“How did the cat get in there?”

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Start of the battle

Posted on Friday Dec 16, 2005

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Our lives were shattered by Sherrell’s diagnosis.  Putting things back together again is practically impossible.  The time between diagnosis and the actual surgery is the toughest time emotionally.  The doctors do a ton of tests and look for signs the cancer has spread and after each test you’re anxious for the results.  It’s an up and down roller coaster ride leading up to surgery which usually has an open ended outcome based on what the surgeons find.  To complicate things, we really wanted to stay in Mexico, so we had to learn the latest treatments and procedures and find a team of doctors, medical equipment, and health care providers we felt were the best – all in a foreign language.


After two frantic weeks of research and help from family we settled on a private clinic in Guadalajara, Mexico.  They use the latest techniques, equipment and handle a lot of breast cancer cases every year.  The team works tightly together following the modern procedures used in the top facilities in the US.


On Dec. 16th Sherrell went under the knife.  There was a suspicious lump in the right breast and the left breast still needed more tissue to be removed as well as the sentinel lymph node.  The possible outcomes ranged from a bilateral (both sides) mastectomy to just a single tissue removal and a few lymph nodes.  We had a plastic surgeon also standing by for reconstruction if the cancer was too difficult to remove and a single or double mastectomy had to be performed.


Surgery lasted only 2 hours.  They were able to remove a clean section on the left side and the lump in the right side was benign which they also removed.  They tested the sentinel lymph node and 3 others and found microscopic traces of cancer.  On paper this is considered a negative result, but because the meaning of the presence of microscopic cancer isn’t yet fully understood, the surgeons removed more nodes (levels 1 and part of level 2) for further testing.  The overall results are really positive and our chances of killing off the cancer are excellent.


Sherrell’s recovering slowly and next week we’ll meet with the doctors again to discuss the follow up treatment.  It will most likely consist of 6 months of chemotherapy with about 5 weeks of radiation therapy.  Hopefully we can get the chemo done in Mazatlan, close to family and friends in a relaxing warm place.


Thanks to everyone who has written letters of support because they are working!


If I could only be remembered for one thing it would be for beating cancer.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

-- Lance Armstrong


Breast Cancer

Posted on Thursday Nov 24, 2005

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Our cruising plans are on hold for a while.  Sherrell has just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer here in Mazatlan but not to fear, the initial prognosis is good and we feel very positive about a full recovery.  Right now, we are spending our days researching the internet, reading books, and getting as many opinions and recommendations we can about tackling this head on, with the best possible medical personnel.  We are currently searching for the best oncologist (cancer specialist) here in Mexico, which will probably be in one of the large cities such as Guadalajara, Monterey or Mexico City.  If we don’t find the person(s) we feel can provide the best treatment here, we will go to the U.S.  We are fortunate to have close friends here on another cruising boat, Ocean Lady, who just successfully beat breast cancer 1 ½ years ago who have been giving us invaluable moral support as well as information and recommendations.  They also have the name of an excellent oncologist in the U.S. so we know we have that option to fall back on.


Please don’t feel sad or worried – we’re not.  We are facing this as we would face any problem:  with determination, a positive attitude, and information, information, information.  Send your positive thoughts our way.


Sherrell & Eric



Self Steering Trim Tab Design

Posted on Monday Nov 21, 2005

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For those who are interested in building their own trim tab self steering system, we just completed part 2 of our design guide.  It’s a 60+ page document and is practically a book and I’m glad it’s done.  Also, we’ve revamped the page and added a couple of pictures.




Back in Mazatlan after 1603 miles

Posted on Sunday Nov 6, 2005

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Yeah!  We did a 49 hour passage from San Carlos to Topolobampo and another 46 hour leg from Topolobampo to Mazatlan.  We were able to sail quite a bit on the first leg, but the second leg we had crappy winds and only sailed for about 10 or 12 hours.


Our “loop of the Sea” from Mazatlan up the inside of the Baja, then back down the mainland side, which we took a leisurely 7 months to complete, covered a total mileage of 1603 miles.  Wow!  And here we thought we were “just going up into the sea for the summer.”  It’s a little funny that it took us only 5 days to cover about 420 miles back down the main land coast and about 6+ months to cover the 680 or so miles (as the pelican flies) from Mazatlan to Puerto Refugio (with a billion stops in between).


So we’re going to visit Sherrell’s dad for Thanksgiving, make plans for future family rendezvous and try REALLY hard to get some more boat work done.

Topolobampo -- Say it!

Posted on Friday Nov 4, 2005

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Even if this bay wasn?¢â??¬â??¢t a great spot to rest on our way to Mazatlan from San Carlos, we probably would have come here just to say the name: TOPOLOBAMPO. Say it with me! TOE ?¢â??¬â?? POH ?¢â??¬â?? LOW ?¢â??¬â?? BAM ?¢â??¬â?? POH Yeah!

This little town gets lots and lots of ships and cruise ships so the channel and entrance are marked with navigation aids up the wazoo, including 3 separate sets of range markers. It?¢â??¬â??¢s a thing of beauty after so many comically charted entrances with no aids. Not that the charts here are any good, it still shows us anchored in the middle of town, but with nav. aids life becomes a lot less stressful.

The aids allowed us to enter the bay at 3:30am in the pitch black dark of dark and pitch black dark nights. Our radar punched through the night and lit up the marks like stars in the sky. We could also see the navigation lights really well too, until the fog rolled in.

We were swallowed by it! It swooped down and ate everything in sight. We couldn?¢â??¬â??¢t see more than 10 feet, even the well lit channel markers 30 feet away were a feint glow. It was really bizarre! Fortunately it cleared as we approached the town, and shortly there after we were saved by the rising sun revealing the glory of TOPOLOBAMPO.

Birthday, Yard Work and Friends

Posted on Monday Oct 31, 2005

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Sherrell spent her birthday working on the boat in the yard. As you can see from the photo I kept her slaving away. We did celebrate her birthday with a group of friends. One group we met almost a year ago coming down the US Pacific Coast and the other group we recently met in Bahia de Los Angeles over the summer. It was a fun get together with gifts, some poems and even a VEGAN cake from Batwing!

As I write this we are back in the anchorage. The wind is blowing like crazy, but it?¢â??¬â??¢s good to be back in the water. We had to wash off about an inch of dust on the decks, and there seems to be grit everywhere. We?¢â??¬â??¢re all stocked up and ready for the long two legs down to Mazatlan, 180 miles then 240 miles. Non-stop it would take us about 5 days, but we?¢â??¬â??¢ll probably stop in Topolobampo and rest. We?¢â??¬â??¢d like to leave tomorrow, but we?¢â??¬â??¢re waiting for a clear sign that the weather is going to be good and not blowing like crazy.

Hauled Out!

Posted on Saturday Oct 22, 2005

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We got our boat loaded up on the yard?¢â??¬â??¢s trailer and we?¢â??¬â??¢ve already got the bottom cleaned and prepped for paint! Hopefully we?¢â??¬â??¢ll be back in the water before Sherrell?¢â??¬â??¢s birthday and we?¢â??¬â??¢ll be good to go for another 2 years.

Comings and Goings

Posted on Monday Oct 17, 2005

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Lots of people who left Mexico for the summer are starting to migrate back to San Carlos and launch their boats again.  We’ve been catching up with some of the people we knew from Mazatlan and it’s been fun going to a grocery store and selecting items we want to eat rather than taking whatever’s not rotten.


We’re both really glad we stayed in Mexico this summer.  Especially after we hear tales of gas prices, customs inspections and all the hustle and bustle that people endured going back to the US.  We have tons of great memories and met a bunch of great people while they fought the rat-race.


Our expected haul-out date is Oct. 21.  We’re doing some routine maintenance and then back into the water.  Hopefully we can get all our work done quickly so we can take off for Mazatlan.  As things stand now, we are just waiting for some friends to arrive with our bottom paint for the boat then we can put the gears in motion.

Across the Sea

Posted on Thursday Oct 13, 2005

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We left B of LA bound for San Carlos 3 days ago.  Because there are several islands up in the north part of the Sea of Cortez we were able to do shorter legs to reach the other side.  We went from Puerto Don Juan (in B of LA) 27 miles to Salispuedes Island.  We were hopeful to get some rest before the 40 mile leg to Isla Tiberon, but the anchorage was too rough, so at 10pm we sucked up our self-pity and made a night passage to Tiberon, not our idea of resting.  We spent the following night in a rolly anchorage on Tiberon called Dog Bay, but we were too tired to care.  At noon the next day we did the 80 mile leg (overnight) to San Carlos where I’m writing this now.  Along the way we saw a pod of 6 Orcas and 3 Thrasher Sharks, pretty damn cool.


So, San Carlos is an expensive gringo retirement community (read nightmare).  On one side of the bay there are $3+ million dollar mansions built into the cliffs and mountains, and on the other are small wooden shacks where the Mexicans live.  It’s a little disturbing how much money some of these people have, a lot of decadence.


Anyway we’re here specifically to work.  We have to get the boat out of the water and get busy.  Our friends on Ocean Lady and Batwing have been helping us to get some work supplies down to us from the US (along with 6 months worth of our mail)!  We’re excited to be here, but I have a feeling we’ll be even more excited to leave.


It’s been 5 months since we’ve had direct access to fresh water (meaning we don’t have to fill containers and haul them out to the anchored boat).  There’s a fuel dock here where we can take the boat right up, park it and fill the tanks.  It’s also been about 6 months since we’ve been able to wash the boat with fresh water, not to mention how long it’s been since we could take a real carefree showers where we can use more than a quarter of a gallon of water!  Oh luxury!

Otis fizzled

Posted on Tuesday Oct 4, 2005

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PHEW!  Otis burned itself out and didn’t make it across Baja.  We spent several days nervously listening to the SSB weather predictions, stripping the boat down and checking and rechecking our anchor gear.   But we’d rather be ready for nothing than sitting on anchor getting pasted by a storm!


Another goodie is out there brewing.  Hopefully it won’t come our way.  We’ll be in town preparing for the crossing to San Carlos in the next week or so!