One significant fear I had upon retirement is that both my body, and my mind, would turn to “mush” for lack of exercise. While working for VT and pretending to be young enough to hang with the wildland firefighting crew, my mind and body were presented numerous “learning opportunities”…you know, exercise that kept the physical and mental systems in operating order (or at least functioning well enough to fool most people). I would not have dreamed of continuing into my 60’s as a wildland firefighter without a vigorous exercise routine, or learning opportunities for my aging muscles, to insure that, yes, I could still carry 40lbs of water in a bladder bag, up-hill, for 3 miles, and not drop dead when I reached the fire line. By the same token, my students and colleagues challenged me, on a daily basis, with learning opportunities in forestry that kept my mind well exercised. But retiring to cruising on a sailboat…all the rum drinks, lollygagging on the beach for days on end….well it just seemed like a good recipe for a mind and body made of mush.
“Not so fast, kemosabe!” Said the good ship, High ZZ’s. “I will present you with numerous “learning opportunities”; and I will torcher you, if you fail to learn.” And High ZZ’s has been true to her word with shining examples in the last few weeks.
Just living on a boat presents endless learning opportunities for your muscles….you see, boats in the water are in constant motion. This is a huge juxtaposition for land-evolved Homosapieans. Land, usually, does not move, and we are adapted to a muscle memory system that responds to a relatively stable platform: solid ground. Have that platform pitch, roll and yaw several degrees, constantly, and your muscles work hard, just to maintain equilibrium. Have that platform pitch, roll and yaw 4-6 feet at 3-5 second intervals…well your muscles get lots of learning opportunities on how to prevent bashing your head into the bulkhead. You learn, or should learn, very quickly, that bashing into 4-6 foot seas, right on the bow, is not that much fun; especially not that fun for 10 or 11 hours a day! Your mind also adapts to all of this motion, as it is common to experience “land sickness” upon returning to terra firma. Your first shower on land, after a few days at sea, in a small shower stall, can turn you green.
You learn lots of other things, while bashing into these waves and wind (which I forgot my lesson: gentlemen are not supposed to sail “to windward”). While bashing to windward from Highbourne Cay to Black Point, in the Exumas, I/we learned what the error code: “RUDR DRV “ means when it appears on your autopilot screen. It means that no amount of resetting of the breaker switches for “Otto” is going to resurrect him, and you must resolve yourself to having to hand steer into that mess of wind and waves, for those many hours, providing a great learning opportunity for your arm muscles. Even more fun is learning, upon squeezing/contorting yourself into the bilge, behind the rudder dam, the reason you got that RUDR DRV error code is that Otto’s ram drive has deposited its hydraulic fluid into the rudder dam. And, upon more investigation, you learn that your 17-year-old ram (that you had told Admiral Deb, that we should carry a spare, but failed to buy one before leaving the States), cannot be rebuilt “in the field”.
And the very next day, during more bashing bashing to windward from Black Point to Georgetown, we learned than you can only bury your bow pulpit in to those big seas, but so many times, before one of them carries away your bow/navigation lights! Who would have thunk it? And more so, those cute little solar air vents that you put into deck plates to constantly vent stinky/humid air out of your shower/head (instead of allowing it to blow into the rest of the boat) are not sealed well enough to keep flowing water over the deck from entering your head! Go figure?
Tired, beat up, wet….all things that Admiral Deb loathes, we finally made it to Georgetown for Regatta Week! We hope some of the other 300 boat crews here had as many learning opportunities as we did getting to this Mecca of Bahama’s cruising. Let the fun begin!