Sunday, November 15, 2020


[Kyle]Exmouth (pronounced Ex-Mouth, as if it were the nickname of an ex-wife).

By about the halfway point of our required fourteen-day quarantine, we were fairly caught up with all of the jobs we could do without leaving the boat or the adjacent dock. I used a new long-eye sta-lok terminal end to make up a replacement forestay. My next job, which I was kind of looking forward to, was to go up the mast and install it. Then I could re-tune the rig and we would have our old boat back, minus the roller-furling jib. All that would be left would be to get the okay from the rigger our insurance company was sending up and then we would be free to continue on to Perth for the balance of the repairs.

Then we got an email from our insurance assessor saying that he wanted the rigger to come up to install the rigging after inspecting it first. Ugh! This is one of the annoying things about having insurance. If you want them to cover you, you have to do things their way. So, now we are at the mercy of a bunch of people who do want to help us, but also have a lot of other things going on as well. That and the time/date change seems to have made the email turn-around time about a week. The work week doesn't start in America until Tuesday here and Friday there is the weekend here. Therefore, we really only have four work days in the middle of the week where all of the concerned parties are answering their emails right away.

With the forestay installation off of my list, my next job was to change the oil in our poor starboard engine. It's not a hard job, but I was less enthusiastic about doing that one. At least I was allowed to do it myself. Just for good measure, I changed out the raw water cooling pump for a shiny new one. That made the day feel like it was still a productive one.

Boat chores (and our Covid-19 test) helped fill the days

We spent the balance of our quarantine working our way through most of the boat jobs we have been putting off for the time that we could do them without interruption. Well, now is the time I guess. We're not going anywhere for a while and we can't even leave the boat. Doing all of these jobs unavoidably involved trashing the boat in search of long-buried spare parts and seldom-used tools. We have a system for stowing everything in its proper place, but over time a lot of small purchases fall through the cracks, so to speak. A new little tube of super glue should be stored in the adhesives tub, but that is kind of buried in our spares locker, so we put it somewhere more convenient until the next time we're going in there anyway. If enough time passes, we forget we even bought replacement super glue, so we may buy more and stow that in some other different temporarily more convenient place. It's the same story for tools and shackles and rope and handy, time-saving kitchen appliances. Pretty soon we have stuff hidden in every little nook, but can never seem to find anything. Thus, my new first priority quickly became a thorough Spring cleaning to clear out the junk and get everything back into its true proper place.

{Maryanne: Don't feel too sorry for us, we paced ourselves and spent a lot of time watching series and movies on Netflix, we never set an alarm and started the day once we were awake and ready, the enforced quarantine wasn't so terrible at all. Of course we only had to do two weeks of it, things might well have felt different if we had to do more}

Our plans were put on hold when the police ordered us to present ourselves to the hospital for Covid-19 testing on Day 11 of quarantine. This turned out to be a bit of a kerfuffle because we had no way to get there. Since the WA border closure, all of the tourists in Exmouth are Westralians, as they call themselves. Unlike foreign tourists, they overwhelmingly arrive in their own vehicles, which has caused demand for the two local cab companies to dry up. One closed altogether, the other has shifted to doing all-day tours and the like. When we asked if we could book a ride into town, the owner of the latter said she should have little problem fitting us in if we gave enough notice. Great!

”Where do you need to go?” she asked.

”To the hospital for Covid testing.”

There was a very long pause, then the hemming and hawing started. Our reassurances that we were absolutely, positively Covid-free and that testing was just a formality were not believed. She said she would chat with the local police and get back to us.

Our order was very clear that we were not allowed to take a bus (of which the town has none anyway), cycle or walk. Eventually, our friendly police constable (Deb) said she would pick us up for the test and drop us back at home when it was finished. That certainly made our arrival at the hospital seem more serious than it was. Deb had some more police stuff to do, so she said to just text her when we were finished and she would come get us. Then she asked if I would like her to bring me back a coffee. Well, of course I would, but I demurred. Deb is a highly qualified police officer, not Uber Eats. She is supposed to be out fighting crime, not caffeine withdrawal. Everyone knows there is no public safety risk from that since those people are all too tired to commit any crime.

The Covid test was just like we were told it would be. Those nerve endings way in the back of your sinuses have never been touched and the feeling is definitely weird and not in a good way. Luckily, the nurse who administered the test was like a good phlebotomist. By the time the creepy part started to register, she was already finished. We both now have tremendous sympathy for anyone that has to do the test regularly, like the truckies going back and forth across the WA border.

Deb the Constable collected us. She was alert from her coffee stop. Perhaps I played that wrong. Our Covid test order very specifically said we were to return directly home without any detours afterwards. That we did, but that didn't stop Deb from stopping the car along the way so we could get a better look out the window at the local emu and his new clutch of chicks.

The hospital is pretty much on the opposite side of Exmouth from the marina, so we were able to get a tantalizing peek at what we had been missing while we were in quarantine. On the surface it reminds me half of Arizona, half of west Texas. It is hot and dry and flat, with lots of red dirt. The undeveloped areas around the town are mostly low scrub that provides little shade. Any subsequent walks into town would be right under the big heat lamp in the sky.

After quarantine, we explore around the marina and Exmouth town (about 5km away) - And we were treated to a meal out by our friends Geoffrey and Sarah back in Ireland

This was confirmed on our first day of freedom (after receiving test results as both being Covid-negative) when we walked almost all of the way back to the hospital to do a load of laundry and restock up on perishables. The good thing about the small town is that everywhere we needed to run errands was pretty much in the same place once we got there.

The rigger that our insurance company had chosen to fly up from Perth had told us privately that he didn't like to fly and that he didn't really want to come up. This may be why our assessor was having trouble getting hold of him. In the end, they gave up on him and hired Brent, who said he would drive up to Exmouth from Perth the next day and would even bring his mast trailer, just in case it was needed.

We immediately liked Brent. He was not nearly as taciturn as the other guy when we asked questions and he seemed pretty knowledgeable and experienced. Since he was being paid for a whole weekend of his time, we were able to pepper him with all sorts of questions and requests for advice. I think I know quite a bit about metallurgy generally and rigging specifically and I couldn't detect any bullshit answers from him. I learned a lot more, though, which made me glad they couldn't get the other guy after all.

Brent had his own story about losing a forestay that made me feel much better about our little emergency. The boat he was on had the forestay snap, leaving only the fabric of the jib to hold up the mast. That sounds familiar. Then the jib started to split at one of the seams, so they had to quickly turn downwind so the wind would hold the mast up while they rigged an emergency stay. Okay, so far, so good. The thing is, that mast was twice as long as ours is AND it happened just as they were exiting Sydney harbour during the Sydney-Hobart race. They were near the front, so when they turned around, they were suddenly faced with 133 race boats going the other way, half of which were screaming at them to get out of the way because their disability was not obvious and they didn't appear to have right of way. They had to swerve within a boat length of dozens of racers closing at high speed while trying not to turn so far that their mast would come down and possibly clobber them and the adjacent two boats. I almost passed out from the stress of listening to the story. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be in it.

{Maryanne: For those of you who have been following our sailing stories for any time, you may recall we lost a forestay at sea in our previous boat (Footprint, on day 14 of our passage to Antigua in 2008). That time it was due to a split pin failing, and it was the bottom of the forestay that disconnected, requiring another rapid fix at sea. It is becuase of this earlier failure that our current rigging is secured by bolts rather than pins!}

After Brent's inspection, he decided that he would remove the mast, then take it back to his shop for repair and to install the new rigging before driving it back up to Exmouth to be reinstalled in a couple week's time. Ouch! Just the fees for the back and forth of his trip already cost us more than our current rigging did when it was new. Brent has to do that trip twice. Plus, of course, there's the cost of the parts and repairs on top of that. Our insurance assessor did not seem fazed by the estimate and in fact was adamant that he did not want us to even try to save some of the cost by motoring the mast-less Begonia down to Perth to pick up the completed mast. I guess that removes any worry on their part that something else will increase the claim before we are back to 100%. The numbers were hard for us to look at, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were already sure to blow through our rather high deductible (excess). If the insurance company was insisting on getting us the best repairs money can buy, who were we to argue? We need our rig to be in really good shape, since we seem to sail a lot.

Unstepping the mast - to drive it off to Perth

Once Brent was gone with our mast, we took an easy day to recover from all of that drama and then started with the full Spring cleaning. We very quickly learned it was best to do any work before the day got hot, so we started getting up before the sun to start early. That combined two of our least favorite things: consecutive early wake up alarms followed by whole days of unpaid work. Before we both quit work, we each had encountered people telling us that retirement would be a dull, featureless void that would drive us crazy. I'm still waiting for at least a few of those days. It's notable that none of those people were retired themselves when they offered up their advice.

I was keen to get the boat jobs finished so we could relax and have a little fun. Maryanne decided she needed a break of fun before getting back to the balance of the jobs. I fought hard (okay, not that hard. I knew where this was going), but she prevailed. We rented a car so that we could spend a couple of days exploring Cape Range and its national park, on the other side of the peninsula from Exmouth.

The peninsula, which is pretty flat on the eastern, Exmouth side, gradually slopes upward before peaking in a ridge that tumbles quickly to the sea on the western side through a series of foothills and steep gorges. At the beach, the Ningaloo reef (Australia's largest fringing coral reef) extends for a couple more miles of beautiful, turquoise water before descending off of the Australian continental shelf.

We spent our first day stopping at most of the beaches, looking carefully for nesting turtles. We found lots of tracks and a few nest craters, but no individuals. We topped off our day with a snorkel at Lakeside (must've been named before they knew how big it was). There, we saw lots of turtles swimming as well as a pretty good variety of other fishes and even a few rays.

Exploring the coast and wildlife on the Cape

Our plan for the next day was to see what we had missed the day before. We started by going all of the way to the end of the 2WD road to Yardie Creek. There, we took a hike up the canyon to a high viewpoint around a couple of big river bends. As we were the first ones there for the day, we spotted lots of black-flanked rock wallabies. They are so well camouflaged that we almost never saw them before practically bumping into them. I spotted one furry caterpillar that ended up actually being the end of the tail of one in a hole. Once they decided we were close enough, they would hop quickly away without making a sound, being careful not to rustle any vegetation along the way. They were so good at it that if one of us turned away from looking at one to tell the other, on looking back, the wallaby would be gone with no indication of even which way they went. It was like they could just vanish into thin air. We also saw bats, lots of parrots and an osprey couple adding to their already sizable nest.

Yardie Creek, its scenery and wildlife (including the local Rock-Wallabies)

Afterward, we took a short, but very informative boat ride, where the experienced guide put our wildlife spotting prowess to shame while dispensing more information than we could ever hope to remember. We had one more canyon hike to do, but first, we stopped at Sandy Bay for lunch. Sandy Bay is one of those impossibly pretty places. The giant turquoise bay is ringed by blinding white sand, occasionally interspersed with deep red rock for some contrast.

A picnic lunch and a stroll at Sandy Bay
(started out so well)

We ate our lunch while watching three kite surfers hone their skills. Afterward, we went for a walk on the beach for a bit. My shoes quickly filled with sand, so I took them off to enjoy the water. When we got to the rocks, it just hurt how pretty the whole scene was. At one point, I crouched down to get a photo of it. The framing wasn't quite right, so I took a step backwards. Unbeknownst to me, since I hadn't looked, there was a very sharp rock behind me, covered with razor-sharp oysters. I didn't hit it that hard, but it knocked me off balance. When I tried to stop my fall, I kicked back into it hard enough to drive it into my foot over a centimeter in two different places. I also sprained my ankle and a toe in the process. Yeooooow!!! To add insult to injury, I also ended up on by back in the water, covering my previously dry clothes with water and sand. AND...I missed the shot!

After pounding the sand and picking up fistfuls of it in a bid to dull the pain (which only seemed to work), I managed to crawl back on my hands and knees to the scene of the fall to get the photo I had been trying for when it happened. When I got back up on my feet, I noticed that there was a pretty long trail of blood drifting away in the water. Oh, that's probably not good!

We were suddenly a long way from the car, with all of the intervening space taken up by sand and saltwater. After trying the former for a few steps, I opted for the latter. The water washed away the gritty sand, but of course it was salt water.

Was the shot really worth it?

Our Sandy Beach stroll didn't end so well

Our next hike was a right turn on the main road, but we opted to take a left instead to see if the park's Visitor's Centre had a first aid kit. I was going to go in and ask myself, but by the time we got there, my shoe was overflowing and I noticed I was leaving a trail of blood behind like someone in a Bourne movie, so Maryanne got the job.

The staff were all very kind and eager to help. I offered to go somewhere a little more discreet to keep from scaring their guests and bleeding all over their entryway, but they insisted I stay where I was. Not to worry, they would clean up later.

Okay, if you're eating something, you might want to take a little break for a minute.

Good. Ready?

It was then time to present my foot for treatment. By then it had been in my sandal for enough time that some of the older blood had started to congeal. That mixed with the sand to make a kind of paste. Thus, what I pulled out of my shoe was a completely blood-covered foot dangling with what appeared to be most of its innards, As if I had not cut myself so much as got caught in some kind of industrial grinding machine. By that point, I was starting to wonder myself, so it was a great relief to all in attendance when most of it washed right off.

You made it! Well done.

After ably patching me up and putting on a compression bandage, I was feeling much better. So good, in fact, that I hardly had a limp going back to the car. That gave me a thought: maybe I could try seeing how much of the next hike I could get through. Now, to the doctors and mothers reading, I know, I know. Believe me, I know.

I knew it wasn't the best idea, but I was concerned about Maryanne. She hates missing out on stuff, especially stuff she had already planned to do. I didn't want her to have any regerts about missing the hike or about spending the money on a car just to drive out and not go on a hike. I knew I could make it 3½ kilometers, I just wouldn't like all of them, so I resolved to at least try for her sake.

Maryanne, on the other hand, was more worried about me. She thought I really wanted to go and was just being stubborn, so she resolved to go with me and act as my backup for safety's sake. So, it turns out that after almost eighteen years of marriage, of which almost five have been literally twenty-four hours a day together, we still have some communication issues to work out.

Anyway, the hike was, well....nice. It was actually the perfect hike for me to do the whole distance. This is because it was a loop hike that started out on the dry creek bed of the Mandu Mandu Gorge. The creek bed is covered from bank to bank with horrible round stones about the size of a human foot. We call them ankle-breakers.

The curving nature of the path made it unclear how far we would have to go on these rocks before transitioning to a normal dirt path again. By the time we figured out that it wasn't going to be until the halfway mark at the turnaround, we were already halfway to there, so it seemed to be a better deal to just carry on to smoother ground.

When we got there, it was actually a relief to climb the steep trail up to the rim. I couldn't help but notice, though, that I was bleeding again and it was coming through the bandages. At the car, we had put a plastic bag over the bandages to keep any dirt out. By the time we made it to the rim, the bag was filling up fast and my whole foot was turning red again. After a few steep intervening ups and downs, the bag was overflowing and I was again leaving a crime scene trail of bright red dots behind me. My shoe was making an audible squishing sound. Time to get this hike over with.

In the meantime, we did our best to enjoy our hard-earned views. They really did go on for miles in either direction. From where we were, we could see the whole park all of the way from Yardie Creek to the lighthouse at Vlaming Head.

A limp around Mandu Mandu Gorge

By the time we made it back to the car, I was noticeably much more limpy. Most of my walking was really hopping on the good foot while using my hiking pole as a crutch. We put a second bag over the first to catch any subsequent spillover and then both agreed that a trip to the hospital back in Exmouth was going to be our very next stop.

It was a slow night at the hospital and we were the only ones in the emergency room when we arrived. The triage nurse seemed more amused than horrified to see my foot-in-a-bag-of-blood trick and was just as understanding about my messing up her nice, clean floor as the Visitor's Centre people had been earlier.

The attending physician was called in from his home a few minutes away. His first order of business, after introductions, was to stick a very long hypodermic deep into my foot and squeeze in a dose of stinging local anesthetic. Holeee Mother of Sweet Baby Jesus that hurts!! That was by far the most pain I had felt all day. Then, twenty seconds later, it was gone. I'm sorry about the unfair things I thought about you just then, Doctor.

He was then kind enough to give me six more shots in previously deadened areas, so I didn't care. In the end, ALL of my pain was gone. Ahhhhh! That's when I started getting sleepy, not because of any sedative effect, but because it had been a long day and I no longer had the pain to keep me awake.

Then there was a lot of scrubbing and pulling and scraping and cutting and digging and tweezing, none of which bothered me the least. Funnily, I could still feel the doctor touching my skin and even occasionally tickling me, so my foot was not numb, per se. I commented on this and the staff all said in unison that those are different nerves. Well, I'll be.

Kyle was well looked after at the Emergency Room

In the end, I got seven stitches; four in the big cut and three in the little one. I left feeling much better and only with the slightest limp to show for it all. That would come to an abrupt end when the anesthetic wore off four hours later. Oh, I was paying for those extra 3.5k now! It took until morning before I got enough ibuprofen in me to fall back to sleep again. Poor Maryanne. I thought about going out to the cabin to let her sleep, but every time I even tried to move, the pain shut me down. Maryanne insisted unconvincingly that I was not bothering her that much and managed to hold out with me until I calmed down. You can believe I am now diligent about keeping up on my pain meds. It's been much better since.

I returned to the hospital for a followup visit a couple of days later to check for infection. I told the doctor I had signed up for a triathalon on Sunday and asked his opinion. He shook his head and chuckled, “Ah...too soon, definitely too soon.”