The Trip that Saved My Life When you receive that “Aha!” moment By Brian Newton
recently had a first-time sailing experience that I really need to share because of the amazing outcome of the accident I encountered. For those who know me well, they know that I hate to pass on an adventure. So from time to time, I pursue a new adventure—or one will present itself to me in order to create a new spark in my life. In November 2016, I flew from my home state of Washington down to Texas to join up with my brother Scott on his newly acquired 1995 37-foot Island Packet, Aurora. Scott hired a captain, Danny Blankenship, to help him move his boat across the Gulf from Kemah, TX to Cortez, FL, and he invited me along to take advantage of the experience and get some sailing lessons along the way. The plan involved a 10-day voyage. We ventured out about 33 miles offshore. We had a few days and nights of warm weather. Dodging tugboats with barges, large container ships, old oil derricks and pumping stations kept everyone on point the entire time. Our captain noticed a weather change moving up through the Gulf that he did not intend to battle. Although it would cost us additional time, we opted to get off the Gulf and move into the safe passage of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which parallels the coast. We passed through locks and headed into the Mississippi for a short time. The weather pattern forecast a break, so we opted to return to the Gulf to make up on lost time. The weather was better than before and we pushed on, motoring, staying a few miles offshore, hoping this would help minimize the roughness. As another day and night passed, a new storm once again surrounded
Brian on the Aurora. us. We were being pitched up and down, and 30 degrees in a side-to-side motion. These rough seas triggered motion sickness for me on a daily basis. I was prepared with the "patch" behind my ear, as well as taking Dramamine every three hours just to maintain—oh what a feeling. I realized that Dramamine could make me sleepy, and although we were all sleep deprived at seven days in, I chose to take the pill over puking every minute of the trip. The next morning I took a break after three hours at the helm. I ascended below deck, hoping to try and relax. I was exhausted, holding on tight to the back frame of the couch when I unexpectedly passed out for what seemed like a split second. I suddenly awoke, very confused and startled. I was in the air towards the top of the cabin and suddenly realized I was about to be slammed down onto the cabin floor. I attempted to brace somehow, but I couldn't. I hit hard on my left buttocks. Did that hurt! I felt that I had strained every
muscle in my inner thighs and groin area, as well as broke my butt. I was hurting beyond any point that I can recollect. I collapsed on the floor feeling crushed. Scott came below, but he did not see what had just happened. He helped me by placing pillows around me, throwing a sleeping bag on top of me to help me stay warm and from going into shock, as well as giving me pain killers and water. It was another seven hours in those seas before we could get off the Gulf and back into the safer waters of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). We motored on this waterway for a couple of days. We were now content to stay on the ICW instead of battling the Gulf, regardless of the extra time it would take. A day or so passes, and the captain spots a bridge on the map a little ways ahead that was too low for the Aurora to pass under. This meant that we had no choice but to head back out into the Gulf again. At this point I was still hugging the floor in survival mode, every movement was painful. I strapped my legs together so that I could move myself in the cabin if needed. We headed out into the Gulf and pushed on through rough seas with the winds against us. Let me tell you, it was a real shame to be on a beautiful sailboat and having to run the engine 24/7 because nature is against you. It was another five days in the Gulf. The weather gradually improved as we pushed on toward Cortez where I could get off the boat and to a medical evaluation. I would then get back to Washington on Dec 1. On Nov. 14, I saw a doctor who confirmed I was dealing with an upper See THE TRIP continued on page 60
GOT A SAILING STORY? If you have a story about an incident that happened that was a real learning experience, or a funny story, or a weird or unusual story that you’d like to tell, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep them short—around 800-1000 words or less, maybe a little more. Photos nice, but not required. We pay for these stories. 62
July 2019 S O U T H W I N D S
A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...