Saturday, July 4, 2009

I think that Forrest Gump had it right when he said that "life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get..."  In many ways our second trip was like a box of chocolates.  As much planning and preparation as we did prior to our departure, we just didn't know what "we were going to get. "

The first day started off with a little 'dual' from a retired Coast Guard captain.  We had gotten his name from a mutual friend and we hired him to come out to the boat for a few hours to help us refine our docking techinques.  He was a wonderful instructor.  We were pretty good at getting the boat in and out of a slip.  What we wanted to learn was better coordination skills.  Many times our docking procedure looked a bit like a Keystone Kops movie where there was lots of running around and general chaos.  There is a lot going on when you come into a slip.  From the flybridge it is hard to see how close you are to the dock.  You need someone looking over the side for you to tell you how close you are.  Then there is coordination between the ship and those working the dock.  Lines must be handed over and secured and the communication between those above and those below has to be clear.  It sounds so simple and I guess after we do it a few more times it will become second nature.   We just wanted to get with someone who could offer us pointers and tips on how to best accomplish this task.  We couldn't have gotten a better person to work with us through the morning.  

So we finished our 'mini course' and said goodbye to New Bern.  We decided to head out a half day earlier than planned to check out this anchorage that looked pretty neat.  It was mostly on the way, no more than an hour off our float plan and we figured that we should get used to being spontaneous.  In this world that is so structured, it is hard breaking out of that mindset. So we packed up and went.

The anchorage was in a little inlet off the South River which is off the Neuse River in North Carolina.  The books and websites all gave it high marks for scenery and tranquility.  The weather was perfect, the fuel tanks full and the water was perfect.  What could go wrong?

Well, this spontaneity thing may not be all its cracked up to be.  You see, after we had gotten to the anchorage, which by the way was beautiful, I decided to be spontaneous again and get in the water to check out the boat.  Some crud had accumulated along the water line and I wanted to get in and take a scrub brush to it.  It was also pretty hot out and the water looked very cool and inviting.  So I got in the water from the swim platform which is at the back end of the boat (stern) and had just made it around to the front (bow) when I had the very painful sensation that I was being several places.  At first it felt like electricity but the pain quickly increased.  I looked around to see what it could be causing this but I couldn't see anything.  Suddenly there was another round of shocks and that was all I needed.  Michael Phelps couldn't have beaten me back to the stern of the boat and onto the swim platform.

I literally sprang out of the water and onto the aft deck.  Kim came running out to see what was going on.  All up and down my arm were these little welts (soon to be big welts) that were red and white.  There were also a few on my leg.  And boy did they hurt.  At first I thought that maybe there was some kind of fish out there that liked me more than its usual diet of bugs but it just didn't make any sense.  Kim took a look over the side of the boat and with a tone of shock and horror exclaimed, "Oh my god!"  Swimming all around the boat were hundreds of jellyfish.  These weren't the little guys I was used to seeing at the beach.  These were the big boys.  And they were everywhere.

Okay, so I am the unflappable guy.  You know, the one that won that award in high school.  So there would be no panicking.  Lets assess the situation.  I was in big time pain.  There were welts growing up and down my arm and leg and I was starting to lose sensation there.  We were at least an hour away from any help.  Our cell phone wasn't getting any bars and the perfect weather we had been experiencing was starting to turn ugly.  Dark clouds were forming off to the west.

My first thought was allergic reaction.  That could be bad.  We had very limited medical supplies....mostly neosporin and tequila.  I had developed some minor allergic reactions the past few years to things that would make me swell up and want to vomit.  Things like bee stings, kiwi and Phil Collins songs were on my top ten list of things to avoid.  Jellyfish have a neurotoxin in their stingers that cause the pain.  I was hoping that I wasn't going to have an allergic reaction to it as my options were very limited.

So for the next fifteen minutes or so we stood around waiting to see if my tongue was going to swell up and I was going to expire right there on the South River.  I kept checking my pulse and Kim kept asking me about life insurance.  "Where was that policy again?"  

The pain was inspiring to say the least.  In my fleeting moments of lucidity, I seemed to remember from the boy scouts (or was it Dr. Oz?) that the home remedy for a Jellyfish sting was to apply human urine to the wound site.  Something about the acid in it or whatever, but it was supposed to counteract the toxins in the barbs left by those monsters.

I mentioned this to Kim who didn't take long to see where this was headed.  I needed a human donor and she was the only one onboard.  Now Kim, like most women, is fairly modest and this was an unusual request for anyone to help out with.  I told her that it might work best if she would find a pot or pan and use that to 'secure' a sample.  With that, I could use a paper towel to apply as necessary.  What happened next was a bit of a blur.  I am not sure what was in that bowl.  It may have been warmed over tequila or possibly the urine, but upon application to the burgeoning welts, the relief was almost immediate.  Wow.  I didn't think it would work, but it did.  I was going to live dammit!

The rest of the evening was pretty quiet.  We decided to forgo margaritas that night and had several cold beers instead.  The storm that came quickly departed just as quickly and it turned out to be a nice evening.  It took several more hours but the welts started to subside and the pain gradually tapered off.  The lesson here was to take a minute or two before jumping in the water to make sure you know what is going to be out there swimming around with you.  Had I looked before I leaped, I would have seen the hundreds of jellyfish that were in the water all around the boat and probably not gone in.  Yep, when you don't look before you leap, you never know what you are going to get.