Sailing in Maine: Two Wrongs - Two Rights It All Evens Out
Teaching Your Wife/Husband to Sail and Other Secrets of a Long Marriage

Lessons Learned Under Crisis

Two weeks ago, on July 3rd Stew (my captain, partner and husband) had a medical emergency. We ended up in the hospital late at night, miles from the boat. Stew was diagnosed with cellulitis -- a particularly nasty bacterial infection of the deepest layer of the skin. It had spread quickly (or as the doctor said, it was "aggressive") beginning with a small mark on his leg Friday morning. By late Friday night he had chills and his lower leg was bright red from ankle to knee and grossly swollen. 

We were out for dinner and a Jonathan Edwards concert in Ogunquit with Stew's sister, a retired nurse, who insisted that we go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. We did, and though treated with respect and great care, we were there for over 3 hours total. They diagnosed the problem and gave Stew an I/V of antibiotics and a prescription for more. In addition they gave him medication for the pain, which was considerable. 

Lesson Number One -- Major infections can occur anywhere and are not to be taken lightly. If we had not gone to the hospital that night, Stew could have become gravely ill, requiring a 2 week or more hospital stay. His leg looked like those photos I've seen when sailors have encountered nasty tropical bugs. I have a lot of research to do regarding the on-board medical kit for our future travels. 

So there we were in Biddeford which is 30 minutes of our home port in South Portland, and the boat was in Harpswell which is a 45 minute drive north of said home port. It was 2:30 AM and we certainly could have called friends or checked into a hotel to get some rest, but Stew insisted that he could get from the car to the dinghy and out to our boat on a mooring. I didn't think that was possible, but wanted to get near the boat as I would have to tend to both Stew and the boat over the next two days and wanted to be close to both. At 4:00 AM we checked into a hotel in Brunswick, where I got 4 hours sleep until it was time to give Stew his medication. I got him a muffin, filled his prescription, and left him to sleep with the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. 

Then I called the boatyard and asked the weekend receptionist not to give out Stew's mobile number to prospective boat buyers or boat sellers; and I asked the yard's owner to please get our boat off the mooring and into a slip where I could expect to get Stew aboard later that day. 

Lesson Number Two -- Ask for help. When in a "challenging situation" it is not only OK to ask friends for help, it is expected. I had a hard time with it at first until someone reminded me that if any of our friends had a similar challenge, Stew and I would be more than willing to assist in any way. 

 Once I got the hang of it -- I asked for a lot of help. The friend who traveled with us that night, cheerfully waited the three hours at the hospital and helped throughout the weekend. At the hotel, I asked to check in at 4:00 AM, in a first floor unit, stay until 4:PM and pay only for one day. They had space and graciously allowed us to do so. The boatyard had to move someone else to a mooring and move our boat into a slip. They did it without question. Late in the afternoon, I got Stew back to the boat and someone fed me dinner. (He still had no appetite.) Now, I had husband and boat together, but the boat and car were in Harpswell and I needed us all to be in Portland on Sunday evening. So I asked more people to help. 

I suggested to Stew that I call three sailors from our marina in South Port to see whether they would give up a day on their boats and come to Harspwell to help me take our boat home. I figured that Stew would stay below in our cabin and be there to help with advice. I have never captained this boat without Stew on board. I also asked Lynnelle, a dear friend from South Portland to drive those sailors to Harpswell so we didn't end up with still more cars to transport. Then I asked boating friends in Harpswell to drive our car to South Portland on their way home to Massachusetts. I asked for a lot of help. 

Then Lynnelle offered to take Stew back to her house for the day, leaving me to manage the boat with our friends.  I didn't think he'd go, but he said it was a good idea -- clearly he was even sicker than I thought. But it was also clear that he thought I was capable of getting our boat home safely. 

Lynnelle took Stew home, made a sick bed for him on her couch and got "guy movies" for him to watch. The sailors and I had lunch and we left the dock without a hitch. We had a beautiful day. The trip can take 3 to 5 hours depending on the conditions. We made it in 3 hours on a perfect sail. I navigated and ran the ship and the three experienced sailors were an excellent crew. They had even organized a landing party to help us into our very tight slip in South Portland. Our boating neighbors had been told about our situation and twelve people were on hand to help us dock!

Lesson Number Three -- I really am a sailor! I did not sail at all until I met Stew. The number of women only sailing courses available are an indication that it can be difficult to be a confident sailor when you sail almost exclusively with the husband who taught you. Stew did not feel well, but he also knew that I could bring the boat home and he had more confidence in my abilities than I did. Once we got moving, I was able to give concise instructions regarding our furling mainsail and other gear. I was told that I sounded relaxed and that the crew had fun on the water with me. More important -- I had fun on the water with me. I'd go with me again! 

 Stew is recuperating -- it has taken over two weeks and we have kept sailing. While he is still gimping around, he stays at the wheel and runs the boat and I do all the deck work. Once he is recovered, we will swap roles much more often and I will run the boat half the time. After all, I really am a sailor!


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