Wednesday, September 14, 2005

sailing & travel excerpts from Dec. 2004 letter

During the spring, Gerald participated in the several weekends of sailboat racing at Elephant Butte Lake and an overnight “raft-up” where Gerald investigated combustibility of the Russian Thistle and we all watched stars through a spotting scope. Because of low water levels in Heron Lake, we brought our sailboat to Navajo Lake on the CO-NM border for the summer.

Then, in May, the whole family set off to Marina del Rey, California, for a few days of adventure, visiting local sailors and seeing the sights. We took a thirty-eight-foot sailboat, “Alouette,” out for a day charter and had a glorious day of sailing before returning to the harbor – which is when life became interesting. Pat was standing on the toe rail, outside the lifelines, holding a dock line and preparing to hop off the boat to help straighten her in the slip – and slip is exactly what he did, falling off the boat, bouncing off the pier, and into chilly Pacific Ocean water, where he took advantage of the opportunity to inspect the underside of the boat before surfacing. Carol Anne, not able to see what had happened to Pat, maneuvered the boat away while Pat thought about rescuing his hat, then decided instead to swim for the pier, get hauled out of the drink, and hand the docking line off to a bystander before choosing a convenient place to collapse in shock for several minutes while someone called 911.

Pat then climbed the gangway up to the street to meet fire truck and ambulance folks and was taken to an emergency room, which Carol Anne and Gerald were eventually able to find in spite of incomplete directions. There, in between bouts of waiting while other patients were treated, Pat was treated for hypothermia and shock – his blood pressure was down to 40 at one point – and only some hours later had his arm, which had multiple fractures of the radius and ulna where they meet the wrist, splinted. After a midnight discharge and a visit to a pharmacy, it was time to return to our lodgings.

The next day gave Pat all sorts of learning experiences as he tried to tie shoelaces with one arm and managed to walk to a restaurant near the Venice Beach pier. Two days after the accident, we flew home as scheduled, with only a brief delay for security to wand Pat’s arm. The third day, Pat reported to Lovelace Hospital in Albuquerque with his x-rays and was had surgery that same afternoon. (Our HMO wouldn’t let Pat be operated on in California.) Carol Anne and Gerald couldn’t reach the hospital before Pat’s operation, because the street in front of our home was being repaved, and then the nearest bus stop was closed because of other construction.

Afterward, our summer got off to a slow start as Pat began to recuperate, though we did ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad on Memorial Day weekend and join sailing club folks at Navajo Lake in mid-June. This sailing trip also got a bit of excitement: a line, not been fully secured by our foredeck crew, came loose during high winds and fouled our boat’s propeller, leaving us blowing toward shore. With the engine unavailable, Pat sailed Syzygy all the way to the boat ramp, which, luckily, had just enough room for us. Life also became more normal bit by bit, so Gerald joined his Scout troop at Camp Rand north of Santa Fe – no floods or fires this year! Gerald also returned to Hummingbird Music Camp near Jemez Springs, which remains one of his very favorite places in the world.

July 8 the cast came off. July 15 we drove to California. The next day, we met Carol Anne’s brother Jerry and boarded Alouette – yes, the same boat – and prepared for a week-long cruise. On Saturday we motored and sailed south to San Pedro, entering one of the busiest harbors in the world through the Angel’s Gate and tying up for two nights at the friendly Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. Sunday we were joined by a dozen sailboats and our sailing friends from New Mexico and west Texas. Monday we sailed across the ocean (a small piece of it) to Catalina Island, and tied up to a mooring buoy.

During the week, we enjoyed visiting with our friends, making friends with our boat neighbors in, touring the interior of the island, taking a nighttime flying fish tour, touring the (non-gambling) Casino, and having dinner with thirty other desert sailors. After some boat repairs, we voyaged to spend a night in Two Harbors, which felt like a fantasy paradise. Too soon it was time to leave.

During the summer we also rode the train, did a bit of sailing, and Pat learned to shovel dirt into a wheelbarrow with one hand in between bouts of hand therapy. We also bought a baby grand piano and brought it up the ramp into our cabin – an interesting effort. Jerry, Carol Anne’s brother, arrived in late summer to visit the cabin and work on his novels and projects. He also found some creative artistic uses for some of our sandstone rocks.

Fall activities included watching beautiful fall colors in the mountains from the scenic railroad, as well as sailing weekends at Elephant Butte Lake. We had a bit of excitement when a trailer tire exploded as we were moving Syzygy south to Elephant Butte Lake.

For Thanksgiving, we visited Pat’s dad in McAllen near the extreme southern tip of Texas, took in a movie with our friend Gerard and vacationed on South Padre Island. There we watched pelicans and sailboarders from a bayside condo, visited Scarlett and George Colley, and took a dolphin-watching cruise. Pat considerately refrained from looking at boats for sale.

We also had meetings during the year of boards for our neighborhood community associations in Laguna Vista and of the two sailing clubs in which we’re active – Carol Anne finished her term as a board member of one sailing club and Pat is trading his job as treasurer of one club for vice commodore of another while continuing to edit a sailing club newsletter.


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