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Walt Hardester

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A Sailors Tale
By Walt Hardester
Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007
Last edited: Monday, June 18, 2007
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Walt Hardester
· Almost Busted
· She Told Me To Do It
· Who to Believe?
· Five Minutes Of Fame
· A Steamboat Springs Nightmare
· I Wonder If He Even Realized
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           >> View all 66
If they had only listened
A while back, on one of my many solo sailing trips I was on a leg from Carrabelle, Florida to Clearwater. I was headed eventually to Key West. I was never far from land this night, only about 125 miles at the furthest point, but there are no marinas between the two ports. Most of the "Big Bend" area of Florida is a sand bar that reaches out to about twenty miles and is only six or less feet deep in most places.

The normal time for this particular leg is about thirty six hours. This night was beautiful. The Gulf of Mexico was smooth as glass and the wind had given out on me so I cranked up the Yanmar and was tooling along at about six knots. I had the autopilot on and about one in the morning I had to have some sleep. The foreward hatch was open, bringing in a nice breeze so I crawled into the V-berth for a snooze. I have radar on my boat and I set it to give a loud warning beep if it detects another vessel within eighteen miles. I also had a hand held GPS at my side and I would occasionaly wake up, check my position and go back to sleep, I felt very safe indeed.

The Gulf of Mexico is a tricky old girl, and many a foolish sailor has taken her lightly. People have come from all over the world to die in the Gulf. I know her well, having sailed her for a few years. The wind and sea conditions can change almost immediatly and go from calm one minute, to raging gale the next.
About three-thirty I was awakened by something hitting me all over. "What the hell was that?", I said to no one. I looked around and everything seemed fine. Then the next one came in through the hatch. Blue water went everywhere and I realized what was going on, bad weather. The wind had gone from calm to forty-five miles an hour, and the sea had gone from smooth to seven feet in a matter of fifteen minutes. The course I was on took me straight into the waves and my bow was going underwater, hence the water down the hatch. I said, "Aw Schit", not because I was afraid, but because I wasn't going to get any more sleep, and actually had to work the rest of the night. I then took a course that quartered the waves so the boat, and me, wouldn't take such a beating, and made it to Clearwater without incedent.
I fueled up in Clearwater the next day and set out again south. After I cleared the harbour back into the Gulf the weather was taking another nasty turn.

I wanted to continue, but I knew I would have to man the helm all the time because there is a lot of boat traffic between Clearwater and my next port of call, Sanabel Island. Another problem was there are no islands or inlets for me to duck into or behind, anchor, and snooze. I never even considered just anchoring in the open Gulf with all my lights on and sleeping because in that area, there are a lot of folks with Cigarette boats that go over a hundred miles an hour. These idiots love to get in their boats and go fifty miles up, or down the coast to a favorite watering hole, get drunk and head home, at a hundred miles an hour. I realized if I was anchored, sleeping, they could cut me, and my boat in half and never even know it till tomorrow, and I would be dead.
Thinking about how unsafe it was for me to continue alone gave me a terrible anxiety attack accompanied by chest pain so severe I could barely breathe. I steamed into a little marina on the island of Terre Verde, just south of St Petersburg, and intended to wait out the weather.
During the night my anxiety became worse, along with the chest pain, so the next day I took a taxi to the VA hospital in St. Pete.

The VA people pulled up my records and saw I had a previously diagnosed anxiety disorder and occasionaly needed medication for it. I told the psychologist my story and said all I needed was some Valium or the like, and I would be ok. She said, "Wait a minute, I'll be right back." She came back and told me she had talked with the psychiatrist and it sounded like my problem was "drug seeking behavior." I suppose this was because I had asked for a specific, abusable drug. But, because of my age and the chest pain, she was gonna send me to the ER for an evaluation.
I hate to stereotype anyone, but let's just say the ER Doc was a woman with short hair and comfortable shoes.
I told the story again and she said "I know you sailors/men, and you are probably just having DT's. But because you know all the right words, (like elephant standing on my chest, difficulty breathing, yada, yada), I'm going to admit you to the CCU for observation."
After admission to the CCU they gave me a dose of Xanax, the anxiety subsided and I slept like a baby. I did have to take off the Nitroglycerine patch though, because it was giving me a headache from hell.
The next day they sent me for a stress test with Thalium, a radioactive injection that shows up any damage to heart tissue. The test was normal of course. Funny thing, everytime they raised the incline on the treadmill, my heart rate would go up, then settle back down again. It took a while to reach my target rate for that reason, and the tech asked me if I was an athlete. I said, "Do I look like an athlete?" I never told her I ride a bicycle twenty to thirty miles a day.
The Cardiologist discharged me two days later and before I left I asked him if we could talk a second. He said "Sure, come in my office."
I told him the sea story and he said, "My God man, that would give anybody chest pain", and wrote me a script for some Valium.

I got a letter in the mail when I got home that asked about my experience at the hospital.
I told the story again and said even though I appreciated the fine care and thousands of dollars worth of tests they ran, they could have saved the taxpayers a bunch of money.........

If they had only listened




Reader Reviews for "A Sailors Tale"

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Reviewed by J Howard 9/5/2011
to err on the side of safety the voice of... a sailor, an investigator, and a you have found out and has your insurance company!
Reviewed by Jon Willey 1/21/2008
"If we look at all problems as nails, we always use a hammer to resolve them". Or something very close to that quote anyway. I too have found that many in the medical profession wish to follow a specific, rigid protocall that may overlook the true facts of the situation and therefore give an inaccurate analysis. I think it is the "better safe than sorry" philosophy. Another great story Walt. Jon Michael Willey
Reviewed by LadyJtalks LadyJzTalkZone (Reader) 5/22/2007
Hear and here.....I love this and can relate so well. Thank you so much for sharing. Lady J
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 5/22/2007
Insightful read!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 5/22/2007
I told the story again and said even though I appreciated the fine care and thousands of dollars worth of tests they ran, they could have saved the taxpayers a bunch of money.........

You better not say this too often; knowing the government (especially the VA), they may decide to charge you for unneeded services!

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