How much can a koala bear? Just keeps me company for now, making me smile... This one doesn't have a name yet!
How much can a koala bear?
October 11, 2007 - Day 94 10.1324N,151.3451W
You were probably wondering why my mileage was low lately, almost stopping at times and hardly moving in between. By staying close to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) along 11N, I was subjected to persistent south winds when low pressure systems swirled along south of me, bumping the ITCZ to my north. This meant that I would deploy the para-anchor, wait out this pattern until the ITCZ returned south. Then with the northeasterly winds replacing the south winds, I could let the boat run.
This game of "camping on the water" killing time suited me fine. I wanted to reach 8N-165W in November, where I had planned to make my move SW toward the Equator. If I rowed at all during the last 10 days or so, it was to bring the boat back south near 11N. Rowing due west or taking the boat further north, would have meant covering more ground westward, and reaching 165W sooner than November.
Then yesterday, our weather partner Dane Clark informed me that the ITCZ had reestablished between 7N-8N to my south and to my west. Northeast winds were to the north of the convergence zone, while easterly winds prevailed south of the ITCZ down to the Equator. If I hurried to take advantage of this pattern before south winds returned, I thought that I might make it across the convergence zone.
I need to be another 400nm south to overcome the convergence zone hurdle, meaning I have to cover about 560nm due southwest. I need about 10 days of 50nm days! Can I pull it off before south or southeast winds return to push me back north?
Once I reach the Equator, I can again stall my westward progress to reach Tuvalu at 180 longitude in December. This would time my progress with the northerly summer winds there.
By trying now, even if I am repulsed north, I know that I will likely get a second chance farther west. However it would be very disappointing to pass up this opportunity, only to find out the anticipated winds do not materialize later. So I liked the idea of doubling my chances, and started rowing in earnest to make mileage today. It felt good to get out of the stalling frame of mind to one of racing against time, bringing an element of excitement and a new challenge to my life on the ocean. This game that I play requires a little bit of "hurry up and wait" and the proper mindset to handle the great deal of patience necessary between spurts of performance. It certainly is not a race...
There is one problem though which will perhaps worry Nancy and our medical partners at WorldClinic.
The rolling motion of the boat makes sleeping difficult. This means a night's worth of side to side motion for various body parts, including my head.
A reminder of my younger competitive wrestling days, my cervical spine is a crooked, gnarled mess of vertebrae, with little disk left in between each, growing pointy sharp bone spurs on their edges. Less disk and spur growth mean less room for nerve roots which emerge from between the vertebrae. The other day I slept wrong in the cabin, and my moving head meant a sawing motion by the bone spurs against the nerve roots which branch out, reaching from the spine to the extremities. Such a pinched and irritated nerve root then proceeds to contract some muscles it commands, shoots a burning sensation to others, and numbs some extremities. Its effects generally limit my range of motion.
To make the long story short, my C7 joint is acting up on the left side, contracting my left trapezoid, burning my left deltoid, numbing the very tip of my left index finger. An ache is constant when I row, making my left side weaker. I cannot do a bottoms up with my coffee mug; my head is always forward about 20 degrees or so. This could lead to lower back problems later on this crossing if I do not pay attention, because by keeping my head down due to pain, I am bending forward at the waist, slumping my body, rather than arching my lower back. Chin up is the preferred position for the rower's head. So I consciously have to arch my lower back to avoid injury while rowing, but bend at the neck to reduce pain; a totally unnatural posture...
I am taking an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication for now, and enduring the condition, hoping that it will subside. In case it persists, I can make an improvized neck brace by using materials available on the boat to reduce my head's motion while sleeping. An arm's length tether from a chest harness to the oar handle may be a way to transfer the pull, away from my arm to my torso; so my left hand would control the oar, but not pull it. I could adjust the rudder a bit to pick up the difference with my right arm. All in an effort to give the body a chance to recover... I will manage, we are not giving up yet!
The koala is indifferent to my hopefully temporary ordeal, as if saying "deal with it!" This ocean rowing business is already challenging enough in many other ways, without the silly self inflicted injuries during sleep!
And, we may have to fuse that C7 joint for good when I reach land, before it acts up ever again. It was already the reason why I quit playing judo in 2001...