Monday, July 4, 2016

Loyalist Cove Marina and Sailing with my Brother

It was a year ago my brother Ron was diagnosed with cancer.  I’d wanted to go sailing with him but it didn’t look like he’d be able to get to the west coast.  So that began the process of shipping my sail boat, SV GIRI, 13 ton, 40 foot steel offshore sailboat,  to southern Ontario. My brother lives on Hay Bay in greater Napanee region.
Thanks to Loyalist Cove Marina in nearby Bath,  this whole project could go ahead.  Dave and Kim of Loyalist Cove Marina were the most helpful and understanding people.  Andrews Trucking would move the boat with the help of Vancouver’s  Lynnwood Marina and ProTek Riggers.  But it took Kim arranging for a place to accept the boat.  These things always seem so ’straight forward’  to the planner like me but the devil is in the detail.
Andrews Trucking had to address the issue of ‘height’ of the boat and all the legislation about transporting while Kim had to find a marina slip long enough and deep enough to accommodate my ocean going craft and juggle moorage for when the boat would be launched.   Thankfully Dave has a superb secure storage facility right near the Loyalist Cove Marina.   The ship had never had to spend a winter on land. It had wintered the dessert in Arizona after sailing the Sea of Cortez and been on land in the West Coast rain forest but never known snow despite our trip to Alaska. Were it not for Kim I’d not have thought that with freezing the boat’s engine and water systems would need winterizing just like my RV.  The GIRI was made  safe through the winter.
Dave has a travel lift and also trucks big sailboats and powerboats himself. I called ahead a month before I’d arrive having arranged with some challenges in the months before  to have doctors covering my practice.
It’s not an easy thing to get away from my work.  Less and less government resources these days with fewer and fewer clinicians and aging and sicker patients.  As doctors we cover each other for holidays though there are so few psychiatrists in my subspecialty area that my patients in one practice have no back up but generalists, my phone number or the hospital.  In my downtown addiction medicine practice a couple of days a week six of us juggle the roster so we always have warm bodies in place.  It’s difficult enough for Dr. Gary Horvath who runs the clinic, where due to the patients addiction, it sometimes feels like working in an emergency or a war zone. So much acute and sometimes bizarre and often life threatening illness along with the primary diseases of heroin, cocaine, crystal meth addiction and alcoholism.  I don’t know when I last ‘burnt out’.  I was diagnosed with PTSD years past after being held hostage and just dealing with all the death I’d seen. Now I’ve seen as much death these last few years working in addiction as I did when I worked with AIDS patients in the mid 80’s when that epidemic was at it’s height.  I look on vacation, not so much as ‘vacation’ as being away from the ‘front’ and an attempt to recoup, to be able to go back to face the always  sad, tragic, desperate,  and increasingly belligerent patients, one of whom has been threatening me and my dog for a couple of months.  Just getting away from Vancouver is a relief.
It was really a joy to see the SV GIRI moved from land back to water and  a perfect slip that Kim had arranged.
My brother Ron’s cancer had stopped being held back by the UBC chemotherapy combination being provided by the brilliant Dr. Anna Tomiak and her colleagues, at   Queen’s University Oncology Department in Kingston General Hospital.  Fortunately, however,  Dr. Aaron Hansen at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto was beginning a new trial of treatment.
I accompanied Ron to the starting of that treatment in Toronto. Sonya, Dr. Hansen’s  research nurse was extremely informative and helpful. Later we met Dr. Aaron Hansen.   I enjoyed that he acknowledged a colleague but gave my brother his undivided attention, answering his questions with care and precision. Ron was thankful to be again on a scientifically based treatment for his difficult cancer. Ron studied science at the University of Manitoba and went on to be a senior administrator in the federal Health and Welfare Department in Ottawa.
 As his wife Adell says, “we don’t expect a cure but we’re buying time in hopes that there will be one”.  So far my brother has been a rock star success so I’m hopeful given the truly amazing breakthroughs that are occurring daily in medicine.  It shocks me that in my own career I ‘ve seen so  many ‘killing ‘ cancers now being curable.  The  general life expectancy is increasing dramatically so much thanks to education and scientific advances.
Back at Loyalist Cove Marina, Dixon, a Harley motorcyclist like me, stepped the mast and got all the rigging arranged only to encounter a problem with the roller furling. Lorry, whose laughter is infectious, had the boom holder and radar mast back upright and secure by then.  Thankfully Dave with his amazing wealth of experience figured out that the problem not a tangled line in the mast as had happened in Hawaii, but with the track on the roller furling. Dave fixed it this latest “challenge”  by going up in his “cherry picker’ machine and adjusting the tension on the track.
Hallelujah! The Genoa was raised.  The mast was up and secure.  The boat was ready to sail. Wiring could wait.  My nephew Andrew, doing research with robotics and geophysics for University of Ottawa, flew in to the CFB at Trenton from Alert, Nunavut, nearest to the North Pole.  Graeme my other nephew, chemical engineer at Deep River Nuclear Plant had come down too.  Allan the child psychologist would arrive along with Andrew’s wife Tanya, the graphics designer.  Everyone was there to go sailing with my brother and I.  Ron’s cancer has everyone sensitive to time in a way only cancer survivor’s can testify too. I was therefore so thankful when Dave saved the day with his ‘cherry picker’ elevator solutions and Kim found a space for the SV GIRI to live. I really believe when everything finally comes together like this that God truly is in charge.
Jack, who had family who had had cancer told me the marina had diesel and gas pumps which I’d not seen.  With exquisite care, definitely more skilled than I,  he filled my tanks without spilling a drop.  Through the crystal clear water we could see large bass swimming in the weeds on the bottom.
On the GIRI, Graeme  replaced the bilge pump that had died in transit and we both epoxied a couple of bits that had come apart.  Tanya and Andrew had done a masterful job of painting the boat’s bottom and topsides so the GIRI was looking good when we all got aboard. The next few days were heavenly  boating on Lake Ontario’s North Channel off Bath.
Canada Day was a big event there with fireworks and parades we passed on the way to the marina.  One night, after an afternoon sailing,  we had a fabulous turkey dinner at J&P’s restaurant in Bath.  “It’s just like mom’s turkey dinner’s”  I said. Ron agreed.
Sailing was magnificent.  I had to train my crew, mostly Graeme and Alan, roughly from scratch.  Andrew and Tanya soon had to join her family for the annual hilarity of their family’s Canada Day celebrations.  We all enjoyed the photos on Facebook of this over the next few days especially Tanya’s father’s Canada Day red “tall hat”.
Meanwhile Graeme and Allan, Adell and I had a terrific "Captain Ron” docking experience when a breeze caught the bow where Graeme was standing with the bowline to throw to his mother who had instead got off the boat and stood ready with the stern line.  I managed the repositioning the sailboat with some flair that had other boaters getting up to rush to our aid until I called out ‘I’m training crew’, then everyone relaxed.
The fact is I’ve never taught anyone to sail. I’m an offshore solo sailer.  What made things worse was I’ve pretty much lost the language of sailing so was stammering on calling out directions in precise nautical directions to crew themselves just getting a handle on nautical  language. “Starboard, right, eh?” Despite all the confusion we managed safely.  Any departure and return to a dock is like flying, if you do it safely, with no harm to boat or crew or others, it’s a success.  We always tell ourselves this when we are faced with the all too common embarrassing lack of finest.
When we were actually sailing a similar level of chaos and confusion occurred at the winches and helm jibing and tacking.  Helmsman problems that Graeme and Allan had with holding the boat true, something I do intuitively now, would remind me of my early days maneuvering sailboats. They’re a whole different animals than power boats which the guys knew.  They were all thrown into the deep end too without the classroom or hands on instruction I’d received in getting my ships captain papers. At least they had pleasure boaters licenses which gave them the rules of the road at see.  I really was pleased that despite my lack of nautical educational prowess, everyone was a quick study.
That said my brother was laughing at our three Stooges cum Monty Python antics when we gybed or tacked. .  I loved to hear his full bellied laughter.  It was something I’d not heard this last year.  His sons and wife and I were muddling about while he was clearly simply enjoying the whole sailing experience.
“Watching you all  reminds me of when I was boating on Lake of the Wood and you guys were just kids with  Allan still in diapers,” he chortled.  Meanwhile, I, the great off shore sailor, too long a captive of my medical office was huffing away after taking a turn on the winch hardening the main or reeling in the jib.
  “Just a bit out of shape,” Ron laughed.   Norman Cousins would be proud of me. Andrew and Graeme manned the winches too. At one point with o onne rope was too short and in the confusion a rope  wound backwards on the winch  so a lot of effort was being made for naught till Ron   directed Allan to wind the rope correctly and add an extra wrap on the winch.
Each day  and in different sections the North Channel  wind was different with funnelling and deflection off points. For a while we had  12 - 15 knot gentle breeze  and nearly flat surface,  Then  we had 20 to 25 knots of winds, a moderate breeze actually getting to a strong wind.  The spray was coming off the white caps which were all over.  We were doing 6 knots speed on a beam reach.  We zig zagged back and forth across the channel enjoying the sunshine and blue skies.  Close hauled we took water across the deck and dipped the rail with everyone getting a taste of fresh water spray in the cockpit.
 Alan liked that. “I like the speed best, “ he said, a racer in the making.  Meanwhile I, definitely a cruiser,  had  enjoyed with Ron and Adell, the gentler down wind sailing telling them, this is where I solo sailing, put on the autopilot  on go below, make a cup of coffee then sit on deck reading a good book waiting to arrive at my next destination.
Ron talked about his boating Lake of the Woods and sailing with his friend on his 26 foot boat , reminiscing about all the youthful adventures.  We even talked about boating days with Dad and Mom, fishing on Manitoba’s Blue Lake.   The last day sailing,  Graeme had to return to Deep River early evening, so with the wind up and waves bigger we brought the boat about, took in the sails.   Ron took over the helm motoring us back to Loyalist Cove Marina.
More great days on the water.   I loved seeing my brother in high spirits again.  Laughter certainly is the best medicine.  I especially loved his reminiscence of all the other great days on the water. We’ve always been a boating family.  It’s probably the Scots and Irish in us.  Island people.  Northern and rugged. Canadian.
I sure hope he can beat back the cancer another year. He’s planted fruit trees which will likely give fruit next year. I’d love to pick these with him.  The SV GIRI will remain at the Loyalist Cove Marina.  So we can plan for more sailing maybe later this summer or fall and hopefully next year.
I’m heading back to Vancouver now to spell off my colleagues. In the other room Ron’s reading with two cockapoos, Eva the female and my little male Gilbert.  They’re lying on either side of Ron, guarding him, or waiting for treats.  It’s hard to tell. Graeme’s cockapoo puppy went home with him. With three dogs we had a lot of racket whenever anyone came into the house.  Dogs know better than anyone the importance of greetings.  It will be sad to be leaving family  again though I do look forward to Vancouver friends.
I’m glad to be leaving SV GIRI in the capable hands of the folk at Loyalist Cove Marina.  Sailing has been a healing metaphor of life for me.  We make our way not by fighting the wind and currents but rather by working with them. Finally it’s  all in God’s  time too.
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