Completing the boat purchase took about two agonizing months. The Ft. Lauderdale marina it was located in was also a boat yard with nasty stuff flying in the air from all the work and we did not want to keep the boat there. Also, Ft. Lauderdale is a big money, big yacht area and getting any work done would be very expensive. Therefore, we decided to relocate the boat to Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto. Palmetto is a little ways up the Manatee River inside the mouth of Tampa Bay. This is where Ed Massey, our buyer’s broker, operates from and he was able to negotiate us a very reasonable slip rate . (It really pays to have a good support team!) Regatta Pointe Marina allows you to work on your boat inside the marina (many do not) and it has no recent history of hurricane damages. Our boat would be there a year, through one hurricane season, so we needed a protected area.
Dave was unable to take off from work to help me move the boat, so we hired Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine from Two Can Sail to captain and help me learn the boat. The date was set for January 2014 and this would be the first real test run we would have on the boat. When the time came, my mom came along with me to offer company and support and any help she could give. Jean hopped right into action, organizing all the spare parts and tools that came with the boat and creating a list of things we needed to buy. She made some minor repairs and made certain we would be safe setting sail. Jean also showed me how she provisions a boat. Although we cook/eat very differently, I learned some great tips about removing packaging, discarding the extra packaging while docked, repacking and storing food stuffs more efficiently. Jeff tested out the electronics and boat systems and watched for a weather window to set sail. Jeff was a good and patient instructor to refresh my memory on calculating time and distance while navigating from paper charts. Our system wasn’t loaded with the local charts, so he navigated from memory to avoid the many shallow areas in the region.
We left Ft. Lauderdale, heading south toward Miami. Our mast has a 68 foot clearance including the windex, so we were unable to go through the Inter-Coastal Water Way. Our route would go all the way down and around the keys and back up into the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa Bay. The first night we tucked into the Biscayne Bay and tied up to the sea wall near the Boca Chita Key Lighthouse as a storm passed through. This is part of the Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park system. It is a gorgeous little park with a beautiful lighthouse made from coral. The birds land on the end of the sea wall for the night and I saw hundreds of terns all perched facing into the wind. We stayed inside the bay as we traveled the next day to seek protection from the wind and anchored before being trapped by the bridge at Key Largo.
The next morning we tried to weigh the anchor and discovered that the windlass (winch for the anchor) did not work properly. It was grossly underpowered and would pop the breaker. Jean impressed us all as she used brute force to pull up the anchor and chain hand over hand while Jeff use the engines to help as much as possible. This discovery necessitated finding places to dock for the remainder of the trip. The next night was spent in a marina in Marathon. What a fun little boating community they have there! The next morning, Saturday, they were due to have their radio net and we were invited to check in and listen along.
Another storm passed through, in fact there were 6 storms in the 7 days we were all aboard. The next night was spent in Gate Harbor at Stock Island, just north of Key West. From here we began our only overnight sail around Key West and north into the Gulf of Mexico pointing towards Sanibel Light. We sailed all day, night, and the next morning until we reached Cabbage Key near Cayo Costa.
This was to be a fun stop. We could have sailed further that day, but we secured a spot at the end of the cute little dock and spent the remainder of the day walking the nature trail, eating at the restaurant, and taking pictures of Floyd, the resident great white heron that prefers your food to fishing for his own. Floyd made my day and so did the pelicans and terns roosting on the dock piling that just sat there posing for me. The next morning we set out for Venice where we docked for one night and fueled up. From Venice we sailed to our home port in Palmetto.
We sailed as much as we could, but with all the storms the wind didn’t always cooperate. Due to our tight timeframe, we ended up motoring much of the time. It also didn’t help that our main sail was shot! We also tried out the gennaker on a day we had light winds and achieved 8.2 knots. We didn’t break any speed records, but I was impressed by the smooth comfortable ride as we sliced through the chop and rode the swells. I couldn’t wait for Dave to go sailing on our new boat with me. He was going to LOVE it! I knew we had chosen the right boat for us.