The Highs and Lows of Cruising
One day we were on top of the world at the peak of Mount Coronado. Two days later, Brian woke up with severe knee pain. He had felt fine during the hike and the day after, albeit sore like the rest of us. But after two days, his knee hurt so badly he couldn’t walk. I know when he’s asking for more than a single ibuprofen, something is wrong.
His tendon, strung drum-tight, refused to relax. Bending his knee was impossible, as was bearing weight. Climbing normal stairs with one rigid leg is not easy. Climbing up and down Indigo’s nearly vertical companionway steps, something we normally do countless times a day, became excruciating. And try scrunching into an elevated and cramped V-Berth with one straight leg. And a straight face.
Beware: Mt. Coronado Causes Weak Knees
We don’t know how it happened; suddenly he woke up and his knee was killing him. NOOO, I didn’t kick him while he was peacefully slumbering. He loves to tell people that. But, it WAS my fault. Remember my last post Conquering Mt. Coronado? That strenuous hike just 2 days prior probably severely weakened his knees, enough so that he tweaked one just so while sleeping. I wanted to climb that stupid Mt. Coronado so bad…and Brian paid for it.
Useless Med Kit
We have pain medicines up the yin yang, heat/cool patches, splints and wraps and bandages galore. Wrapping it only put more pressure on the affected area and made the pain unbearable. Patches didn’t help. I have decent pain meds on board but he refused everything but the low grade stuff. All this med gear and there’s nothing we could do except wait and see. In the end, he kept it cushioned and immobile on a pillow, icing it with frozen water bottles. Talk about low tech healthcare.
7 Days a Boat Prisoner
We were hoping it was just a little sprain, that it would go away in a day or so. But Brian remained a prisoner on the boat for the next several days. In the morning, he’d limp up the stairs and rest outside in the cockpit; at dusk, he’d make the agonizing descent back into the cabin. I think he went through a book a day. Whenever he tired of reading, he alternated between high-tech ipad games or no-tech birdwatching. Fortunately, the weather remained ideal (in the cool 80’s, no hurricanes on the horizon) and we weren’t under any travel deadline pressure.
No Doctors in the Desert
For those seven endless days, we worried… OK, I worried…not knowing how long it would take to heal… or if it would at all. After 20 years of mandatory Marine runs, knee surgery has been a predicted consequence, but one we wished to avoid as long as possible. I hoped this injury didn’t put him over the edge. If it didn’t get any better soon, we would have to go see someone. But we’re anchored in the remote bay of San Juanico, far from civilization. It’s a minimum ½ day sail back to Loreto or a 24hr overnight to San Carlos. We realized just how far away we were from healthcare…any healthcare. It felt like we were on the moon.
50% and Still Trapped
After day 4, his knee felt a little bit better. We managed to motor Indigo up to Bahia Concepcion but we still didn’t leave the boat upon anchoring each afternoon. We didn’t want to risk ruining it again. We could certainly throw the kayak overboard in a jiffy (which is why we use it 90% of the time). But he could easily re-twist the knee grappling in or out of the snug, bobbing, slippery vessel. What about the dinghy? Way worse.
Prepping the dinghy involves the two of us flipping it upright from its cruising turtle-position on the bow, hoisting and pushing it overboard, then mounting the unwieldy outboard motor. (One person stands at the stern rail, lowering it with our manual pulley system; the other stands in the dinghy below, catching and affixing it to the transom). This 10-15 minute workout consists of heaving and manhandling the substantial, slimy beast, stepping up and down from the cabin roof numerous times, plus copious amounts of twisting and turning, bending and balancing. And you wonder how we get our exercise on the boat? I could just imagine the strain this torsion-filled process would put on a bum knee. No way. Amazingly, raising anchor, motoring, even sailing Indigo is far easier on the knees than depositing our car in the water.
Seven days later, Brian finally felt stable enough to tackle the car. We left it in-water, towing it behind Indigo from anchorage to anchorage. Normally, dinghy towing is one of our big no-no’s. Yes, I know, lots of people do it. We don’t. While it’s incredibly convenient to have your dinghy ready to go upon arrival, too many things can go wrong. But Bahia Concepcion was flat as a pancake and we only traveled, literally, a couple miles each day. Occasionally, rules should be thrown out the window. For knees sake.
Boatwork with a Bum Knee
We did another week’s worth of uber-relaxed gunk-holing and crossed the Sea of Cortez overnight, once his knee felt a bit better. We put the boat away over the course of 12 days of hard work. It wasn’t easy on him, but we did it. One month later, the knee works, but it's still not 100%.
How prepared are we? We are equipped for medical complications in the outback with a variety of meds for colds, pain, nausea, antibiotics, etc. Heck, we even have malaria pills. We have a suitcase-sized professional medical kit for treating mild to severe burns and wounds. We even have gear for splinting a broken bone and sewing stitches. (Let’s just hope Brian doesn’t need stitches – knowing my sewing skills, THAT would be a catastrophe). But with all this stuff, we could use none of it in his situation. What is the moral here?
Cruising Law #1:
As Captain Ron so casually counsels: “If anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there!”
Cruising Law # 2:
When it does happen, all that special equipment you purchased will doubtless be inadequate.
Do you still buy the stuff? Yep. You or someone else might need it someday!