This is likely to be the last blog post for a while until i have a better idea of what actually happens when i go back to work at the end of my extra 6 week recovery period. Although i did some very useful work on the blog and regarding future plans during my knee-op recovery period all future decisions and plans now come down to what actually happens in the next few weeks. I happen to think that the return to work will be unsuccsessful although i am going back on a staged return and am at least going to give it an honest try-out. I had better break this all down into a series of short sections so….
Recovery. As regular followers will know a few months back i had to park Inanda, get WABI”’ back on a mooring and then turn up at the hospital for a knee replacement almost the next day. I had the knee replacement in late July and with a normal expectation of being able to go back to work after 8 weeks. That didn’t happen because the knee was still swelling up every day and i was still very unstable on a very weak leg that side. For whatever reason and despite over exercising i lost a lot of muscle mass on the operative side and it’s only coming back right at the end of the extra 6 weeks off. Also as regular readers will know i found i had a moderate ‘Q’ risk and decided to take that in hand as well with a first 6 week plan. As i write and edit the post i am almost at the end of that first 6 week plan and have some strange results to post. What i have actually been doing for the 6 weeks is steadily and incrementally cranking up the exercise volume to the extent of doing some 15,0000 paces per day and at the other end nearly up to a thousand press-ups a week in the last 2 weeks. Alongside that i have been on a very ketogenic diet which i have stuck to generally really well. The surprising and inexplicable outcome is that over that 6 week period of diet and exercise i have lost a grand total of exactly zero weight although my regular belt has come in 2 notches which suggests 2 inches off my waist measurement…..and no, i don’t understand that either. By far the more serious problem though is that the combination of knee surgery and what i am doing now is playing hell with an already long term back problem.
Essentially what is happening according to the physio is that i now have a slight asymmetry in functional leg length and that is badly affecting my lower back. What happens on a several times daily basis is that after a few thousand paces i get severe pain in my lower back when i stop and then try to sit down. Some days it’s been impossible to then stabilise my lower back enough to do a single set of press-ups. The reason why none of this is good news and why it will be such a problem is that i have tried to mimic the effect of doing my job : we have to stand for long periods and it just isn’t working out without lots of pain. Right now i can’t even imagine getting through our regular manual handling and BLS training. What i am going to do is go back to work on a staged return and just see how it goes. As is, my GP has suggested just knocking it on the head because i have been doing it for a long time and if it causes me that much pain then it might not be worth what i get from it.
Boats. In the scheduled posts list i actually have a ‘hot list’ of the boats that i intended to go and see this autumn. As readers will know i did a whole lot of work this summer just researching different boats and coming up with a potential ‘to see’ list. Two of those are up in N Wales and i was planning a road-trip to see them first and do a new project for the blog at the same time. The bald facts are that if i don’t/can’t make the transition back to work then i can’t finance a larger boat, even a fairly simple one and certainly not one that needs a major refit. As it happens i was leaning towards the chunky Rossiter because that offered the best option for a boat that would beach easily, have enough space to live in and be seaworthy enough for longer passages. When i checked the brokers site last week it was showing as sale pending so that one is off the list. I spoke to the broker about the plywood Keyhaven and it sounds as though that boat could also be more of a project than i first thought and anyway started out at a high base cost.
Where that leaves me is with the little Liberty as my long term boat and the one that will get used for whatever happens next. Obviously it also works in reverse in that i would have to then work with the Liberty’s limitations but that would still allow me all of the UK and most of Europe as a potential cruising ground. What could happen if my back to work plan doesn’t pan out is that i could just get medically ‘retired’ sometime in the late winter and that could mean a continuation of the UK/France voyages with that boat. The Liberty would need a pre-voyage refit and some essential changes but really she is just about ‘good to go’. While she is on a mooring right now she could come ashore on the slip briefly for a refit and then go in the spring. If that becomes likely then the changes and refit would be the start of a whole new venture with the blog. Whichever way it goes i am likely to have a better idea in the next few weeks.
The blog. Last week i was looking at the blog statistics, i was really surprised to see that the blog has just gone over a total of 32.000 views and with the addition of the Facebook sailing page views i now average around 60 views a day. That’s still very small numbers compared to say even the most basic video based ‘vlog’ and nowhere near the popular ones. Although i run the blog for my own enjoyment and need for creativity and will never monetise it i do actually quite enjoy it when people read and comment so i am trying to build an audience. The second point about my blog is how unsucsessful some of my more serious posts about boat based first aid and men’s health were even though more work went into them than any other posts. I have probably now hit a kind of plateau with the number of people who will come and visit a blog based on writing and photography only. I talked about this briefly in a previous post which i wrote as an answer to a criticism on the Fb sailing page. What i will probably do is re-write older posts that don’t reflect as well on my slowly improving writing and editing skills.
The obvious way forward , especially with a whole new episode in my sailing life, is to stay with the Liberty but set myself up properly to do video based work. I have had a go at producing video clips before but would only rate my work with about a 2 out of ten and a pat on the head for trying !. I happen to think that having grown up with books and writing, and then had a serious introduction to photography, that those 2 forms of communication are the way i think. I also think that it’s the case that the younger generation who have grown up with youtube and easy video technology, Go-Pro cameras, ‘smart’ phones and such like do much better with video work. There are of course exceptions : Dylan, who is my age was already a professional film maker, and it shows, Steve, of Plymouthwelshboy does a very competent job and i reckon we are around the same age so there isn’t really a valid excuse there either. The more i think about it the more obvious it becomes that a moving picture and sound are how we experience the world through our own eyes anyway rather than through snapshot images and text. I just happen to have grown up with books and pictures rather than television and youtube !
There are several hurdles to overcome both in the boat set-up and the equipment side for the actual filming and my real bug-bear which is sound recording. I didn’t realise at the time when i bought my Pentax DSLR that although it’s a very good outdoor camera it doesn’t have an external microphone jack so i can’t use a shotgun microphone and windsock to capture good sound. Rather , with it’s internal microphone all i get when i am filming upwind sailing is appalling wind noise. My little Go-Pro clone is even worse when it comes to that problem!. What i have tried to do with video editing is to ignore the recorded sounds completely and add music+ambient sounds and then give a voice-over. The home problem is that while i have a nice microphone i get a delayed play-back on my headset about half a second behind my voice and it completely stops me dead. What i have to do is speak and record a short section and then play that back…..there is absolutely no flow with that and no way of talking about stuff as i am doing it. Added to that i just don’t have a good video ‘voice’ at least in my opinion. For most of the projects that i want to film and edit, even for example the changes and refit, i want to set up a camera/mic and just talk as i work. On the boat i want to film and talk as i am sailing and that means having multiple mounting points on the boat, it also means not trying to steer, navigate and so on while i am trying to film stuff outside the boat view.
I have been looking at the equipment side a lot more, if i don’t put all my available funds into a larger boat then i could invest in better equipment for the blog work. One solution might be to buy a second DSLR that has the right features : a secondhand Canon D70 for example and a camera mounted microphone. Another option is a professional sound recording box that can take external microphones, something that i have seen being done with ‘street’ interviews. There is a slight technical challenge there in then synchronising the film and the sound…..apparently that’s what a clapper board is for !
The secondary problems are then working out mounts for the boat, managing lots of devices and charging their batteries and then downloading/storing the film files….that might need a powerful laptop computer on the boat or extra storage cards for the cameras. As i edit this post it’s mid November and i have the first parts of the new equipment just unboxed and today i set up my old camera in the ‘office’ to do a live chat and unboxing. What happened is that i got the first ‘take’ quite well and then the camera battery’s died so i loaded up a set of AA cells and started the second section. Those batteries lasted all of 30 seconds and i didn’t even get a ‘take’ from them. While i know that i will need additional batteries for the new camera and a way of charging them at sea i have just had to order a power adapter for my old camera so that i can film the new one being set up….sounds a bit like a Catch-22 !
Anyway…..and for now, i need to take a break from trying to put out 3 blog posts a week. Even though i have found the discipline of being able to write or edit nearly every day i have quite simply run out of material to work with. I have got one home project on the go which might be a good one to experiment with film and sound at home before i try and do the same thing out on the water. Earlier i mentioned that i had planned a road trip to N Wales to see the 3 potential bigger boats. Well at the moment i think that the top one on my list has already gone, the second one might be more of a project than i first realised and it’s just not worth the drive to go and see one boat. I had intended to make the effort and film the whole ‘new boat’ project…..going to see a potential purchase…and , while i was there, also filming in N Wales which is where i started my sailing. As with the home project that would have allowed me to set up cameras and mic’s on dry land and do several ‘takes’. That clearly isn’t going to happen so instead of that i am going to film the second part of my workshop project.
So, i am most likely going to leave the blog alone for a while and hopefully come back with a completely different way of working. There is one exception here and that is i will be editing and in fact completely re-writing some of my earlier blog posts. The reason for doing this is that i have recently been pasting links to older posts of mine to threads on the FB sailing page that i am a member of. Today, as i write, i pasted a link to an old post of mine about ocean sailing and small boats but when i took a look at that old post i realised how scrappy a writer i was in those early days and that i can do a better job today. What i might do with my writing/blogging time is go through the earlier posts where the subject still interests me and completely re-write them and archive the old ones.
For now i will leave you with a few of my favourite shots from this year.
SV Joy in the river Dart.
Sunset in the Yealm.
Autumn at the yard.