Monday, January 30, 2012

Preparatory Routine

Our purpose in buying the Loop boat in January, though we won’t officially start the Loop until about April 1, was to allow time to provision, repair and upgrade the boat, in addition to learn how to maintain, pilot, anchor and dock it.

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From the beginning we’ve had TO DO LISTS:  Bob’s list, Cathryn’s list, Darrell’s list, Dave’s list.  And for two weeks now, all of us have been working hard on our lists.  Bob, Cathryn and Darrell (the electronics guy) are almost finished with their lists.  Bob has done things like replace the CO2 monitor, clean the bilge, repair plumbing leaks and add a swivel shackle to the anchor chain. Cathryn has done things like make a snubber for the chain rode (including some splicing, which she was taught two summers ago by friend Jim R), make arrangements for the name of the boat to be changed on the transom and both sides, and arrange parking for our truck when we leave here.

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Dave is not almost finished with his list. What we didn’t anticipate is that the guys who are really good at what they do (which both Dave and Darrell are), are also in such high demand this time of year that it’s tough to get them on our boat.  There are many other clients, including in our same marina, who want these guys to do work on their boats too.  Dave works six days a week, and stays up into the wee hours of the nights preparing detailed bills for work he’s completed. He prioritizes and re-prioritizes his clients frequently, based on the urgency of need.

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For example, our lack of hot water in the shower the first weekend we were here catapulted us to the top of Dave’s list . . . briefly! Then we saw him for a few hours here and there.  We think he does a great job of managing his time and client list, but one result for us is that we feel we can’t take off to play with our boat, because if we do, Dave can’t work on it.  So we stay on board every day, see whether Dave or Darrell will show up (or get pulled off by some other emergency), then hang around to answer their questions about how we want things done.

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It’s a good thing our first visitor arrives this Sunday to stay on the boat for two nights. We gave Dave advance notice that we don’t want any work done on the boat next Monday while Cynthia from Milwaukee is here.  We’re ready for a Play Date! Meanwhile, we are happy and well, and staying busy in the evenings with social engagements with other cruisers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

B.O.A.T.

Whether sailors or motor boaters, Cruisers are pretty good at making fun of themselves.  Sailors joke about how they spend more time motoring than sailing.  Motor boaters joke about how they spend more timing fixing their boats than going out on them. And all Cruisers have their favorite interpretation of the acronym “B.O.A.T.”

A former neighbor, Josi, swears it stands for “Best Outdoor Activity Together”, a nice sentiment.

Almost any boater will tell you it actually stands for “Bring On Another Thousand” (as in dollars). It’s a known fact that boat parts cost about five times as much as similar auto parts.

Gary, one of our blog readers and a former co-worker of Cathryn’s, tells us it really stands for either “Beer Often Alters Trajectory” or else “Beer Only Amplifies Technique”, depending on whether you were able to properly navigate back to your home dock after stopping for a beer somewhere.

Finally, Corey, our current dock neighbor from Connecticut, tells us all of the above are wrong; it really stands for (and this one rings most true to us at the moment):  “Broken, Or About To”, as every time we turn around we find something else is broken that wasn’t already on The Dreaded List (of repairs).

We keep consoling ourselves that boats are actually well-constructed for a pretty harsh environment:  sitting in salt water, being subjected to high winds, yanking around on the end of an anchor chain, and getting bashed about at high speed on waves while underway, equivalent to what it might be like for a house to be subjected to an earthquake every week and being expected to survive without broken plumbing, electrical connections or structural damage.  When looked at that way, it seems like “Next To Me” is doing pretty well for a 25-year-old girl!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Biker Night

Thursday was another day of working on the boat . . . enough said about that!  But we can report the weather remains wonderful, always in the 70s during daytime hours, though forecast to hit 81 on Friday, with a possible afternoon thunderstorm. Here’s a photo from yesterday of a porpoise surfing our bow wake.

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Late Thursday afternoon, Captains Chris and Alyse, who keep their boat moored 4 slips  from where we’re located, invited everyone to join them on “Sandy Hook” for cocktail hour.  So 11 of us, including the Managing Editor of Passagemaker magazine, a delightful 27-year-old woman, convened on their boat, along with Bert, their huge, friendly, well-behaved 8-month-old Labradoodle, for drinks and boating stories. Later (like 8:00, almost our bedtime) most of us headed downtown for Biker Night and dinner.

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Every Thursday the City of Fort Pierce closes off two streets to all traffic, a DJ sets up his equipment and blasts music, a beer stand is set up, and hundreds of bikers converge on the area to wander around in their leathers and show off their big, shiny bikes.  From the looks of most of the “bikers” we saw, many of them probably spent their younger years in a corporate environment.  Lots of second childhoods.

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It was great fun to walk the crowd for 45 minutes while we waited for a table at Lorenzo’s where we subsequently had a fabulous Italian meal and LOTS of garlic! We expect to return for more Biker Night fun in the future.

Now Bob Understands

As many of you know, the idea that we should  do the Loop was originally Cathryn’s.  Bob took his time agreeing to the venture and had his “conditions”.

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What Bob didn’t understand was that Cathryn had an ulterior motive to the Loop idea.  During our training with Chris and Alyse, they repeatedly stressed that it was important to ALWAYS let the other person know what you’re doing and where you are on the boat (to prevent a Man-Overboard from going unnoticed, among other things; this actually happened once to our friend Jim R).  They taught us to use their phrase to let the other one know when we need to hear a “status update”.

So, now Cathryn can say to Bob “TALK TO ME”, without Bob thinking we’re on our way to a marriage counselor. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Training For The Loop, Day 3

Today was our last day of training with Chris and Alyse Caldwell of Captain Chris Yacht Services, and we can’t say enough about how useful it was, in addition to being fun.

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We were ready to depart the dock by the time Chris and Alyse arrived, but almost immediately Cathryn noticed what she thought was some of Bob’s blood on the floor at the upper helm (he bleeds readily when he bumps into things). Chris, on the other hand, figured out immediately that it was a steering fluid leak, and therefore we had to change our plan for the day.  Instead of traveling to Hole in the Wall Island north of Vero Beach, we shortened our destination so we’d be closer to “home” in the event of an all-out failure of our steering.  While we now know how to steer the boat using the gears and throttles, we wouldn’t want to do that for a lengthy trip.

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So we went to a nearby cove to practice anchoring again, traveled up the Intracoastal Waterway about half the distance planned, worked on our navigation and piloting skills, traded off helmsman and deckhand duties, practiced docking at at a private dock and  fuel dock, then returned to our marina for a little more docking practice.

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Our last hour with Chris and Alyse was spent doing trip planning – learning what resources (charts and cruising guides) to use to plan a travel day, where to anchor or pull into a marina for the night, calculate how far and at what speed we can travel, and what obstacles might slow our progress, such as bridges that need to be opened or locks that need to be traversed.

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Whew! It has been a fabulous three days, we’ve learned more than we expected, and we still think this was the best investment we’ve made to properly prepare us for the Great Loop trip. Chris and Alyse are wonderful instructors, and if we have problems when we set out on our own, you can bet we’ll be back for more help from them!

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On another note, we’ve also seen some incredible marine life. For the first time ever, we saw Manatees! If you don’t know what they are, Google them, as our photos don’t do them justice. They are sweet, docile, and yes, ugly animals, though Cathryn thinks they’re so ugly they’re actually cute! And we’ve seen zillions and zillions of dolphins/porpoises! We’re not yet sure which is the correct name for them, but we think when they snag our bow wave and stick with us for awhile it is the coolest thing ever (sort of like zebras in the Serengeti, Lynn and David!)

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Chris and Alyse are from New Orleans, the same place from which the “Subdudes” band hails. The Subdudes are the ones whose song “Next To Me”, which we consider to be “our song”, inspired the name of our Loop Boat.  So today, during a brief break from training, Bob put the song on the iPod/stereo system and briefly, we danced in the galley to the song “Next to Me” while Chris and Alyse laughed and documented the occasion.

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Corny: yes      Happy and amused:  Yes too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Training, Day 2

Captain Chris Yacht Services, in the form of Chris and Alyse Caldwell, continued their work today to mold us into proficient boat co-captains of “Next to Me”.  They certainly have sufficient skill to rise to the occasion, and when we (eventually) take the boat out by ourselves for the first time, we’ll find out whether we were good students.

This morning Alyse walked us through navigation instruction: reading navigation charts, understanding the buoys and markers along the route, some “rules of the road” (who has right-of-way under various conditions), and the meaning of various whistle signals and lights on boats we’ll see and hear along the way. Chris talked us through anchoring procedures, then they walked us through steps to disconnect everything (electricity, water, dock lines, etc) to be ready to leave the dock . . . and THEN WE LEFT!!

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Bob began at the helm under Chris’s instruction, and Cathryn was on deck (lines, fenders, etc) under Alyse’s instruction.  We discussed anchoring procedures and learned when we dropped the anchor  that it inexplicably had a “Figure 8 Knot” about 50 feet into the chain, !?$#&@!@!!  Why???  Who knows, but the anchor rode (line connecting the anchor to the boat) could not be let out more than that as a result.  Thank goodness for a shake-down cruise! Moving the knot to the end of the chain is the first of tonight’s homework.

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While at anchor we took a lunch break and continued talking all things boating.  Bob and Cathryn switched roles after lunch, and we headed to a marina to practice docking at fixed docks, something we’ve never seen in the Pacific Northwest, Canada or Alaska.  Tidal swings in our area are so great (15 feet from low to high tide is common), that all marinas have floating docks that go up and down with the water.  In this part of the country where tidal swings are typically 1 –3 feet, fixed docks that don’t float are common.  Next we practiced docking at floating docks. We each took turns and worked out some of the issues around wind and current and how they affect docking too.

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Returning to Harbour Isle Marina, the 4 of us sat on the sundeck for a de-briefing and to get our Homework Assignment for tonight.  It was another very instructive day, and best of all: we had fun!  Chris and Alyse are very skilled instructors – calm and easy in their style despite constantly instructing us on how to do things, or correcting things we do incorrectly – no small feat!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Captain Chris Yacht Services

We’ve hired Captain Chris Yacht Services (Chris and Alyse Caldwell) for three days of training on our boat.  Today was day #1 with only Chris.  We covered  the entire boat, inch by inch, learning what each switch, piece of equipment or other piece of metal or part was, how it worked, how to operate it,  and how to do basic maintenance on it.

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As you might guess, we spent most of the time in the engine room.  We spent the first hour covering 20% of the engine room alone!

After lunch we did hands on work,  changing fuel filters on the main engines and cleaning the raw water strainers on the generator and air conditioner.  If you don’t know what those are, don’t worry: you must not have a large boat, so you don’t need to know, but they’re important systems for us to understand so the boat will move in the morning when we are ready to cast off.

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All in all, it, was an extremely valuable learning experience.  It took most of the mystery out of the boat. We now actually have a sense of “how this boat works”. While we’re sure we will have to refer to our notes in the future, we understand the basics and are feeling comfortable with the mechanical, electrical  and other systems on the boat. It helps that we spent the past 18 months taking Power Squadron courses in subjects like Engine Maintenance and Seamanship, but that was largely books and theoretical stuff; supplementing it with this hands-on training on the boat where we’ll live for the next year made all the difference in our really, understanding it all.

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For the next two days we will be moving the boat over the water under the guidance of Captains Chris and Alyes.  Full reports will be given, but if they’re as valuable as the systems work of today, we will think this is some of the best money we have ever spent on this Great Loop venture!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Somebody Has To Do It

Our posts for the last 15 days or so have admittedly lacked many great blogging moments.  Lots of working on the boat and buying things (boy are we earning lots of frequent flyer miles on our credit card) and providing direction to the people who are on board fixing things or installing our new electronics.  We’re frankly just a little worn out by it all.  So today we decided to include one of our “we need to d0 ___” items that included an element of fun.

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Our new outboard motor needed its’ first critical couple of hours of break- in period at lower and variable speeds.  So around 11:00 we took off in our dinghy into the Intercostal Waterway for some boating.

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It was 75 degrees when we left; looks like a difficult assignment, eh?  Bob took the first hour, and after traveling up the ICW, we turned off to some smaller channels into the barrier islands. We totally by accident (OK ,we had a recommendation) came across “Little Jim’s” a marina for boats on their last legs, biker bar and sandwich shop.

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We sat outside in the sun overlooking the water and ordered Cuban sandwiches, a couple of Negro Modelos (our favorite Mexican beer) and took in the sights.

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Sorry we decided not to point the camera at the bikers or their female companions. (Tom: note some of the Navy Seal signage; you’d feel comfortable here). And here’s Cathryn getting ready to start her shift at the helm on the way back.

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After leaving Little Jim’s and the smaller channels, we entered the inlet from the Atlantic to the ICW. We gather this must be where the fish are.

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Hard to imagine threading a large ship through all the fishermen, when the dredged channel deep enough for large boats is only 100 yards wide.

Tomorrow we start our training.  The first day will be focused on the boat’s systems and basic engine maintenance.  The second and third days will be underway and focus on handling, navigation and docking.  After that we hope we’ll feel comfortable leaving the dock in something a little bigger then the new dinghy, by ourselves even.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

All Work and No Play . . . .

. . . makes Jack a dull boy, as well as Bob and Cathryn.  So we haven’t posted for a few days, again.  We’ve continued to work on the boat, bought a new dinghy and motor (West Marine 310 RIB and Mercury 4 hp), and have had Dave, the marine technician, on board almost daily continuing to work on The List, mostly in the engine room, but also on the windlass.  We’re accomplishing a great deal, and very pleased with progress, but we’re ready for a day off. After 8 days of driving from Seattle to Fort Pierce, followed by 8 days of working on the boat, tomorrow we will play – photos and stories to follow afterwards.

We did have a pleasant evening of relaxed fun last night. At 6:30 Merwin and Crystal came aboard our boat for cocktail hour. They’re from Nashville, TN and keep their 2005  49-foot Jeanneau (French) sailboat here at Harbour Isle Marina year-round. Because they’re currently semi-retired, they come here about 3 times a year to spend a month on their boat.  We had dinner at The Tiki Hut, a nearby shoreside restaurant with live music on Friday nights, good seafood and lively conversation among the 4 of us. We really enjoyed it, and they had lots of local knowledge to share to make our time here easier and more productive.

We also affirm our happiness at being here in Florida as the weather at home has been horrid!  We heard on national news, as well as a call from Sara and Tom, our house-sitters, and two of our adult children who live in Seattle, that there was a lot of snow and ice this week.  Schools were closed, few people made it to work, and the very hilly streets were hazardous in addition to power being out. Florida remains sunny and warm, so we feel lucky to be here.

Finally, Cathryn is now a Great Aunt!  Her sister Susan’s oldest son, Brad and his wife Kate, announced the arrival of Clay Crawford Shaffer yesterday!  This made Cathryn’s parents into great-grandparents for the first time, and Clay’s middle name is the same as Cathryn’s father, Crawford – what an honor and excitement all around!  Cathryn will travel to Houston for a few days in February and enjoy an introduction to the handsome little guy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Looper Friends and “The Guys”

We haven’t written much lately because we’re doing things that aren’t so interesting: working on repairs/upgrades on the boat, everything from added towel rods in the head to new electronics at the upper helm on the flybridge.

Last night we went out to dinner with Steven and Charlotte, two folks also moored here at Harbour Isle who will start the Great Loop this spring.  They’re from Jacksonville, FL and have a gorgeous 52-foot Kadey Krogen they’ve been repairing and upgrading for the past 3 months to get ready for the trip.  We had cocktails on their boat, then went to  a Sushi/Japanese/Thai restaurant for dinner, and the conversation revolved around personal history (former careers, kids, grand-kids) and Great Loop plans.  We may do some buddy-boating with them, possibly starting out of Jacksonville in a similar timeframe. They’re very nice people, and we enjoyed meeting our first 2012 Loopers.

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Today the boat is crawling with “The Guys”.  Dave is a marine technician who works on just about everything on a boat other than soft goods like canvas, upholstery, elelctronics and the like. He repaired our shower last weekend (no hot water, though the tank worked fine and produced hot water in the kitchen) and is spending today down in our engine room working on items that came up in the Survey.  Our salon (nautical speak for “living room”) has a giant hole in it with the hatch opened up for engine room access.  The big black thing in front of Dave’s face is the air intake filter for one of the two Caterpillar 3126 diesel engines below. This morning we were taught how to clean that air filter periodically with a special kit.

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Darrell and "his guy” Michael are electronics professionals, and they’ll spend two days this week installing a new Garmin GPS/chartplotter/radar/AIS receiver.  The boat came with 1994 electronics that are worthless today, which we knew at the time we bought the boat. We hate investing so much money in a boat we’ll probably own only 15-18 months, but we’ll have an easier, safer time with the new stuff.  And besides, Bob LOVES new electronic toys! Cathryn always comes to love them eventually, but is a wary buyer when discussion of purchasing new toys begins. We’re working hard this week, but pleased to be making so much progress. We look forward to the day when we don’t have to make a trip to West Marine . . . hasn’t happened yet!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Days of “BOAT”s

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So, we’ll start with a quiz.  Look at this photo and see if you can figure out why we decided to rent a slip in THIS marina (other than the fact it is beautiful) for the first month of our new boat ownership.  Particularly considering that the price is a bit higher than some nearby marinas, and there are none of the common marinas amenities such as bathrooms, showers, laundry, and pools, and you really need a car to get to grocery stores and other places.  The answer is at the end of this blog post.

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For the last two days we’ve been busy hauling things to the boat from the truck that we brought from home and hauling things from the boat that we don’t want or have replaced (e.g.  the bed mattress, microwave and digital TV antenna), and then trying to figure out where it all fits.

Today we drove south to Stuart (where we closed our purchase of “Next to Me” last Thursday) to attend a boat show.  Although we just bought a boat and brought most of the things we need to provision it from home, we still need a few items including a dinghy and motor. We hoped there might be some “boat show specials”, but alas there were none.  On the way home we stopped at our local West Marine store, and when we told the salesperson what we were looking for, he offered up a dinghy and motor package with a 10% discount. So we ordered one to be delivered later this week.

So we’ve spent the last two days proving the truth of the saying that “BOAT” is an acronym for “bring on another thousand”.  We knew we were facing this reality when we bought a 25-year old boat, so this hasn’t come as a surprise.  We keep reminding ourselves of all the mileage points we’re getting on our credit cards.  And besides, this boat cost only 56% of what we were willing to spend at the beginning of our search, so we’re still waaaay “under budget” from that perspective.

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At the end of another day of “BOAT”ing, we needed to relax on the sundeck with una cerveza.  All is well.

And the answer to the quiz at the beginning is:  the fairways (space between and behind each individual boat slip) is huge!  That’s a major reason we’re in this marina;  there is lots of space, and the surrounding buildings block some of the wind.  This gives people like us, new to large, twin-engine boats, plenty of room to maneuver in a very forgiving manner; a perfect place to learn to to operate the boat safely. And besides, we were told the people at this marina are “the right kind of people”, and while we’re not 100% sure what that means, we certainly like all the people we’ve met who work here or have boats here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Work Day on the Boat

We woke up this morning to 48 degrees and clouds – a major shift in weather that forced us to turn on the heat.  Whine, whine, we know, as all our northern U.S. and Canadian friends have been running heat for months.  We also woke up to toilets that wouldn’t flush, so despite having been led to believe our holding tank had been pumped before we bought the boat, we deduced it had not. We called the very nice maintenance guy, Malcolm, who supposedly only works on weekdays, and he showed up at the boat 5 minutes later to get our holding tank pumped out – what a guy! More great service from Harbour Isle Marina, and we promised him we’d never let this happen again.

We also woke up with numb arms and sore hips, so decided we will not continue to live with the hard foam mattress that purports to serve as a bed in our stateroom.  Cruising down 1A highway we found a mattress place that sold us a queen mattress flexible enough that we could fit it through the boat doors and down the companionway to our bedroom – voila, we expect to sleep better tonight!

We finally got around to making a major grocery shopping trip to provision the refrigerator, freezer and pantry.  That wasn’t particularly fun, but the trip to the lively Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday all year long we’re told, WAS great fun!  We bought lots of fresh veggies, two spinach/feta croissants for lunch, and met a “friend of a friend” at one booth – another small world experience from our previous RV days.

We unpacked the last bin of stuff brought from home and completed our zillion trips to the dumpster to get rid of stuff left on the boat that we don’t want: old/worn dock lines, ancient nautical charts we already have duplicate new versions of, old soiled rugs in the bathrooms and kitchen, packaging from all the stuff we’ve bought, and those huge foam mattresses from the old bed!

Life on a boat = different from life on land.  And we love it!

A promise:  more photos starting tomorrow!

Friday, January 13, 2012

25 Miles and ? To Go

As of 9:30 am Thursday, January 12, 2012 we are the official owners of  “Next To Me” (AKA Golden Dolphin) a 1986 42’ Jefferson Motor Yacht!  (See previous story about two weeks ago behind the new name, in case you missed that one).

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Here’s Bob sitting with the former owner.  Peter came to the boat this morning, the first time we met him during this process, to go over some notes he’d made to improve our learning curve on the idiosyncrasies of the boat, and to give us a nice bottle of Champagne to celebrate the occasion. It’s very nice to have such a positive experience with the Seller.

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And here are the happy new owners!  The boat’s been moored at a yacht club in Stuart, Florida and the Club rules prevent us from keeping the boat there as we’re not members, so we moved the boat 25 miles north, up the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway (AICW) to Ft. Pierce, Florida. Does anyone know why there are so many “Forts” in Florida? Fort Pierce is on the east coast of that state, about halfway up from the Keys to Georgia.

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If you double click on the chart you’ll be able to see Stuart at the bottom of the page, and Fort Pierce at the top.  The dotted line generally represents the channel that we followed up the AICW.

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Given that we have little previous experience in a boat this size, we hired Captain Chris Caldwell, of Capt. Chris’s Yacht Services to help us move the boat.  It turned into an intensive 4-hour training session.  Very helpful, if a little overwhelming, as new lessons and experiences came at us like the proverbial water out of  a fire hose. But we each successfully piloted the boat for about 2 hours of travel time.

While the AICW is several miles wide, the dredged channel is only about a hundred yards wide where the water is 5 –15 feet deep, and the water outside the channel is somewhere between zero and 5 feet deep!  Quite different from our home waters where depth is usually measured in the hundreds of feet.

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Our new temporary home, Harbour Isle Marina, is in the center of the above chart with the arrow pointing to the approximate location of our slip.  We’ve rented a slip here for a month, during which time we’ll have some modifications made to the boat to reflect the recommendations of the earlier survey, and to meet our preferences.  We’ll also take 3 days of training on the boat with Capt. Chris and his wife Capt. Alyse, to improve our skills.

Last night about 10 other boat residents in the marina invited us to join them for cocktails to celebrate our new boat. They were all nice folks, and we enjoyed meeting them and were made to feel very welcome. We are one of the smaller boats in the marina, and many of these folks are full-time, year-round cruisers.

Today, Friday, we spent the day moving the contents of the truck onto the boat – clothes, tools, kitchen provisions and lots of boating equipment.  It was mostly pretty chaotic, but we got a lot done. Sarah, the very nice marina manager, came by to check on us, and Darrell the marine electronics guy came to evaluate what we have (old and not very useful) and make recommendations for upgrades. Tomorrow and Sunday we will keep working to get settled, but have also set some time aside both days to play.  More on that later.

In the mean time we are now “Cruisers” if not yet “Loopers”.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Geographic, Cultural Differences

We’ve only been here 24 hours, and already we recognize things are different from “back home”, and we’ve got lots to learn.

Last night talking to Sandy, the marina manager where we’ll moor our boat for the next month, she mentioned the importance of staying in the charted (dredged) channel in the area. Cathryn inquired how deep the water is once inside the marina, and Sandy replied, “Oh, it’s way deep in here – at least 10 feet!”  Our eyes got big.  In the waters of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf islands, we’re accustomed to very wide waterways with depths in the 100 – 400 foot range. Anytime our boat’s depth sounder shows at home fewer than 40 feet of water, we start paying very close attention, examining the nautical charts even more closely for rocks or other obstructions that might jump out from the depths.  We’ll have to adjust our thinking and close observation here, as 85% of the water on the Great Loop is reportedly 12 feet deep or shallower.  The good news about that is, if our boat were to actually sink, as long as we were standing on the flybridge (upper helm) we’d still be well above water!

We’ve been to restaurants 4 times since we arrived in Florida, and almost everything on the menus is fried. We’re not accustomed to seeing or eating much fried food at home, so if we want grilled food here, we have fewer choices.  That’s ok, but we’ll have to add more mileage to our running if we get accustomed  to those deep-fried shrimp or “hush puppies” (which were not nearly so tasty as the ones Cathryn’s brother-in-law Eric fed us at his house one time).

We were talking to a man in the marina this morning and inquired about some of the names of nearby places, assuming the names had historical significance. In responding, he referenced “The War of Northern Aggression”, and we saw no tongue in his cheek. We should not be surprised the view of history may be different here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

3,940 miles to Fort Pierce, FL

At 5:15 p.m. today we completed our 8-day journey from Olalla to Fort Pierce! It was a long slog, and we’re happy to have it behind us.

On arrival we drove straight to Harbour Isle Marina where we’ll live for the next month so we could see it before dark. We met Sandy the marina manager, saw our assigned slip, and learned about some of the amenities, restaurants and laundromat.  Happily, we have a day off tomorrow with no commitments. Thursday we’re to meet Curtis, our boat broker, at the boat in Stuart, FL at 8:30 to confirm a few final repairs have been made, then we’ll get the keys, and a hired captain, Chris Caldwell, will drive the boat with us on board to our slip at Harbour Isle.  After that, we have a week to move all our things on board, arrange for a few more retrofits (like screens on the windows to keep bugs out) and repairs, then we begin 3 days of “boat specific” training with Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell, a married couple who are both 100-Ton Coast Guard Captains who do training as their jobs.  More on that later.

Tonight we went to a nearby seafood restaurant, sat at an outside table on the deck overlooking the water and had good seafood and a glass of wine – a nice way to celebrate the completion of this part of the journey.  It was 78 degrees and partly cloudy on arrival.  Off to bed!

Monday, January 9, 2012

3,400 down; 550 to go

After six days of driving, we’ve racked up 3,400 miles, and tomorrow when we complete 550 more we’ll be in Fort Pierce, Florida – our destination.  It took us the first 4 days of travel to get through 5 states (Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and New Mexico).  Today we covered 5 states all in one day:  the last of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the first segment of Florida.  States are a lot smaller in this part of the country, except Texas, anyway.

Houston got 5 inches of rain this morning, and we woke to pounding rain on the motel windows last night.  But most of the day was gray, cloudy, dry and warm, 70 degrees or higher,  and punctuated by multiple stops at Bank of America, Office Depot (twice) and a UPS store to print documents, sign and get them notarized, and Overnight Express them to Florida.  We think we’re done with the paperwork now, but it slowed us down by at least 2 hours today.

Tonight we’re in Pensacola, Florida and had Cajun food for dinner at a restaurant where everyone (except us) was there to watch the LSU-Alabama football game. Most of the patrons seemed to be LSU fans.  We left after the first quarter, but hope for Cathryn’s Dad’s sake (Alabama alum) that they win, but hope for Cathryn’s nephew’s sake (LSU alum) that they win.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

When I Grow Up …

. . .  I do NOT want to be a long-haul truck driver! Today we covered 400+ miles, traveling from the utterly desolate part of west Texas to the hilly, greener part with lots of big oak and  pine trees. We remained surrounded, all the time, by hordes of 18-wheeler trucks hauling freight and comprising more than 50% of the traffic on I-10 until we got inside the city limits of San Antonio or Houston.  Having spent 5 days traveling 2,800 miles, mostly 10-12 hours a day, we cannot imagine driving a truck as a full-time job. It looks like hard, boring work that must take a huge toll on one’s health and mental state. We hope we’re wrong, as there are so very many Americans who do this for a living, ensuring the rest of us have the goods we want to buy, available in our local markets.

We arrived at Cathryn’s parent’s home at 4pm and had a wonderful visit with them for 5 hours, including Cathryn’s sister Anne and her husband Eric for an hour too. We last saw them in October, so it was good to see how they’re all doing (well) and catch up on the latest family news.  We plan to return for a longer visit sometime in February, or no later than March, depending on how things go with the boat in the next month or so.

Tomorrow: another 600-mile day, which should put us beyond Mobile, Alabama into the Panhandle of Florida somewhere.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interstate -10 (aka Endless Texas)

Hobie sent us out the door at 7:45 this morning with egg sandwiches in hand for breakfast.  What a great visit we had!

From Tucson, it was only a couple hours to the Arizona-New Mexico border, then a couple more to El Paso, Texas.

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The rest of the day was Texas, Texas and more Texas . . . and we’re still only halfway across the state despite having covered 700 miles, a new record.  Picture broad expanses of open land, all brown this time of year, distant brown mountains with no trees, some windmills and oil and gas rigs, and sometimes cows.  Driving 80 mph, (which was the speed limit) so making good time, we saw zillions of these same things over and over all day long.

Tonight we’re at a motel in Ozona where we had dinner at an adjacent “trucker’s cafĂ©” (interessssting) which is 25o miles in every direction from any city you’ve ever heard of, such as El Paso or San Antonio.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunny Tucson

We spent last night at our friend Hobie’s house in the Saguaro National Forest southwest of Tucson. This is our fifth winter we’ve come for a visit, and it feels comfortable, familiar and easy.  Oh, and sunny and warm! Today we had blue sky and 78 degrees.

We spent the morning taking care of boat business. We won’t bother with all the details, but it involved insurance, boat documentation (Coast Guard) and closing of the purchase process – lots of copies of lots of documents sent lots of places.  It made us feel, for the morning, like we’re back at work!  

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This afternoon was much more fun. We had lunch at Hobie’s casita, then retired to the “cactus museum” that is his backyard to play games in the sun. Hobie and Bob set up the croquet field, and we played croquet for an hour – made more amusing by the presence of various cactus and ocotillo bushes in the middle of the course!  Bob obliterated the competition and beat Hobie and Cathryn handily.

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Next up was Bocce Ball, a game Bob and Cathryn have only played on the beaches of Baja, but Hobie has a more “official” playing field.  Hobie and Cathryn teamed up against Bob this time, and in the end prevailed, but not by much.  But it was lots of fun, and the reward was a beer on the back patio for all participants, followed by Shrimp Diablo for dinner – delicious!

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Three down, Four to Go

We have three long days of driving behind us, having put in 600 miles per day on average.  Four more such days should out us in Stuart, Florida just in time for a final inspection of repairs made prior to closing the purchase, now scheduled for Thursday, January 12. 

Yesterday we left Palm Springs early, realizing we’d lose an hour crossing a time zone, and arrived in Yuma, Arizona where we filled up the gas tank for $3.19/gallon instead of the $4.00/gallon price in California. Our travel friends Gene and Joyce (who we met via the blog 2 years ago, then met in person in Alaska and again in Seattle) are spending this winter in Yuma Foothills, so they joined us at a restaurant right off the freeway and treated us to lunch. It was great to catch up with them again.

We arrived at our friend Hobie’s home just outside Tucson in time for cocktails and dinner, and will spend two nights here so we can have a non-driving day today to take care of business.  We need to print out insurance applications and a variety of other papers, sign documents, and scan/PDF or fax them to various folks in Florida in order to make this all come together – not things we can do while on the road in the truck. It’s wonderful to spend time at Hobie’s lovely desert casita again, to get all our business taken care of, and to have a “down” day from the grueling driving.

Tomorrow we’ll leave early again and head into Texas!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Boring News/Good News

We made another 600+ miles today, so are spending the night in Palm Springs, CA, but unfortunately are mildly grouchy after two long days cooped up in the car with no breaks except gas stops, so we aren’t painting the town red tonight.  Yawn!

But on the good side, we achieved Final Acceptance today on the boat purchase – sort of like striking the final deal after all contingencies are removed when you buy a house.  We had some issues to resolve from the Survey: for example the auto-pilot and radar that were advertised to be part of the boat sale were actually broken and had been taken off the boat? We got an email today from our boat broker, Curtis Stokes, with the final sign-off from the Seller making the several adjustments we’d requested.  So we’re celebrating!  Now we just need to complete the Closing – just like buying a house except that Coast Guard documentation is included in the process.  For this, like escrow when you buy a house, we get to pay a very nice, competent, cheerful person/agency $699 to take care of all of it for us.  Ka-ching, ka-ching every time we turn around!  So far we remain thrilled.

Anybody want to offer advice on how to go about selecting a cost effective, used, radar for the boat?!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

“On the Road Again . . .”

Do you hear in your head Willie Nelson’s song by that title? So do we. For the fifth time in as many winters, we’re driving I-5 South from the Seattle area to southern California, a long slog. And that’s only the beginning.

We got up early this morning to finish our last-day chores at home, spent an hour with our nephew Tom and his wife Sara who arrived at 8am with their U-Haul  truck to move in while we’re away, reviewing for them all the idiosyncrasies of the house, then we hit the highway.  So, we’re On The Road Again!

Ten hours and 600 miles later, we’re spending the night at a hotel in Redding, California, planning to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

NEXT TO ME

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Some years ago Bob, the music aficionado in our family, discovered the band “Subdudes”. We both came to enjoy their music, and Bob has a lot of it on his iPod. Then their song “Next To Me” became OUR SONG – you know, the song you, as a couple, really like, enjoy listening or dancing to together (we dance in the kitchen or on a beach when this one comes on Bob’s iPod), and consider “your special song” as a couple.

After spending three weeks trying to pick a name for our new Great Loop boat, mostly focusing on something connected with the word “Loop”,  (imagine Fruit Loop, or Loopy Idea) and not being thrilled with any, Bob suggested “Next to Me”, representing the fact that OUR HOME is wherever we are together – in Olalla or Seattle, in a trailer on a Mexican beach, in a hotel in Morocco, Cuba or Vietnam, or on a boat doing The Great Loop. We both smiled and agreed “That’s it!” So, we have a boat christening ceremony in our future, to rename Golden Dolphin to be “Next To Me”. And none of you folks who know us think of Bob as a great romantic??? Ha!

Lyrics:

“You can travel over oceans and around the world
You can follow every notion that you can afford
If some day when you're feeling alone
And your thoughts turn back toward home
Let them stray--back my way
Oh I hope you know


Chorus:
Your home is right here next to me
Just as long as you want it to be
Your home is right here next to me
Next to me

In the arms of those who love you
That's where you'll find your home”