Friday, June 7, 2019

Midnight Blues

It's midnight.  My eyes pop open and I drag my consciousness out of a bad dream, only to realize that it wasn't a dream!  It was my mind trying to bring order to the chaos that is my life right now.

I've never dealt well with chaos.  I need order.  I need control.  I need to call the shots and have all of the players fall into line! I thought that my years spent cruising with no real control over my life had taught me to handle it... but I find that it was just masking the symptoms.

So, what's all the fuss about?  What is keeping me up at night with a racing mind and sweaty palms????  You thought my life was a series of new-home-wonder and beach walks.  And yes, it was... but there was also an underlying anxiety that I've been holding back, and it was finally time to deal with it.

Back in Grenada we had an extensive amount of work done on our boat.  Much of it was cosmetic and routine maintenance, while some was prophylactic efforts in preparation for spending some time in the Western Caribbean.  We thought we were in good shape when our boat finally splashed and we had the survey, new rigging and a brand new bimini and enclosure built.  But while we sat in Grenada waiting for the next chapter of our lives to begin, I noticed that the new bottom paint we had put on was beginning to rub off.

The waterline showed white patches where the blue paint had disappeared entirely!  This is not normal!  Weeks went by and I did some digging... and I found that there was a growing number of other boaters who are experiencing the exact same thing!  So, I initiated a warranty claim on the Seahawk website.

Things moved slowly with the claim, but meanwhile, our lives continued on. We left Grenada and began our new life here in Puerto Rico.  The boat bottom problem was pushed to the back burner while we got settled in, but finally it was time to deal with it.  I got in touch with our Seahawk rep, Denis, and got the ball rolling again.  After many starts and stops, we finally settled on a plan to haul the boat at the Ponce Yacht Club facility.  Through friends, I found Jochi, the guy in charge of the crew that would do the prepping and painting, and manage the haulout.

Because I'm writing this after-the-fact... I am able to disassociate myself from the extreme anxiety I had over all of the minutia involved in getting this from beginning-to-end... but let me just say that coordinating all of this with multiple people involved, was like writing a sad comedy with me as the butt of every joke.  I've been mired in the dark place where my mind goes when things are not going right!  Yeah... poor me!  People are starving in Africa and all I can do is whine about my stupid problems!

But wait!  It gets better!  Factor in the fact that on the Friday before we were scheduled to take the boat to Ponce... we were in an automobile accident!  Yes!  And the Lexus was totalled!

So now my Midnight-Mind-Melt has a NEW drama to analyze!  And believe me... during these past few weeks since the accident, I've gone over it and over it.

These tires are FOUR DAYS OLD!
All I can say, is that it was a comedy of errors in which both drivers could have done things differently and the accident would have been avoided.  Thankfully, the Puerto Rico Factor kicked in, and no citations were issued, so we were spared THAT complication.  But that does nothing for my already overloaded "plate" and so I was plunged even deeper into orchestrating the hundreds of points that must now be considered, with no additional hours in a day... the mind must work even harder at night!

For a brief moment, I considered postponing the bottom job until the accident issues were solved.  But I was not inclined to table it and have to begin the whole process again... not to mention how it would inconvenience all of the other people involved... No.  We would just wade right in and get it done.

The already overwhelming anxiety over moving the boat after so many months living on land, with Bruce's shoulder still not up to par, and no way to anticipate the weather on moving day... was now compounded with navigating the process of making an insurance claim in a Spanish speaking country!

Don't get me wrong... I realize that I have chosen this life and learning Spanish is something I welcome.  But that doesn't keep it from sometimes seeming an insurmountable obstacle in my way that adds a whole extra layer of difficulty to EVERY task!  I get frustrated with myself and with the fact that I'm whining instead of tackling this in my usual, no-nonsense-fashion.  But dang!  Can't I catch a break???  So with all of the other stuff my mind has to deal with, add on the feelings of guilt over not handling it well... and the self-pity that I am failing to rock this... and I'm just a miserable pile of woe during these midnight hours... and it's threatening to creep into my waking daylight hours as well!

THANK ALL THE POWERS THAT BE... for our friends!

Immediately after the accident happened, I called the only person I knew who could help us through this.  Glenn.  He speaks Spanish and is retired, and he and Ruth jumped into their vehicle and came right over to help us navigate the process with the police and the wrecker service and the insurance company.  When the car was on it's way to the tow yard, and the rental car was arranged through our insurance, Ruth and Glenn set aside their own plans for the day, and drove us to the other side of the island to pick up the rental car.  Without their help I don't know how we would have managed.

Not only did they help us initially, but there were several times throughout the process in which Glenn has been instrumental in saving my sanity.  Honestly it felt so good to be able to lean on someone, I might have leaned a little too heavily.  Maybe I took advantage of his generosity a little, but in the end, I realized that these were MY problems and not his.  I had to pick up my big-girl-panties from where they had puddled around my ankles, and walk on my own.  I couldn't let myself be hobbled by the seemingly monumental and growing number of obstacles standing between me... and the life of sunshine and beaches that I WISH I was enjoying right now.  (Sorry, can't help but wallow in my drama, give this to me!!!)

Patrick took the wheel!
So... with one day to get over the accident... I go back to the boat bottom.  Have I mentioned how thankful I am for friends???  Oh yeah I have!  Huge thanks to Patrick and Glenn both for agreeing to join us in taking the boat to Ponce.  And another shout out to Ruth, who drove to Ponce to pick us up in the afternoon. (AND again, took us there in the early morning when it was time to return) The weather gods smiled down on me that day.  We had some scattered showers, but light winds and it was an easy motor from Patillas to Ponce.  It took most of the day, and even with an early start, it was too late to haul the boat when we arrived in Ponce.

Anchor UP - first time since January!
Things went well and I began to relax and enjoy the ride!
Rainbows always help!

Boca de Infierno 
Watching everything as we entered through the reef!
I had to keep reminding myself that even though we had help, and Patrick is a more capable seaman than we are... it was still all really on us.  Our boat... I call the shots, we suffer the consequences if a mistake is made.  There was a bit more roll than I had hoped in the sea state, and I was not completely sure we would be able to enter the protected areas behind the reef for some flat water.  The Boca de Infierno (mouth of hell) can be nasty and it is not recommended to navigate it with any sort of questionable sea state.  We've been through it before, so it's not unknown to us, but still...

Again today, the weather gods are smiling.  The entrance was easy and uneventful and while we navigated the flat waters inside the reef, we had a lovely lunch.

All of the nasty weather was OUT THERE!
Glenn enjoying his first sailboat experience!
Well as it turned out, the crew didn't have very much to do.  The winds were directly behind us and there was no sense in putting out sail.  We just enjoyed the boat ride and the company.
Glenn is thinking of buying a sailboat and this was his first experience aboard.  I've gotta say... he has a great pair of sea legs!  He was able to handle rolly seas, down below for an extended period and never felt seasick.  He's going to make a great captain!

Coming in to Bahia de Ponce

So what was all the fuss about?  I ask myself that same question.  I ask myself why, after living on this boat for six years and after navigating all of this way with just Bruce and myself... WHY was I so apprehensive about moving this boat?  I can not tell you.  It's like, after moving ashore, I have lost all of my confidence.  I've said before, that it is as if I feel that we weren't really qualified to do all we've done, but by the grace of good karma, we skated... and now I worry that the other shoe will fall. Psycho, I know!

After a flawless (but super easy) docking, we tied the boat and got her checked in.  We would leave her there for the crew to move her when they were ready to begin the haulout, then we would return.  The Seahawk guy began to make drama at this point.  He had to go through his process, none of which was shared with me... but eventually, after several days of nothing, it was finally time to haul the boat.

Meanwhile, with the car saga...the insurance company went on holiday for Memorial day weekend and nothing was done.  We had the rental car, but no idea when we would get an update on how the car thing was going.  Would they total it?  Would it be fixable?  Outside of my control and thus, anxiety producing!

Finally, all of the players in this little tableau were on the same page, and the haulout began.  Bruce and I drove over to Ponce to see the boat come out of the water and sign for the paint.  Seahawk provided five gallons of paint to replace the failed gallons, AND they paid for all of the docking (after some persuasive dialogue), haulout, yard time and the prep and re-paint.  For this we are TRULY THANKFUL to Seahawk.  In the end.. they made this right so I've got to let go of all the crap that went on before this point.

Should I worry that a guy is up there changing out a cable immediately prior to lifting our boat???
When we arrived, the crew was at lunch.  When they got back to work, we noticed that the boat sat waiting in the lift bay while a guy worked furiously on the cabling that works the lift.  WHAT???  Welcome Anxiety, my old friend!

When I'm stressed, I tend to make jokes and giggle a lot.  But in the end, the boat was lifted and brought to her spot for her spa day!

Our first glimpse of the extent of it.

The squares are where the pads were.  No paint at all left there!

We found some blisters in the epoxy on the lead keel.  Probably painted before dry.. Will have to redo that!

It's always stressful for boat owners when their baby is brought out of her natural environment.  We were appalled at the extent that the paint has failed, but it's all going to be alright in the end.  AND we will leave here with a renewed paint job, thus extending the time between the last one, and the next one!

There was a little bobble... We found some blisters in the paint on the lead keel.  Jochie said that this was not structural, but probably happened because they had not allowed enough drying time when they put the epoxy barrier on the lead keel and painted over it.  He could fix all of that and we even went ahead had the hull-sides buffed and waxed while it was out of the water.  Might as well... It's ONLY MONEY!

We almost missed the splash!  She was already in the slings and on her way to the loading bay when we got there, so no extensive photos... But she looks GOOD!

Shiny hull!
There are no photos of our trip back to Patillas.  We once again had light winds... well mostly.  There were widely scattered storm cells drifting across the island.  We could see them and knew we would get some rain, but that's OK.

I was thrilled to feel the "life" flow through me once again after so many days of near-depression.  This was finally something I could tick off of my long-time list.  And I was proud to know that I've still got it!  We had some adversity in that we began to feel the RPMs on the engine fluctuate.  OH NO!  I sent Bruce down to switch to the alternate fuel filter, thinking that maybe it could be fuel-tank-gunk being swished around in the rolly seas.  Unfortunately that didn't fix it at all and it happened again almost immediately after the switch.

There was water coming out of the exhaust, so there wasn't something clogging the cooling system... Maybe it's something - seaweed - wrapped on the prop.  I felt my problem-solving skills awaken as I searched my mind for a plan.  We were upwind of a nearby reef and were operating on engine power only.  I got Bruce and Glenn (who came back with us for the return trip) to get busy quickly raising a double-reefed mainsail.  We had winds in the low to mid 20s with gusts from the nearby storm cells, so reefing was best.  Once we got a sail up, I could fall off and let the wind take us away from the reef.

When we were far enough away and had the sail pulling effectively, I slowed the engine and put it into neutral.  Then I switched it briefly to reverse, and back to neutral and forward gear again.  I knew immediately that we had thrown something off of our prop.  The boat began to resume her normal motion and our speed responded accordingly.

The rest of our trip was pleasant indeed.  The boat has such an easy motion and even with the passing storm cells, we rode in luxurious comfort.  And I have to say that being able to diagnose and fix our little problem did a lot for my mental state.  I really do love the life on the sea and keep thinking that we will miss it now that we're land-lubbers.

Rain for days has the island BLOOMING!
But Island life has a lot to love as well... especially here in Puerto Rico.

With a little bit of relief now that the boat bottom saga is done and she rests once again securely at anchor in our bay... I'm trying to get my mojo back.

During all of this time we've spent coordinating, much of our day has been wasted in waiting by the phone.  Literally.  So many balls in the air has kept me from the smallest enjoyment of our paradise.  But it wasn't only that.  I really didn't want to bring my dark mental state out to mar the perfection of our happy place.  So finally, after days and days, even with the week of rain we've been having... we ventured out to the beach.

Low lying clouds nestled in the mountains

Gloomy but dramatically beautiful as well.

Just having one thing off of my plate has made a dramatic difference in my attitude.  Calm is returning where I've been in a nervous frenzy for weeks. The weather is mirroring my inner thoughts which, while not yet sunny, are at least more still.

We still have a huge hurdle to jump with resolving the accident.  The stresses of buying another used car in a place where Spanish is mostly spoken, are daunting to say the least.  Once we got word that the car WAS being totalled, the process of finding a car could begin. While Glenn offered to lend a hand with translating for us, he's got his own life to live, and I can't ask him to give up his days to run all over the island trying to find a decent, affordable car.

I just have to get over my BS and, with the help of Google Translate and my Excel spreadsheet skills... I was able to bring all of the marbles into a manageable stack.  I searched the Facebook Marketplace and Clasificados online for vehicles.  I renewed our subscription to Consumer reports and began to methodically pick out a vehicle that was dependable.  We loved the Lexus we had, but having to work with the dealerships in San Juan or Ponce for service was a deal breaker for us.  We won't own another Lexus for that reason.

This time we are going strictly for reliability.  We narrowed it down to the Honda CR-V and the Toyota Highlander, with a brief consideration of the Prius and the Kia, Soul... we sat in all of these and ruled out all but the CR-V.  Then I began to search in earnest for one that was in good condition, low mileage, later year and affordable. (I'm not asking for much!!)  My spreadsheet made the choice clear, and after four days driving into the bigger towns on the north side of the island, we finally found the perfect choice.

We looked at several in the 2006-2009 range, but weren't wowed.  I was beginning to approach a downward spiral in which the only way out would be to spend MORE money than our budget could accommodate, when we saw this one!

It showed up on Clasificados Online the morning of our fourth day out looking.  I made the appointment for the afternoon when we were finished seeing another vehicle... we still had two to see on Monday. But we cancelled those appointments once we got a look at this one.

There was no way they would be better.  This 2008 Honda CR-V LX AWD with 77,000 miles and one owner... this was the One.  It is immaculate.  The people selling it are SUPER sweet and we quickly had a deal for the exact amount our budget allowed.

We made plans for the sellers to bring the car to us where we could go to the much less busy CESCO here in neighbouring Guayama to do the transfer of ownership, so we didn't even have to drive back to busy Bayamon to get the car. By 10:00 on Monday, the deal was done and we had our new car.

I can't tell you how the weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.  While we still have not finalized things with the insurance company, we at least have our own car to drive while we await that final meeting where we will hand over the title to the insurance people.  All of the paperwork is done and we're just waiting.

And while we're waiting, we return to our regularly scheduled life of New-home-joy and Beach Walks...

It's become very hot all of a sudden here in Puerto Rico... a dip in the Caribbean Sea is advised.

I saw a flip flop washed up on shore... then a short distance away, I found the OTHER one!

Hopefully soon, the insurance will make their offer, and it will be decent...  And we can get back to enjoying our wonderful good fortune.  I guess it is nature's way of keeping us in check.  How much awesomeness does any one person deserve anyway?

Our orchids are in bloom!

Thanks to a Facebook follower for the name!  Pigeon Orchids!

Looking back over these weeks, I wonder what all the fuss was about.  I can be my own worst enemy and I do this to myself... I stress over things and get crazed.  In the end, everything works out.  I've just got to remind myself to take one hurdle at a time, manage what I can and learn to let the rest go.

Puerto Ricans have mastered this and I hope that the longer I live here, the more I will learn to trust their methods.  But for now, I'm back to sleeping through the night and the only midnight blues I have to contend with... are from our new member of the family... Meet Medianoche Azul!

Welcome to the family ~ Midnight Blue ~


  1. Wow. I'm all stressed out just reading this! :D
    Get some sleep.

    1. Seemed like a lot more going on when I was in the thick of it... But I'm sleeping very well again, thank you!

  2. Sounds like a stressful time! A car accident and boat haul-out is a lot to deal with at once.. especially in Puerto Rico! Time to enjoy your beach again!

    1. LOL It doesn't sound like so much when you put it that way! But yes, it IS time to go enjoy the beach!