Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Day In The Life - Medical Care

Medical care while Cruising has been an ongoing discussion since we started thinking about Cruising.  No matter where we turn, the choices are not great.  Bruce, being of retirement age already, had to give up lots of extra benefits through his Medicare HMO and go back to Medicare proper so that he would have coverage outside of our home area.  By doing this, he lost vision care, dental care and prescription coverage.  He will still have coverage through Medicare for his physical needs, but his out of pocket expenses will be much higher than they were while he had access to HMO coverage at home.  He still won’t be covered when we leave the country, but that’s a story for another day…

Early morning and already the sun is beating down...
I had been quietly keeping an eye on a couple of spots that had begun to grow on Bruce’s left cheek.  He has spent a lifetime in direct sunlight with little thought given to sun protection in the early years.  He has already had one Squamous Cell Carcinoma removed from his forearm, so I’m nervous about his skin.  Luckily, he is too and usually covers up when we’re out and about.  

The aforementioned spot has increased in size to the point that I suggested a visit to the Dr. while we’re here in Marathon.  Bruce went to see Dr. Samess on April 1 and we got the good news that his spot was not cancerous, but he did suggest that, if we had time, Bruce should make an appointment with a local Dermatologist to have some of the many other spots on his arms and legs checked out, and possibly removed.

We felt lucky to be able to get in so quickly, as Dermatologists back home have a six month waiting period for a new patient appointment.  Things seem to be quite a bit more laid back here in the Keys… for which we are grateful.  

What used to be a simple process BC (Before Cruising) has become a bit more complicated.  We can’t just shower, jump into the car and drive right over to the Dr.’s office like before.  Getting there takes some planning!  Bruce made his call to the office for directions and confirmation of the address.  ( a good thing, since they had moved the office ).  I planned out our route on the iPad, and then we doubled the estimated time it would take us to get there, just to be sure…

We pumped up the dinghy and set off in the mid morning for a 10:15 appointment time.  Our bicycles were waiting on the shore for us and we hopped on and peddled away.  This trip would have us traveling further Northeast along the Key than we had been before.  The businesses along the way seemed to be a bit more upscale than the ones in our area, but still nothing like a big city.  

Shy Iguana
I kept a watchful eye out along the way for lizards.  What?  Yes, lizards.  We had seen an iguana on a prior trip (with no camera) and I was on the lookout.  I was not to be disappointed!  We stopped several times along the way to take pictures.  

Nudging Iguanas is a "Blue Job"
The only one that we got a really good look at, was unfortunately the victim of a meeting with an automobile… I thought he might be absent since he is the only one that didn’t raise his head and tail and scurry for cover.  Bruce crept up on him and gave him a confirmatory nudge… yep.  A goner!  

But we found several others that were all too much alive, and they refused to pose for a photo op once I parked the bike, dismounted and walked in their direction.  The smaller guys were a gorgeous and vivid green!  

Anyway… focus.  Off to the Dr.’s office.  Finally, just past the airport and the Pizza Hut (is it time to eat?  I LOVE Pizza Hut!) we found the office with half an hour to spare.  Good thing too, it gave us a bit of time for the sweat to dry on our bodies.  Bruce didn’t seem too concerned about it… 

The waiting room was small, and it wasn’t long before they called Bruce in.  I waited patiently in my seat for him to return, not knowing if this would be just a consultation or if they would freeze some of the offending spots off today.  He wasn’t in with the Dr. very long when suddenly, the door opened and he came back out.  

They had frozen off many spots from his face, hands, arms and legs.  Others, the Dr. said weren’t a problem.  She had given him some advice about avoiding the sun, the most surprising, a reminder that white t-shirts give very little protection from the damaging rays!  Too bad, because that’s the more comfortable color to wear when out in the sun for long periods of time!  

So, with the “thumbs up” from the Dr. we paid Bruce’s Medicare Deductible and were on our way.  The Dr. suggested maybe a six month follow up, which we will do for sure… and the reset button has been set on my worry meter.  The rest of our day was spent running a few errands on the way back to the boat, while I kept an eye on the increasingly angry spots on Bruce’s face and hands…  

While it wasn’t easy to make this happen, it was in no way difficult.  As we dinghied back to the boat, I asked Bruce how long he thought it might be before we tired of this lifestyle.. he just chuckled.  It’s kind of fun when even a simple trip to the Dr.’s office becomes sort of an adventure.

Blood Moon

Regular ol' moon
I’m sure there have been other eclipses of the moon during my lifetime, but I have no memory of witnessing one.  Maybe when I was a kid, when our family did this type of thing… But for sure, during my work life… no WAY was I going to give up valuable sleep time to sit out in the middle of the night staring up at the sky! 

With the stresses of the work-a-day world far behind me, there was no way I was going to MISS it this time!  The first of a Tetrad...  We set our alarm clock for 2 am, two alarms actually, just so we could be sure!  There was no excuse making when the alarms both began to clamber for us to get up!  I was hung-ho to climb out of bed and into the cockpit with my camera and binoculars!

First Glimpse of the Eclipse
The cats seemed confused by this unusual behavior, but any time we can hang out on deck in the night is a good time for the felines.  They joined us happily as we found our seats in deck chairs on the veranda.  

Bruce got into position before me and the eclipse had already begun.  There was a bite missing when I got settled.  I was so excited.  I kept going between iPad pics to post, my camera, which was a focusing disappointment, the naked eye, (fun with my double vision - I wasn’t wearing my glasses) and the stunning views through the binoculars.  

We sat there with the wind blowing gently in the cool damp night.  Wind generators whirring all around us… and watched the slow, slow, slow progression of the Earth sliding between the Sun and the Moon.  Mars and Spica were visible near the moon and other stars seemed to pop out as the brightness of the moon was dimmed. I wondered how it would be if we had been on an overnight passage and didn’t know there would be an eclipse.  Would we be freaked out?  How must it have been for people before the time when these events are forecast and widely publicized?  It’s hard not to wax philosophical in the face of such an extraordinary event.

Progressing slowly
I felt solidarity with the thousands of others who were sitting in all parts of the world looking up in a wave as the event unfolds…  Then I would drag my thoughts back to making my best effort to live this moment and document in my own mind, this vision that is so much better than my pictures could ever represent.  I want to have a solid memory of this to review later with closed eyes.

High Thin Clouds Scurried Across The Moon
My fears of cloud cover went unfounded as we had an almost unobstructed view of the whole thing.  There were thin high clouds moving swiftly across the moon at times that only added another layer of mystery to the event.  They cleared quickly and were only replaced by a thick cloud that blocked out the moon entirely for maybe less than a minute.  We were lucky as I later learned, much of the country had total cloud cover.  Our view out here in the Keys couldn’t have been better!

Once total eclipse was achieved, Bruce and Jezabelle bailed on me.  He went back to bed, followed by Jezzer.  Traitors!  How can we miss this?  Well, I guess I’m jaded…  seen it, done it… because the winds were making me start to shiver a little…  So, I shooed Jetsam back inside.  She is our night owl and was totally diggin’ this interlude…  I got her headed back downstairs, and she was snuggled up to Bruce purring loudly by the time I had the boat closed up and made it to my spot.  

This has been just one more awesome thing to throw onto our pile of awesome things since we started Cruising.  If you missed it, you will have three more chances to see it, October 8, April 4 2015 and September 20, 2015.  Hopefully I’ll be out here where the stars are bright for those as well!  Please enjoy some of my pics.  They are not as good as you’ll see, but they are home made!




Sunday, April 13, 2014

Almost Lost

Flat Waters Light Winds
My husband has lied to me.  He told me that when we left Corpus Christi, we would not see winds like those that blow in CC anywhere else we travel.  I had been counting on that!  But perhaps we’ve brought the winds with us to Florida… because it seems that ever since we reached the Keys, we’ve had a LOT of wind!  Just like home!

Fishing the Mangroves
But today we finally got a break.  The winds were light.  We worked all day yesterday changing oil in the engine and generator… and today… we will play!  There are mangroves lining Boot Key Harbor that look like the perfect place to go kayak fishing.  Bruce brought his fishing pole ( I have no license so I can’t fish) and we took off towards Boot Key to try our luck. 

When we checked into Marathon Marina, we were given a map of the wonderful kayak trails that wind their way through the actual Key named Boot which is just a few paddles away from our mooring ball.  I’m pretty sure it was intended to get us to RENT kayaks but we’ve got our own, and it has had woefully little use.  We packed lightly, fishing gear, one dry bag with the phone (so that we could find our way out should we become lost), drinking water and the map.  
If you're still, the fish come out.

We headed for Sister Creek with one or two fishing stops… caught no fish.  We did see some action but nothing was biting our lures… typical.  The water was a clear clean green so at least we could look down into the depths and SEE fish lurking in the shade along the water’s edge.

All Smiles!  This Totally Beats Working!
Eventually we gave up on fishing and concentrated on kayaking.  There were a few other kayakers and paddle boarders out on the water, but we really didn’t see much of them.  It was like having the place all to our selves to explore.  We started out on the really easy trail, wide open space with plenty of room.  Then we came to a crossroads and went left.  This took us to a more narrow pathway that narrowed even more as we progressed.

It was quite exhilarating to forge our way through the clutching mangroves like great explorers from another era… er, well maybe not… There were obvious orange painted branches indicating that we were on a designated path, not to mention the fact that someone had come before us and lopped off the branches that dared to be in the way…  but it seemed like exploring to us!

This doesn't look like a lake to me...
Especially when we realized that we were probably lost.  The lake that was supposed to be in this spot, was not… I got out the cell phone to see our position on Google Earth.  Oops… it thinks we’re at the Publix a few blocks away.  Guess the signal isn’t great here.  What was plan B?  We kept on paddling!

Still doesn't look like a lake to me...
We finally found that lake and enjoyed the quiet of the wide open secret space…  I wouldn’t have called it a lake.  It was about a foot deep but whatever.  We drifted quietly across the sea grass beds and I was able to take pictures of the sea creatures living there.  I think they're upside down jellyfish.  Very cool looking.

That little break in the trees is the trail entrance... I think.
We moved in the direction of where we had seen another kayaker disappear... somewhere into the mangroves…  Where IS that trail!!!?  A small opening in the mangroves suddenly presented itself.  We knew this was the trail because it was the ONLY opening in the mangroves, and because there was a current pouring out of it into our lake.  This MUST be it!

Might as well fold 'em in.  Paddles useless!
We entered the dark mangrove canopy into another world.  There were calling birds and silence.  The mangroves grew in a close jumble and the pathway was so narrow we couldn’t use the paddles.

Handing our way along the trail
No worries, we easily moved ourselves along by grabbing and pushing off of the limbs.

A "Limbo Limb"
We even had to duck under a few limbs… a real “LIMBo”.  Ha.  Aw, c’mon… it’s funny!

Low Tech Map
At one point, I think Bruce was thinking we would never get out.  He insisted that I get the map back out and see if the compass on the iPhone worked.

The "Gauge"
It did… and we realized as we passed a “gauge” that was on the map, we were not on the trail we thought we were on… again.  But, we were able to devise a plan of escape and confirm the direction we were traveling.  

The light at the end of the tunnel

I guess we weren’t as lost as we thought, because it seemed like only minutes until we were back on a trail we had previously seen.  Funny, I would have thought it all looked alike.  But no, we recognized where we were and started paddling like mad until we were out into Sister Creek and headed towards home and freedom… and lunch!

Home and Freedom!
I think the day would have been less fun had we not had that little bit of “out-of-our-comfort-zone”.  It made it less tame, more exciting.  I won’t admit to being lost… but I can highly recommend being almost lost!

Bruce about to strip down to his skivvies!