Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, April 24, 2020

The last time I sent an update about our travels, Richard and I were back on the sailboat Lucky, captained by Richard and crewed by me, Sharon Lehnert.

On October 16, 2019, Crystal, the librarian at the Bothwell Public Library, helped me send my update to the many people on my contact list. There was an oops. We forgot to blind copy the four groups of people I send the updates to. This is not so bad for the family group; it is good if they have each other’s addresses. But I regret blind copying the addresses unrelated to each other as it clutters up your email and one of the recipients could use the group of addresses for nefarious purposes. So sorry. Thank you to those who sent replies and updated me on your activities and whereabouts.

In Oct. 2019, I spent a quite a bit of time sorting, weeding and identifying photographs taken over the years, mostly when I was cruising in the British Virgin Islands and Bahamas. I highly
recommend that you dig out your photos and label them and put them in scrapbooks. Otherwise, they will likely end up in your kids’ garbage when you are gone. (Of course, this only applies to those of you who took photos that had to be sent away to be developed – in the previous century.

On October 30, I went to CAA and bought out-of-country health insurance. Almost $3000! Richard never buys out of country health insurance. Perhaps I wouldn’t need it, but you never know. And as it turned out, Richard really could have used it.

A warning: this update is only about my experiences, from my point of view. Sometimes Richard and I disagree about what actually happened. This year, with COVID19 sweeping the world, all of us have had dramatically different experiences. You are only getting my side of the story. The rest is too big for me to tell and you have probably already heard a version of it.

And another warning: When you go to your doctor for your annual checkup, don’t make light about forgetting the names of people to whom you are introduced. My sister and I did and before I realized what was happening, I was being given dementia test questions with no warning. At the end of the appointment I had no driver ‘s license. I have never had a ticket, let alone an accident, and I’ve been driving since I was 16 (actually 8 if you count driving farm workers on back roads). Now I would like to pay the $550 and take the drivers’ test but, with the pandemic on, everything is closed. Enough venting off-topic.

I spent Christmas day with Richard and his family and on Boxing Day Rick, Rebecca, Richard and I headed south in my car. The car is an SUV, but with three passengers, a driver, and luggage and new equipment for two boats, it was snug.

On Dec. 28 we slept on our boats – very comfy. Then into the boat routine: I washed laundry and put it away, and we moved stuff moved from the car to the boat. Christmas Eve supper was on the patio with other boaters and reunions with old friends.

Richard took out the two old water tanks and replaced them with the new ones he had bought in Toronto. A lot of work but needed doing. Our tanks were old and getting grungy. I was anxious to get the boat into the water, but Richard wanted to keep it on land – cheaper. We bought $200 worth of groceries and carried them up the ladder(!) We got lots of flour and decanted it into the large glass jars from last year. We love home-made bread!

We took Rick and Rebecca to the airport. On January 8, Jesse (the guy who drives the boat- moving machine) moved Lucky to the water, which made me happy. The boat moved gently. I could tell it was happy too. We moved to a dock facing reeds and bushes with big banyan trees above them – a beautiful spot and no climbing of ladders.

Richard became often cranky and easily upset. After we picked up a visitor, nurse Rebecca Lewis, at the airport, Richard kept feeling worse – dizzy and getting very little air. He decided he should be taken to the hospital on Jan. 12 – a very smart call, as it turned out. His friend Richard Brooks drove him, and Rebecca and I followed in my car. A pacemaker was installed in Richard’s chest two days later and, when he was released from the hospital three days later, we spent several leisurely weeks in our spot in the marina while he healed. I got to play Scrabble every afternoon with Canadian Christine. Rebecca is a nurse and took excellent care of Richard until she had to go back to Toronto. We were so lucky that she came to visit! Eventually the bill collector for the American health care system, located in Switzerland, contacted Richard and they came to some sort of mutually acceptable payment plan for his surgery. I think the small monthly payments will extend well beyond his expected life span. By the end of January, we were going on brisk walks and I could not keep up to him. I was able to paint three small pictures of the banyan trees and, later, the Peck Lake shoreline.

Several times we prepared to get ready to leave the marina, but each time we postponed our plans because Richard was not yet healed well enough and tended to overextend himself. I was looking forward to getting away from the marina so we would lose TV reception. Oh, well. I had earplugs and a good book.

The first mention of the corona virus in my journal was Feb. 22, 2020, before we left Indiantown Marina.

Richard spent a lot of time helping Ellen, a feisty 80-year-old woman who was repairing her own small power boat. She took us out for pizza and bought us a big bottle of wine. So did long-time friend Chris Reynolds from Massachusetts. Finally, on March 6, we enjoyed one last group dinner at Guatamex.

The next morning, we left the marina and motored east in the Ste. Lucy Canal. The winds were strong as we went through the lock and to the north anchorage in Stuart, where we anchored for three days, avoiding other people. We then continued to Peck Lake and anchored there.

I enjoyed helming most of the way and it was good that Richard wasn’t stressing his new pacemaker. I had to relearn a lot of the anchoring process, because I flew home early last year when Vonny was in the hospice, so there were many boat tasks I had not done for two years – for example, raising the anchor, washing down the chain and dropping the anchor. I have noticed that I often have to relearn things now. It is unsettling, for Richard too, but I do remember once I have done those tasks again. We will see for how long.

We made an overnight stop in the anchorage in Manatee Pocket on March 10. Like many other anchorages, it seems to be evolving into a storage area, as many people buy a boat and then realize that they have to park it somewhere and marinas are expensive. We anchored in Peck Lake on March 11, and stayed there until March 24 – two weeks. And while we were there, the world changed.

Peck Lake is a wonderful anchorage. There is lots of room, just enough depth, all different kinds of boats nest amicably side by side, and dolphins swim among them. The only annoying boats are the big power boats that race across the channel through the lake, tossing up big wakes behind them and ignoring the speed limit that is in place to protect the manatees.

Between the lake and the ocean is a narrow strip of land where boaters can land their dinghies and walk on short paths to the ocean and along it, enjoying its spectacular views and colours.
We did that every day, and were not close to other people.

On March 15, Richard’s son and daughter-in-law and a grandson Owen came to visit and we picked up them (and the feast and hand sanitizers they had brought) in the near-by park. We all enjoyed the afternoon together on our boat. Before they left Owen blew the conch horn just like a trumpet. I learned that he is a trumpet player, and he got answers from other conch horns in the park.

News on TV about the pandemic grew increasingly more ominous. Trump’s solution – banning Chinese and Europeans, didn’t seem to be working. He declared a national emergency, bringing the total number of national emergencies in effect in the U.S. up to thirty. That didn’t seem to help either. We stayed away from people and Richard made wonderful bread.

On March 17, sister Sandy called and said we should come home. There was talk of closing borders to Canada. Mike called and said the same thing. But we had at least two weeks of groceries on the boat, and were in isolation in paradise. I painted a picture of the shore. At night the sky was clear, with bright stars. There were more boats anchored in the lake than I had ever seen – twenty – and in the morning, most went north. We called and booked our haulout date.

On March 23 we took our mounting bag of garbage to the pail in the park and then walked along the ocean one last time. The next day we headed back to the Ste. Lucie Canal and turned north toward Indiantown. A police boat came alongside and kept pace with us as they examined our passports (without gloves) and questioned us, aliens that we were.

After anchoring in Four Rivers that night, we made it though the lock with no waiting and anchored outside of Indiantown Marina the next day. On March 27 Lucky was put on land. We worked hard for two days closing Lucky and packing the car. Then we had a properly distanced visit with good friends Jim and Lynda Pilipishen, who were also fleeing back to Canada. It was wonderful to be able to sit and visit with friends (or even other human beings!) beside our boat!

On Saturday, March 28, 2020, around 11 a.m., we headed north, with Richard driving all of the way, of course. On Sunday, March 29 at 8p.m., we were home. Richard had driven non-stop, except for bathroom breaks and a brief snooze in the middle of the night! His feet were swollen. When we crossed the border, we were the only car in line and it took a second for the young woman at the booth to hand us a photocopied sheet with our quarantine instructions on it. The next day, there was a lineup stretching back across the bridge to Detroit.

Sorry this epistle is so long, but I figure that in present circumstances you may have time to read it and be glad to have that to do.