Thursday, 23 May 2013

On Board!

Yesterday was an important day and an exciting day. Yesterday was the day when my son and I tried getting me in and out of my sailboat, and in and out of the cabin. It was a difficult day and we worked hard at it. Ultimately we discovered a relatively easy way for me to get on the boat and into the cabin. Getting up out  of cabin and off the the boat represent more of a challenge.

The reason this is so important to me has to do with the losses in my life. If you know me well you know how much I love being on the water and in my boat. You know what the smell of salt and the sound of gulls triggers in my heart. When I die, it will be at sea and if not at sea, that is where my thoughts will be. I will be remembering the wonderful times with my children while cruising about the Gulf Islands or watching the fireworks on English Bay. I will be thinking about my family with me as we drifted down  Agamemnon Channel, breeze astern, summer sun gleaming off the top deck and eagles overhead. I will be at peace.

Getting on is relatively easy. The key is having the boat at an "alongside" tie where the boat is parallel with a dock wide enough for my wheelchair. Then I simply transfer sideways, manually pulling one leg over the gunwale of the cockpit and ultimately simply falling inboard for the remaining two inches onto to the cockpit seat. After that all I have to do is swing round into a sitting position and I am good to go.

Getting in the cabin is relatively easy as well. All I do is lift my legs over the lip of the hatchway and slide myself into a sitting position above the gangway ladder. My legs simply fall inboard and by dropping down to the next step on the ladder I am suddenly standing in the cabin. After that all I have to do is maneuver myself to the seats by the galley table and I am good to go.

Getting into the head is a challenge as I have to "walk" the three steps down the companionway into the forward hatchway area. I can do this now but I wonder how it will go a few months from now. We may have to get creative around using the head. That remains to be discovered and we have some ideas around how to resolve that problem.

Getting out is a greater challenge. By aligning myself with the gangway ladder I can reverse the process of getting onto the second highest step of the ladder. Then, using my arms, I can push myself up to the lip edge of the hatchway. From there I lift my legs up one more step on the ladder and force my derriere onto a bench board across the cockpit that rests on the cockpit benches on either side. After that non-trivial effort, I can pull my legs up and transfer myself onto the cockpit bench. The board will be useful in transferring from side to side in the cockpit as well.

The last step is getting off the boat. This is the most difficult. I have to sit on one cushion, then lift myself higher while transferring onto a bigger cushion. This conquest over weight and gravity eventually puts my rear end on the same level as the gunwale edge. With help I can then lift one leg so I straddle the gunwale and ultimately transfer sideways onto my wheelchair. We are going to get my power lifting seat from home and see if we can use it in someway to raise me up more easily. We are also looking into a block and tackle over the boom to see if we can use a system like that to help me.

I cannot do this alone. I could not do this without Ricky. We are set for July but I am not sure what will happen in August when he has to attend to other commitments. I will need additional crew. Any takers for August at sea?


  1. Ack! I wish you had let me know about this earlier. I've already booked flights, hotels, cars, and tickets for the world bagpipe championships in Glasgow in August. I think I'd like to do some sailing. Does the weather deteriorate too much I to October?

  2. Richard,
    That's great news that you're able to get in and out of the boat.

  3. Hi Mike

    It is good news but it is also a tough decision. I know my condition will get worse, so what will happen in August? I am going to rig for assisted boarding and de-boarding. I am still considering other options.

    I can make it work; that is what I do.