Ch 15 - Winter in Paradise

Let's pick up in George Town, Bahamas...

December 29, 1997
"Got cleaned up (after diving for lobsters) and went into town so Cap could shoot pool and watch football. Came home in the dark and stayed up later than we had in ages. We laughed at my question back in Eugene, "Should I bring the black bag or the brown?"  What was I thinking?! It was nice to be with people more our age, since we seem to be the youngest ones around.
"Czar took a dive getting back on the boat:  front paws on the swim platform, back paws on the dinghy, dinghy started drifting but he never moved until splash! Cap had to drag him aboard, and Czar was quite put out for the rest of the evening."
Finally, I was beginning to relax and enjoy myself, even if Czar wasn't, and the longer we stayed in George Town, the better I felt.  I still avoided the cliques and remained on board much more than Cap, but we'd begun to meet other newbie-cruisers, and life on Ruff Life was becoming normal.  Cap kept working on new and recurring problems, but as long as we weren't moving I wasn't overly concerned.

January 5, 1998
"I wonder when it sank in that when the bedding feels damp that it's not a permanent thing.  A day of sunshine with a nice breeze and all is dry again, so it's not a hopeless cause; just a bit uncomfortable.  The same holds true for everything else, it seems."
Our biggest dilemma, after our lack of nautical charts, was power consumption, and the main culprit was the refrigerator/freezer.  It consumed a ridiculous amount of juice and was a constant drain on our already-tired batteries.  The generator was as old as the boat and it kept shutting down, causing Cap considerable time and frustration down in the engine compartment. I still suffered mood swings and Cap suffered me, but all in all we were glad we came. 
"We met a couple with a chocolate lab who needs babysitting for 5 days and we offered to watch her.  What's one more big dog?"
Our new friends, who I'll call Marcy and Bart, hailed from Connecticut, and for five years following his retirement Bart carefully planned and prepared for an prolonged cruise on their trawler.  Never wavering from his goal, Bart diligently worked on each year's extensive list of improvements he deemed crucial for such an undertaking, Marcy told me; but she hadn't taken him seriously until he asked if she'd put in for her sabbatical.  Their goal was the Virgin Islands, where stateside family members would be gathering for a tropical reunion; and after that, Venezuela, like us.

They made it as far as Mayaguana, about 200 miles south of George Town, but when they tried to cross to the Turks and Caicos Islands they had a horrific time; rough enough for them to turn back to George Town, then Connecticut.  They were marking time until they would fly down to their reunion, necessitating the dog-sitting.

Hearing their story was not unusual in itself, proof we weren't the only ones who had calamities; but it was sad to imagine their disappointment after all that time and preparation.  Bart certainly handled his with aplomb, while I  believe Marcy was secretly relieved.

January 13
"I've been in a great mood lately.  Cap is amazed; pleasantly surprised; and I see how much less energy it takes to be in a good mood.  This morning he asked if it's been tough and I said, Yes, smiling and laughing and having fun has been a real struggle!"
One day while I was painting Cap came to me for a serious talk.
"OK, Andrea, we've been here a month.  Time to make a decision:  turn back to Florida or head for Venezuela."
So much for my fragile, positive attitude.  When we first arrived in George Town, Cap said we could stay for as long as I needed to mentally recover from our trip thus-far; and despite my gripes about cliques and soggy linens, I'd gotten used to the place.  Over time I was lulled into believing we'd never be leaving the tiny enclave with its overpriced market, increasingly crowded anchorages, even Cap's hangouts.  We were all in our own little world, so why move?
"Keep going,"  I heard myself declare with an air of bravado which surprised even me, but a no guts, no glory attitude is one thing in which I can claim consistency.
January 16
"It's Friday night, Cap's in town shooting pool, and I have 2 dates:  Peg and Czar, now crashed.  I'm listening to Carmen, having just finished reading Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebli. I find more and more I'm looking forward to moving - don't know if it's wanderlust or just sick of organized activities and a run downtown now and then.  Maybe both.  Cap's doesn't mind as much, but wants to go, too."
January 19
"Quit smoking last night, and both of us are edgy.  Cap went diving with Jay on Sea Spirit and I defrosted the fridge.  Have pretty much decided to try and leave GT within the next 'fortnight' - one week to fix things up, then wait for our weather window. Mike on Dragonfly invited himself along on the way south, if he finishes his own projects.  We'll see how it goes.  Nice man who's desperate for company. First time we met I said something about watching a movie and he's mentioned it every time he sees us, so tonight we'll take our medicine and all go to town after for a night of it."
We did watch The African Queen, and then ran into pals Kim and John from Redhead during Rake-n-Scrape at Eddie Edgewater's.  This weekly get-together for locals and cruisers featured the uniquely Bahamian style of music utilizing a drum, accordion and saw.  It was held under a large tent with long picnic tables lined end to end.  Food was available (nothing was served) but most everyone just went to drink, socialize and listen to the music.
Bell's Palsy:  a temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves.
After our friends left Cap and I sat talking about our upcoming departure until Cap's, "Uh-oh."   I sat open-mouthed as he held his face, moaned in dread and explained to me Bells Palsy, an affliction which had struck him once before when he was young.  "I can tell the same thing's happening,"  and sure enough, the right side of his face became paralyzed before my eyes.  Here, from the Mayo Clinic, is a list of symptoms:
Rapid onset of mild weakness to total paralysis on one side of your face — occurring within hours to days
Facial droop and difficulty making facial expressions, such as closing your eye or smiling
Pain around the jaw or in or behind your ear on the affected side
Increased sensitivity to sound on the affected side
A decrease in your ability to taste

January 22
"Cap had gone deep (35-feet) free diving with Jay, and he got pressure-induced Bell's Palsy, so parts of his face are temporarily immobile.  We went to "Dr. Fred" on Psi Star, who agreed for the most part it was Bell's, but to be 100% certain Cap should see a neurologist.  He decided to 'wait and see' several days rather than take a trip to Nassau or Florida right now.  He's been pretty cranky because it's frustrating, but today he seems to be better."
How matter-of-factly I wrote those words.  Cap's first experience with Bell's Palsy had been under different circumstances (sports-related, if I recall) but it's not uncommon to get Bell's Palsy again if you've already had it once. Dr. Fred's office was a huge catamaran, and as he discussed options with Cap I tried not to go into shock again; terrified at the prospect of managing Ruff Life alone when I couldn't even drive the dinghy; and what if he never came back?

Of course Cap's health was paramount, but we hadn't a clue how we could pay for treatment without any health insurance.  Cap's Mother, most likely, who was left with a sizable sum following the death of her latest husband.

After several days of excruciatingly painful moments, dealing with symptoms already mentioned and coming to grips with the visage in the mirror, Cap returned to volleyball.  I went along for unneeded morale support.  Frank and Licole took one look at him and shouted,
"What happened to you?"
"Oh, nothing, just a mild stroke.  Let's play ball!"
Cap was cocky in part to mask his fear, but when we were alone and his guard was down, I offered encouragement, prayer, and TLC as best I could.  To his credit, Cap wasn't long to sit in self-pity.

January 24
"Cap played the Village Idiot yesterday.  Tom said someone on the net was getting rid of batteries, so Cap called Night Wind, went over and picked up 2 Trojans for $10 apiece.  The man wouldn't look at Cap (who went alone), and when Cap made the offer the man hesitantly said, OK, even though he had a couple more people going to look at them."
Cap described to me the encounter:  he was unintentionally drooling because of the Palsy and couldn't close one eye, and played on the seller's sympathy.

"I really, really need those batteries," he slurped to the man, who kept his eyes averted. Cap, shameless, all but claimed for my dialysis, and I simultaneously scolded and laughed my ass off.
"Yesterday Marcy and Bart returned, taking Peg off our hands. Nice to be back to just one dog, and we got 4 bags of mini Snickers and a People magazine.  Czar's glad she's gone."
As an unexpected thank you for watching Peg, Bart and Marcy gave us all their charts heading south, worth a King's ransom. What a relief that we'd be able to travel on our own in the future, at whatever pace we wanted.  I was excited and so was Cap, but you couldn't tell unless you sat on his left side.

Coming soon:  Back at Sea

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To read from Chapter 1:  A Rough Start

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