Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making a List, Checking it Twice...

We have only two more passages this season.  We're currently on Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and will soon move down to Carriacou, which is part of Grenada.  We have a dive scheduled there, and then down to Prickly Bay to prepare for haul-out.

Since our first year cruising, we have made it a practice to create a "Lay-up to-do list" at the end of each season.  There are many small tasks to be accomplished, and it would be easy to forget one or more without a list.  Generally, we start with last year's list, and then modify it as needed.

We group tasks into three groups:  1) things that must or should be done while we're still in the water (for example, taking down the sails), 2) things that must or should be done after we're hauled out (e.g. storing the dodger), and 3) things that could be done anytime (e.g. preparing our watermaker for storage).  The last couple of years, we've assigned tentative dates to each task in advance, though we feel pretty free to move things around as is convenient.

At the moment, there are 53 items on the to-do list, and we'll undoubtedly add a few more over the next week.

A second important list records the things we want the boatyard to do while we're away.  A major part of this is always the routine maintenance of our diesel engine -- oil change, filter change, etc.  We always need new coats of antifouling paint, as well. This year we are going to ask them to repair some dings in the fiberglass on our transom and to repair the tachometer on the engine.

Gretchen also likes to write down a list of the articles of clothing, etc, that she wants to pack.  On this subject, David more or less wings it.

Some sailors are much more into to-do lists and checklists than we are, completing or reviewing a list before every passage, and at every anchorage.  We haven't found that necessary, though we certainly have a pretty fixed routine for these activities.

Haul-out is always a time of mixed emotions for us.  We will miss the sailing life, but are looking forward to seeing our friends and favorite places in Switzerland.  The chores and commotion of the transition are inevitable, but never something we look forward to.  Soon enough we'll be back sleeping in a bed that doesn't constantly move, and enjoying the cool weather of spring in Switzerland.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Watch Your Step!

Being on a boat is generally very safe, but you do have to be careful.

We were on a mooring in Prince Rupert Bay, off the city of Portsmouth on Dominica.  One of our favorite spots.  Gretchen was looking forward to a fishing expedition she had planned with Alexis, one of the several boat services providers in the bay and a long-time acquaintance.  She had just finished rinsing out the cockpit with seawater, and started down the companionway stairs.  Her feet were wet with saltwater, and more slippery than she realized.

When she stepped down, her foot went out from under her, and she crashed headfirst down the stairs.  This is about a four-foot fall, with lots of hard boat bits at the bottom.  She hit her head, and opened a gash in her scalp that bled profusely.

It was hard to see the extent of the wound under her hair, so we tried applying pressure, and later some ice.  After 30 minutes, she was still bleeding and we decided to take her to the hospital.  We tried calling Alexis, but he was out of radio range.  Another boat services provider, Martin, responded to our call, and transported us by boat and taxi to the hospital.  Martin stayed in the hospital quite a while, but this was at the busiest time of day for his business, so we told him we would call when we were through.

The hospital in Portsmouth is small, and on a Sunday staffed only with nurses (though a doctor was on call).  We entered the treatment area and were met by Clarisse Joseph, one of the nurses.  She immediately stopped what she was doing, and started taking care of Gretchen.

By combing through her hair, Clarisse found that there was a significant gash, about 4 cm long and unlikely to close on its own.  Time for stitches.  She shaved Gretchen’s scalp in the area of the wound, cleaned everything with antiseptic, and injected lidocain.  It then took about 10-15 minutes to put in 7 stitches. 

There were lots of questions about how she fell (no, David did not push her), and if she had any symptoms that might indicate a concussion (no).

There was no charge for all of this!  But the hospital was happy to accept a donation, which we cheerfully made.

Gretchen was sent home with strict instructions to return if any concussion symptoms appeared, and antibiotic capsules as a prophylactic measure.  In addition to her scalp wound, she suffered several bruises on her shoulder, arms, and legs.  She’ll be sore for quite a while.  We are just as grateful as can be that there was nothing worse, and that she got good care.