The Stewart family buy a boat, jack it all in and go sailing!

Clean bill of health

We’ve had a couple of pieces of good news over the last few days.

The day before yesterday, the surveyor came out to have a look at Iron Will while she was out of the water.  As I mentioned before, due to a combination of circs, we bought the boat with only the previous buyers survey (click here to find out more).  

We were hoping that our surveyor wouldn’t take one look at the boat, recoil in horror and say “urgh no! you didn’t actually buy it, did you?”.  

We’ve yet to receive the official report, but the bottom line is; we’ve bought a sturdy, seaworthy, well-found vessel.  She would cost hundreds of thousands to build again, her steel is 4mm on the hull (EDIT: 6mm at the hull and 4mm superstructure) and 10mm at the keel. The monster keel (which I can’t help gawking at in the boatyard) is actually thick enough and strong enough to consider balancing on to careen her, with a couple of sturdy props (not sure we’ll be trying that any time soon though!).  She’s not going to win any races (yup, knew that!) but will get us pretty much anywhere we want to go.  Oooh, sail to England …?

(just kidding Matt!

or am I….?)

Darren did have a couple of recommendations – we might want to cut an inspection hatch in the cabin sole so we can see that part of the bilge (I’d like to do that, it just seems plain weird to me that I can’t look in there).  He also had an idea to help the kitchen sink drain better (bane of my life! we are currently using washing up bowls and chucking over the side …only lost two spoons and a veggie peeler so far!).

Matt was so inspired by the positivity of the visit, that he used the time in between antifoul coats drying to get up some scaffolding and investigate some largish bubbles in the topsides with a needlegun.  Big mistake!  Huge pieces of blue-painted “bog” came away, and kept coming.  It looks like a hastily-applied repair was coming to an end.  Matt now has a bit more work to do on her topsides!

The whole of the blue topsides with the yellow stripe needs redoing, of course.  When I suggested to Matt that we do it, whilst we’re in the boatyard, he almost jumped out of his skin.  “No! Let’s get the essentials done, then go sailing! We can do that kind of stuff as we go”.  And he’s so right.  We’ve had the boat three months and have been out in her once! We want to get going (BUT if you’re reading this and meet us “out there”, please kindly avert your eyes from her faded topsides and deckpaint).

The other good news we’ve had is … I don’t have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Which might seem like an odd thing to be pleased you don’t have.  But a couple of months ago, concerned about my aching hands and feet, I went to my wonderful GP.  He did a whole slew of blood tests, and, to his concern, they came back positive for RA. He said he wanted me to see a specialist for a proper diagnosis BEFORE WE LEFT (quite insistent on that point), sent me for hand and feet xrays and referred me.  I ended up going privately, to Townsville, which is a good 3+ hours drive, and I still had to wait a month.

In that month, I did some research.  Oh boy.  RA is not something you want to get.  It’s an auto-immune disease where your whole body goes haywire and starts attacking your own joint tissue, thinking it’s an enemy.  It moves fast and is often debilitating, both due to pain and joint damage.  Sufferers often end up bedridden with pain, or need a stick or wheelchair to get around.  The chemo drugs that are used to suppress your immune system (what?!) have horrible side effects, as do the steroids often prescribed.  Some people report help with dietary changes, which mean no gluten, dairy, meat, coffee, alcohol, nightshades …. I tried it for a week.  I felt physically pretty good, but I was very miserable and felt deprived.  Hard to do with a family too, and limited boat storage/cooking facilities.

So, safe to say, I’d been feeling very down about the whole thing.  I also found my self-identity is tied up with my health.  My whole family are quite a robust bunch, good genes hopefully, we are rarely sick.  My parents are both in their 70s and would pass for at least ten years younger; both are fit, healthy and active and not on any prescribed drugs.  I’ve always thought of myself as fit and healthy; I’m proud of my strong body.  I’ve always been a tomboy (maybe from having three brothers) and I’m not the dainty, girly type.  I can climb trees or masts, run, throw lines, armwrestle!, sail 50-footers single-handed … my body is capable and supports me.  So I was devastated by this news.

I was very glum the day before seeing the specialist, convinced I was about to be handed  a life sentence.  Matt and I joked that at least we’d set the wheels in motion for our adventure now, not waited 5 years, but it was poor comfort.

Anyway.  The specialist, Dr Fayez, was a thoughtful, intelligent man who asked heaps or questions and examined both my x-rays and my actual hands and feet in great detail.  To cut a long story short, he pronounced that the positive RA blood tests were misleading and he thinks that I have common or garden osteoarthritis.  This is the usual sort, caused by wear and tear.  He thinks I have it from using my hands so much, sailing and racing especially, back in the day.  So really, I can consider it a badge of honour!  (although I broke at least two fingers on a spinnaker halyard shackle, using the halyard as a swing, in the Caribbean after too many rum punches with my brother Jon. Ah, happy memories).

The bad news is, you can’t treat normal arthritis it like you can RA.  Rub in some Voltaren or pop a paracetamol, but oh yes, I’ll take it any day over that horrible life-and-body destroying auto-immune disease.

I skipped out of the specialists office yesterday.  The girls and I drove the 3 hours home (Matt was putting the boat back in the water, on his own, I felt bad for not being there) and life felt soooo good.  The sun shone, everyone smiled, I sang along to the great songs on the radio – everything seemed bright and full of promise.  I felt like I’d been living in a world of walls and a door had opened.

Both Iron Will and I – neither of us in our first flush of youth – have many happy years of sailing ahead of us.  Touch wood!