Friday, April 8, 2011
Dress Rehearsal and Anxiety
The waiting has been a little anti-climactic, to say the least. I thought if we left the dock yesterday just for a day outing, it could build some of the excitement back up. I can't say that it has. You see, the waiting has only created a bit more anxiety in me. I've had a lot more time to think about the what if's: What if I didn't bring enough produce? Or worse yet, what if our refrigeration breaks down? What if we don't have the right spare parts and some key system like the autopilot or the watermaker or the generator or the motors break down? What if we don't have the right meds? Forget the meds: What if something happens to us along the way? So while I should be enjoying this time, I find I'm a bit on edge. And I really want to be feeling that elation of Kate Winslett in the Titantic as she hung out at the front of the ship with the wind blowing in her hair - with a better ending of course. I'm not usually like this, and it's disturbing me. Here we are embarking on a trip of a lifetime and my mind is too cluttered to enjoy it. This makes me even more unhappy.
As I mentioned, we left the dock yesterday with all four of us on board as required to check out with the harbor master in Nuevo Vallarta. All went smoothly and quickly. On our return, while out on the water, we took advantage of a gorgeous afternoon of sailing. We took the opportunity to check the sails and rigging, which we'll have to do daily en route. We turned on our generator, our water maker, and even our air conditioning (which we've only used twice). All seems to be operating well. We practiced hand steering (in case our autopilot goes), and 'heaving to' (when you allow the jib to back into the wind, let the boom go, and you come very close to a halt - this maneuver is used in rough weather conditions when you need to take a break). And we also practiced our Man Overboard drills, using a fender instead of a man (or woman or child). As soon as Michael demonstrated a Man Overboard rescue, the wind died, so I had the luxury of practicing mine under motor. Still not easy, but we'll have to practice again with more wind as we set out for real. Let's hope we're in warmer waters if I'm ever the one to have to make the rescue, as the victim will likely have to wait for a while. I'll get to him, but it will likely take me a few tries.
The very mention of Man Overboard drills stops many in their tracks. It really shouldn't. It's sort of like making a will for when you die - you need to address it even though it's uncomfortable. There is one BIG difference, however. You know you're going to die eventually so you'll surely need a will, while we hope never to have to use a Man Overboard drill. Why do the drill? I think it's important to know what's necessary in a situation when something goes wrong, especially because when something goes wrong, it's not generally a good time to start leafing through the manuals to figure out how things work. It's also not enough to think it through, but rather it's important to play it through.
We have also addressed our Emergency Procedures the same way. We talked about fire, and went through the motions of operating a fire extinguisher. We practiced calling out Mayday calls, what buttons to press and which channels to use. We reviewed how the EPIRB (emergency location beacon) turns on and situations that would require us to abandon ship. We have also reviewed the contents of our 'ditch bag', also known as the Abandon Ship Bag, how and when to use flares, and how to turn on and dial the satellite phone. We also reviewed each of our roles if in fact we'd need to abandon ship. And most people know that they need to get into their liferafts if they must abandon ship, but how many people actually know how to deploy the raft itself? We watched several videos of how this is done (for example, we watched this video as well as this video). Because of its cost and complexity, deploying and repacking your own liferaft is rarely if ever done unless someone is having their liferaft recertified (there's an expiry date) - and even then it's usually done at a manufacturer's facility behind closed doors. We are all familiar, however, with what is needed to get our liferaft out of its stowage crate, and how to get it inflated.
We know that many have great safety equipment on board but don't know how to use it. We also know that many cruisers never go through these exercises for reviewing emergency procedures or Man Overboard drills. For me it's been a crucial step in becoming a comfortable cruiser. Knowledge is power. Knowing how and what to do makes all of us a lot less anxious about the what ifs. And hopefully being prepared means we'll never need to use any of it. In fact the statistics are on our side: the likelihood of ever having to use any of it is very low.
I can't say my cold feet and anxiety have subsided completely, but with the drills, I am feeling a bit better. Danielle actually said that it would be terribly embarrassing if we backed out now. Her honesty cracks me up but pulls me back to earth. That's not why we're continuing on, emotionally plugging away to make this happen. Her comment actually reminds us of why we're doing it. We're heading out on an even greater adventure and excitement than setting out in the first place when coming to Mexico (and that was pretty huge). We're taking advantage of more time with our kids and each other. We're challenging ourselves beyond our comfort zones and showing our kids and ourselves that anything's possible if you really want it. We're challenging the boundaries of self-sufficiency. We're doing something different. We're going to get to see a pristine and fascinating part of the world that one is not likely to see in their lifetimes, and certainly not without a boat coming from very far distances. We'll be expanding our minds with what we see, something that is so fulfilling to me. A sense of accomplishment and confidence building is a huge component. We are taking advantage of the time we have to do this.
I'm feeling slightly better already.
-Barb (guess where I am???)
P.S. As a humorous aside: The country check-out procedures with the harbor master are followed by a boat walk-through with an immigration official. Apparently the immigration official is searching for stowaways. Confused? So are we - especially since we aren't leaving for another couple of days (we hope it's no more), which would give any potential stowaway plenty of time to climb aboard. But this is one of those Mexico-isms, otherwise known as TIM (This Is Mexico), when things don't make any sense at all, but as visitors we just accept them and chuckle -sometimes I wonder if there's something that I'm missing, not them.