Retirement is hard work

It has been a long time coming, but we are as ready as we are going to be and will finally push off the dock this morning and head South down the Chesapeake Bay. We have a short weather window and will push hard for the first 3-4 days to get as far south as possible. It is difficult to imagine everything that goes into planning for a journey of this magnitude.
The sight of a boat sailing in the breeze invokes unspoken dreams and a haunting beauty for the casual observer. The reality is quite different. Preparing for a long boat journey takes time and attention to a multitude of details ranging from the mundane laying in of provisions that will stand up to the humidity, bouncing, heat, cold, and still satisfy the need for healthy and tasty meals. Add to this the desire to stock up heavily with provisions that are the bulkiest and those that are heaviest while we have a motor vehicle to shuffle us between stores and boat. Once we wave goodbye to that car, we will be trekking provisions some distances minus the mobile convenience.
And there is the dilemma of mail forwarding to an ever changing forwarding address. Then there is our new old house on land that is still very much in need of more remodeling and the hope that some of it can be done while we are sailing. And because of that, we are not fully unpacked, and we are certainly not organized. But then again, that is a different story for another time.
This is already a test of my fortitude. It had been Ken’s dream to sail away for most of his life, and I love the idea of it, but the reality is a challenge. It is hard work and a test of our mental and emotional fortitude, especially for Ken as he realizes the sometimes unexpected limitations imposed on him by the progressing onset of a form of dementia. While frustrating for both of us, for him it is sometimes overwhelming to adjust to more changes–every trip to the bathroom, known as a “head” on a boat is a learning experience for him, and consequently, also for me. Day 1 on the boat he almost sank us at the dock because he forgot to flip the switch that flushes the commode from “wet” to “dry” after flushing the commode. For those of you who are landlubbers, the process of flushing on a boat potentially means all that water we work so hard to keep out of our boat, must now come into your boat through a line controlled by a pump handle and a switch that flicks between the “wet” setting to fill the commode with water and flush waste into a holding tank. After flushing, the prudent boater then sets the switch back to the “dry” mode to prevent any additional water from coming into the commode and overflowing into the boat. Ken’s first time or two using the head was a re-education in this exercise, and a dose of reality for me to realize what it will be like sailing with Alzheimer’s.
One of the first lessons in reality was how lost Ken could become within a 35-foot piece of real estate. We spent a couple of extra days at the dock just so he could find the head in the dark, then find his way back to his berth, which is all of 2 feet away. He has a flashlight very nearby, but can never seem to find it, and he refused to switch on the overhead light because he didn’t want to wake me. Instead I waken when I hear his sad yet hilarious request for help finding the head while he is stainding in the very location he is looking for while holding his crotch with one hand and an urgent sound in his somewhat quiet inquiry. This scenerio was repeated for two nights, with the added insult of not being able to find his way back to the berth when finished. By the third night he finally learned to turn on a light.
I question how well he will acclimate back into our house once we return to land, but that is a risk he wants to take. I suggested we go home every 3 months or so, and he thinks that could help.
We added a Wave WiFi…but I don’t know if my computer works. I discovered that all the screws in the bottom were missing…pretty certain that was no accident…pretty certain who might have done it…no time yet to get more screws and get it back together, so I am relying on my iPad, which is somewhat challenging for things like mobile banking. All we have had time for is to fix up 3 homes (DC, MD…sold, and TN, which is still not finished and not totally unpacked!).
Ken especially does not want to give in to this ravishing disease, even though I question whether we are up to the challenge of Sailing with Alzheimer’s. We agree that we will give it a go, that we will have “intentions” rather than a “schedule”, and that we will try to hook up with our friends in their boats along the way if and when possible. And while I have not yet discussed it with Ken, if we cannot do it on our own, we will need formulate a new plan, ranging from the extreme of selling the boat, or changing our timing, to the opposite end of the spectrum where we would bring on crew. The potential reality we both fear is a scenario where it is harder to sail the boat with Ken than without him.

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About 4knots

Old sailor, new adventures. Lived in Washington, DC and area from Spring 1966 to Spring 2012 when I moved to Knoxville, TN. I began sailing in 1992 as mental therapy after the death of my beloved husband, Tomas, in 1991. I had become a workaholic, and sailing breezes gave me new life. I became an avid sailor, racer (including frostbite races), and a sailing instructor in Annapolis, MD, and in DC. I helped begin a community sailing program in DC as well as Baltimore, and taught underprivileged DC children to sail. I met my current husband, Ken, at a mutual friend's island home in the Chesapeake Bay. I was writing a poem while watching a storm role in as I sat on a bluff overlooking the Bay. He stopped by and we chatted for a bit. Later in the evening I was watching people dance and he commented that we were the only ones not dancing, so we danced one tune, but he was not a dancer. Later that night my friends wanted to row around the anchorage and say hello and go aboard to see other boats and continue the party...the boater's excuse to say. "my boat is better/bigger than your boat". One of our boardings was "Anisette", a Pearson 30' owned by Ken and his friends. A few weeks later we met again at a ski club summer event, a boat raft-up, and Ken became a pest that night and annoyed me to no end. He later sought me out and apologized, and invited me to go sailing as part of the apology. His boat partners were along and we had a lot of fun, even though it was too hot to be sailing.' Ken volunteered to crew for my race boat...afterwards I told him I did not need him as crew--he knew how to sail, but he did not know how to race, and I was use to winning. Our paths kept crossing, and at some point he showed up as a sailing instructor where I was teaching. My son was in college so I decided to advertise his room for rent, and Ken applied, and because I already knew him I accepted, but 2 or 3 months later he move out because his girlfriend, someone he worked with, wanted him to have his own place. Meantime, my son was coming and going, and I would meet interesting sailors who who were coming to Annapolis to learn to sail, as well as aduring the boat show weeks. Ken and his girlfriend broke up and he wanted to know if he could move back in and keep his boat at my dock. It was literally years later I learned he had been passing me off as his girlfriend before I was...and that finally explained a few odd comments from his boat partners and others that made no sense to me at the time. Well, in the end, everything happens for a reason. We eventually sailed aboard our Caliber 35, Harmony, on the Chesapeake and Delaware bays as well as up and down the east coast. We sailed through NY where we saw a sea plane flip over as it was trying to land at the Wall Street sea plane landing, where it floated belly up. We saw the pilot climb out. A barge with a big crane arrived and a diver attached a chain to the tail of the plane. The plane was hoisted out of the water, but before it could be swung onto the barge, the chain snapped and the small plane nosedived deep into the dark, murky water. At that point we moved on to where we anchored for the night: behind Pauper's Island. And the events of that 3-night anchorage is another story worth telling. We also sailed aboard a 44' cutter through the Caribbean from Puerto Rico to Columbia and explored the many islands in between. Ken proposed in Puerto Rico and, acting against my inner voice, we were married in St. Vincent in 2005.
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