“How did the cat get in there?”

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Heading out

Posted on Wednesday Mar 1, 2006

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We got our papers back from immigration and we're planning to depart
Mazatlan tomorrow! Yeah! We'll head to Isla Isabela, then Banderas Bay
and PV. From there we'll bus it to Guadalajara for surgery then return to
PV to visit family when they fly in.

It feels so good to be getting ready to set sail!

Mazatlan at last

Posted on Saturday Feb 25, 2006

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Sherrell completed her radiation treatment without having to take a break
(it's fairly common to take a break in order to prevent bad skin burns),
on Feb. 17th, after which we rushed back to Mazatlan. Except for having
to rinse the boat before we could even board it, it felt wonderful to be
back. We were told that several weeks ago there was a couple days of very
heavy winds from the North - directly to the North of our boat is a dirt
parking lot hence the 1/4 in. thick layer on our boat.

Right now, we are working hard to get the boat ready to head further South
to Puerta Vallarta next week. In the meantime, we will be watching the
Carnaval parade Sunday, then hopefully picking up our renewed FM3's
(long-term visa's) from immigration on Monday. We say hopefully because
last year it took over 4 weeks to get them due to Carnaval - the whole
city pretty much shuts down during this time. Since we started the
process 1 week before Carnaval started, we have high hopes.

One way or the other, we need to head back to Guadalajara in a couple
weeks for Sherrell's last surgery, to remove her ovaries. This is to
dramatically reduce the amount of estrogen & progesterone produced which
feeds her type of cancer. It's either this, or have a shot once a month
until menopause which doesn't fit in well with our cruising lifestyle.
Then, on March 14th, Eric's dad arrives in PV with his wife and step
daughter for a fun-filled week in the tropics. It sure would be nice to
be there on the boat instead of having to stay in a hotel. We're keeping
our fingers crossed that we can get our FM3's in time.

Linear Accelerator

Posted on Wednesday Feb 1, 2006

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Sherrell?¢â??¬â??¢s officially half way through her radiation treatments. Our class is almost finished too. We?¢â??¬â??¢re in week 4 of 5 and our final test is next week. Hopefully Sherrell will make it one more week before her skin needs a break from the exposure to radiation. Then we can finish class and leave the city for a while.

At least we got away from Guadalajara for 2 days to visit Ocean Lady anchored in La Cruz (north of Puerto Vallerta). It was great to be on a boat again and even better to hang out with friends in a warm town.

Anyway, about the photo: The technicians allowed me to see how they setup the equipment for Sherrell. She lays on a sliding table and they line up the lasers based on tiny tattoos they made using the MRI. This lines the machine up to properly radiate the tumor bed and attempt to avoid radiating anything else. Once it is setup, the procedure only takes about 15 minutes total. So right after class we race over to the hospital and she gets blasted and we?¢â??¬â??¢re getting closer and closer to finishing this phase of the treatment!

Back in the big city

Posted on Thursday Jan 5, 2006

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We're officially students at the University of Guadalajara and we start class next week.  We'll be taking beginning Spanish 2 hours a day for five weeks.  It's probably the most we can handle while Sherrell goes through treatment.   They start the localized radiation treatment tomorrow.  They mapped the area using a MRI machine today so that tomorrow they can target the proper area.  The radiation will prevent any remaining cancer cells from dividing and forcing them to die off.  The treatment requires 28 days with usually a week off somewhere in between to let the skin heal.   Oh yeah, we brought Jezebel with us, so she wouldn't have to stay on the boat alone and she seems to be doing really well.  So far we've kept her locked in the room when the cleaning staff comes, but other than that she has been roaming around and enjoying all the running space at night.  Sometimes I wish she would just sleep like the rest of us though.

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.