June 9th, 2009

Medical Volunteer Opportunities Abroad

June 9, 2009. Palm Coast, Florida.

Well, once AGAIN in is nearly 2:00 AM and not a creature is stirring except me and our neighborhood herd of armadillo on their nightly ramble past the screened in-porch. Well, that isn’t entirely accurate—also stirring are about a billion insects and frogs, and either a deer out in the bushes behind our house or a swamp monster. It is strange how we are all gradually easing into the whole process of living on the boat together. Over the past 6 weeks, we have literally moved closer to each other and geographically closer to both the boat and nature.

First, Ryan and I got here on April 20 and joined Noah and his friend Bill who came down to help us at the beginning and is coming back—hooray!—next week to help us again; I can’t wait to show him everything we have done and I also can’t wait to have his help again, after two triple espressos in the AM the man works like a demon; he built his own boat from scratch. We all lived in the local Microtel in town for a couple weeks while working on the boat, then my sister arrived, then over the next weeks Nick and John arrived, and a few days later we moved into a house 10 houses down from the house where the boat is docked, and all six of us live here together in 3 bedrooms.

Today Sean Conlin joined us at the house and was initiated into our circle of toil and camaraderie by—among many other tasks on his first day with us—working in the 115-degree sauna20that is our medical storage room (in the bow compartment) to fit huge pieces of Styrofoam insulation into the ceiling and cool it down in there! He must have lost 10 pounds of water weight in there but managed it like a champion!

We have two more crew arriving this week to share this 3-bedroom house, and in 12 days the nine of us we will be moving into Dennis and Jeannette’s 4-bedroom house—right on the canal, with the boat docked RIGHT at the house (Dennis and Jeannette are moving across town and are letting us stay in their current home to work on the boat!!)

As I said, we are literally edging our way onto the boat—and as we get closer to the boat, we get closer to the large nature preserve that is across the canal from the boat. In the Microtel in town, nature was near but more hidden, here at our current house the swamp behind our house teems with life, while the street in front is like a street in Pleasantville…When we move into Dennis and Jeannette’s, the canal with all its constant splashing as predatory fish hurl themselves upon the luckless baitfish that abound in this estuary (and its manatees, dolphins, and who knows what else lurks in its dark waters…) will be literally at our backs.

Our next and last move for a long time will be onto the boat, and then away to points south.  I will NOT leave until not only I and my crew, but also the Captains, Welders, Mechanics, Riggers, and other experts from whom we have sought advice and help are satisfied that she is seaworthy to carry us safely on such a long journey. The FIRST rule in all first aid and emergency response training is to ‘Survey the Scene’ to ensure the safety of the rescuers. If we sink we will be of no use to anyone.

I think a big part of getting what passes for wisdom as we get older is just being better able to predict consequences (remember how your decision-making was at, say, 17 compared to what it is now?)….Older people who are wise must look at us youngsters (sort of youngster? Give me that at least!) and just shake their heads.

Every day, the boat still continues to look different from the day before…watching it take shape is like watching a speeded-up film of a plant growing—something that should take a long time but is appearing to happen faster than it should. A lot of the experts we have called in had seen Southern Wind over the years and knew the boat; whenever they asked ‘How long have you all been working on the boat?’ they are shocked when we answer ‘6 weeks.’ They all assumed we had been at it for 6 months because we have accomplished so much work in such a short time!