November 12, 2000
Malaga, Spain

Pacific Bliss Draws First Blood  

It seemed like an uneventful Sunday. The seas were quiet, with only a Force 3 wind, and visibility was fair.  We had been averaging 5 knots per hour, motoring toward our next landfall, Torremolinas Marina, a few miles beyond Malaga.   Gottfried called out for the crew to prepare the dock lines and fenders as we pulled into the Marina on a sunny afternoon.  All seemed well with the world.

Suddenly, at 1420 (according to our ship’s log) Gunter let out a wild yelp.  He rushed from the bow of Pacific Bliss, blood dripping from his left hand.  Gottfried had slipped coming down from the roof of the salon, falling onto Gunter, who just happened to have his hand in the anchor locker, in the process of closing it after taking out the fenders. Jana and I quickly wrapped his middle finger, the end cut deep, with a makeshift bandage and secured it firmly with duct tape-not pretty, but it would hold.   

After we docked, Gunter and I took a taxi to Clinica Salus Benalmadena, an emergency facility within a few blocks of the Marina.  We arrived at 1520. After filling out forms and assuring the clinic that we would pay cash, Gunter was brought into an examining room by a broad-shouldered, unsmiling nurse who had obviously flunked her courses in bedside manners.    “She reminds me of the Jack Nicholson’s nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Gunter said, his teeth clenched, his face pale. There would be no small talk, no sympathy today.

“Get on here and lie down,” she pointed, as a doctor in a white coat appeared. Gunter, feeling woozy, gratefully did as he was told. She laid his left hand over his stomach and began to unwind our crude bandaging, frowning as she unraveled each turn.  The doctor, quite professional and in perfect English, asked about tetanus, and after 4 stitches, took Gunter to another room for a shot and x-rays.  More money for the clinic.  Luckily, nothing was broken.   The huge, new bandage wrapped in numerous layers around his middle finger made it permanently stand up in a certain obnoxious position.  Gunter said later that he thought of cracking a joke about not meaning to point it at the good doctor, but thought better of it, given the nurse’s dour expression.

“Can I take these out myself?” asked Gunter as we were leaving.  The nurse was horrified.  “No, you need to come back here in five days.”

“I can’t, said Gunter. “We’re sailing. We’ll be gone by then.”

“Well, then go to another hospital,” she ordered emphatically.

I stood by quietly, wondering if our bandaging job might possibly have caused her to believe that our crew might be incapable of further doctoring. Gunter dropped the question, realizing the futility of pursuing this line of conversation.

As we waited in the lobby for the paperwork to be completed, so that we could pay, I casually picked up the local paper from the table.  The lead story was about the Force 10 storm that had hit this area the previous Monday, piling boats up on shore and wreaking havoc up and down the coast. That storm had hit Malaga the day Pacific Bliss left Canet!  We had battled the wake of that storm most of the way here, and were very thankful that we had the good sense to pull into shore in Estartit the previous Monday evening.

As night fell in the Marina, we were treated to a breathtaking sunset, and somehow, all was well with the world again.

Photo: Night falls in Benalmadena.

Of course, for Gunter it was not over. He now had to deal with the clumsiness of eating and crewing with one hand.  The days passed quickly, though, and the crew sort of forgot about the issue of taking out the stitches. 

Gunter attempts to eat with one hand, a rubber glove protecting the bandaged one.

Pacific Bliss was tied to a dock in Gibraltar. Our sister ship, Enduring Echoes, had joined us in Malaga and was now docked right next to us. It was Sunday again. We had a great time exploring Michael’s Cave and photographing the Barbary apes at the top of The Rock. We had endured an English-style buffet at one of the few restaurants open on Sunday.  (Why can’t the English take some cooking lessons from the French? I do not remember having one single bad meal in France.) The crews of EE and PB were engaged in a lively discussion of the merits of waiting 3 hours or 5 hours after high tide to cross the strait.  We would head for Tangiers sometime during the night.

Gunter uncharacteristically interrupted the discussion.  Perhaps it was the talk of going to Africa.   “I was supposed to get these out in five days.  Who here of all of you wants to take out these stitches?”

Every hand went up, except for Enduring Echoes’ crewman, Ron, who never talks. Sensing that sailors must have a weird affinity for another’s discomfort, Gunter rephrased the question. “Who among you is the most qualified? Any vets, for example?”

Qualifications were exaggerated, as a lot of hot air flew around the salon, but Gunter had found one sailor in whom to put his trust: Stuart had been an emergency medical technician in a former life.

“Dr. Stuart” takes out Gunter’s stitches.

“The ships’ medical kit,” he ordered.  I brought out the plastic container holding the kit supplied with Pacific Bliss. Stuart selected appropriate bandaging and antiseptic.  “A small scissors,” he ordered again. I brought out my nail kit. “Perfect,” he smirked.   In pain while the two crews gathered around, Gunter insisted on taking out the last stitch himself.

“There were only four stitches ” he said.

“And they charged us for five,” I replied, somehow not surprised.

Soon the job was done, and talk turned to shipping lanes, freighters and watch schedules as we prepared to sack in before the next adventure: Africa, Here we come!







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