Date: 30 Sep 96 11:34:05 EDT

From: "Nellie Gruender" <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>

Subject: The pleasures of cruising


Well, you've all gotten Gene's version of the sail from Houston to Port A. For those of you who commented on Genes ability to write, he does indeed have a talent. One of many I might add! I feel extroidinairly blessed to have the opportunity to be his lifes mate.

Enough of the mush!! I thought you might be interested in reading some of my thoughts about the past several weeks.

I know that many of my close friends shared the same doubts that Gene had regarding my ability to handle the more challenging aspects of sailing. After all I'm a blonde who loves her acrylic fake nails, wouldn't go out in public with out makeup, and has always navigated with the mall as my main reference point. One might come to the conclusion that this life style is not compatible with the sailing life.

Gene also had shared that he was concerned that i would find it difficult to seperate myself from my long standing profession of nursing management. Could i find fullfillment wihout the stimulation of managing, directing, and dealing with various stages of crisis.

The most difficult process was saying farewell to all my close freinds at South Austin Medical Center, and my alter ego Gaylen. Selling my house, and car, packing all of our belongings, turned out not to be the traumatic ordeal that I thought it might be. As we progressed I found that eah step allowed me to be closer to where I really wanted to be. On the boat with Gene and Zach. My committment was further solidified when we were in Illinois and Missouri, and I found myself desperately homesick for the boat.

I must admit that I have on occasion wondered how growing up on a boat, being a sailing gypsy would affect Zachary now and in the future. Would I be an adequate home school teacher, would Zach miss the everyday compaionship of other children? I kept imagining him on a date explaining to some beautiful young lady that he's been in 40 countries, hasn't attended a regular school since he was ten, and can plot a course from here to anywhere.

The great news is that I love teaching Zach, and we find ways almost every day to connect what we're studying in class to real life. Invertebrates - those are the ones swimming next to the boat. Latitude and longitude, just look at the map on the nav desk, or the GPS. Composition, he's started an awesome journal that has real potential. Last week Zach got to talk to the scientist that are going on an expedition to Mexico to try and verify that it was a meteor that hit the earth causing a cloud that blocked out the sun and killed all vegatation and the dinaosurs. I'm filled with hope!!

The trip down here was a TRIP. There is no question that I will never fix pizza until I know that the seas are going to be calm. I won't go into all of the gory details of Zachs post pizza seasickness. I now fully realize the importance of stowing, strapping, and making sure that if it's important to me it will be in a plastic container. Few things were spared the salt spray. As much as I trust Gene's judgement I soon realized that his enthusiasim to hit the seas and be on schedule (I know - what schedule?) had prompted both of us to miss some very common sense preperations. 1) Less than an hour out I'm ripping the boat apart trying to find the maps he needed 2) Where did we put the connector for the GPS and the charger for the hand held radio. Before we had even left the ship channel I had already started what was to be a lenghty "lessons to be learned" list.

Despite the long trying hours of fighting the waves, being soaked to the bone, dealing with sleep deprivation, Gene and I reached a goal that many couples will never know. We proved we are a team. We reached a pleateau of trust and confidence that was almost spiritual in its depth. That alone was worth the struggle.

On a lighter note about the trip. At one point I had just turned over the helm to Gene as I ended my watch. After staring at the "pack of wolves" that Gene talked about in his sttory , I found I had gripped the wheel for so long that it took a few minutes to straighten out my fingers, I slithered towards to compaionway with great anticipation of lying down. I knew of course that sleep would be elusive. Sleeping on a rollercoaster has always been a problem for me!

I had just enough time to negotiate the mosaic of cushions, papers, and "stuff" strewn on the floor, (including Zach) and strip off all of my wet gear when Gene yelled that he needed me topside right away. What's a co-captain (or in Gene's opinion a first-mate ) to do. I returned topside. It bears witness to how focused Gene was on securing the flapping staysail that he didn't notice that I was stark naked except for my flapping foul weather gear. As Gene began to return from the bow, and he snapped on my atire, or lack of it, his face lit up like 5,000 candles. It was the first , and last time that I saw Gene smile for many hours. . .

All in all the trip proved that despite being a blonde I can keep a course without a mall, and I can exceed 48 hours without mascara and blush, and remain in good humor. I am not a weenie!!!

Now for the "ankle deal" . The slip we have our boat in has no side walking piers. It didn't present a major problem, we just go to the front of the boat, climb over the rail on the bow sprit, put one foot on the cement walk, followed by the other foot. There is sometimes a 1-2 foot distance betwwen the boat and the cement walk. On Monday I was preparing to go up to the pavillion where Zach and I have school, and started to disembark as I have a hundred times since coming here. Gene had left a few minutes earlier to pick up mail, and go to Dennys (a friend whose last mane I didn't know) For some reason when I took the initial step with my left foot it was at a strange angle with all of my weight coming down my foot and ankle. I felt a snap, lost my balance, and fell into the water between the boat and the cement walk. I continue to have flash backs of my head going under water, coming up, and realising there is no way for me to get out of the water. As I started to dog paddle, i knew something was horribly wrong with my ankle. After going down again I came up, grabbed one of the hanging dock lines, and yelled for Zach. Since I was in the water, Zach couldn't see me until he came up to the bow. What a calm kid! I knew growing up around emergency rooms would pay off. . He immediately said "Don't worry Mom I'll get help and we'll get you out Everything is going to be fine". (Everything is going to be fine became his mantra during this whole ordeal. He must have repeated this 500 times). I yelled that I thought my ankle was broken, and even this didn't panic him. He climbed off the boat, and ran to retrieve one of the U.T. research vessel captains.

I just continued hanging on, facing years of razor sharp barnicle growth on the surface of the dock I knew I would have to go up. Within a minute John, one of the research vessel captains we had met, was standing above me with another gentleman that had heard me fall.

After a breif discussion about the extent of my injuries they decided to get under my arms, put down a rope as a foot hold for my good foot, and haul me up. As I suspected during my floating time in the water I did have intimate contact with the barnacles, but the primary mission of getting me out of the water was accomplished.

As I was lowered onto the pier and got a glimpse of my foot, the severity of my injury began to sink in. My foot was as a 45 degree angle to my leg with a garish protrusion that I knew was some displaced part of my ankle. Being the forever E.D. nurse I began doing mental checks of my condition. No head injury, no spinal cord injury, I could with a great deal of pain wiggle my toes, and I could feel them. Within the realm of horrible I had some things going for me.

The obvious decision to call EMS was made, and I asked that someone try to find Gene. I must admit there is an up side to living on an island where everyone knows everyone. Denny, the guy who works with fiberglass was enough of a description to send John on his way to Denny's shop.

Laying on a hard cement pier in mens boxer shorts and a bikini top with a mangled ankle is simply not my idea of a great way to start the week. EMS arrived within minutes, and began trying to decide how to splint my ankle that had more angles than a used car salesman. Surprisingly I looked up, and found Jim Isbell, our friend who owns the slip we're in, holding my hand. He was down from Austin, and had stopped to see how we were doing. Instead of finding us listening to Buffet , and swaying with the palm trees, he's walked into "Rescue 911".

Bonnie and Linda, the EMS crew, finally decided to splint my leg with a pillow, and hope for the best. Gene arrived soon after they had finished my packaging, so didn't get the full impact of the injury. He came to a quick conclusion that his usual repair method of duct tape might prove inadequate in this situation. He of course was assured by Zach that "Everything will be fine."

We were now at the point that the topic of the minute was how to get me up the three steps to the waiting ambulance. I prefer to believe that it speaks to my position, and not my size that Bonnie and Linda were forced to call in the volunteer firemen to help cart me up the stairs. The transfer was made, and we now start the procession to Corpus Christi 20 miles away. I can attest there are 9355 enormous bumps, 325 swerves and curves, and 800 various reasons to cause painful acceleration and deceleration.

Bonnie who attended me during the ride made every effort to keep me comfortable, and occupied with a running conversation. I told her that little did I know that when I had purchased raffel tickets to support the Port A EMS that I would be a consumer of thier services. I also enquired if the hospital was a teaching hospital. I requested that she make it known that I wanted only staff physicians doing my primary care. I fully support medical education, but I was in no mood to be some first year interns paper for mega fractures 101.

We did eventually arrive at the Bay Area Medical Center Hospital E.D. They have nice ceilings. The attention was prompt, and professional. When Ralph, my assigned nurse unwrapped my foot, Gene got his first glance at the full extent of the problem. Zach at this point had added softly stroking my hair to his "Everythings going to be fine "reptoire. We did blood work, we did x-rays, I lead a 4th year medical student through the questions he should be asking me. Dr Soza the E.D. Dr. came in and confirmed the forgone conclusion. It's broken. It's badly broken. It needs surgery. You'll be with us for a few days.

Dr. Kennedy the Orthopaedic surgeon arrived, and after reviewing the x-rays decided he would do an initial reduction (set the fracture) in the Emergency Room to decrease the chance of nerve and vessel damage from the peculiar angle, and I would then go to surgery at 6PM. I havealways hated orthopaedic "stuff" becuase of the gruesome crunching sounds of bones being forced back into place. I greatfully accepted a quick trip to LALA Land via Valium. Gene being unaware of what was about to happen to me and my ankle offered to stay with me while it was being done. I of course have no memory of what took place, but Gene has more than enough for both of us. He gets pale and shivers every time he talks about the horrible crunching, and my screaming and levitating off the table.

I went to surgery, and had 5 pins placed in my ankle to recreate a system that would someday again support my weight. The initial concern that I should need a bone graft didn't come to pass so I was in some small way blessed by the bone angel.

After 4 days in the hospital, many discussion about the perils of the crusing life, contemplating the best way to get back on the boat, and calculating how 10 weeks in a cast might affect our cruising plans I am now learning to face life with crutches. My return to the boat was not elegant, but was safe, and I'm finding the moving around the boat is doable.

All in all the past couple of weeks, while not always enjoyable, have again reaffirmed my general philosophy about life. Life may not be exactly the way we want it to be, it may be inconveinient, or difficult, but getting mad or angry takes far too much energy. Be happy for the lessons learned and appreciate the opportunity to meet the challenges of life.

Thanks to all of you who have wished me well. I feel surrounded by encouragment, and besides, I have it from a very good authority that "Everythings going to be fine."

Nellie Gruender

aboard Rainbow Chaser