Wednesday, November 30, 2016

That's Boating (they tell me)

Five days into our trip to Charleston, we're enjoying a spate of gorgeous weather - sunny skies, flat water, variable light winds, current going our way for the most part, when an engine room check comes back with less than stellar reviews.  The starboard engine had been running about 7 degrees warmer than the port engine at 2000 revs.  The coolant in the expansion tank appeared to be disappearing steadily, despite a refill before leaving Morehead City.  Our captain (Mike Warren) and my Mike could find no source of the problem despite repeated visits to the engine room.  We backed off on the revs for a bit and were relieved to see the temperature level out to within 2 degrees of the port engine.

The next visit to the engine room revealed a trickle of coolant coming from the top of the reservoir tank which then wound up in the bilge we work so hard to keep immaculate.  Since we were only underway to Wrightsville Beach for 2 hours, we decided to stop at Casper's in Swansboro, NC (where the hell is Swansboro was my first question).  The folks at Casper's  were delightful and tried very hard to help us.  They even called John Deere who strongly stated that since the engines are still under warranty, that no one other than a JD mechanic could work on the engines.  That's where the "adventure" began....

It is Friday morning.  The only JD tech for miles around is sick and can't get to the boat until Tuesday.  It is Thanksgiving on Thursday and we can't stay at Casper's for more than a few hours.  I could feel the panic slowly rising in my throat and fought to stay calm (or at least appear to seem calm).  We tried a few other locations, but no one was able to help us in the time frame (that day?) I had in mind.  So, the 3 of us hatched a plan that soon had all 3 of us leaping to our phones to begin making calls.  Mike Warren found a spot for us at the Town Dock (visible from Casper's) that could accommodate us on the T head.   Wrinkle  - we can only leave the boat unattended for 5 consecutive days.  So,  we sent Mike Warren home for the duration of our Swansboro soujourn and decided to visit Mike's aunt in Elizabeth City, NC for the long weekend.  We arranged for 2 rental cars and booked a hotel near his aunt's assisted living facility.  That done, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with my sister in Wake Forest, NC after returning to the boat for the mechanic and to end and re-start the 5 day rule.  On Monday while still in Elizabeth City, JD calls to say the tech is still sick and won't get to the boat until Wednesday.  Now I'm starting to feel trapped in Swansboro - at the Town Dock no less where we are the only boat in sight.  Since I swore I was an adventure-seeker, Mike and I found a local spot for breakfast - Yanna's where the special is fruit fritters made me forget our situation for a bit.   We toured Swansboro for a bit, then got in the car to head for Wake Forest.   We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and weekend with my sister and family, got to see many things and met some wonderful people.

Fast forward to Tuesday, November 29th.  Now that the saga is concluded for the time being, I can calmly recount what transpired up to now.  The JD tech showed up as promised on Wednesday and diagnosed the problem as one that would require a bit more than a wrench and a promise.  Now that I was resolved to the fact that OLYMPIA would reside in North Carolina for the foreseeable future, I went to work organizing the work effort.  We decided to move her to Jarrett Bay in Beaufort, about 3 hours away - in the direction we had recently come from.  This facility is a true boatyard, staffed by knowledgeable people, many of which are authorized to perform the warranty work required.  Not only are these people skilled marine technicians, but they are compassionate and willing to do what it takes to get this problem fixed and get us on our way.  We hired a captain who happily agreed to take us from the Swansboro Town Dock to a very nice face dock at Jarrett Bay.  There was a moment of levity in the pilot house shortly after departing the Town Dock.  The woman in charge called me on my cell and quietly asked, "Rosemarie it is you who took the boat away, isn't it"?   We exchanged amused glances, but I could hear the relief in the poor woman's voice when I assured her it was me at the helm.  The trip needed to be taken using only our port engine so as not to exacerbate the issue with our starboard engine.  As we released the last line, the stern promptly leaped away from the dock in a strong current we estimated to be running at about 5 knots.  Since it was me on the dock releasing that last line, I had visions of driving to Jarrett Bay to meet the boat.  The captain and Mike made one more attempt to get the boat near the dock and I leaped off an icy dock into the boat.  What a great beginning to the day!  We settled OLYMPIA in her new home and accepted a ride back to Swansboro to get the rental car.  After some more exploring, we decided to spend the afternoon touring Beaufort, which we promptly fell in love with.
The next day was Monday, so finally we could get things in gear to get OLYMPIA fixed.  We met with the operations manager of the facility who would not only get the engine issue resolved, but who also agreed to coordinate the work on some other issues we decided to have addressed since we were there.  We left feeling relieved and optimistic for the first time in 11 days.  Now that we realized we would not be going to Charleston on this trip, we hit the streets of Beaufort and had a wonderful day.
Tuesday morning, we headed to the airport in Raleigh, about 4 hours away to catch a flight to NY via Chicago's Midway Airport.  It was an excruciating day, but a productive one in that OLYMPIA will stay in Jarrett Bay through the Christmas holiday until we come back to get her after Christmas.  Though we were disappointed, we made the most out of a situation out of our control.  We put over 1000 miles on the rental car and got to see parts of North Carolina we would have missed.  As the saying goes, we made lemonade (spiked with vodka) out of lemons!

Still working on the pictures and waiting for an update from Jarrett Bay.  Will be back - and not next year!

Back by Popular Demand.....

Good morning my patient friends!

It's been over a year since I last shared my life with you and MUCH has happened during that time.  A sincere thank you to those who asked if I was ok, to those who demanded I get back to this blog, and to those who just plain missed being entertained.

I'm happy to report that as I type this, I'm in OLYMPIA's pilothouse enroute via ICW from Morehead City to Wrightsville Beach (no I'm not at the helm right now).  This is the very first time I've been on a southbound trip for more than a few days.  It's exhilarating to finally see the places I had only heard about from my delivery crew.  It's exhausting to be a wheel, hand steering through narrow canals.  It's beyond words to finally be at the helm of this boat!

So here's how things went down:  last May when I posted for the last time, things got busy at work, I began a relationship with a gentleman from my bereavement group, OLYMPIA arrived from her winter vacation in Stuart and a whirlwind of entertaining began.  Suddenly it was cold, and OLYMPIA headed to Stuart once again.  This time we were able to spend Thanksgiving under the palm trees, a definite first for us New Yorkers.  We managed a few visits to Olympia during the winter and took lessons at every opportunity.

Those of you who have followed this blog know of my passion for my horse Wiggles.  In August of 2015, Wiggles had a mild stroke.  Though I could no longer ride him,  I could still take him for short walks and fuss over him.  However, by the fall, he declined a bit more, putting an end to the walks due to his instability on his feet after those walks.  I put him on meds to ease any discomfort which had to be crushed (horses need a lot of pills to make a single dose of medication, up to 20 at a time)!  I purchased a coffee grinder and would faithfully crush his pills on a Sunday night for the week.  In mid-January, Wiggles vet suggested I start thinking of putting him down due to a steady decline in his quality of life.  I could see that my beloved horse of nearly 20 years was beginning to tire, though his eyes still lit up when I came into the barn.  Over the next few weeks, I wrestled with the decision, my heart breaking a bit more with each new day.  I was leaving for a 10 day trip to Costa Rica at the end of February and was afraid to leave him in his condition.  So I made the difficult decision to say goodbye to my loyal partner and friend on February 8th, 2016.  I was able to offer Wiggles a dignified and peaceful passage over Rainbow Bridge with me by his side as he lay in the field we so enjoyed - both riding and grazing.  The snow fell gently while I lay beside him in the snow reading him a poem about horses with silver wings riding through a clear blue sky.  Just as I had always promised him, I was by his side when he took his last breath, so quietly and peacefully that I knew I had done the right thing for him at exactly the right time.  The following weeks were quite difficult for me since my new apartment was on the same street as the barn.  With Wiggles help, I gradually came to realize that he was truly at peace, young and healthy again in the fields just over Rainbow Bridge.  Time is easing the pain, but the memories will always bring a smile to my face.  Some of his ashes are right here on OLYMPIA with me, another great source of comfort.

So that I don't have everyone dabbing their eyes, I want to tell you about the relationship I casually mentioned earlier.  His name is Mike.  He and I sat next to each other at the bereavement meetings we started attending in February, 2014.  He was part of a group of 11 - we all bonded quickly and soon found ourselves having dinner after the meetings.  The group spent New Year's Eve together, as well as most summer holidays.  Mike and I found ourselves going for long walks on pleasant summer evenings, having picnics and talking endlessly about everything.  By November of 2014, we admitted both to ourselves and each other that "our friendship had grown stronger" as so aptly put by REO Speedwagon.    The similarities between us grew more amazing as we learned more about each other.  Mike's wife's name was Rosemarie, she was Italian and her family called her Rosie (just as some of my uncles called me).  Their shared email password was Bunny (though spelled with a "y", still incredible).
Mike's birthday is the same as my favorite uncle's and our mothers shared the same birthday.  Mike was fascinated with my stories of OLYMPIA and read all my blogs.  I thought it might be fun for him to join me on OLYMPIA as we headed north for the summer.  Though at times it was surreal to see him on the boat that was supposed to have been the home of my late husband and I, we fell into a routine that befitted those who had been boaters for a much longer time.  It turns out that not only is Mike a fast learner, but he has an affinity for boating.  He loves OLYMPIA as much as I do and spent countless hours aboard the summer of 2015 cleaning, polishing, puttering in the engine room and learning all he could about her and boating in general.  We spent the fall, winter and spring taking Power Squadron classes, diligently plowing through hours of homework, plotting courses and attending meetings.  At least I didn't enter a relationship having to say "me or my boat".  I know just from hearing me talk about her in those early days, that most folks knew it was a no brainer!

I was diagnosed with very, very early stage breast cancer in late June, 2015.  A 3D mammogram picked up a tiny tumor that probably wouldn't have been visible on a 2D mammogram for another 2-3 years.  I had a lumpectomy on July 15th and started a 3 week course of radiation on August 19th (Mike's wife's birthday).  I had my last treatment on September 17th (Tom's 2nd anniversary in heaven).  Mike was with me for every step of the way.  A huge comfort, needless to say.  I wondered how I could have met this challenge alone.  He's come to my 6 month check-up, my one year check up and hopefully all the annual check ups for the next 5 years.  I'm perfectly fine with an excellent prognosis since the cancer was confined to a duct in my left breast and hadn't spread.  The tumor type is non-aggressive and would have been very slow growing.  The chance of recurrence is negligible, so I've put it out of my head, and will enjoy life to the fullest.

So....with that news, I've decided to leave full-time employment and will retire on December 23rd!  The company wasn't as enthusiastic as I am about my departure, so I agreed to work from the boat about 20 hours a week until they feel they can do without me - 6 months at the most I told them.  Much of my work can be done on the phone, so as long as a bird doesn't go screeching by when I'm on the phone, no one will be the wiser about where I'm actually making that call.

Please forgive the lack of pictures.  I recently upgraded my iPhone to the 7 and have had problems downloading my pictures from the phone to the laptop.  I was anxious to get back to sharing my adventures and didn't think you'd mind the lack of pictures.  I'll be working on this in the meantime.

It's good to be back!!!!