08/04/2010, Halifax, NS
For those of you who have been following the blog you will know that a couple of weeks ago I had a surgical procedure to remove a kidney stone that had become lodged in my right ureter and that after the stone had been blasted with a laser and hauled out by a sort of mini grappling hook the surgeon left a thing called a stent in place to keep the passage open and promote healing. This thing did its job but it also would give me the feeling of "gotta go, gotta go gotta go right now!" pretty much constantly and a persistent ache with every visit to the head; so you can imagine that I was looking forward to getting this thing removed. The only thing is I was also anticipating a pretty involved procedure only this time without the general anaesthetic that put me out for the first one. I was told that a local anaesthetic would be used so, of course, I envisioned the urologist launching an anaesthetic harpoon directly into Mr Happy while I writhed and screamed on the table to the amusement of the assembled multitudes. Needless to say (but I will say it) this isn't what happened. Firstly, the doctor was the epitome of calming confidence and reason; secondly a topical cream was used as the anaesthetic and other than the odd feeling of this cold liquid sliding down the hatch (and I am not referring to oral application) it wasn't too bad at all. Now that the 12 inches of macaroni has been removed I can get on with things as per normal and look forward to the process of getting the litho to pound out the other two stones that are squatting in the kidneys themselves.
It's kind of interesting how much more there is to each speciality of medicine. When I had my melanoma removed I had thought hat Plastic Surgeons were mostly butts, bellies and boobs but then I found out that not only do they do melanoma removal, but also most surgery on your extremities from the elbows and knees outwards. The urologists not only remove kidney stones, but they are also the folks that operate to reduce the size of your prostate or indeed remove cancerous ones should it come to that. Much of this surgery is done through the urethra in the same manner as my kidney stone was removed. They do this to try to avoid damaging the nerves in the lower abdomen that govern sexual impotence and bladder control. All in all pretty important stuff to me as I get older. Pretty neat too, eh?
07/30/2010, Halifax NS
This might be a little weird coming from me the guy that had a reasonable payout last fall or should I say early this spring when the winter storm damaged Nelleke at the dock in Oriental, but still here I go.......
Shortly after we got home in Halifax our car was broken into while it was in the garage at the apartment building that we are renting in. Besides the car GPS unit we also lost a number of boat items which ironically we had taken off the boat since they were loose and I thought that they might be considered attractive items should someone break in. Well they broke in all right, but they slim jimmied the car door and ran off with about $4800 work of boaty stuff including the auto tuner for the SSB, our forward looking sonar, the new AIS transceiver and several more expensive pieces. After getting over my immediate wish to get my hands on the little bastards that did it I thought, no problem, one of the home, car or boat insurance policies would cover it, but apparently not. They weren't on the boat so the boat insurance won't cover it; they weren't things that were either fastened to the car or would normally be in the car, so the car insurance wouldn't cover it, an the same sort of "logic" came from the tenant's insurance.
Basically what I have found out that any of our belongings, if they are in some start of transit are not covered.
Imagine my thoughts!
It would appear that if I were to buy a 52" TV and while on the way home I decided to stop somewhere for dinner and while in the restaurant my car was broken into and the TV stolen I would be out of luck. If I bought a new outboard for the dingy and was transporting it to the boat and the same thing happened, I would be out of luck.
Lesson learned? I strongly suggest that everyone check their insurance policy and get it in writing that while in transit the contents of your car or a rental vehicle are covered by one of your insurance policies.
I should add that the insurance agent that we have been dealing with was as astounded by this as we were.
07/21/2010, Halifax, NS
I have made some more crusin' musings notes that I thought that I'd pass on to anyone interested. Some of these are clever ideas that we have come up with and others are ones that other cruisers have told us about and I would like to pass them along. Come to think about it, we didn't initiate any of these so give the credit where credit is actually due.
Chuck it bucket:
This is a great idea that was passed on to us by our friends Ken and Lynn. As you read on you will understand perhaps why we don't give their last names nor identify the boat. We are about to disclose a means of breaking the law in most of the American states especially the ones through which the various ICWs flow. On waterways it is most often impossible for the helmsperson to leave their post - the water might shoal up, there may be a turn in the channel, another boater may loom up across your bows - so the crew on watch is stuck there. Unfortunately, nature doesn't take a break and standing at the helm hopping from foot to foot waiting for your relief so you can get to the head is not much fun. Nor will you be popular if you wake up the off watch crew to stand in for you while you make a quick trip below. And since rumour has it that many of the bodies of the fellows who fall overboard from yachts are found with their flies down, taking the pause that refreshes over the rail while underway is probably not a good idea, either. The solution? Well, if you have ever used bagged milk at home you will know that there is an oval shaped plastic bucket just that you buy to put the milk bags in to open and use. These make great "chuck it buckets". Standing well inboard, perhaps even behind the wheel still doing your job as the coxswain, you make use of the "bucket" and then chuck it (the contents) over the side. The oval shape of the bucket makes if unisex so all members of the crew can use it. Just try not to use and dump inform of one of the Fish and Wildlife patrols otherwise known as the potty-patrol or the crapper-cops. I don't think that they'd have any sense of humour about it.
Peeing pants for female crew:
If you haven't seen these things on the shelves of your local yacht chandlery, you should definitely keep your eyes open for them. They are a normal pair of foulie pants with the suspenders and everything, but there are zippers down the sides at the hips that allow the wearer to zip down and drop the back of the pants and make use of the head. This is a great idea whose time should have come long ago. It eliminates the whole business of doffing the lifejacket and the coat before taking off the shoulder straps and dropping trou... The only gripe that I have is that they only make them on pants cut for the female shape. What about us guys? Most skippers want the crew to sit on the head regardless of what the mission is and this might be the encouragement to do it.
If you are an internet junkie, and these days of connectivity who isn't, then you will probably want to stay connected during your cruise. Most recent model personal computers have a built in wifi card which will do you very well if you are happy to find and internet café or sit outside the marina office every time you want to check your e-mail. There are great antennas available for not too much expense that will easily extend your computer's range out to the mooring field and perhaps even to the fringes of that where you are anchored. Just Google Radiolabs and check out what they have available. Don't even think about using your cell phone to hook up to the internet especially if you are from Canada and are cruising the US or Caribbean. The roaming charges will kill you!
I have not had much luck personally with fishing but loads of other cruisers that we know have so I would certainly suggest fishing as a possible means of protein supplement on your boat. You are moving along anyway and a sailboat is normally traveling at a good trolling speed. You don't even have to invest much money, just a line, leader and something as a lure. You can attach it to your boat by a piece of bungee cord or an inner tube from a bicycle tire and off you go. For me the biggest challenge will be to determine whether or not you can actually eat the thing that you have caught. As a Canadian, most of the fish down south may as well be from another planet. They don't look anything like what we would catch up here and I am always wondering if that thing that we caught should be tossed back in or filleted for the freezer. An illustrated book of fish species would be just the ticket although you would need several as reef fish are different from Gulf Stream fish which are different from .......
Next to marina charges, cell phone costs were the biggest "gotcha" financially that we have found on the trip. Somehow no matter what plan we though that we had there was not ever any coverage for roaming in the USA. By far and away the best idea would be to have your bank set up an account in $US (TD and RBC both have branches in the US so paying someone from an account in one of those backs won't raise any eyebrows) and to get a basic American cell phone. Lots of American carriers have coast to coast local and long distance for less than $50/month.
This is an interesting one and one that has been changing in only the two years that we have been cruising in the USA. The first year that we started it was impossible to find someone in US Customs or USCG from Main to Virginia who cared if you were a foreign vessel and had changed locations. In fact the Customs Inspector that cleared us into the country went so far as to tell us categorically that the cruising permit that he had just given us was all we needed to travel about in the States. However, when we got to Charleston we heard about Canadian board that had been boarded and the crews threatened with jail and huge fines because they had not reported their change of port. It was a case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing. When we went south the second time, however, it was a different thing. The Customs Agent that welcomed us to the US in Cape Cod had a national phone number for us to call and an admonishment that we had to check in. This became one of the Admiral's jobs every time we stopped at a marina or at anchor she would call in. She became very adept at finding out the regional boundary that we had to cross before we had to call in again. If you go from Hampton Roads to Great Bridge for example you don't have to call in, but once you get to North Carolina you definitely do. Of course, what this does is really run up the roaming charges on your phone bill which makes it very important that you get a plan that includes roaming in the USA or you get an American cell phone.
And finally, TowBoatUS
Either this or SeaTow but I simply can't say forcefully enough how much value there is in buying some of this very cheap insurance. Oh, sure, you might say that you never run aground, or perhaps that you are going to do most of your sailing offshore so why would you need towing assistance, but trust me, all it takes is one uninsured tow and you will have learned the hard way. In fact there is an old adage which states that if you say haven't run aground you are either a liar or you aren't trying hard enough. We have friends that we have traveled up and down the ICW with and who use them two or three times per trip and although we have only been towed once in two years of cruising, that one time would have cost us easily $3kUS. If you join BoatUS which will cost you about $130/year if memory serves you will not only get loads of deals at marinas for dockage and fuel, but you will also get a discount rate for the TowBoatUS insurance. Even if you do never run aground these are the best guys to call for local intelligence on inlet silting or recent dredging etc. After all they are the fellows who are being called to tow people off when they do get stuck and we have always found them more than willing and helpful to pass on the straight goods on whether you can get through. In case you might be worried that they might be trying to lure you onto a shoal so they can get the job of towing you off, we have found them to be extremely professional and the fact is they get more than enough "business" as it is without having to drum some up. If you listen to the VHF you'll find that more often that not their main problem is that it might be an hour extra or so before he can get to you when you are stuck since he is already helping someone else.