Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interim Report on Seasickness

As you know, I have been somewhat inner-ear-challenged on this trip.  Stylish and Indy have had the occasional issue, but I am a consistent mal de mer girl.  So although I have lots of fun when we arrive places, I’m afraid the getting-there isn’t all it could be.

Here is what I’ve tried so far.

1.  Dramamine, aka Gravol
Seasickness fighting power: 2/10
Adverse effects: 9/10

This stuff was plain terrible.  It robbed me of all intelligent thought, while leaving me in full possession of my blinding headaches and stomach upset.  The day I made the mistake of taking a full pill, Erik was unable to wake me for almost half an hour.  I fell asleep sitting up, for crying out loud.  So if you like to feel like your brains have been sucked out of your head and replaced with cotton wool, while simulataneously having all of your sinus cavities threaten to explode, this is the drug for you.

Hermes understands what I'm going through.
2.  Scopolamine patch
Seasickness fighting power: 8.5/10
Adverse effects: 7/10

Oh, scopolamine.  The patch was brilliant to start with.  I used it on the three-day passage from Key West to Isla Mujeres, and, for once, was in fighting shape  the whole way.  But then the itchiness under the patch started.  I developed an allergic reaction to either the drug or whatever they use to cross the skin barrier.  By the time we hit Isla and I took it off, I had a fiery red welt behind my ear that took weeks to heal.  An itchy patch I can deal with, but the patient information sheet carried dire warnings about allergic reactions leading to respiratory shutdown, and I’m less cool with that.   So, I’ll use this again in a pinch, but it obviously doesn’t like me, more’s the pity.

3.  Stugeron
Seasickness fighting power: 2/10
Adverse effects: 2/10

This was the holy grail of seasickness meds.  Everyone told me how great it was.  Banned in the US, it was bound to be good, right?  No.  It did nothing.  Nothing!

Like Radioactive Man, I'm a little disappointed.

It was like going out with your dream date, only to discover he is a dumb as a stick, secretly wears a hairpiece and still lives in his mother’s basement.  Truly, I was heartbroken. 

5.  Pressure point bracelets
Seasickness fighting power: 0/10
Adverse effects: 0/10

I think I spent too long in the sciences to have the faith required for this kind of remedy.  Enough said.

4.  Nothing + a nap
Seasickness fighting power: 3/10
Adverse effects: 0/10

Let’s face facts, boys and girls.  I’m pretty useless the first day out.  I can follow basic instructions, but my higher cognitive abilities shut down under the weight of my misery.  So, I might as well be asleep, right?  I can help with watches, ie/ make sure we don’t hit other boats and we stay on course.  I retain that level of smartitude.  And being drug-free, I am marginally more intelligent than on the stuff listed above (and, I have it on good authority, somewhat less crabby).  When it is Erik’s turn to keep watch, I sleep in the cockpit.  As long as I don’t venture into the dreaded Belowdecks, I can feel human for up to an hour after waking.  Pretty good, right?  Well, better than nothing.

This is where I call for help.  People.  This is your chance to shine!  You are smart and worldly.  You travel places.  You know someone with motion sickness.  And you have access to all the wonders of the intrawebs, which I lack via my trusty ham radio.  So help me out here.  I am ready to be a one-woman testing ground for any and all remedies, no matter how dubious!  I’m down to ginger tea on my list of Things People Swear Will Work.  Send me your magical answers.  Pretty please.  Be my hero!

Even Wonder Woman suffers during takeoff and descent.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rodent vs Insect

In my youth, I wasn’t very fond of spiders.  Alright, I was kind of scared of them.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that our house backed onto a ravine, and every once in a while a spider the size of the Loch Ness monster would scuttle across my bedroom floor.  In general, I could manage if they were a) outside the house, and b) couldn’t contact me in any way, but if they violated either of those terms, their creepy little lives were forfeit. 

Once I had Stylish, I tried very hard to get over my spider issues.  When we encountered bugs and spiders, I would take a steadying breath, then we would examine them and talk about how interesting they were.  Eventually, my feigned non-revulsion became real.  And once we moved aboard, I was quite happy for any spiders I saw, because I knew they were keeping the bug population down.  As for the bugs themselves, pfft.  Bugs.  Big deal.

And then, it happened.

A giant cockroach.

We call them palmettos, because it sounds better, but the fact of the matter is that when two inches of dark brown buggy horror runs across the bathroom, you wish you were holding an elephant gun.  Truth be told, I jump on a chair and squeal like a cartoon housewife from the fifties who spotted a mouse.  Every time.  Erik always has to kill the damn thing, and he's getting pretty disgusted at my totally irrational reaction.  I'm trying, but so far I'm failing.  When I turn around of an evening to see those long, long antennae wiggling out from behind something, rational thought deserts me.

Sightings are rare, so we know we aren’t infested.  We seem to specialize in bringing home orphans – hiding in corrugated cardboard, hitchhiking out of the hot and humid laundry room.  We are are careful as we can be, but somehow, once in a while, they still show up.  I have Boraxed the heck out of this boat, so I know not much will survive.  Certainly not for long.  They can’t hurt me; they are just gross.  And yet, and yet...

A couple of weeks ago, we actually spotted two in one night (instead of about one every month), and Erik and I were worried.  Out came the special poisons and traps.  No way do we want to haul this boat out of the water to fumigate it.  But then a strange thing happened.

The next morning, Erik found palmetto parts strewn around the back deck.  He speculated that a bat had caught one, and we joked about building a bat house on the mizzen.  A few days later, I found some palmetto legs under the stove as I was cleaning.  And then I found mouse poops in the cupboard.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the wall and wondered why we had stayed in a marina.  You’re just asking for critters to run up the lines.  And here was a mouse.  A mouse to eat our food, chew the lines, chew the upholstery, chew the hoses and maybe even sink the boat.

Mice don't bother me.  At all.  I spent too long in a lab to be afraid of mice.  But I still don't want them here, so we bought sticky traps, warfarin, snap traps and a live trap.  No way was Mr Mousie going to stay on Papillon, and we sure weren't going to give it a chance to breed.

Because the food is packed in hard plastic (yes, all of it). Mr Mousie had no luck in the pantry.

Animal proof
I found he was going on deck at night to chew through the full garbage bags.  I baited the live trap with ham and peanut butter and tucked it in beside the garbage bag.  Then, off to bed.

In the night, I thought I heard the trap snap shut, and accompanying shrieking and clanging.  But it was a windy night and the sounds disappeared quickly, so I was afraid to hope.

In the morning, I crept on deck like a child afraid Santa hasn’t come.  I tiptoed through the cockpit, and saw the trap door was closed!  Oh happy day!  I traipsed to the back deck to give Mr Mousie a good scolding.

I found a big.  Stinking.  Rat.

Too big, too big!

Just call me Samuel Whiskers.
Holy cats!  He was HUGE!  Look at how he filled that trap!  Jesus H., how did that thing move around the boat undetected?  Mr Mousie, indeed.  No wonder the palmettos disappeared – Ratty ate them all, and probably in one gulp!  We’re lucky he didn’t eat us, too!

I hopped around in ataxtic terror for a few moments, then fled.  But this time, I helped Erik commit the murder.  Like I said, even big rodents aren't as scary as palmettos.  Don't ask me why.

Well.  Ratty is gone.  The palmettos are gone.  And any and all spiders are welcome, welcome, welcome.  No questions asked.

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guatemala Roundup

If all goes well, we should be departing Guatemala for Honduras at this time this post appears.  This is a tricky undertaking; we can only leave the Rio Dulce during the full moon high tide, because the mouth of the river spots a nasty shallow muddy bar, and we draw 6.5 feet.  So we have a short window of a few days each month when we can leave, weather permitting.  As hurricane season will only grow worse, we'll either leave this week, or not until the fall.

But let's assume that all has gone well and we are out at sea.  What did we do in Guatemala?

We climbed some Mayan temples:
I'm the queen of the castle
 Toured the rainforest canopy:
Tether mandatory.

You mean, I shouldn't jump down there?
 Played croquet on the fourth of July:
Even Indy is a princess sometimes.
 Lit confusingly-labelled sparklers:
Electric how, exactly?
 With predicable results:
Ow.  Stylish has an unfashionable hole in her foot.
 We lazed around some:
Sharing a hammock as only sisters can
 Ate some apples:
 Enjoyed a waterfall with hotsprings:
Look!  Even Mom is there!
 And just generally admired the view.
And that, my friends, is Guatemala.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here Be Dragons

Here were are in the Rio Dulce.  We've had a nice time in El Golfete, but it is time to visit town and reprovision.  Let's sail on to Fronteras.

First, we turn on the GPS.
Don't fall off!


Oh.  Well.  Our boat appears to be on land, which is a little worrisome.  And the world sort of ends there, doesn't it.  I guess those special Caribbean charts we bought weren't all they were cracked up to be.

No matter.  We still have our fancy computer navigation software.  First, let's take a look at google maps to see where we are going.

I know where Guatemala is!
Excellent.  Top right arrow to bottom left arrow.  Got it.  Let's open Coastal Explorer.

I can haz map?
And... oh.  No.  So, hmm.  It looks like we have to cross the Universal Transverse Mercator Grid, cut the corner of the Caution: Inadequately Surveyed Areas box, then emerge back onto the overly-zoomed river near the "M" in Guatemala.  Brilliant.

It may seem that we could get from one place on the river to another just by, you know, pointing the boat the right way, but as in all things, it isn't that easy.  Shoals and submerged pilings are our deadly enemies.  Luckily, our guidebook gave two GPS coordinates to navigate by; without those, we might have been in trouble.

And, just for comparison's sake, here is the map of Key West we used back in the day (at higher magnification, I might add):
Look at me!  I'm well-defined!
See all those little numbers?  Those are depths.  Go back and note the total absence of depth numbers on the Guatemala chart.  And when we get closer?

Any closer and you could see individual houses.
Buoys, depths, even buildings.  Is this all a plot to remind us how easy everything is back in civilization?  A vast conspiracy to make us run for home?  Oh, what dark days are these?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting Sick in Exotic Places

>>>Now new and improved with photos!<<<

While much of our gadding about on Papillon may seem like a long vacation, it should be remembered that this is our everyday life now.  And in everyday life, things happen.  Colds, car accidents, lost post; all of the things you experience at home, but in a prettier locale.

We came to Guatemala with almost the sole object of visiting Tikal.  Although it meant giving ourselves a tougher sailing plan afterwards to get down to Cartagena, we decided it was worth it.  This was, in the main, because Erik is a ruin junkie.  To put it in terms of the SATs, as my father is to historical plaques, so Erik is to ruins.  He cannot resist the remains of any ancient civilization.  When we lived in Germany, we were unfortunate enough to live near the edge of ancient Roman expansion, a line called the Limes (Lee-mess).  At one time, it was a miles-long wall probably four or five meters high, defended by a trench filled with pointy sticks and some highly unhappy and soggy soldiers.  By the time we strolled around, it was a small lumpy track through the forest.  Nonetheless, all visitors to our home were treated to a tour of the mighty Limes, complete with Erik’s dramatic retelling of Olden Tymes Gone Bye.

So Tikal, packed with huge temples, carvings and artifacts, was really a foregone conclusion, never mind that it was a) hundreds of miles inland, and b) totally out of our way.

We packed up the girls, took a boat into town, a long and crowded bus ride north, a further long and less crowded taxi ride, and we reached Tikal National Park by late afternoon.  We settled in, and decided to take a brief walk out to Complex Q before the park closed for the day.  Erik had arranged a guided tour for 6:30 the next morning (yes, really), so we just wanted to get a small taste of the place.  Tikal has hundreds of buildings – most of them still buried in the rainforest – over many square kilometers, so we knew we would have to pick and choose what we would be able to see.  Excited by this small taste of the complex, we set the alarm, went to bed early, and dreamed of the busy day waiting tomorrow.

I woke up perhaps an hour or two later to the sounds of Bad Things Happening in the bathroom.  The girls were still in bed.  Erik was not.

Erik was up the entire night with whatever flu had grabbed him.  It wasn’t pretty.  Before we left for our tour, I bought him a couple of Gatorades from the hotel shop, wished him well, and took the girls out for our 10 km hike.  Even in his reduced state, he was devastated that he would miss Tikal.

The girls and I had a wonderful time.  Stylish walked the whole way, and Indy did a very good job too, considering her tender age.  We heard about the Mayans, climbed temples, looked out over the rainforest, saw spyder monkeys, toucans, grey foxes, pacas, and birds of all sorts.  It was a wonderful morning.

And, as things turned out, Erik got his tour.  We stayed an extra day, and all did the tour again the next morning.  [One thing I will say about Guatemala, the people here are incredibly nice.  Our guide was very cool about Erik switching days, and the girls and me tagging along for round two.  That is typical of our experiences here.]  My counterpart may have been a little grey around the edges, but he saw Tikal, dammit!  And it was awesome.

Indiana Jones explores her roots

Checking out the rainforest from the top of Temple IV

Temple III in the distance
Local inhabitants

I'm here, I made it!
The flu is now making its way through the family.  I had my turn during our night in Flores on the way home and Indy succumbed this morning.  Stylish has been fighting the onset for days now by the simple expedient of not consuming anything, and therefore having nothing to expel.  (At least I don’t need to cook for this crew; plain buns are all anyone wants to eat at the moment.)

And we all agree that, sick or no, Tikal was worth it.