Monday, May 07, 2007

Flashback: Embarrassing Sailing Moment

So many to choose from.

But, in terms of consequences, my worst sailing accident occurred in May of 2004, at the tail end of a day charter as we returned to the harbor in Marina del Rey and I made a "creative" jump for the floating pier at a dock just south of Palawan Way in D basin.

Our trip began ordinarily enough on Saturday, May 22nd, with a flight from Albuquerque to LAX, rendezvous with a rental car, and check in at the Venice Beach Inn. We grabbed a bite of lunch, then did some sightseeing, taking in the Friendship Bell overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We also went by the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club for their "Adventure to Mexico" dinner and a burgee swap and presentation in front of their membership.

On Sunday, we enjoyed an elaborate brunch aboard the Queen Mary and re-visited the ship, then walked off some of the calories at Point Fermin and admired the Fermin Lighthouse. Then we went to a casual grill-your-own cookout at the Santa Monica Windjammers YC, where the manager, Conrad, was a native New Mexican, and sometimes hard pressed by some of the membership. Another of the members had set up an elaborate computer workstation with sailing simulators, which was great entertainment for our boy, "Tadpole".

Monday was the day of our first-ever charter of "Alouette", a Beneteau 38 that we were considering for a week-long charter during the summer, when the Rio Grande Sailing Club would have its club cruise. The rest of the RGSC members in the cruise would trailer their boats to San Pedro, but we were interested in something bigger that could pamper us and let us have the "mother ship" for the cruise. Monday's day charter would be an easy introduction to the boat, so it wouldn't be a big surprise come the summer cruise. Alouette was nicely luxurious, with a wine rack, fridge, two staterooms, two heads, one with electric flush.

We'd done other day charters with the charter company before (Seamist Skippers, now Blue Pacific), so checkout was pretty simple. The sailing was also quite good and the day flew by all too quickly. After dousing sail in the south end of Marina del Rey harbor, we motored toward the boat's home basin with Carol Anne at the helm and me holding a dockline at the starboard shrouds. Coming into the slip, it looked to me as if the boat would be a little off-axis, so I was about to hop off the boat with the line to snub the line on a dock cleat.

That's when somehow I tripped, lost my footing on the toe rail, and fell.

Falling... and hit the pier with my right arm ... pain ...

into the water
time losing its meaning and slowing
opening my eyes underwater

checking out the underside of Alouette's bow
all looked okay,
but I didn't belong there,
popping up to the surface

splashing about
dockline still in hand

hat floating several feet in front of me
thought about swimming for it

decided not to

swum to the portside pier
flipped over onto the low floating pier while someone grabbed
... probably the broken arm
to help me over.

A strange combination of adrenaline and pain competed with dizzy nausea and wooziness.
So, I flopped down into a corner of the pier to lie down and rest.

Carol Anne had by then, with help, finished docking, after having sheered off initially to make sure she didn't run over me, getting a bit of a long scratch in the starboard side gelcoat that would later cost a few hundred bucks to make good.

When I got to my feet, one of the charter company's instructor/skippers was on his cell phone with the 911 emergency dispatcher. I tried to follow him and get a word in on the phone, but the instructor thought I was going to tell the dispatch not to send an ambulance. At this point, the instructor and Carol Anne were worried about hypothermia, and no one but me had an idea that my arm might be broken.

Eventually, I walked up the steep ramp at the base of the main pier up through the gate to the street, just before the ambulance and paramedics arrived to check me out. Carol Anne had to follow as best she could and find the hospital with sketchy directions, and then go through a lot of security before she was allowed to join me.

At the hospital, we learned that both of my right arm bones, the radius and ulna, had broken in several places near where they join at the wrist. The several hours at the hospital were a medley of pain and boredom, since the e.r. workers would give treatment as needed for a few minutes, then go on to tend to other patients, such as the bicyclist who broke his collar bone, the kid who got hurt at the birthday party, and the world's oldest cocaine addict. We also learned that my HMO would not pay for surgery in California, so all that could be done locally was to treat me for hypothermia, stabilize my pulse and other vitals, take x-rays, splint the broken arm, and dose me with pain killers. After a trip to a nearby late-night pharmacy, Carol Anne drove me to our suite.

On Tuesday, I was able to very slowly dress myself with one functioning hand and walk to a seafood restaurant near the Venice Beach boardwalk for a seafood lunch. That evening, I was able to drive to King Harbor for more seafood.

Wednesday we flew out of LAX after being very quickly waved through security after my splinted arm set off the metal detector.

Thursday I took my x-rays to the Lovelace orthopedic clinic (same location as the old Lovelace Clinic that briefly appears in the movie version of The Right Stuff), where the docs decided my right wrist was a job for a specialist. I then consulted with the orthopedic specialist hand surgeon, then was operated on that afternoon. Because of street repairs in our neighborhood, Carol Anne had to take a bus and didn't get to the hospital until I had gone into surgery. I was nauseous and feeling pretty bad upon discharge from the hospital that evening, so Carol Anne and I missed the Rio Grande Sailing Club fleet social that evening.

We did drive to Laguna Vista, near Heron Lake, the next day, and on Saturday morning we took the bus from Chama to Antonito and rode the Cumbres & Toltec scenic rr through the high mountain country of Colorado and New Mexico. Maintaining my balance in the swaying observation gondola while on pain killers was a bit of a feat. We also attended the Shroyer Center spaghetti dinner but didn't get in any sailing that weekend; this was the year when we had "Syzygy" at Navajo Lake due to the marina being closed at Heron.

Six weeks later, on July 8th, my cast came off and I began rehab. Eventually I would recover pretty close to complete strength and mobility, though it would take many months and the hand would still be a little stiff during cold mornings or after strenuous exercise.

A week after, on July 15, we drove to Needles, then on Friday, July 16, we drove to Marina del Rey and checked into the charter company offices and boarded Alouette again. That week we chartered Alouette again and sailed to Catalina, bringing Carol Anne's brother, Jerry, along with our family as an "extra hand". This cruise was relatively uneventful ... nothing more chancy than repairs to an alternator in Avalon Harbor, recovery of a padlock that went overboard at a dinghy dock, and surviving an infusion of "buffalo milk" at the Harbor Reef. A bit of stainless steel remains in my right wrist as a reminder.


At 3:43 PM, May 09, 2007, Blogger Zen said...

OMG Och!!


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