Weathering a Hurricane with Fibromyalgia

There are exceptions to every rule. Such as management of your fibromyalgia means not overdoing it and triggering a flare, even if you’ve recently changed things up and cut out medication, coffee, and wheat and are feeling really great. 😉 Hurricane Newton WINDYTY 2pmThe exception to that rule is when you’re preparing for a hurricane and you live on a sailboat. Ahem.

Hurricane Newton

On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, Hurricane Newton slammed the Baja California peninsula from Los Cabos through La Paz and right up past Puerto Escondido (where my husband and I currently are with our sailboat, Ingenium). It then gathered more steam as it crossed the eighty or so miles of the Sea of Cortez and hit Guaymas and San Carlos, Sonora on the Mexican mainland even harder early Wednesday.

There wasn’t much question that I needed to physically exert myself as we prepared the boat and ourselves for the arrival of Hurricane Newton. Of course, John, my hero, the love of my life, my biggest supporter and my captain did most of the heavy lifting. But between us we had to remove everything from the deck: lines, sails, BBQ, solar lights, life preserver, fenders, etcetera. We needed to completely clear our cockpit of anything not tied down, and in the cabin we needed to organize things to make way for everything that usually stays up on deck. We had to securely lash the mainsail cover, the fuel tanks, remove the outboard motor from our dinghy, hoist the dinghy up onto the foredeck, where we had to turn it upside down and lash it thoroughly to the boat.

Not really time to rest. I was also trying to take care of some client work while I had a little bit of internet connection: we fully expected to lose phone and internet signals at some point during the hurricane.

Newton NOAA GraphicsMonitoring NOAA's Forecasts

As we monitored NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and it’s updated forecast info every three hours, we expected Hurricane Newton to hit us overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday morning. So all day Monday we were prepping the boat and making our safety plans. But the nine p.m. update Monday night confirmed what was starting to be clear: Newton was picking up forward speed, as well as strength, and it was now a Category 2 hurricane. It was going to arrive in Puerto Escondido’s Hidden Harbour (where we had moved to a more secure mooring from the external little cove, called the Waiting Room, that was much more open to the sea and therefore subject to the waves and fetch the hurricane would generate) much sooner than originally forecast. It’s anticipated arrival had moved up by more than twelve hours and it would continue to gain strength.

Now, by nine p.m. I am usually ready for bed. But on Monday, the nine p.m. NOAA update triggered a radio conversation with our cruising buddies Kirk and Heidi from s/v (sailing vessel) Due West, moored on an adjacent ball. Should we change our plan?

Our plan had been to ride out the storm on the boat. We had weathered 50 knot (58 mph or 92 kph) wind gusts before up in San Carlos last winter, and we were open to adding a hurricane to our list of experiences.

Change of Plans

But that forecast update prompted us to change our plan. We didn’t feel we could risk spending the night on the boat and starting the evacuation the next morning: the speed with which the storm had already picked up meant we’d start to see heavy rainfall before eight in the morning. And making a twenty-minute dinghy ride from the boat on its mooring ball to the dock in the rain and an open dinghy with bags and howling cats did not sound like the best plan.

Instead of giving my fibromyalgia-ravaged body some rest after a full day of activity prepping the boat, we had to start packing what we needed to spend a few days off the boat: a few clothes, toiletries, our computers, some food for us and our cats, their litterbox, our boat registration and insurance and our passports. And together with our pals from Due West, in their larger hard-bottomed dinghy, we headed to the dock and then on to a nearby hotel. The only nearby hotel.

Hotel Tripui Puerto Escondido BCS.Heavy Stuff for a Sore Girl

John and I each had to carry a cat – we have two, and they weigh eleven and thirteen pounds – plus a bag or two. My back and my neck ached fiercely. I had a headache. My fatigue was heavy like the concrete block holding down our mooring ball.  Approaching eleven p.m. we were all exhausted already, but I have fibromyalgia. The tears that usually accompany the fibro-wall I hit with over-exertion were sucker-punching the back of my tear ducts, but I dodged and swayed and held them off. Once they come I cannot do more. And I knew I still couldn’t rest.

By the time we got ourselves and our stuff to our hotel room, it was nearly midnight. And the storm hadn’t even hit us yet.

Nothing Left to do but Trust

The next morning when we awoke, we’d lost internet and cell coverage so we could no longer check the forecast. By eight a.m. it was already raining heavily, as we thought. There wasn’t anything else we could do for the boat except trust that we’d done our best. There wasn’t anything else we could do for ourselves except try to relax and get some rest. Not easy with a big-ass storm coming, Ingenium, our floating home, with everything we own out of sight and right in the path of the hurricane. It was stressful.

I never felt personally physically threatened, but the tension of waiting and watching and wondering how bad it was going to get was a drain.

Due West on the rocksDue West Aground

There were two or three boats whose owners chose to stay on board their boats, and we were thankful for their periodic VHF radio reports saying that the boats in Hidden Harbour, including ours, were all holding fast on their moorings. Until the call about three in the afternoon that our friend’s boat, Due West, had come free of the mooring ball and was aground in the mangroves and the rocks.  In what we all believed was the eye of the hurricane, John and Kirk headed out to see if there was anything they could do to help Due West. Everyone said they needed to hurry – the eye would pass in about twenty minutes and no one wanted John and Kirk to be stuck in the middle of the bay in a nine-foot inflatable dinghy when the backside 75-mph winds slammed us from the other direction.

The Aftermath

Ingenium at SunsetWith the storm finally over, we gathered up our belongings and made the trek back to the boat, where we found minimal damage to Ingenium. Thankfully. (The zipper on our mainsail cover opened (not torn) and the dinghy nearly blew off the deck.) Then all the preparations we made before the hurricane had to be done in reverse.

Again, my fibro fatigue was screaming so loud in my head I thought it might come right off. My back feels like it is about to seize up completely, and I’m behind on some client work now and I don’t really feel like I can take a break.

It’s not just me, John’s tired too. And we are both trying to be as good to ourselves as possible while taking care of the necessities of life on a sailboat.

These last few days are exactly the thing that would trigger a massive fibromyalgia flare-up. I haven’t hit my fibro wall yet but I can see it from here. Smell it too.

I’m still pushing through it, and the next few days will tell if my new regime (no amitriptyline, caffeine or wheat and my increased dosage of thyroid meds) will make a difference.

Wish me luck. I'm paying closer attention these days to my fibromyalgia because of the book I'm writing, Friends with Fibro. And I’ll let you know how it goes.



4 thoughts on “Weathering a Hurricane with Fibromyalgia

    1. Boni Wagner-Stafford Post author

      Elizabeth, it’s all worked out just fine. I’m feeling amazingly good! Working on an update post today. Thanks for asking!

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