Friday, April 6, 2018

Evanston: sailing blind (partly); evacuation plan

        A fellow sailor who has recently suffered vision loss asked me to write about how I have adapted sailing half blind.
        I’ve had to stop and think about that because only one thing immediately comes to mind and that is to be certain of handholds and I do that ashore as well.  I know that objects are not where they seem to my one eye to be.  This can be irritating or amusing depending on circumstances and my mood.  Ever more prevalent touch screens can be challenging.  Early on after becoming monocular I would put a wine glass on the counter and pour, missing the glass completely.  I learned to move the bottle until its neck is actually touching the glass.  On GANNET I make sure that my hand has actually got a grip before I move.  On GANNET one seldom moves without having a grip on something.
        For me loss of depth perception is the most significant aspect of my right eye blindness, but there is also the loss of a significant portion of the normal visual field and possible loss of balance.
        I am most comfortable in relatively small controlled spaces where I know where everything is and most uncomfortable in large, crowded unfamiliar spaces, such as airports where people rushing from all directions suddenly appear inches away on my blind side.  On GANNET I benefit from having long believed that everything should have its place on boats and be able to be found in the dark in the middle of the night.
        I also benefit by having long believed in making yourself as strong as possible and sailing your boat as easy as possible.  ‘Easy’ in this case is almost a synonym for ‘simple’.  
        Jib furling gear, gennaker furling gear, slab reefing, being able to control the boat from the companionway, perhaps gain extra importance since I lost input from my right eye.
        So my way of dealing with my visual loss is to understand the specific nature of my limitations and to be continually aware that I need to compensate for them in multiple small ways.  In the end it isn’t that big a deal.  Though frayed by time, I’m still good.  Sail on, my sailing friend.  Sail on.


        Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project has just predicted a slightly more active hurricane season than usual this year with 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.  This compares to the thirty year average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.
        I, of course, have a greater interest in the North Atlantic hurricane season than I used to.
        GANNET will be exposed to all of this season and I  expect to be on Hilton Head Island myself for much of it.
        I have already made my plans if I am there during a mandatory evacuation.  They start with I am not leaving.
        I have been in hurricane force winds eight times at sea, usually only 70-80 knots winds, but at least once in I expect 100+ knot wind.  I have never been in hurricane force winds on land or in a harbor.  The most have been tropical force 50-60 knots.
        Hilton Head Island has 40,000 permanent residents and gets more than 2.5 million visitors a year.    I have no idea how many people are on the eleven mile long island at one time, but the majority of them are there during the summer.  There is one bridge off.
        Hilton Head has an organized evacuation plan, one part of which is that in a mandatory evacuation those who live inside our gated community must leave last.  There are only two gates into the community.  In a mandatory evacuation I suppose they just close the gates until all the others have left.
        I expect that there is some provision for transporting those who have no transportation of their own.  When I am at Hilton Head my transportation is my bicycle.  But since I’m not going, that does not matter.
        I am among the most experienced at living off the grid.
        After preparing GANNET as well as possible, 
I will fill the bathtubs with water.  I will take the four jerry cans from GANNET and fill them.  I will take the JetBoil, freeze dry food and other gear from GANNET, including a small folding solar panel to charge my iPhone.  I will provision the condo as if I were on an ocean passage.  I will buy all the Laphroaig I can lay my hands on.
        We are on the top floor.  Even if the roof is blown off, if the building doesn’t collapse I’ll be all right and capable of surviving for a couple of months.
        I hope it doesn’t come to that. 
       Hurricane seasons are going to be a fact of my life for the rest of my life.