La Cruz Marina, North of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
In two days, we have a 9am appointment at the marina boatyard to repair a leaky propeller shaft.
Sunday, we started preparing our home and sailboat La Vita, for her date. First, we had to remove an acre of shade canvas.
I worried if we’d either be injured or fail. Rick’s limited mobility from fused disks in his neck and spine plus the searing tropical sun have conspired to make the job nearly impossible. Did I mention we are in our 70’s?
My anxiety grew when Rick groaned with shoulder pain as he stretched his arms to release buckles connected to the mast.
I needed to do my share, so I set to work and unfastened belts, straps, and twists. Once the shade cloth was loose, we shoved the canvas toward the bow and tied it to the life lines.
The next day, we had more fun in the blazing heat. Our dock lines were tied to our neighboring slip and had to be removed. With calculated self control, Rick worked his 6-foot frame into a crouched position and unwrapped the line from around a cleat.
To move to the next cleat, he’d push on his thigh and work himself to standing position. Sometimes he’d lean against the dock box to regain his equilibrium. I was onboard La Vita and powerless to lend a hand.
We’re not complaining. We’re grateful! In 2016 the nerve running to Rick’s right thigh muscles was pinched so badly it atrophied.
If Rick wanted to walk again, lumbar spinal fusion was his only option.
Through sheer determination and over two years of physical therapy, Rick graduated from wheelchair, to leg brace & walker, to a cane.
Rick untied the lines and my job was to haul the lines onboard and stow them on deck. They were soggy with salt water and heavy. I was tired, stressed and pissed at my clumsiness.
The best I could do was tie them in an ugly wad and hope they didn’t slide back into the water.
The problem is the dripless shaft seal system. It’s cracked and leaking. The seal needs to be replaced; preferably out of the water.
Tuesday morning the panga tow boat arrived. Folks that promised help us were a no show.
I went below and used the VHF radio to hail our friend Richard on s/v Eyes of the World. While I was on the radio, Rick nearly passed out as he untied the bow lines. Rick climbed onboard and sat behind the wheel to recover. Our friend arrived and he released final dock lines
The panga pulled us out of the slip and we glided at a sedate pace to the boatyard. I watched birds soar over head as we floated by our neighbors moored in their slips.
I opened my cell phone and called the young man that arranged for our haul out. I wanted to tell him we were on our way. He didn’t answer; apparently MIA (missing in action).
We needed someone to our catch lines and secure us to the dock.
Rick was busy watching the tow. I went below and hailed seguridad (security) on the VHF,
“Marina La Cruz seguridad, Marina La Cruz seguridad, this is La Vita.”
When they answered I asked, “Can you meet us at the fuel dock?”
He replied, “The the fuel dock opens at 9:30.”
They speak limited English and I speak less Spanish.
We needed someone on the dock to take our lines now, not at 9:30.
Rick was at the helm and used La Vita’s momentum from the tow to skillfully guide our approach to the dock.
I coiled a port line and prepared to toss it to any live soul on the dock. Without a engine, Rick had little control and could easily overshoot our approach.
Thanks to our guardian angels, security arrived just in time to catch the line and tie it to the cleat. Next, a boatyard worker jumped on board and tossed lines to the travel life handlers.
The men were quick and efficient. Within 15 minutes, we were secured in the slings. A flood of relief washed over me. La Vita, Rick and I were lifted gently into the air. While suspended over the water didn’t dare twitch a muscle.
Secured in the straps, the Travel Lift rolled us into the yard.
I asked myself, “Why do the angels always seem to appear at the 11th hour? Why do I get so worked up?” LOL
With La Vita in the yard and hanging in the lift’s embrace, a ladder was secured at the boarding gate. Fernando, our mechanic, climbed up the rungs and boarded La Vita.
Once onboard, Fernando opened the hatch and climbed into the lazarette.
Fernando labored in the hole about two hours removing and installing the new dripless shaft seal. When the work was completed, the Travel Lift carried us stern first over land and lowered us into the water.
A catamaran was at the dock leaving us no room to tie up. After some grunting and shoving the dock workers moved the Catamaran making room for both of us.
The lift operator released the straps and La Vita floated free. Dock workers pulled our lines and secured us to the fuel dock.
Rick fired up the engine, Fernando checked the seal and reported more leaks! Oh, my heavens, now what? The seal came from the States! Importing a new part would take weeks.
Fernando, pulled tools out of his canvas bag and climbed back into the lazarette, He made minor adjustments and declared the shaft dry and the seal working properly.
Once again, I thought, “Why do I get so worked up?”
With Fernando on board, and Rick at the helm, we motored back to our slip.
While underway, I relaxed with a familiar sense of freedom I always felt when we glided over the seas.
My gazed drifted toward horizon and the smell of salt air filled my lungs.
Marina security was waiting at our slip and Fernando tossed the lines. Within minutes we were tied and secure. Fernando opened the hatch climbed into the compartment to double check for leaks around the shaft. He popped his head out of the hole and gave us the thumbs up. Everything was perfect.
Rick and I discussed his lost of balance and wevwracked our brains trying to figure out what was going on. Sure, his lower back and neck were fused and this contributed to his struggle to kneel and stand up. But why the unbearable breathlessness and near black out?
Finally it dawned on us, Rick was taking a new cough suppressant for a persistent cough caused by a chronic sinus allergy. We Google researched the interactions associated with the new medication.
We discovered shortness of breath and dizziness were sever side effects. Rick stopped taking the medication. Within three days, Rick breathing returned to normal.
Some may wonder why we live in Mexico on our sailboat.
Our answer: we’d rather celebrate brilliant sunrises and physically challenge ourselves than sit on a tacky couch and stare at the boob tube.
We’ve read the ‘message in the bottle,’ and we are reminded our strength is being together, regardless where we call home.