10. The Fickle Finger of Fate

Greetings from, well, Florida.  Still.  Since our last post, I seem to have delayed our trip in a way that is both embarrassing and literally difficult to type.  No worries.  Everybody’s fine.  Let’s back up a bit before I get to the gory details.

When we last checked in, Delancey was safely on a mooring in Stuart, Florida and we were visiting Deb’s parents Maggie and Dick in their new place nearby.  In addition to visiting the folks, we were waiting to receive our rebuilt windlass and planned to stay at least a week.  We used the time to repair and restock, while exploring the Treasure Coast of Florida.

Being northeasterners, the Florida holiday season was a novel experience.  I’m reminded of the long-running Christmas television ad for Corona beer, in which a whistled “Oh Tanenbaum” is heard coming from a shack shaded by a lone lofty palm tree on a twilight beach.  The singing pauses, there’s a click, and the palm tree glows with Christmas lights.  I can think of countless brutal winters back in New York, seeing that ad and thinking, “Yes.  That’s where I want to be right now.”  In practice, it was amusing to see traditional Christmas decorations (with origins in Germany and Northern Europe) applied to a tropical context. 

Just as the initial rush of daily showers and cable TV began to fade, we were super excited to be visited by our very good friends Yvonne and Onat, who drove (drove!) down from New Jersey to hang out with us for a long weekend.  We immediately pressed them into service helping us with boat projects.  While Deb and Yvonne replaced broken hatch screens, Onat and I tackled installation of our rebuilt windlass.  With two people, the work was a breeze and we had it operating perfectly in an hour or so.  It was time for a celebratory beer.

Except not yet.  There was just one more thing I wanted to check.  I thought I heard a rubbing noise between the gypsy (the gnarly-looking rotating gear around which the anchor chain is pulled) and the stripper (the fixed metal casting that pushes the chain off the gypsy and feeds it into the locker).  I thought I’d just touch the stripper to see if it was vibrating when I felt a sharp tug, quick but insistent, at my left fingers, then saw the blood and exposed bone.  My first thought was, “Damn Pete.  That was really stupid and avoidable.”  My first words were, “We have to get to a hospital right away.”

All hands sprang into action.  Deb broke out the first aid kit and dressed my fingers.  Onat jumped into the dink and started the motor.  Eve corralled the boat into a state where we could leave it for a bit.  While all this was going on I was lying on my back on the stern coachroof, a little dazed with shock, left hand elevated.  At one point I asked Deb to run up to the bow and baggie any bits of me she found there.  Within 15 minutes we were in the emergency room of Martin County Memorial Hospital, not a half a mile away.

At the hospital, two excellent guys, a fire-fighting nurse and physicians’ assistant, tended to my injuries.  Yvonne kept an eye on me while Deb and Onat went back to button up the hastily-abandoned boat.  My index finger had been deeply gashed, but the bone and nail looked okay.  My middle finger, however, lost some bone at the tip.  The hospital guys complimented Deb on her dressing and body-part preservation techniques and sewed back on my errant fingertip.  They explained that damage to bones increases the risk of infection and directed me to a specialist for follow-up and monitoring.  It’s been about two weeks now since my idiocy.  I’m fine.  The stiches are out.  The graft didn’t take, so it’s just a big scab with new skin is slowly growing under it.  My left middle finger is about an 1/8” shorter than before.  The jury is still out as to whether I’ll regrow a fingernail or get feeling in the tip.  You won’t be seeing pictures of me playing guitar for quite a while.

[In the interest of preserving delicate sensibilities, I won’t post any pics of my injury here.  If you really want to see the damage in the most poetic presentation possible, click here.]

Having thus far treated Eve and Onat to a day in the emergency room bracketed by bouts of physical labor, we strove to resume funtime while we still had them around.  With Dick and Maggie we drove to Sandsprit Park on the St. Lucie River to watch the Stuart Holiday Parade of Boats.

Must stop using iPhone camera.

Must stop using iPhone camera.

We poked around for bargains in a boating consignment shop, bought fresh everything at the local farmers market, employed Maggie and Dick’s powerful grill and commodious kitchen to whip up a feast, ate and drank well, and laughed a lot.

Did I mention they  drove  down?

Did I mention they drove down?

What bandages?  This is merely my deep commitment to bunny ears.

What bandages?  This is merely my deep commitment to bunny ears.

At all times, Lucy monitored the situation to ensure compliance.

Eventually it came time for both Yvonne and Onat as well as Dick and Maggie to head back up north for Christmas with family.  Alone and killing time, we spent our days at the development’s gym and pool and made final preparations for our eventual jump across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

For Christmas Day, we joined the crowd at the Sunset Bay Marina (where Delancey lays on a mooring) for a well-attended Cruiser’s Pot Luck.  Deb made an apple tart that disappeared quickly.  We met a number of interesting and pleasant people, many of whom have cruised the Bahamas multiple times and offered useful advice.  I feared I was becoming a bore, quizzing them on sailing routes, wifi access, phone SIM cards, and other such minutiae, but all seemed happy to answer our questions and offer their own advice.

I should note that, with access to Deb’s folks’ house and car, there are far worse places to convalesce.  During this period of forced idleness, we’ve made a number of happy connections that certainly wouldn’t have happened if we were off as planned.  Matt and Kim aboard S/V Orca, marina neighbors of old, have been about three weeks in front of us this entire trip down the coast.  We were able to meet up and thank them in person for their texted warnings of unmarked shoals in the ICW.  Great good friends Derek and Kenny, down from NYC, treated us to pitchers of margaritas and a tasty (food) and delightful (company) Mexican dinner.  Just last night we drove to Boca Raton to catch up with fellow KSA members Mark, Jeff, Steve, and Frank on our first ever dock-and-dine.

And now we’re ready to go.  I just had my second finger follow-up and, as it looks like I’ll survive, we’re raring to hit the road.  Our first leg will be a quick offshore run to the Lake Worth Inlet where we will wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream toward the Abacos.  The forecast calls for favorable conditions on Friday, so (with a respectful nod to fate) it looks like we might start 2016 in the Bahamas.

Healthy and happy New Year to everyone!