Head forward, chin against the bar, look to the right, bright green flash, keep looking right, flash, flash, pause, flash, flash, flash, brain trying to distract and take me, flash, flash, away from this moment. Distract, distance, flash, float away… to snorkeling on the flash, flash, flash, reef on Roatan, with the incredible, flash, coral, and brilliant colored, flash, flash, flash, fish surrounding me…
It began on the reef. Roatan, the biggest island in the Bay Islands of Honduras is part of the 2nd largest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. It is a diving mecca. If you look at a map of diving sights on the island there is a red marker every few hundred yards all the way around the island. There are multitudes of buoys to tie a diving boat or dinghy to. Many local dive boats and dive shops all along the beach. The reef is awesome.
We are anchored in West Bay where there are tons of snorkeling spots just off the back of the boat. Heading around the island the next day and so wanted to explore one spot that involved a fairly long and bumpy dinghy ride. We tied to the mooring ball, applied the vaseline to the fur on top of the lip, put in the earplugs, put the anti fog drops in the mask, squeezed into the fins, and dropped over the side. Wonderfully clear water, with endless coral, and a gorgeous variety of multi colored fish. The walls go down deep so I wanted to keep following the beauty down. I have always have had trouble popping my ears and could feel pressure building in my head and behind my eyes, but nothing out of the ordinary. Great farewell snorkel. Flopped back onto Dark Star the dinghy and bounced back to Orion.
Later that night out of the right side of my vision I started seeing weird lightning type flashes every few minutes. Ruh Roh. Kind of watched those that evening and then the next morning woke up to a slight screen covering all of my right eye. Off to the internet, to read of retinal detachment, emergency surgery, and the various fears that a quick dive into the internet can create. Oh shit. Planning on sailing that day around the island to French Harbor, so gave things a little time to work themselves out.
That night, the lights were still flashing. On the boat was Joe who seems to have at least one sister who is married to about every kind of professional that you could find. He hooked me up with the ophthalmologist in the family who said what I might have is PVD, where the vitreous gel that fills the eye separates from the retina, and that many people get with age and is not a problem, but that I should get it checked out.
I don’t think of Roatan as the epicenter of medical excellence but the next day I did get hooked up with the one eye doc in town. He dilated the pupil and looked deep inside with the bright light and seemed to say in Spanish that there was nothing wrong and that I could go about my business. Just what I wanted to hear, because I really didn’t want to fly back home to get eye surgery, leaving Orion in Roatan. Crisis averted.
Looking for that weather window to head back to Florida. Every day was going to be way windy for the first 24 hours, but with winds clocking to South of East so would be coming from a good direction. We listened to Chris Parker the weather guru, we checked Ventusky the wind app. We made our decision. Out at dawn on a straight line to the tip of Cuba. Then turn right to Florida and either go to the Dry Tortugas, Key West, or another day to Charlotte Harbor.
Fast sail, lots of wind, boat heeled over the whole time. Big seas so always rolling back and forth and sometimes dropping off the face of a wave with a big shudder. Dale said he was never actually airborne in the front cabin, but close. 2 hour shifts, with 4 hours to lay around, and potentially try to sleep.
Miles and miles of blue seas, white caps, rolling waves. 3 and a half days from Roatan West End to dropping the hook just off the coast guard station at Key West. Pretty damn good. Sailed almost the whole way except for the last few hours when we had to motor to make some easting as the wind finally eased.
Days later still hadn’t really recovered. Way more tired and beat up than I thought I had any right to be. Not as easy as when younger. When doing a long distance sail there is a constant sound of creaking and groaning and waves slamming that fills the brain. Slowly the tiredness takes over and sleep wins out, but just about then the alarm goes off for your 2 hour shift at 3am. No real rest as you sit in the cockpit because you are always bracing yourself. Then when trying to sleep muscles continue to work as the boat rolls back and forth, back and forth. When I finally slept in a bed on land the first night the whole bed kept moving all night long as I tried to still the sensation.
And overall noticing how the physical body is slowly falling apart. Every morning it’s up for a gentle session of stretching the back, moving the muscles, and easing into the day, but never quite getting back to that spry youthful flexibility. I used to spend a lot of time on the floor, dancing, and warming up for dancing, and have a body memory of finding stiff places and moving them to liquidity. Not so easy, or even possible any more.
And it’s annoying god damn it. I talk to my buds about it and it’s a prevailing attitude. Scott says, “My ears have been ringing for the last five years since I went to an Alice Cooper concert and took out my earplugs. Bert, hasn’t been able to play guitar for 2 months because there is a nerve in his neck that is pinching something making his left hand not work right. Arghhhh. People looking much older as I see them for the first time in a while. The warranty expires at 60 it turns out.
And what is the takeaway here. The higher evolved would say dance with it. Play within your limits and be fortunate for the physicality that you have had through your life. This is a normal part of aging. Be at peace and grateful. Then there is the 25 year old self that runs much of the program. Do what you used to do you old fart. Push it until it hurts and then go stretch it out and take some more ibuprofen. Fuck getting old, breaking down. It’s all bullshit.
It’s frustrating, especially as something gets taken away. Gotta say not too excited about the long, bashing multi overnights on Orion. You gotta be in shape for that shit, and the place to get further in shape is not on a boat that is leaning way over, and slamming through 8 foot seas. There is not rest in that situation.
So back to Boulder and the eye still feeling weird. Went in to see the nice Doc who had the super cool equipment to look into my eyes, take the picture, look deeper, and lo and behold found a tear in the retina. She said I should get it fixed, today, now! She made an appointment with the specialist this afternoon.
Super pumped up competent guy reminding me of son-in-law Kevin the doctor, so I felt in good hands. He pushed and poked and and kept putting more numbing drops in the eye. Yes there is a horseshoe shaped tear on the right side of the retina. The fix is to fire lasers shots all around it to create a scar tissue dam so that fluid can’t get through the tear and behind the retina, which has about a 75% chance of detaching and perhaps leading quickly to blindness in that eye if it’s not taken care of. Holy shit!
He puts some kind of monacle in my right eye to keep it jammed open and to keep from blinking and instructs me to lean into the machine. “This will be uncomfortable”. And here we go. Bright green flash, pause, look right, flash, pause, flash, flash.