I’ve been extremely fortunate that, until a few weeks ago, I have never broken a bone or had a physical disability that made the. use of a wheelchair necessary.
I’ve sprained my ankle and pulled a hamstring in the past. These were minor inconveniences as I still got around pretty good and I was back to my usual Energizer Bunny status fairly quickly. I’m also deaf in my left ear, but this doesn’t hamper my mobility. (Yes, it’s a “disability,” but it’s one that I can control with my BAHA (bone activated hearing aid) or ear plugs, for the most part. Since living with the slow decline in hearing over 10 years, I’ve learned to deal with it quite well and find it more annoying than disabling.)
Being dependent on a wheelchair when I’m not at home on the boat has been an eye-opening experience. I’d like to share a few observations and suggestions from a temporarily disabled point of view:
I am very self-conscious when in public. Upon arriving at a restaurant, for instance, people turn to stare. I can understand this is just curiosity, but it makes me feel as if I am on display. Hubby often has to weave between tables, get me settled and then find a place to put the wheelchair. (And God forbid that I should need to use the restroom before the meal is over; that in itself is a royal pain and I’ve learned to “go before I go” anywhere.) Normally, I’m very confident, but this experience has shaken my ego. When you see someone in a wheelchair, don’t just look them over or through them and turn away; offer a smile and a nod to make them feel seen. We all like to feel acknowledged and welcome.
Access is the biggest obstacle and surprisingly very poor. Doors are tough to navigate through. Finding a ramp instead of stairs is challenging, and some ramps are extremely hard on my hubby to push/pull me up/down (especially boat ramps that become very steep with low tides). Even when a venue says it is “handicap accessible,” it may not be. Surfaces such as carpet and grass are extremely difficult for most regular-use wheelchairs. Ask if you can lend a hand when you see a person in a wheelchair and/or the caretaker struggling; hold the door for them, offer to carry a package or bag, or, if assistance is declined, show support with a “great job” comment.
We did it. We cut the docklines, backed out of the berth and left Alameda and land-life in our wake. We spent 13 years, 1 month and 9 days at Marina Village Yacht Harbor, Gate 9, Dock P, Slip 16. Funny thing is, because we lived on a boat, we were technically “homeless” the whole time. When I enrolled my son in school years ago, we were listed as “transient” because we didn’t have a permanent address. Which was true. We could have taken our home away at any time. And we finally did!
It has been a very, very, very long journey to make our dream a reality. Job lay-offs, medical issues (brain tumour, hip and shoulder surgery), family needs and Covid had us believing that it was never going to happen. And frankly, until several months before we left, we were still in denial, waiting on another squall to keep us in Alameda. Were we going to be “one of those” boaters that talks the talk but never sails the sail?
Then I pulled the trigger in July. I signed us up for the Baja Ha-Ha Fleet of 2022, gave my notice at work and planned our Bon Voyage Party. Hubby took a bit longer to leave his job. He felt a responsibility to finish a project for a company that couldn’t care less about him. He started researching and purchasing systems for our boat and soon realized that he couldn’t keep working and doing projects on the weekends and have us ready to go in time to meet our goal of leaving on Sept. 19 to leisurely cruise down the California Coast before meeting the Ha-Ha Fleet to sail to Mexico on Oct. 31. On August 1, he gave his two-week notice and retired after 34 dedicated years of service as an IBEW 595 Union Electrician. Then he promptly caught Covid (parting gift from a co-worker) and dove in headfirst to 24/7 boat work.
We have a running joke in my family that because I have a few followers from other countries, that I’m an “International Blogger” and the “celebrity status” has gone to my head. It’s said very tongue-in-cheek with many eyerolls and laughter.
The truth is that I am very proud of the planning and hard work I put in to launch this blog back in April 2018. This was when we believed that we would finally Live the Dream that Aaron and I had since buying Sonho in 2009. I would blog about our preparations to cut the docklines and circumnavigate the globe beginning in April 2019.
I blogged at least once a week. Every. Single. Week. For almost three years. And I really had grown a huge following from people all over the world. Even when we had to put off our plans to go cruising in 2019, I still posted recipes from my tiny kitchen and fictional short stories. I was a Writer.
The pandemic took the wind out of my sails. My entire life shifted and I no longer knew who I was. I wasn’t a cruiser, I wasn’t a writer, I wasn’t making a difference in the corporate world. I was basically a responder to the needs of others. Being of service brings me great joy so I did find happiness in keeping a nice home for my husband, home-schooling my Grands and working as an administrative assistant at Beth Chaim synagogue.
What is GO Time? According to the Urban Dictionary, “go time is a phrase to say when it is time to undergo a task and get serious about doing something.” It’s time for Aaron and Heidi Stagg to get serious about leaving the safety and security of being tied to land and venture out on Sonho to Live Our Dream on the open ocean and in foreign coves of warm, turquoise water.
For us, “GO” is also short for “GET OUT” as in “Get Out the Golden Gate!” We bought Sonho for the sole purpose of living aboard and crossing oceans and are determined to see that vision become reality.
In January, it’s cold and feels like a very long time until my favorite season of fall. It’s a little over 7 months and precisely 232 days from today (January 29, 2022) to September 18th. We’ve lived aboard for almost 13 years now, so you’d think we could just throw off the docklines and head to sea. It’s not that simple.
Life at the marina includes readily available water, electricity and garbage service. We simply plug in for energy needs and pull the hose out to fill our water tanks. We take our trash and recycling to shared refuse cans and someone else hauls it away. A pump-out boat comes to our slip, sucks out and disposes our toilet/head waste. And if we forget an ingredient or get a hankering for a particular food, we drive to any number of stores with a myriad of choices. We can easily call specialists with help for our systems or visit a chandlery for specific maritime needs. What we can’t find locally, we can order online and have delivered to our postal box in a matter of days.
I’m a goal-driven person. I’m also a list-maker. So New Year’s Resolutions are totally in my wheelhouse. I make them every year and, for the most part, I achieve them. Usually, they’re focused on personal intentions … beginning a new exercise or health routine, setting goals for writing, or learning a new skill.
Five years ago, I set a big goal of launching a blog to chronicle our preparation to circumnavigate. I was so very proud when I hit the button on the first published post. It has given me much joy as I share our life aboard our 42 ft sailboat on the Alameda Riviera, culinary creations from my tiny kitchen/galley, short stories and random musings. I posted weekly for three solid years, even as our goal to leave kept getting pushed back due to family circumstances. My audience grew to over 10,000 followers across the globe, and I reveled in the knowledge that I really was a writer.
Life onboard can be challenging enough, but surviving a virus during a pandemic and having to isolate for 10 days meant for lots of patience and biting of the tongue a time or two. I’d say that our marriage is unbelievably strong at this point … we spent a month on a 46 ft sailboat with our friends and then came home to catch Covid and went into lockdown on our own 42 ft boat. All the anchors are still attached and no one is missing, so I’m calling it a success!
We’d both done a lot of reading about the virus during the course of the pandemic. But when one contracts a deadly disease, so many questions arise. Perhaps the most disappointing thing has been the lackluster communication from our health provider, Kaiser. I know that doctors are overwhelmed with emails these days, but taking days to answer about symptoms and then answering with canned replies after we tested positive isn’t very compassionate. I’ve still not talked to my doctor; an associate reached out and I finally had a call from their Covid team as I was on the road to recovery. I did get a call from a doctor with the offer to receive a dose of a medicine that helps to lessens the symptoms; but since I was on the tail end of my infection, I was no longer eligible. I sure would have loved that opportunity early on!
Seriously? There must be some mistake. I am Queen of Covid Avoidance and have followed all the CDC guidelines to stay healthy in this pandemic. I’ve been known to chide others to wear masks and stay socially distanced, and I avoid those who are unvaccinated like the plague that it is.
This result was from a Rapid test and was followed up by a call from a nurse at the testing site who recommended we both get a PCR-24 hour test as soon as possible as it is more accurate. I had already gotten a PCR test at Kaiser upon the advice of my doctor and Aaron suggested driving through the airport Rapid test site on our way home. As soon as I got the Rapid test results, he went and got a PCR test. His results came in before mine and he is positive. So there’s now no doubt that we are both infected.
This is no joke. My symptoms went from lethargy and a mild cough and low grade fever to a hacking/wheezing cough that leaves me completely exhausted, whole body aches and a raging headache. All I want to do is sleep. Oh, and I’ve lost my sense of taste and smell! I realized this when I put a drop of pure peppermint essential oil under my tongue to help with my congestion and didn’t taste a thing. I won’t go into detail on the stomach issues after eating a fast-food cheeseburger. Oy vey!
“Seriously, Heidi, do you really need 50 pairs of shoes?”
My girlfriend had dropped by for a chat and caught me in my bi-annual shoe-purge. I was sitting on the floor with a huge mound of leather, vinyl, rubber and sequins in front of me. “You don’t wear all of those, do you?” she asked incredulously.
“If the shoe fits,” I quipped, slipping a darling, light teal, bejeweled kitten heel sandal on my foot and waving it in the air. “And there’s not 50 pairs anymore. I’m down to 37.”
“You do realize that you live on a boat?” she laughed.
Yes, I live on a 42 ft sailboat. No, I don’t really have a shoe fetish; I only buy a few pairs a year but I take good care of my shoes and keep them forever. My husband gave up on lecturing me on the fact that high heels really don’t belong on a boat and installed a fabric shoe holder behind my hanging clothes, against the hull. So my collection doesn’t take up needed space and is out of sight. But I know they are there; and that makes me happy.
We are committed to crewing with our dockmates, Scott and Joanne, on the Baja Ha-Ha and, come Hell or high-water, we are going to be sailing south on their gorgeous Bavaria Vision 46 for the first three weeks of November 2021. (Please, God, don’t take this as a challenge to mess with our plans. We really, really need this sea time!)
What, pray-tell, is the Baja Ha-Ha? (Doesn’t it just make you smile to say it?!) It’s not a race … it’s a cruiser’s rally that starts in San Diego, makes a couple of stops along the coast for rest and partying, and ends in Cabo San Lucas. There’s no trophy for being first to an anchorage or to finish. The goal is to safely traverse the Baja Coast in the company of others. Basically, the Ha-Ha is a 10-day slow journey south buddy-boating with about 150 other vessels. Power boats are welcome, but since there’s really only one stop for fuel, it’s generally about 99 percent sailboats. It’s a great segue for folks looking to spend a winter (or a few years) in Mexico, prepare for the big Pacific Ocean crossing to the Marquesa Islands or Hawaii, or perhaps continue south to Central or South America or go through the Panama Canal to reach the Caribbean. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me yearn for our turn to go.
Tara drug the small rubber dinghy from the surf onto the sand and turned to the ocean behind her just in time to catch the final glimpse of her beloved sailboat’s mast as it sunk.
Single-handing is risky, even for an experienced sailor such as Tara. Safety was always her top priority and she had double-checked the paper and electronic charts before venturing slowly into the island’s cove to take shelter from the storm closing in on her stern. Nothing prepared her for the loud crunch and sudden hard stop when her keel struck the reef. She was thrown forward, hitting her head and wrenching an ankle, but quickly gathered her wits and assessed the situation. Water was gushing into the cabin below, faster than the automatic bilge pump could empty. She grabbed the hand-held radio, ditch bag with her important documents and a few precious mementos, and went on deck to deploy the life raft. With one last glance at her home of over a decade, she abandoned ship.
I live aboard a 42 ft Tayana Vancouver sailboat, hull #5 laid in 1979, with my husband and little dog. We are preparing to head to Mexico in Fall 2022 and I enjoy blogging about our preparations for our journey, cooking in my tiny kitchen and writing short stories.