For most people, at least in this part of the country, winter is a time of unpleasant weather coupled with lower temperatures. For most people who live aboard full time as we do, this usually means a trip to warmer waters. We are among the few who don’t do that, for reasons I won’t go into, and we have become quite apt at dealing with nasty weather. We have a self-imposed rule that once our custom-made winter cover has been employed we can still get underway in less than an hour. There are many nice days in winter when a trip out on the sound is something to treasure.
This year is different. Shortly after Christmas, I was stepping from Patty O’, our 42 foot Huckins sedan cruiser, onto the dock when I slipped and fell in the snow and as a result suffered a compound fracture of my left femur, accompanied by a bad sprain to my right ankle.
I lay on the dock in severe pain. I had stupidly left my cell phone on the table in the saloon, so I wasn’t able to call for help. There was no one around and I lay there not able to attract anyone’s attention. I called out but to no avail and I slowly began to lose consciousness. I do not know how long I laid there before Ray, the yard foreman found me, but it was several hours. He called 911 and I was transported to the hospital and was admitted and listed in critical condition with a very low core temperature. The Blonde, my wife, was on a work related trip and Ray had no idea how to get in touch with her.
Once I awoke and became lucid which took the better part of a day, I called the Blonde and brought her up to date. She arrived the next morning. The hospital was ready to discharge me in a couple weeks, but with two legs out of commission, and one of them being a femur, there was no way I was going to be able to navigate the dock short of a wheelchair. And forget climbing into the cockpit. On the advice of the attending physician, The Blonde got me into a rehabilitation center.
My biggest question was of course how long I’d have to be there.
“If it was just the femur, you would be out of here in a couple weeks.” The Doc had a boat and knew what I was up against. “We’ll give the ankle some time, then wrap it up so tight you’ll be able to walk on it. As long as you don’t push it, you should be ok.”
So that’s what he did. The Blonde picked me up and with Ray on one side and her on the other and with the help of a set of crutches, I made my way down the dock to Patty O’. Once at the boat, Ray climbed aboard after placing the step he’d brought. His was much sturdier than ours on the dock. “Keep it as long as you need it.” He said. Stepping up on the stool, it was with not a little concern that I stepped over the rail into Patty O’s cockpit.
Once in the saloon I sat down with a strained look on my face.
“Ok Bubba,” she said. “I think you’re gonna be like this for a while.
It annoyed me a great deal that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help. And getting ready for bed was an effort that I’m not even going to try to explain.
I didn’t push it though, because I didn’t want to be stuck in this position any longer than I had to be.
The Blonde called my friend Ritchie McGill and clued him in on what was going on. He dropped in right after.
“What the hell were you thinking?” He roared. “You could have left us for good.”
There were a lot of things that were on the tip of my tongue to say, but I knew he was just showing his concern, so I bowed my head and looked contrite.
After a bit he apologized and explained that I had scared him when the Blonde had called and told him what happened. I expressed my thanks and told them both it was a good lesson to carry our phones with us all the time.
Seeing as I had lots of time to think, I sat in the saloon and started a list of things that needed doing on Patty O’.
Patty O’ is our home as well as our boat. She is made of wood, which raises a lot of eyebrows among many people. Truth be told, wooden boats do not require any more maintenance than boats built of any other material, once they are in good shape. It’s just If you let one go, it’ll let you know it, while fiberglass boats, left in the same condition will just LOOK like they are going to sink. When fiberglass boats first came out some wooden boat builders tried to compete and as a result cheapened the product. Subsequently, many wooden boats quickly fell apart and they got a bad rep. Patty O’ was built before this took place, and we are her third owner. The person we bought her from, well his estate anyway, took very good care of her. He died one fall before he had a chance to finish preparing her for winter so when we stopped to see her in the spring, she looked a mess. We knew she wasn’t really because we’d talked to him at great length in late summer the year before.
Because his widow knew nothing of boats, and had listened to the naysayers in the yard, she just wanted the boat gone, and didn’t want much money for it either.
It took the better part of a full time week to get Patty O’ ready to launch. Fortunately the previous owner had winterized the engines before he left us, and that was a big reason we took on the project.
Once secured at a yard that was close to our condo, she was hauled and we began bringing her up to date.
I had been “downsized” from my job as a software engineer due to a lack of work. The money was good, but I still felt that a man with no income (read job) shouldn’t own a luxury item like a boat. So we’d sold the one we had at that time.
The Blonde, my wife, works as an architect with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. So even without any steady income from me, we did ok.
It took almost a year to get Patty O’ ready to live on full time. There are a lot of things that need doing when you transition from weekend and vacation living to full time on a boat, but we did it all. Well most of it anyway.
It took the better part of a month of healing before I was able to move short distances by myself. I was careful not to push it; I wanted to heal as quickly as I could.
“I can see that you’re getting better.” The Blonde said, raising her glass.
“You betcha” I said smiling, and everything was on the way to being again well in the world.