Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
What Scares Me - 28 January, 2016
The weather here the last few days has been cruddy - rainy, warm and humid. However, about 150 miles south of here, there
was a tornado that bounced some cars around and tore up some roofs. This is the second time that has happened in that
area in a month or so. There are a lot of boats down in that area, especially cruising boats waiting to cross from Florida to
It reminded me of the period before we left, when people would ask us if we were afraid of storms or pirates or some other
suitably nautical terror. We would give them the appropriate answers about staying out of "pirate" waters and watching out for
weather and how sailing was actually safer than commuting on the highway.
So, now that I have been out a while, I can tell you what scares me - and it is still not pirates or bad weather.
The thing that scares me the most is losing Suzanne. Suzanne has had two different bouts with melanoma in the past twelve
years. She had a back injury years ago that has gotten progressively worse over time and there were a few times where the
pain of daily living drove her almost to suicide. Every day is a fight for Suzanne - one that she faces bravely and with a
(usually) joyful heart.
But there are times when I wake up during the night and I can't hear her breathing. Fear always clutches my heart and I give
her a little shake - not enough to wake her, but enough to get her to move. I have even taken her pulse a few times, when
she has taken medications that have depressed her systems to the point that she is "dead asleep."
Short of losing Suzanne, I am afraid of losing the dogs. Ozzy is getting old, his muzzle is beginning to show the same white
hairs that my beard and sideburns do. I understand that. On the other hand, there is always the fear of some accident that
could take both of them at once. A few weeks ago, while on a car trip, Ozzie and Jonesy succeeded in locking themselves in
the rental car. It was one of the new handy-dandy cars that didn't need keys, just an electronic key fob. If the key fob leaves
the car while the engine is running, the car goes nuts - binging and bonging to let you know that the key fob is missing. So,
we got into the habit of leaving the fob on the dash, next to the shifter. I got out to pump gas, Suzanne got out to get drinks,
the doors were shut and one of the dogs succeeded in stepping on the door lock button.
I panicked. The car was in The sunshine in Key Largo, Florida. All The news broadcasts have created The impression that a
car in that situation becomes an oven in ten minutes. We ended up calling for a locksmith, but Ozzy figured out The problem
and unlocked The car door before The locksmith got there. I sat in The car with them and wept.
Next, I worry about not being able to pay The bills. We have IRAs and retirement accounts, Suzanne has Social Security and
Workers Compensation payments for her back injury, and I work all summer, putting money into The kitty. But cruising is
expensive and, if you are not careful, The costs can get away from you. Sometimes, I am not careful. We spend too much.
Then I end up wide awake at two in The morning, worrying about how much money to liquidate out of The IRA, worrying about
The stock market, worrying about The unexpected bills. There is nothing I can do about any of this at two in The morning -
but The night is shot. Eventually, I will deal with The problem and we will get through, but it is something that quite literally
keeps me awake at night.
Now, I finally get to an actual boat problem. I worry about a boat system failing and how I am going to deal with it. These
fears generally come up when I am dealing with a system that I haven't run for a while, or that I am running a lot. These fears
are exacerbated when The system has done something fluky recently. For example, The generator was a little hard to start
this morning. Was it because it was still warm from running for a lot of hours yesterday or is there a problem I don't know
about that is going to explode soon? One of The systems that I worry about The most is The after cabin HVAC unit. It is a
Mermaid Air unit and it is going on eight years of running. When we are tied to The dock, it tends to run all The time. Last
summer, a sensor burned up and it unit was out of action for about a week. After I fixed it, I would lie awake for hours,
listening to it cycle. I would wonder, every time it shut off, if it would come back on. Eventually, I became convinced I had fixed
The problem, but there is still a little doubt in The back of my mind.
Finally - at least for today - I worry that I am not doing what I should be doing. I spend months during The winter not
contributing to The "real world." Am I a bum? Should I be looking for something gainful to do to support Suzanne and me?
Another cruiser and I were discussing The American economy a few weeks ago and he pointed out that The employment
participation rate is The lowest it has been in decades. It seems that during The last big recession, a lot of people who were
near retirement age pulled The plug and walked away from full-time employment. He and I were both in that category. Should
we do something about it? Now that things have improved, is it our duty as Americans to go back to work? I know that The
answer should be "hell, no," but still, in The back of my mind, I wonder...
So, to recap, I am still not afraid of pirates or weather. On The other hand, everything that I am afraid of, I would be just as
afraid of if I was living in a little frame house, in Urbanna, Virginia, waiting to die. So, on balance, I guess I am doing OK.