Last Thursday night having dinner at my cousin Pascale’s place, her husband Scott, an avid reader of the blog, bemoaned the recent lack of posts. “Black out,” he called it. “Don’t leave me hanging,” he said, wanting to know what’s happened with the radio, the doctors, the waterline, etc. Getting so close to departure, tasks are compressing. Arguably this post would be better broken into 10 separate posts so as not to overwhelm the time-constrained reader. Honestly, to delay this entry would be to compound the issue. I feel compelled to share these experiences as they happen, or risk that they’ll be buried by incoming experiences. It gives a sense of the density of our days as we prepare for departure. So, for the time-pressed, I recommend this post be read in sections, revisited later as time becomes available. Here’s a not-so-brief update:
Upon meeting the sailing doctors and their sons at the yacht club that fortuitous Sunday breakfast, the doctors offered their expertise, volunteering to go through our medical books, our medical supplies, and to teach us how to suture. This eclectic family is down-to-earth and generous with their time, knowledge, and resources. Understanding our pending departure schedule, they invited us to their home in the Ventura Keys that following Tuesday evening. With their catamaran “Gone Native” docked outside their beautiful three-story home, Ryan and Wesley set Bryce and Trent up in the entertainment area to watch a movie, while Leslie and I got a higher level crash course in blue-water cruising first-aid.
After sorting through our ship’s library of medical books, describing the value they’d place on each, we were able to eliminate the largest, the Physician’s Desk Reference. Other, smaller books in our library have similar information and are more pertinent to our circumstances of being in foreign ports. Drs. Dave and Desiree “Desi” then looked at our medical kit. Pleased with its size and organization, they immediately & generously augmented it with more, less readily available supplies.
Then we were off to suturing school (their kitchen counter and dining room table). We learned on a persimmon and later on a tangerine how to inject Lidocaine into a laceration, numbing deeper and deeper the edges before sewing their skins back together, practicing how to keep and guard a sterile environment (breathing while working is okay, but talking introduces spittle).
Earlier that day, our media partners, Dina and Marc, and I spent the morning laying out our goals for the website, social media channels, and the video channel. We also discussed getting our circumstance into the hands of educators to use as a learning tool. That’s been more difficult than expected. We’re all looking forward to the new website and logo that Dina’s developing. They captured in photos and on video the medical discussion mentioned above.
Throughout the week, I worked on the SSB radio install. Turning it on, I found significant interference and troubleshot it. To clean up and dress the wires, I tied the antenna wire between the antenna tuner and the antenna to other wires along the way. Not good. This turns the neighboring wire into an antenna as well, so I separated it.
That helped. We motored in the marina channel, away from the field of masts that normally surround Kandu, and that helped even more to reduce the radio frequency interference (RFI, aka, static). I can make out Hawaii’s time signal well enough for now, but I want to fix this noise thing before we leave. There’s still some RFI, possibly due to dirty power. Instead of the circuit breaker panel, I need to connect the radio’s power wire directly to the battery, with a fuse in between.
Friday, prior to the evening’s meal, I performed my PowerPoint presentation before the Ventura Yacht Club members. The upstairs dinning area was packed, nearly standing room only. My ego tells me it was because they were interested in my awesome program, but it was most likely the evening’s menu and bar drink specials that brought them in. Uncle Bill and Auntie Annie showed up with several friends. The doctor family surprisingly showed up, having delayed their ski trip for better snow. I spoke for about 45 minutes, describing what we did to prepare Kandu for our trip: water, fuel, power, communications, and safety. It was well received. My favorite comment from club members was, “I didn’t know you were so funny.” I started off the presentation with, “We have already bought and installed the solutions I’m presenting to you tonight. There are many ways to solve these problems as most of you can contest. I’m only describing what choices we made. We’re about to leave, so if you have a better idea, keep it to yourself or cough up the money to pay for it.” The comment got a good laugh. After the presentation, a couple people suggested low-tech, affordable solutions for stopping smaller water intrusions: expanding foam insulation in a spray can and the wax used in a toilet ring. So I bought and stowed the two items the next day.
The doctors reminded us to provide them with a list of medical supplies on the boat, and those we thought we needed. We worked on putting the list together.
It rained Friday, Saturday, and cleared late Sunday morning as predicted. That Sunday afternoon, the twins, Ryan and Wesley offered Gone Native as a chase boat to take Dina and Marc on a photo and video shoot outside Ventura Harbor.
The dark grey clouds of the parting rainstorm made for a dramatic backdrop. The calm silvery seas made the catamaran a steady platform. We got some great shots of the four of us sailing Kandu.
Once the radio issue was well enough resolved, on Wednesday, Bryce’s former 7th grade science teacher came to the boat to check out our skin diving and spearfishing equipment, and to give us some recommendations and pointers (pardon the pun) on how to free dive safely and longer on one breath. He got us all excited to condition our lungs to be able to hold our breath longer, swimming to depths greater than 35 feet.
Thursday morning, we packed up the Toyota Prius and drove up to Northern California to celebrate Leslie’s aunt’s 75th birthday with Leslie’s family and family friends. On the way up, we worked on the medical list, Leslie typing away on her laptop, accessing the internet via our phone’s data “hotspot.” Around 4 p.m., we stopped off in Santa Cruz to see Philip Lima at his media studio, a young family friend who happens to be a video drone specialist. We left him with our video drone and some parts he recommended to upgrade it. He kindly offered to install the upgrades before giving us a lesson on how to fly it on Sunday. Philip’s younger brother, Brandon was there too. He said he’d try to have his girlfriend, a training physician assistant, meet us on Sunday as well, to instruct us on how to administer an IV.
We arrived in Oakland late that Thursday evening. That weekend was Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a Federal holiday providing Monday off for schools, government offices, and some businesses. During the drive up, we heard on the car radio that Oakland Police would be on high alert; all police officers were to be on duty, no time off granted. This was due to protests staged weeks earlier surrounding the acquittal of another light-skinned American police officer who killed another young unarmed dark-skinned American man. The acquittal upset some East Bay Area residents enough to inspire them to shut down the busy freeway that passes through Oakland, a dangerous action for the protesters and an economically injurious action against the city. Our family was not in Oakland for the actual MLK Monday holiday, but Friday and Saturday, we visited without incident many areas throughout Oakland. When hearing of turmoil in the foreign countries we’re visiting, it will likely be similar; the real danger, more isolated than the reported threat. Not that we’re planning to visit any “hot” spots any time soon, if ever.
Friday, after touring Jack London Square, posing with his statue and the micro cabin he inhabited during his gold rush days in the Yukon, we lunched in Oakland’s Chinatown where they served hand-made noodles and delicious dumplings. I visited alone my aunt Marge, turning 86 soon. I missed her over Christmas. She’s in excellent health. I don’t know how long before we return and what her circumstances might be then, so I wanted to spend some time reminiscing about our family, how much she has meant to me, and telling her more about our plans. Her son was also very supportive of our adventure. I couldn’t help but think this may be the last time we see each other, but then again, her mother/my grandmother lived to 103!
Saturday, after spending time in the morning with previous LA neighbors visiting around Lake Merit, Leslie’s parents threw a great dinner party for Aunt Meg’s birthday. We got to see the family one more time before shoving off. “I thought you’d be long gone by now,” was the most common comment. “We did too,” was the start of our response, followed by our explanation of the delay. Back when I worked at Sony, the professional electronics sales guys joked that Sony was an acronym for “Soon, Only Not Yet,” describing the company’s practice of delaying release of new products, presumably until they met the strict quality controls of the engineers. News of a poorly operating device would be more costly than a delay in its release.
Sunday morning, we said our good-byes to Leslie’s parents, with a promise to meet up in San Diego. Later that morning, we met up as planned at Brandon and Philip’s parent’s ranch house with its spectacular 360o view of Watsonville valleys.
Brandon’s girlfriend, Marisela had prepared a makeshift IV school. After twice watching on the big screen television a YouTube video demonstrating the procedure, we practiced on a rolled up towel that Marisela had prepared. Then it came time for the real thing. With Marisela over my shoulder, I prepared everything for a sterile IV insertion into Leslie’s arm. Not feeling confident in finding Leslie’s vein in her inside elbow joint, I asked if I could go where I could plainly see them, on her hand. Marisela said that the hand is the most painful area to try, but Leslie said go for it. After two failed attempts, no longer wishing to subject Leslie to further pain, I set up the tourniquet for the mid arm. I got the vein, but pulling the needle out while leaving the catheter in, I hadn’t applied enough pressure on the vein above the catheter to prevent Leslie’s dark red blood from oozing out of her arm. Bryce, videoing the procedure, looked uneasy. With encouragement from Marisela, I applied more pressure, finished the set up, and wiped up the blood. After a minute of thumbs-up pictures, we worked on removing the IV.
Then it was Leslie’s turn to practice on me. My veins are apparent, so Leslie went straight for the most prominent one on my forearm. Just before insertion, in walked our doctor friend, Dr. Dave Harris, and his son, Ryan; they had just driven up from Ventura to participate in our drone flying lesson. With a full audience, Leslie expertly inserted the needle, applied pressure to the catheter, and removed the needle, holding the catheter in place in my vein. Not a drop of blood escaped. Properly taped up, we took our pictures, removed the IV, and thanked Marisela profusely.
As Marisela rushed off to bake a cake for her sister’s birthday, we headed outside to learn the basics of drone flying from Philip. He brought two of his own copters plus the one he rebuilt with upgrades for us. Carefully, he provided detailed instruction on how to prepare for flight, how he configured our radio controller, and how the different controls work. He explained the upgraded “telemetric” data visible in the drone’s camera monitor, which let’s us know what’s happening with the drone’s systems (its location, altitude, our location, power, etc.).
He demonstrated the most basic flight skills: take off, forward, backward, side-to-side, and landing. He then showed us more advanced moves, counseling that we should first fly the craft 10 times without the camera in a safe open area with soft landing terrain, until we could fly it comfortably in a figure eight pattern. Once achieved, then fly 10 times with the camera, incorporating the figure eight, before setting off to fly in less open areas. After we each took a turn flying our drone, Philip brought out his new “toy,” DJI’s new quadcopter, Inspire. So modern and “James Bond” looking, auto retracting landing gear and all. He flew it far away into the valley, beyond sight, and back, effortlessly capturing great 4k images along the way. Philip made phenomenal image capturing look easy. “You’ve just got to do it a lot,” he advised. Before we left the Lima family, I asked if we could see some of Philip’s aerial videography to give us all a frame of reference as to what “good” looks like: Santa Cruz coastline, Capitola pier and riverside, Big Sur coastline and bridge, and both ski-chair and wakeboard professionals pulled behind a ski boat on a lake. We all left in awe, inspired to capture our own spectacular imagery. Our cars packed, we said our thank you’s and farewell’s, and drove back the 5 hours to Ventura. In terms of learning valuable skills rarely attained by average cruisers, Sunday ranks as one of the most amazing days ever. Leslie and I love learning this stuff, one of the favorite aspects of the trip.
On the way back to Ventura, we further refined our medical list, a consolidation of recommended items from two different marine medical how-to books, and of supplies already accumulated. From the car, we were able to email it to our doctor friends. Later that week, Leslie honed the list with Dr. Desi, who wrote us the prescriptions necessary to fulfill the list. Off to Costco Leslie went. A day or two later, Dr. Dave and Dr. Desi came by Kandu to instruct us on proper use of the more temperamental of the medications–another great learning session. Epinephrine, the medication used to abate anaphylactic shock, a dramatic and possibly deadly allergic reaction to things like peanuts, bee stings, shellfish, and whatever else, is one that’s dose must be carefully considered. Too much epinephrine (adrenaline) can over-stress a person’s heart and arteries with potentially lethal consequences. “Do no harm,” cautioned Dr. Desi.
On Monday, we arranged the equipment acquired over the weekend, and ordered from Amazon more parts and accessories for our GoPro cameras. Trent, Bryce, and I finished consolidating and environmentally protecting (earthquake, flood) all of our personal items into the one storage unit where our affects now reside. Over the past months, we reduced our storage needs from four units to one. To be clear, we haven’t whittled our possessions down to monk-like austerity. With what we’ve retained, we could furnish a small home with little missing. Still, this day’s culmination represented a significant milestone, bringing great relief. Leslie reposted our ads to sell our minivan, lowering the price.
Tuesday, I focused on the ground tackle (anchors, chain, and ropes) ordering new chain and nylon rode (anchor rope) for our secondary bow anchor and our stern anchor. Wednesday, we brought from the secondary storage unit all the Kandu stuff we were still storing, loading up the cockpit. Thursday and Friday were spent finding places to stow all that stuff.
Waterline update: I learned yesterday that every inch of a Tayana 42’s (Kandu’s make and model) waterline depth represents 1474 lbs of added weight. Since loading up, Kandu’s waterline has risen about 3.5 inches, the equivalent of 5200 lbs. That’s 1500 lbs. more than the Toyota Sienna we’re trying to sell! The good news is we’ve balanced our load so that our waterline is level, and we have 1.5-2.0 inches to spare, a decent margin for keeping most of the barnacles off. The soon-to-arrive anchor chain and rode will level us off just fine, with adequate waterline to spare—another great stress reliever.
Today, Joseph Paravia from Horizon, who with his wife, Marcy recently completed a 1.5 global circumnavigation and just happens to be four boats down from our slip, showed me how to send and receive email over radio, and how to download weather faxes and GRIB files as well. In the process I refined what needed to be done to get our SSB/HF radio capable of supporting these important functions. By the end of the day, I had a ‘simple’ list: move the radio’s power wire to a cleaner source, configure the laptop’s COM ports (learning curve) so I can remotely control the radio, and get the radio to see the GPS (a setting in the GPS that Gary from Dockside Radio told me about solved this problem). I’m getting close to having that radio work for us.
Leslie lowered the price on the van even further, almost half of our first sale price. As they say, “you can price to keep, or price to sell.” Over the past three days, I have been getting the boys up at 6 am to surf at dawn. They love it. Afterwards, they helps us get things done, or do their school work.
So tomorrow, I’ll work on the radio list. And if I have time, I’ll install the anchor chain and rode. I then need to sort through our navigational paper charts, the last of the big tasks that must be performed in Ventura.
We’re knocking off tasks, getting close to departure, hoping to leave Ventura this coming weekend (my 55th birthday is Friday), yet anything can happen to delay it, still probably only for a few days to at most a week. Oddly, I’m not excited yet. I won’t allow myself the pleasure until the big things are done, vegetables before dessert. When that day comes, I have a cigar that my friend, Juan Cruz offered me from his country of origin, Dominican Republic. I rarely smoke, but somehow, seeing all those movies and television shows growing up, smoking that cigar seems an appropriate way to punctuate one of the most significant days of my life. The brandy won’t be so bad either. Cheers (soon, only not yet) . . . .