 3-4 days.  I have learned how to turn off the volume of the “high wind” alarm (charmingly visualized as a little sailboat being pushed over by wind).  Before I learned that little trick, I was up FIVE times during the night to acknowledge and shut down its wailing.

I also think I’ve become a bit jaded about sailing in places we’ve already visited.  There are some beautiful sights sailing around Brittany and the Islands but the fact that I’ve photographed the same cathedral / harbour / village / coastline only 2 years ago leaves me wondering what I could possibly say that would convey the enthusiasm it deserves and that I no longer feel.

Fort La Latte, a beautiful new anchorage for us.
We’ve also been thrashed about in a couple of near gales but we weren’t psychologically marked by them the way we were in the past and so I didn’t feel inspired to write about the events.  Perhaps it’s because we have a heavier, more stable boat that’s much higher in the water than Spray was, or maybe we’re just getting used to this kind of abuse. 

Balanced rock at the entrance of Tregastel, also a new mooring for us.

A beautiful anchorage in Tregastel in the middle of a jumble of rocks.

Tregastel Plage

Yesterday, we had 25 knots on the nose with apparent winds over 30 and choppy seas heading into the river port of Morlaix.  We sailed close-hauled with 2 reefs and the genoa rolled in halfway (e.g., not enough, in my opinion) until we got to the mouth of the river and had to wind our way through a very narrow channel.  The boat was absolutely caked in salt when we pulled in. A few days earlier, we had 3-4 meter swells with 20-25 knots of wind in the nose just north of Brehat island that prevented us from making the headway we had planned.  The delays led to a 2 knot current pushing us backwards so that we could only make about 2 knots of headway even with the motor helping, and we had to reroute to a river port (Treguier) that was close by.  That was 8 hours of sailing for only 20 miles of route.  I can WALK faster than that.
But the biggest blue spot of the summer has been health problems.  Patrick developed a little bump on his calf that grew rapidly and looked nasty.  He took advantage of a crew member with a car to go back home for a few days (mostly to pick up lots of things we forgot) and made an appointment with our family doctor.  The doctor sent him immediately to the dermatologist, who sent him immediately to a clinic to schedule surgery.  He had a carcinoma the size of a chick pea that was growing rapidly.  It’s not a melanoma or anything that spreads, but it needed to be cut out quickly while it was still just on the surface and not yet in the muscle.  A nice two-inch incision and 7 stitches later, we’re glad we didn’t wait any longer. 

The day after this discovery, my 100 ½ year old grandmother passed away.  This was no real surprise and it was, in fact, a relief.  I called her on her 95th birthday and told her how proud I was that she was still doing so well at her age.  She said, “Oh no, I’m not doing well at all !”  Alarmed, I asked her what was wrong.  “Well,” she said, “I don’t rightly know.  I just ain’t got no pep.”    At 98, with her joyful laugh and good humour, she said to me, “I don’t know why I can’t just die like other people.”  She had outlived everyone she ever knew.  Last year, she buried two sons. That was too much for her to handle and she went downhill very quickly after that. 

And since bad news always comes in 3s, my mother had some frightening blood pressure and cardiac complications after her knee-replacement surgery last week.  With modern technology like skype and mobile phones, time and distance never seem that big until a loved one is sick.  No amount of skyping can relieve the ache of being so far away and feeling so helpless and useless.  Patrick and I rerouted to a port where I could get a bus / train / plane to get home quickly if needed, but fortunately things stabilized.  Still, I would like to be with my family and the cool grey Breton drizzle makes me wonder what the hell I’m doing here.  


Astrolabe Sailing said...

Sorry to hear about your grandmother but glad that Patrick's leg was ok and that your Mum has come right.

It is right what they say about having everything in the world, but your health is most important. I got really sick last week too and that resonates more with me now following that episode.

Look after yourself and hope you feel happier soon!

MH said...

Thanks so much Viki. The theme of this year's cruise so far has been how to deal with health issues at sea. No fun, but a necessary education I suppose. All has now returned to normal and the winds (currently HOWLING at 36 knots) are supposed to calm down starting tomorrow.

Martin Visbeck said...

Keep up the positive spirit ... I fully understand that you want to be close to you family in those times. But ask yourself the following question: Would your mom want you to be with her or rather with Patric and the ocean ... the answer to this question might guide you decision ....

MH said...

Thanks Martin. I told my Mom I was prepared to come home and she said "No No NO !" so I guess that means no. She's doing much better and turns out that it wasn't a serious problem after all. Watching loved ones suffer from afar is a bit like sitting in port with questionable weather asking yourself "stay or go?". Anyway, it all worked out this time, but I still think I'm going to try to get back home more often.