Modified Alaska

by Jane Miller

Modified Alaska: It’s sort of like a baked Alaska, but without the ice cream and flames.

Plans for Alaska have officially been changed and I have scheduled what I hope will be the last surgery for my eye on July 10.

The surgery will be done by my wonderful, confidence-inspiring, Jeff Bridges-like surgeon before he relocates to San Diego, and Dr. Ng, who wrote the book on this kind of ocular and facial surgery (seriously!). He is the “Chief of the Division of Oculofacial Plastics, Orbital and Reconstructive Surgery” at OHSU, and assisted in my first surgery there.

Erik has told me that … Being more than a little gorked at the time, I don’t remember him. 

Dr. Perry told us the operation would take only about an hour … outpatient. We’ll see, but the thought of it not lasting 5.5 hours, not followed by a three-day hospital stay, and not causing vomiting for a week — Whew!

We left Victoria June 2 for Friday Harbor for a few days. From there to Port Townsend, which Erik loves (though he spent a lot of the time on boat repair!), and from there to Anacortes, where the boat was set up after Erik purchased her.

We spent a couple of days with friends in Roche Harbor, then reentered Canada, two weeks after leaving Victoria. After a long slog over a couple of days, we made it to Campbell River, where we met new friends, Steve and Pat, cousins of one of Erik’s racing buddies. We texted them when we had cell service off Texada Island, and they invited us to Pat’s birthday party that night!

This cruising community is a lot like Erik’s (and now our) racing community.

We’ll finish restocking for Alaska tomorrow and Tuesday, and work on more of the repairs that are endemic in owning a boat.

We’ll be in Ketchikan in time for me to catch an Alaska flight down to Portland. I’ll see my boys, have the surgery, then head to Sisters to recuperate. In two to three weeks, I’ll have my follow-up exams, and schedule an appointment with my ocularist for the “final” revisions and fitting of my prosthetic eye. (This can’t take place until at least two months post-surgery.)

I am also researching therapists. (Of course, what else would I do?)

Then I’ll fly to wherever Erik is. We don’t know where that will be, but we will find each other! I’ll be missing most of the Alaska part of our sail to Alaska, but dealing with that is for another time.

Now is the time for healing and gratitude. It’s not a new revelation, more like a new appreciation, but the people in my life are pretty wonderful. Erik. My sons. My friends old and new, spread across three countries.

Laura, my person, has arranged her work so she can come up from California (with her nurse’s uniform!) to help. This will be the third operation she’s seen me through. How is that even possible??? One broken nose, one frozen shoulder, and now one face. “Thank you” is not big enough for all she has done.

My new friends in Sisters, with whom I have shared yoga, wine, and laughter (and with whom I am already making a when-we’re-old-ladies pact), have volunteered to help me.

My sorority sisters, once lost and now found, are wonderful. We pick up conversations begun more than thirty years ago. In our heart’s eyes, we still look like we did when we were in college, as if only a spring break  had passed since seeing each other.

The adventurers I’ve met in the racing and sailing communities. Families, really. The Big Bore Bad Boys who race vintage cars with huge engines and have hearts of gold. The friends I have made at the track. Cruisers and new friends from around the world who have buoyed my spirits and shared so much of themselves.

I may have had to face more physical hurdles than I would wish on anyone. There may be more to come. I may not have two pennies to rub together, as Dad used to say. But I have people I love and who love me back. And that makes all the rest bearable.

 

PTSD

By Erik Dolson

It may have been arrogant, or maybe just thoughtless. Selfish is another possibility. I took too much pride in having Irish climb on and off boats before we even made it back to Foxy. But I really thought we (I!) had moved us past the trauma of Irish’s fall.

Yes, we’d had trouble moving the boat away from the pump-out station, but the next day I rationalized our being pinned to the dock as the result of an unobserved flood tide and tight quarters. Continue reading PTSD

Sailing

June 2

We left Victoria, after five months of winter and life-changing events. We headed down around Trial Island. Past Discovery Island. Across the central part of the Juan de Fuca Strait, on our way to Friday Harbor. It was a lovely day. Mostly sunny. Breezy. But not too.

Erik looked me in the eyes and asked if I wanted to sail. I hesitated, knowing I could say “no,” and met his gaze, his face blank as he tried not to show how much this meant. I asked which sail, since the jib is much smaller than the main, and the boat heels much less.

Erik answered, “Both.”

I was gripped by fear as my stomach fell coldly to my feet. Barely breathing, I said in someone else’s voice, “Sure.”

“Sure?”

“Yep.” (I was not sure, but that was what came out.)

And so we sailed.

We hit a few glitches as tasks were remembered, maybe a little out of order. But the jib went up smoothly. Beautiful navy blue border against the pale blue sunshine. A couple of adjustments and we felt a little lift as the sail took some of the strain off the engine.

Raising the mainsail, a full 534 square feet of power, was slightly less smooth but still remarkable, given that it had been seven months since the last time it was raised.

Attention must be paid when raising a sail that big and “roachy” (a triangle where the hypotenuse is not a straight line but more an angle arching out and down to the boom). It’s easy for the sail to catch on lazy jack lines as it is lifted 65 feet in the air, so there is the occasional catch-and-back-down-before-going-back-up maneuver. The windier it is, the more likely the sail is to catch, so it was good that the winds were present, but not overpowering.

Erik immediately noticed, of course, that the sail hadn’t reached the top of the mast. After careful perusal, he saw the main halyard was wrapped around another line. It had to be lowered, adjusted, and raised again.

That meant that Erik had to climb a small way up the mast to remove the halyard, reroute and refasten it. I was not convinced this had to be done at sea, but he assured me that with the mast steps he had installed over the winter, everything would be fine.

So there we were, Erik partway up the mast, me at the wheel, my face set in a line of grim determination, and all the while I’m playing the “What do I do if Erik falls off the mast” game. (Similar to the “What do I do if the mast falls down” game which is used to stay alert on long days.)

And you know what, everything was fine. He did not fall off the mast. The sail did not tip us into the ocean. I did not crash us into rocks that were two miles away.

The winds died down a short time later, and we lowered the sails. But as is often the case, as soon as we were back on course, we hit wind. Erik smiled and said, “Let’s put the sails up again!”

UP they went … again.

And everything was fine. We were back on the boat. We sailed. And it was ok.

 

All But Forgotten — Part 1

By Erik Dolson

The early morning was cold and gray and I worried Irish would become chilled and uncomfortable out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Chris, our friend from Trotac, a chandlery and our favorite store in Victoria, had not yet pulled up to the dock. I worried there might have been a miscommunication. Continue reading All But Forgotten — Part 1

A Burden off My Heart

By Jane Miller

The city awakens to a warm sunny morning of seagulls swooping between the masts of sailboats in the harbor and delivery trucks trudging up the hill into downtown. Between sips of cocoa, I’m reminded I have some sorting to do.

I have a few blogs churning in my head. One that will not be published; one about fishing that might be; and one that is lurking round, waiting to be noticed. Continue reading A Burden off My Heart

Taking Leaps

by Jane Miller

We are working on the boat. A lot of working on the boat. I am amazed at what we have accomplished; daunted by the size, scope, and expense; and anxious and panicked when I think too much.    

We leave for Alaska’s Inside Passage on June 18 with a group of other boats under the leadership of our friend Jim Rard and his “Sail Alaska” program. Our starting point is Anacortes, WA, and we’ll be going up north to the South Sawyer Glacier. There and back again. Around 2,000 nautical miles. In about three months. On a 56’ boat. Did I mention the anxiety? How about the panic? Continue reading Taking Leaps

To Sleep, Perchance

by Jane Miller

I finally slept, last night. Wrapped in Erik’s arms. The first time in four nights that I’ve slept like that. Deep, comforting, relaxing, sleep.

I haven’t slept in years. That’s not a hyperbole. I’ve slept no more than three hours at a time since the ‘90s. There are some people, from what I’m given to understand, who fall asleep and stay asleep until they wake up some required amount of time later. There are some people, from what they tell me, who actually sleep for eight hours a night. And wake up refreshed.

Honestly, they say “refreshed.” I don’t even know what that word means anymore. Continue reading To Sleep, Perchance

It’s warming up

By Erik Dolson

Freezer Guru Chad texted at 7:15 this morning that he would be here at nine instead of eight. That was okay by me, since I’d completely forgotten that he would be coming today. The reminder was as welcome as the extra hour.

Blame the temporary amnesia not on my years this time, but on the fact that we worked hard on the boat yesterday. Irish had asked me to find the hose nozzle so she could scrub the decks. Continue reading It’s warming up

The Soundtrack of My Life

by Jane Miller

Music lifts me up, calms my soul, cries with me, celebrates my small victories, and soothes my feelings. Like my favorite books, I make friends with songs, bringing them along with me as I move through this world.

Music plays in the background of my days and nights. Continue reading The Soundtrack of My Life