Winter Starts With Work: December 12 2015
was a marvelous feast with groaning tables and clinking glasses and
loads of laughter. Turkey Day is our favorite holiday and we try
to spend it with as much traditional fun as possible; even if details
have to be modified from time to time to accommodate the locale where
we find ourselves. This year we were lucky and found ourselves in
Boston in our own kitchen – so the sky was the limit and we did not
miss a trick. Furniture was moved from the main room for enough
table elbow room and we cooked for three days. Success was
evident as we were all bursting at the seams with every possible
casserole, side and pie imaginable. Even the full majesty of the
bird cooked up juicy and flavorful. As we watched football and
nodded off from time to time we were sated from enjoying every minute
of the day.
Turkey Day was our last hurrah in Boston before
returning to Fort Lauderdale and moving aboard the boat for the
winter. We cleaned out the house fridge and freezer, washed every
possible sheet, linen and towel and generally closed down our place for
the next six months. Everything was sorted and ordered so off we
went December 1st. Holy cow – this “snowbird” migration is a real
thing…not some myth popularized by AARP or scripted by Hollywood.
Our plane was populated with a dozen plus wheelchair riders,
octogenarians with their purse-sized pooches…and us. Hhhmmm…did
we make the right winter plan?!
The three hour hop had us off
the plane with winter jackets stowed as we entered the tropical Florida
climate. Yikes! We went from a fully organized and cleaned
abode to a commercial boat yard where order among the chaos has its own
rhythm…often cleverly hidden.
The boat looks great!
She is shiny and bright and ours – named Barefeet. Our heads are
spinning. We walked aboard and see loads of loose ends to wrap up
but the major work is complete and we are ready for the winter.
We scratched out the first draft of our punch-list and began to think
that three nights in the Hampton Inn might have been a bit too
optimistic and short. Gulp. There are ceiling panels
removed with wires left to dangle, damp musties have crept from the
corners during Florida’s steamy summer and we won’t know if the engine
will spark up until we are dropped into the water by a 75 ton
travel-lift crane. Breathe, breathe, breathe – one step at a
time. Hot, gritty, dirty days are spent straightening up; getting
fenders ready (searching for covers to avoid scratching the new paint
job); lining up electricians, propane installers, solar panel
technicians and shade installation…not to mention generally staying out
of the way of the professionals. We return nightly to the hotel
for a bit of calm instilled by wine, Cheez Itz and hot showers.
We are pooped.
In the water we
went right on schedule – and the engine turned over (Dec 4).
Yippee! The torrents of rain added to the drama of the splash but
not a leak was found. Off we went to our marina parking spot
along the perimeter dock. Yikes - we feel like we are drinking
from a fire hose. But we have a plan created on a spiral ring
mini-notebook consisting of a punch list full of details (small and
large) to sort out, shopping lists for boat parts and living
needs...along with doing countless loads of laundry with the addition
of Borax to eradicate the musties.
Back aboard and we
only have the intestinal fortitude to investigate closets and systems
at a moderate pace. It took 7 days for me to open the fridge door
because I was terrified of finding a swampy mess. Phew, Chris did
the honors and informed me that it was fine…I’ll look soon. Next
up were the pantry and dish cupboards. Again, all was fine.
a never-a-dull-moment-note: showers aboard came off without a
hitch our first night aboard but then the washing machine stealthily
filled itself so full with water that it looked empty. I opened
the door and whoosh – water waterfall-ed everywhere (no - it was not
"on"). Oh well, nothing for it but to open the door let the water
flow over the floor and into the bilge and out through the bilge
pump. We got the gallons of fresh water cleaned up before heading
to dinner at Southport Raw Bar...aahh
(http://www.southportrawbar.com/). We had two seats at the bar
and enjoyed an impromptu oyster shucking contest by the staff. This
laid back place was the perfect way to unwind and forget about boat
lists for a bit.
The rain has steadily continued which has kept
us working on interior projects. Even the locals are getting
frustrated by the unseasonal storms. Heck, the space shuttle
launch was even delayed due to the bad weather. It is tough to
dry out a boat when everything outside it is wet and soggy.
by day we are carving out a bit of normalcy with the fridge turned
“on.” This allows us to have breakfast and a few snacks around;
however, that is the extent of the kitchen until the copper line for
the propane stove and oven is strung…it’s on the list and will happen
later. Boiling water for instant coffee is now our first step of
the day as we catch up on news and emails.
We have made it to
the weekend and have happily discovered that cruiser friends Bill and
Louise are still in Florida. Their departure to the Bahamas was
delayed one month by a recalcitrant anchor windlass. Delays are
no fun but we are happy to visit and catch up. Off we went to
Fort Myers via Alligator Alley highway (Dec 6). We did not spot
any gators; however, we did see vultures, hawks and various
egrets. We rendez-voused with Bill and Louise at West
Marine…where else would cruisers meet?!
showed us around Fort Myers pointing out the marina, mooring ball and
anchoring options. This is a cute beach town which feels like the
old Florida we have heard about…and an understandable destination for
Northern cruisers escaping the blustery winters. We grabbed a
bite at The Cottage Beach Bar (http://www.gulfshoregrill.com).
What a great place! It is a back porch on the white sand beach
with burgers, nachos and cold adult beverages. The sun went down
and the dense display of Christmas lights made for a wonderful holiday
feel. Back at the condo Bill and Louise poured over charts of the
Florida Keys with tips and favorite anchor spots to help us strategize
our winter. The evening continued well into the wee hours with
lies told and stories recounted. We had a quick nap and hit the
road early with a refuel at Marti’s Family Dining on San Carlos
Boulevard for the best biscuits and gravy we have ever had. Okay,
we are from the North so we do not have biscuits and gravy all the time
– but these were a plate of creamy, sausage and pepper-y goodness atop
a light biscuit. Yum!
visit with old friends was the perfect change in latitude for us to
jump back into boat projects with a full head of steam. And
things have definitely picked up. The rain has died down which
has countless professionals crawling around the boat wrapping up the
loose ends. Wow – and after eight straight days of rain – the sun
has finally appeared and greatly improved our attitude. Topping
off a day of much activity we had dinner aboard. It was a dinner
of cheese, crackers and hummus on the top deck and it was really
awesome! Oh my, the "top room" is all that we had hoped it would
Holy guacamole, we are at warp speed with
electricians re-wiring boat systems, hard top wiring strung, propane
run with copper tubing (to fuel the oven and stove), solar panels
dropped into their racks and wired, life line bits spliced and
installed………and more and more stuff is up and running. We took a
trial run with the new crane and it was positively perfect. It
makes barely a whisper and smoothly maneuvers the dinghy as needed.
feeling good juju but we do hit low spots. Thankfully, Chris and
I usually bottom out on different days. Two days ago he hit a
wall and was truly wrung out. Yesterday, I hit the same wall and
nearly broke into sobs when I returned from a quick errand only to find
the boat more torn up than when I left…a situation I truly did not
think was possible. We generally get past these low spots pretty
quickly but a newly discovered local spot provides additional help to
re-set and forget about boat stuff for awhile (Dec 10). It’s the
Riverside Market Café (http://theriversidemarket.com). They have
over 550 craft beers to choose from in self-service coolers (wine,
too), fantastic pizza, super friendly staff and a cozy living room type
vibe. Honest – there are even sofas and wing back chairs.
a pretty long existing punch list we keep adding new items to the ever
expanding list of To Do’s. We have changed out two hose runs and
scoped out battery replacement. The batteries were on their last
legs when we bought the boat and simply cannot be nursed along any
longer. Plus, when the professionals go away Chris tries to jump
in and do what work he can to speed along their progress and reduce the
number of hours charged. The process works well but does not
leave much free time. Erin becomes the gopher to keep all the
projects supplied when items run out from Hardware Stores, marine
warehouses, supermarkets, Dollar stores, rigging shops – you name
it. Our roller skates are well greased.
full days of work on the weekends has us grasping for some Holiday
cheer. Enter the Lauderdale Boat Parade (Dec 12). It was a
warm and breezy tropical evening (and rain free). We scrounged
ring-side seats just before the start at a waterside restaurant.
Arriving in our island finery we had a festive evening on the wooden
deck side-by-side at a high top table and stools. The parade has
been going for 44 years and is even televised in Boston later in the
month. One hundred vessels wound their way 12 miles along the New
River and into the Intracoastal Waterway. The music blared and
many larger boats had big TV screen that shot back images of the crowd
along the water's edge. Participants did not take themselves too
seriously (as seen in the attached photos) and waved and smiled and
honked horns along the way. Back aboard Barefeet on our top deck
we saw several boats returning home after the parade – still as lively
as in the actual parade.