Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Cruising 2018 Postponed

How many times have I said that cruising plans are written in the sand at low tide? This winter, we’ve had a larger-than-normal tide that has eroded short-term plans and possibly longer-term ones as well.

Patrick and I have had a series of health problems. Mine are minor-ish: a slightly-pinched disk in the lower back with a touch of arthritis. No more running. No more heavy lifting. Between the arthritis in the hands and now the back, my body has become a living barometer that, once calibrated, may actually be useful at sea.

Winter erosion.
Patrick’s issues are more serious. He has scoliosis, 2 pinched disks, and a very large herniated disk causing “sciatic nerve paralysis.” Strangely, he has no pain in the back, but shooting pain in one leg with loss of reflexes, some nerve damage, and loss of strength. We met with the neurosurgeon yesterday, who wants to avoid operating if possible. The first step is a cortisone injection to see if reducing the swelling may help the herniated disk to back off or even (rare but possible) to slip back into place by itself. If that doesn’t work, he’ll need surgery.

Instead of getting back to the boat on the 6th of May, it looks like the earliest we’ll be able to leave is late may / early June. If he has to have surgery, it will be at least 6 weeks longer. Since we already have air tickets and an apartment lined up (all non-refundable, optimists that we are...), we may go down on the 6th anyway to make some headway on the work (cleaning deck and hull, waxing hull, polishing the stainless, etc.) so that when we are ready to go, we’ll just have the bottom paint to slap on.

Washed up.
In any case, we’re going to have to modify our way of doing things on the boat, and possibly our cruising ambitions as well. We don’t want to find ourselves in some idyllic anchorage in the middle of nowhere when his disk decides to slip further and cause a real paralysis and extreme pain. It’s easy to say “take it easy on the boat, reduce sail, don’t misuse your back,” etc., but there are always emergencies on a boat that require your immediate attention and you don’t always have the luxury of being able to rig some gentler way of handling things. My problems weren’t caused by any single catastrophic event, but rather slow constant wear and tear. Sailing 6 months of the year every year for many years takes its toll.

I’m juggling cruising options and it’s still too early to see clearly. We want to avoid being around Corsica from mid-July to mid-August, but I’m a bit leery about hanging out further down on the Sardinian coast with few towns large enough to offer assistance in an emergency. The plan was to continue down to Sicily and winter-over at Marina di Ragusa, but that plan only makes sense if a) Patrick’s back is stable, and b) we plan to continue on to Greece and Turkey the following year. Another option is to start heading back to the French coast to prepare for a passage through the canals the following year, saying goodbye to the Med.

We’re both taking all of this with a big dose of philosophy. There’s no debate - health comes first. We’ve had a wonderful 10 years of sailing and maybe it’s time to reign in our ambitions by limiting ourselves to sailing locally around France, or chucking it all and moving on to some new life project. We live with an uneasy oil-and-water mixture of disappointment and excitement at the moment. The world is big and there’s so much to do and see…

Washed out.


ELB said...

Oh Maria, I am so sorry to hear all of this! I will be thinking my healthiest thoughts for both of you. Please keep us posted on how things progress. Much love from all of us!!! ELB

Sailing Mareda said...

Thanks ELB ! We're both staying positive. Big hugs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about the health problems. Do you think the disk problems and other ailments are linked to sailing activity? Years of bruising and hitting objects, etc? or just old age?


Sailing Mareda said...

Thanks FL. We think the herniated disk was caused when Patrick rolled up the genoa furler by hand (which is to say, back and arms) facing 25 knot winds and 3 meter seas. The boat took a roll at the wrong moment as he was hauling in, he got turned sideways and felt a pain in his back. He was on pain killers for about 10 days after that, but it eventually went away and we thought nothing more about it. A few weeks ago, he was biking up a steep hill and felt a sharp electric shock in his leg, which has started all the recent doctor's visits. We're lucky that happened at home and not at sea. But yes, age and general wear-and-tear certainly play a role as well. We will now be taking things easier, using winches more, breaking heavy loads down into multiple smaller loads, etc. And wearing a protective "girdle" while we do it!