Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Di Hunter Women's Race

Michele Boulay in first place in
the Di Hunter Women's Race
     The race announcement was broadcast over the VHF Hopetown Cruisers Net. The Di Hunter Ladies Race aboard Sunfish sailboats would be hosted by the Hopetown Sailing Club on Monday, March 14, 2016. Hmm...that's an announcement that peaked my interest. I listened again the following morning in the event I was half awake and dreamt I'd heard the news the day before. Once again the announcement was broadcast over the net.
      I had been bothered by an upper back spasm for a week or so and wondered if I should dare mention the race to Joe assuming he would offer a host of reasons why I shouldn't race. I'm rarely keen on listening to the voice of reason, therefore I thought better of mentioning the race and decided to monitor race details hoping I'd recover in time.

Joe skippering Nothing's Easy an Abaco Dinghy
     On Sunday Joe was invited to skipper one of the iconic wooden Abaco Dinghys crafted by boat building legend Wyner Malone of Abaco in the Hopetown Sailing Club's Sunday Race. I was told that I could join him. Seven dinghies raced and it quickly became apparent that the dinghies were built as work boats not racing boats. Don't over sheet the main and don't try to point above 45 degrees! After racing three races I felt fine setting my sights on the women's race the following day.

Simple Life & Nothing's Easy after the race

     Time to get serious. Now where did I store my sailing gloves & my mouth guard? That's right I do wear a mouth guard when racing Sunfish since the boom is only a fist above the deck. I've smashed my teeth on deck a few times while ducking during a quick tack.


Rigging Sunfish on the beach after the skippers meeting
     Skippers meeting was at 9:00 AM Monday at the Hopetown Sailing Club. Five women registered including 87 year old Di Hunter for whom the race is named. Di is a credit to our gender. She is a solo sailor who lives alone aboard her catamaran in Abaco where she agilely moves about her boat and dinghy like a teenager. She is an active member of the Hopetown Sailing Club often serving as race committee boat. Di also raced in her namesake Women's Race finishing third in blustery conditions on race day.


Friendly banter among competitors on race day.
     On race day March 14, 2016 while rigging Sunfish on the beach I attempted to "size up" the competition. There were no obvious clues. The women who ranged in size from petite to tall rigged their boats and waited for race time while lending a hand to each other when needed. With an 11:00 AM start time fast approaching mounting tensions became apparent.
     The race course was set with a Le Mans start horn signal from the beach in front of the sailing club out the narrow, bustling channel around the Parrot Cays, back into the even more chaotic channel with a finish line on the beach at the sailing club.

Lynette & Michele match racing around the course
     Due to the congested situation with sails flogging and everyone trying to push off the beach at once I laid back while the others cleared out figuring I'd catch them off the wind. By the time the boats were out of the channel I was in second place with a freshening breeze. My kind of sailing began to take shape. The boats were race rigged and equipped with hiking straps that allowed the skipper to shift weight out over the windward rail. Conditions seemed perfect for my height and weight. I felt good. My closest competition was slightly ahead at the windward mark. Lynette Edenfield who got off the beach ahead of me knew what she was doing. She clearly had considerable racing experience and we match raced each other on all points of sail especially on the reaching and upwind leg toward the finish. I shot ahead on the reaching leg which is my favorite point of sail since it is the fastest. My boat reached planing speed and I hiked out keeping her as flat as possible. The most challenging part of the race came while entering the narrow, dogleg, channel on the return to Hopetown Harbor where the tide was rushing out with a strong gusty breeze on the nose hindering our progress. Let's throw in a ferry boat, small tourist charter boats and a giant catamaran for kicks and giggles. I had to calm myself in order not to blow a tack or run aground giving Lynette the opportunity to pass me on a mistake. After clearing the channel it was a matter of covering Lynette and touching the beach first. We finished 19 seconds apart! The entire four mile race course took just over 50 minutes!

The Di Hunter Perpetual Trophy presented to Michele Boulay
for finishing in first place in the race.
     Following the race, Hopetown Sailing Club member Catherine Allin from Solitaire I prepared hors d'oeuvres in the club house for race participants. The Di Hunter Perpetual Trophy was presented by Di Hunter and RC chairman David Allin at the awards presentation after lunch. I was honored and thrilled to accept the first place trophy! I've always made a bold statement that sailing is a lifetime sport. I sure hope I'm right because I'd love to be out racing when I'm 87.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Day in Marsh Harbour Clinic

Marlene, Michele and John enjoying sundowners after John's
healing hands made life bearable for awhile.
   Recently, I had my first a licensed massage therapist within the confines of Simple Life's cockpit! It may sound self-indulgent, but it was actually for therapeutic reasons after waking up aboard with a debilitating back spasm.

     Joe and I had planned a provisioning trip to Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island where groceries and other necessities like beer and wine tend to be cheaper than in Hopetown on Elbow Cay. The main island is where the large freighters from Nassau offload goods due to its deeper entrance channel.

     Simple Life's engine was running and we were about to drop the mooring lines when my upper back went into a spasm. It was clear that there was no possibility of leaving. I spent the rest of the day crawling about the boat on my hands & knees. After awhile I was able to crawl out to the cockpit to sit in a straight chair (not jacket) although some might think that would have been the more appropriate choice.

    A few hours later a dinghy came up to Simple Life. It was friends John and Marlene from Four Aces. John is known among the boating crowd as a fine bluegrass mandolinist. To my surprise he's also a licensed massage therapist. I excused myself for not getting up when they came aboard due to excruciating pain. He asked about the problem. I described the issue which has occurred only once before where I was treated at Rhode Island Hospital emergency room where two shots of morphine was administered along with a couple of Valium. I said, " My doctor recommended deep tissue massage, but I'm never home to follow through." He rubbed his hands together and asked if we had any coconut oil told me to lie down in the cockpit on my stomach and instructed Joe to pull my
T-shirt up to my neck. He proceeded to work his magic. After therapy I was able to sit up and walk relatively pain free. He returned the following morning for another session.

     My plan was to see the nurse at the Hopetown clinic on Monday. Joe went to the site and discovered the clinic had been closed for quite awhile since the nurse "hadn't been coming on the mail boat from Marsh Harbour" according to a local.  Clearly, we would have to sail on Monday from Hopetown to Marsh Harbour where a government clinic was opened. Don't die on a weekend in the Bahamas. No muscle relaxants for me until Monday.

Lynn & Walt from Iolar after delivering much
needed pain medication.
     On Sunday, my friend and "harbour pharmacist" Lynn aboard Iolar borrowed muscle relaxants from her friend on another boat who had a back problem last year. The drug methocarbamol can be purchased over the counter in Canada but apparently is not approved in the US. It seemed a better choice than Valium since it doesn't cause as much drowsiness.


      On Monday morning, we sailed to Marsh Harbour where we dinghied ashore to walk more than a mile to the government clinic on the outskirts of town. The realization of third world country is easy to understand after experiencing a clinic in the Bahamas. First of all there's no hospital anywhere in Abaco. If a person has a heart attack or serious injury that person either expires or if lucky hangs on for a rescue helicopter to airlift them to the hospital in Nassau on New Providence.

The Marsh Harbour Government Clinic
where I was treated well
    When we arrived at the clinic it appeared abandoned. There was no clinic sign just the remains of a rusted metal frame that had long ago rotted away. The signature Bahamian government pink exterior had peeled away in several spots. Shuttered windows made it difficult to see whether the clinic was opened. After trying two doors we found a side door unlocked. The atmosphere was chaotic with staff walking back and forth from room to room. We were received at a registration window where I was asked for my ID. "I Forgot to bring it." No do you spell the name. "It's inoculation day for all new babies!" I was told to expect a long wait.

Filing paperwork at the Marsh Harbour Government Clinic
     I reasoned that inoculations wouldn't take too long and figured we'd be seen within an hour or so. We were quite the curiosity at the clinic since we were obviously visitors in the Bahamas. A few women with infants in the waiting room were Haitian. Most were Bahamians who knew each other and seemed to delight in admiring each other's new babies.
While waiting one young Bahamian man behind us waited to register his two month old daughter for her inoculation. His wife was sitting in the waiting room with the infant on her lap and a three year old by her side. He was friendly and asked lots of questions about the States and about how far we had traveled in a sailboat.

A young Bahamian boy leaving the
Government Clinic at Marsh Harbour
    Within an hour I was examined by Dr. Keith Rivers, a youthful, friendly Bahamian doctor who gave me a good examination. He prescribed muscle relaxers, Motrin and a salve for the burn on my back from the hot water bottle I'd used in desperate times. He also asked his nurse dress the burn. All for $30.00.

     On the walk back to the boat which was over a mile our new Bahamian friend Jean from the clinic stopped his car with his wife Princess and new baby offering a ride to the pharmacy! He was so kind and would have been disappointed if we turned him down.


     So many people have helped us during this minor ordeal in the Bahamas. We are so thankful for our close community of friends. Those whom we know and those whom we have recently met. It warms my heart knowing so many folks are kind and caring.

Sent from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad