Projecting in Cocoa Village

Highwind at Cocoa Village Marina

We moved across the ICW to the new Ft Pierce Marina (Causeway Cove) and settled in for the week of the work on the bow/anchor area. Other than working, some more unpacking, and receiving many packages, not much of note happened, other than it being the worst week of rain we’d seen in perhaps the last year…which of course made it difficult for the project (fiberglass work on the bow) to take place. We of course experienced a few days of delay, which meant that the folks at Cocoa Village Marina were getting a little annoyed at us at having filled up their mail room already, despite us not being there on our scheduled arrival date.

Hipster breakfast – according to David

The work was finally completed early Sunday afternoon and we were able to cast off and head north. We have planned to spend the next month in one place – Cocoa Village – in order to receive all the packages we need for completing the primary boat projects, and also waiting out the winter in the warmer southern weather before we attempt to Loop again.

So far, we have been at Cocoa for over a week now, and are going through the project checklist. David finished his office area with a temporary desk to which he has mounted his enormous monitor and installed new ceiling lights in the room. The new Garmin unit has been installed in the dash upstairs. I mounted our burgee poles on the bow. We have a temporary internet solution mounted (waiting for the new mast to arrive into which we’ll install the antennas). I installed some slide out drawers in the kitchen for accessing our alcohol and have completed various other internal organization projects. David replaced the blown speakers in the flybridge, installed the new radio unit, rewired all speakers to attach to the new unit and we installed a new sound cable from the TV to the radio unit so we can use the boat sound system for the TV (that was quite a difficult wire run and required most of the starboard stern corner wall and ceiling panels to be removed!!). We figured out a solution for storing the bikes. Phew!

Completed office

We also had a bit of a disastrous first dingy delivery – they were not anticipating us needing a water delivery and the nearest boat launch ramp was a mile away. It was raining and pretty windy, and one of their guys – with no jacket, or life jacket – had to drive the dingy over to the marina. He was not happy! David was on non-interruptible calls, and unfortunately he and I could not figure out how to get the boat onto mounts in the platform properly, despite me standing on the submerged platform, peering under the boat!. We tied it off to the end of the swimstep for David and I to figure out later, but as he was handing everything off to me, we noticed that the bilge pump was pumping water into the storage space under the seat…not good! After a few panicked phone calls to his Dad (family business), they decided that he needed to drive the boat back to the ramp and they would take it back to the shop for repairs. I loaned him some lines and a life-jacket and he went on his way! Over the weekend they were able to get everything fixed up and David handled a smooth delivery yesterday, so now we have a dingy!

On Saturday, after a long day of projects, we decided to head into town to the “Hofbrauhaus” (not its actual name) at the recommendation of some other Loopers. They had a large outdoor seating area and very loud club music was playing when we arrived. Shortly, a performer came out on to the stage and began playing polka music while a couple of people danced. He was actually pretty entertaining, even though the music was so loud we could barely hear each other talking and the food was amazing. We will probably go back there :).

We continue to receive a steady stream of packages and the boat is filled with tools and boxes. We hope to get quite a few projects done this weekend, so perhaps soon we’ll have a live-able space :).

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Final Week in Key Largo and Moving Onto Highwind II

We spent the last week in Key Largo in the house surrounded by boxes full of our things, but it was a nice relaxing time. The sun came out for long enough that we w even found a moment for a dip in the pool – our first and last of the stay at the house.

On Wednesday we rented a uhaul and spent the evening loading everything up. David and I woke up early the next morning to drive up to Stuart, where the new boat had been moored for the month.

The dock hands at the marina were extremely nice and assisted us with their golf carts in unloading all the boxes and gathering them in the new boat for unpacking, making the whole frantic-morning-move fairly smooth, in the end. Later that day, Mum and Dad joined us among the boxes. I had taken the day off to deal with unpacking, but David had important meetings in the afternoon that he could not miss, so he set up shop upstairs while Mum and Dad and I unpacked most of the boxes downstairs. Since I had done most of the box packing, this worked out well – everything was jumbled together with kitchen, bedroom, and random boat things in each box!

We were able to get quite a bit sorted and organized, and made enough room to enjoy some takeout on the boat for dinner in the evening – our first meal aboard!

On Friday, both David and I worked while Mum and Dad hung out, ran a few errands for us and did a bit more unpacking – what way for them to end their trip! They headed out on Saturday morning, leaving us to spend the weekend getting further unpacked and settled in.

It wasn’t long before David had started dismantling the walls and ceiling of the skylounge for installing the first phase of internet on the boat! Once the project was complete, we settled in for the evening and I found my new reading spot and watched a gorgeous sunset.

On the survey, it was discovered that the bowsprit of the boat, around the anchor and windlass had significant leaking/dampness and was in need of repair to replace the sodden plywood core with a stronger material and re-fiberglass everything. We had made an arrangement with the previous owners for this to be fixed, but unfortunately the contractors kept delaying and it was not able to be repaired before we received the keys. We had been put in contact with the contractors and organized to take Highwind II (hereafter referred to as Highwind…) to their shipyard the next week. Since they would not allow us to remain on the boat, we also had to secure a nearby AirBnB. We were watching the weather closely as it was extremely windy at the beginning of the week and we didn’t want our first voyage to be in adverse conditions, especially considering that the slip in Stuart was extremely tricky to get out of in the best of conditions. By the middle of the week, the wind had calmed, so we headed out. It was smooth waters for the 5 mile trip and we pulled into the new slip with no problems (after 3 attempts – it had only an inch of room on either side – Highwind is fatty!).

Thursday morning, they started investigations on the bow and soon discovered that the job extended much further than they originally estimated. As such, they actually did not have anyone available to do the repairs, since they’d put us in a tiny time slot, but he put us in contact with one of their 3rd party contractors to do an assessment. We had an uneventful night in the AirBnB, which included wandering out into the freezing evening (55 degrees) for some dessert.

The next day, we found out from these new contractors that the work would take 7 days, which was longer than we had planned – we had been told 3-5 days and had been planning to head to Cocoa Village where we intend to stay for a month completing the first phase of boat projects. This was much longer than we wanted to stay in a place where we would not be allowed to sleep aboard. We decided to head to Ft Pierce in the next morning as there was a chance this new contractor would be able to find us a place near there where we’d be able to keep the boat, sleep on it, and have the work done. If that didn’t pan out, then we’d keep heading north to Cocoa and make arrangements with some more advance warning with a shipyard further north.

We arrived at Ft Pierce and David made a beautiful docking. David had the day off, so he got started on the bedroom to office conversion project while I worked. It was a lovely day, so in the evening we headed over to Pierced Cidery (we’d visited before) where we enjoyed another sampler of all their flavours and some live music.

On Saturday, we heard from the new contractors that they had found us a place just on the other side of the ICW and we’ll be allowed to stay on the boat, so we’ll head over there on Monday and hope that the work doesn’t take longer than 7 days!!

After months of taking it easy, remote phsyical therapy, doctors visits from Boston to Miami, in-person PT in Islamadora, I was finally cleared to get back on the pole. I pulled it out once at the house in Key Largo, but then we had a few busy weeks of moving, so yesterday I was finally able to get it out again. I’m taking things slow, but it’s very exciting to hopefully get back in a regular routine of training, yoga, etc.

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Third Bedroom Office Conversion

We’ve been remiss in writing a new blog post. We’ll get on that. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of the bigger projects we’re already undertaking on the new boat.

The old working situation. Worked great, when only one of us was on a call at a time.

One of the primary criteria for a new boat (and motivating factors to, in fact, change boats) was to have separate/isolated spaces for us to be on video calls at the same time that are also climate-controlled/weather-protected. These days, we are often both on video calls 5+ hours a day each, which was presenting a stressful reality working next to each other on the last boat.

The Endeavour has a third small bedroom that has two bunks in an L shape and some storage. Our plan when we decided to buy the boat was to turn this into an office. We had bought a nice little desk for Hannah to use near the kitchen, and she immediately started working from there. I spent the first week on the boat working from the upstairs table on a laptop, which worked somewhat fine, but I’m also pretty loud, especially on video calls, so even upstairs, Hannah was getting complaints sounding like she was working with the TV on. Oops.

State of the bedroom as demolition just got started.

With a company holiday on Friday, it seemed like a good opportunity to start tearing apart the room and see what kinda challenge we were looking at here to make this the space we want it to be. It also started as an incredibly claustrophobic space with the bunks in there, so we were a little nervous about whether it’d open up enough to be a really comfortable place to spend 10+ hours a day. So while Hannah was on meetings all day, I started taking things apart.

Immediately, I ran into some … interesting design choices. The bed was a single solid piece of cored fiberglass with white veneer, that ran from under the window all the way to the hallway, between the washer/dryer cabinet and the storage cabinets above it. I freaked out a bit because it looked like something that could be structural/integral. It was only 48″ off the ground, which would have been extremely limiting to work around to build a desk under it. After taking apart the drawers and backing of the closet, I found basically all of the vertical pieces also fiberglassed into the floor/back wall, which also appeared that it could be structural in some way.

Fortunately, after digging apart more things, these concerns were satisfied, one by one. The bed turned out to be basically “hung” from the walls, with fiberglass rolls draping down from the walls and connecting to the top of the bed sheet. So no torsion could be reinforced by it, as it’s basically hanging (even though the resin makes it solid). Presumably this is the strongest way to let kids jump up and down on a bed. Similarly, the vertical panels ended up just being glassed in as kinda a lazy attachment mechanism — you could tear the extra surface layer off with your bare hands without much work. Think of it like taping things to the floor or back wall, with fiberglass. So, eventually, the basic structure yielded.

After the first problem yielded, it was on to the next one. The dryer vent ran along the wall on the underside of the bed, covered up by various trim pieces and carpeting in the back of the closet. Now it’s hanging out for all to see. I explored a bunch of options for what to do with this, but it looks like the real answer is going to be to change the whole routing and run it up along the ceiling, with a new dryer vent on the outside of the boat instead. That’s going to take a custom fiberglass repair person, so for now we have to just throw it back together, taking up as little space as possible. With that in mind, for now, we decided to keep 5 inches of the bed against the wall to be the support for the dryer hose, but take out everything else that we could.

After converting an inordinate quantity of fiberglass into dust with a jigsaw, we managed to get roughly the first cut we were looking for. Finally the space felt open and like it’d really work well, especially if we could get rid of the vent stuff someday. A nice open 56″ wide box to start thinking about putting a desk into. Finally, with all the cutting complete for now, I built some new support brackets for the vent covers, cut things down as small as I could, and tried to reassemble everything I could back into something resembling a finished space.

It’s definitely a little ghetto for now, but it’s good enough to pick up a cheap desk to work with for a while. I can spend time testing out the desk height and general space while find someone to move the vent hose, and then finish cutting the other pieces out and get someone to build a proper custom desk setup into the wall. My woodworking skills are nowhere near good enough to make an even vaguely professional setup in this space, so I’m not even going to try.

But at least we have a usable space now! And it looks very likely that we can keep the single bed and still have a great desk setup. More to come!

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Key West and Marquesas Keys

Marquesas Key

When originally planning our stay in the Keys, we decided to take a week off work in the middle, when Matthew was there, to fully enjoy ourselves. We had been looking at either chartering a boat or taking Highwind to the Dry Torguas, an island with a fort 80 miles off shore from Key West. This would be the furthest Highwind had ever gone off shore! As the week approached, we kept a close eye on the weather to see if there would be a window for the trip. Weather was looking a little windy, but decent enough at least to get to Key West, so we loaded all 5 of us onto Highwind, with 5 days worth of meals planned and cast off from the house.

We arrived safely at Key West at the Galleon marina. We headed into town to find a nearby brewery. Since it was a holiday weekend (MLK), it was pretty busy, which made us somewhat nervous. We did manage to find an open air restaurant with plenty of space that had an upstairs deck with fewer people. We settled in for dinner and as our cocktails arrived, a live guitarist started setting up on the small stage down below – behind a perspex screen. He was great and we enjoyed a lovely dinner while the sun set.

The next day, we decided that the weather was not quite good enough to go all the way to the Dry Torguas, but we would be able to get to Marquesas Keys, a cluster of islands only 15 miles off shore. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and we dropped anchor in a little shelter from the wind off the south western corner where we were completely alone! We all piled into the dingy – the most people it’s held – and had a very wet ride to the beach. Matthew and I sat up front and got drenched from waves cresting over the bow. The water was extremely shallow very far out from the beach, so I ended up hoping overboard and wading up to the beach dragging the boat behind me!

We spent some time wandering along the beach, trying to find a path to circumnavigate the island, but the vegetation turned out to be too dense. The wind was pretty strong, making it a little chilly, and since the water was so shallow for so far, we decided not to swim.

The next morning, the wind was still blowing, making it still too rough to be sensible going to the Dry Torguas and too dangerous to snorkel off the boat, so we decided to head back to Key West and stop at Marathon on the way home to see if we could snorkel there.

As we were pulling into the Key West harbor, we see a Coast Guard zodiac zooming towards us. They circled around behind us and then we heard them hailing us on the radio. “When was the last time you were boarded by the Coast Guard?” “Never,” we responded. They pulled up along side us and three officers hopped on board. One of them was only wearing a one-layer gaiter mask, so Mum immidiately told him to stay on the swim step – which clearly surprised him so he complied! As it turns out, it was a training exercise – for that guy, so a bit sad since he wasn’t allowed to do anything!! They were very friendly. Also, they had forgotten their official checklist, so they were working from memory, but we showed them our paperwork, fire extinguishers, flares, lifejackets etc. We were officially cleared and they handed us our report and headed off.

Mum wouldn’t let the guy in the middle go anywhere on the boat!

This time, Key West was a little less busy, since it was now mid-week. There are loads of wild chickens and roosters wandering around the streets!

The next day, we headed to Marathon, stopping at Sombrero Reef on our way. Though it was still pretty wavy, some of the crew hopped in the water for some snorkeling.

We dropped anchor just outside of Marathon and had another fun night on the boat.

Being silly in the evening

The next day, we headed back to the Key Largo house and began the lengthy process of packing up and cleaning Highwind. Everyone pitched in to help with the scrubbing and schlepping of boxes up to the house, and by Friday evening we had everything packed and stacked ready to load into a Uhaul sometime next week to head up to the new boat.

We said goodbye to Matthew 🙁 that evening as we’d be setting out early the next morning to deliver Highwind to Ft Lauderdale where she will be listed for sale. We’ll spend one last night aboard, and Mum and Dad will pick us up tomorrow morning after they drop Matthew off at the Miami airport. This week of vacation was a great break from work and a fantastic last hurrah on Highwind. We were so glad to be able to entertain one more time after the last year of unexpectedly not being able to have any guests join us.

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Key Largo and a New Boat

After our lovely new year’s eve on Key Biscayne, we had a pretty uneventful cruise over to the house on Key Largo. On advice from some other boaters the previous week, we took the Angelfish Creek cut through from Biscayne Bay out to the Hawk Channel.

First look at the tropical water of the Keys – such beautiful colours!

There’s very few passages through the Florida keys that have more than a few feet of depth, so you have to choose carefully and aim for high tide. After all of our careful planning, we never saw fewer than 5 feet under the keel through the passage, so maybe we didn’t need to be so careful, but better safe than sorry.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The house is on what turned out to be a tiny tiny channel, and our boat blocks a distressing amount of it, so we have large fishing boats passing feet from our windows every morning full of charter customers. The house has some … interesting decor. But it’s a good place for us to hang out for the month with Hannah’s folks.

On Jan 4th, we got the final survey results back for the new boat, and everything looked good. We negotiated over a few things and signed some final agreements. A couple days later, we finalized insurance and the sale closed, and we find ourselves fleet owners again, but in the really undesired way. So now we can finally unveil our new boat.

We have purchased a 2008 Endeavour TrawlerCat 48. Endeavour is (well, was, really) a small boatmaker in Florida, which spent a little over a decade making sailboats from 1974-1986. After going bankrupt in the recession, it eventually got purchased by new owners who renamed it the Endeavour Catamaran Corporation and started producing cats. They made several models from 36 through 44 feet through the earlier years, and in 2008 started making the 48. The boat we just purchased actually turns out to be hull #1. From years in software design, I thought I was smart enough to never get the V1 of something, but here we are. Only 11 of the 48s were ever made, and the company ended up getting bought by ArrowCat several years ago. Shortly thereafter, the owner, Bob Vincent, passed away, and they haven’t produced any hulls ever since.

The few 48s out there are mostly with their original owners and rarely change hands. One of the 48 owners is a semi-retired boat broker and has basically kept track of every 48 owner and tries to connect them with interested buyers, so only one has actually ever made it to the public market. He’s how we ended up finding this one — since we had expressed interest in the middle of the summer in getting on the list, we got word that one was coming up for sale near where we were passing through, so the timing worked out for us to stop in and take a look.

It has several attributes that we’ve been looking to upgrade to:
* A structural “flybridge” area (second floor), for more comfortable weatherproof cruising
* More beam (width), but not enough that we will have trouble finding slips. The Endeavour cats are kinda mid-width. This boat has an 18 foot beam, which gives a bunch of extra room over our current boat. But many cats around this size have 22+ foot beams, which starts to be really difficult to fit in a marina.
* A third bedroom that we’ll convert into an office, so that we can have two isolated work spaces. Both Hannah and I tend to just be on zoom calls for the majority of every day, so we’re constantly jockeying for space and taking calls from a bed.
* Stability of a catamaran — just gets thrown around a lot less in rough seas
* Just more room, everywhere — the 48 has 850 sq ft of climate-controlled fiberglassed-in living space. Much bigger kitchen, bigger master bedroom, bigger flybridge, etc.
* Hydraulic dinghy lift — really easy in/out of the water to go for a jaunt.

We don’t really have any useful pictures right now, but if you want to see some video to see why we bought it, there’s a marketing video from 2013 on youtube.

We were originally planning on swapping boats mid-month so we could spend half of our stationary month on Key Largo outfitting the new boat. Unfortunately, after seeing the size of the canal outside the house, we canceled the plan. The Meridian is wide enough that we’re really close to blocking the channel for the biggest boats to get by, but the 4 more feet of the cat would really be aggressively blocking things. So we decided to just leave the cat in Stuart for the month and slowly get Highwind ready for sale, while also starting to plan out purchases for the new boat. It’s not a perfect solution, but these things rarely are. So we made one long day trip up to the boat right after the sale closed, took a ton of measurements, looked at some dinghies, and then left it to sit there for the rest of the month.

Anyway, after dealing with all of that, and deciding to just settle in, Key Largo has been lovely. It’s great to see Hannah’s parents after a year away, and spend the month hanging out. Hannah’s brother flies in for the middle 2 weeks of the month as well, so hopefully we all have a fun month and no one brings COVID to the party by accident. We’ve all been isolating as much as we can, but you never know.

On our first full day in the Keys, we went to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a picnic lunch. It was a little crowded, but we managed to find a picnic spot. It wasn’t super warm, so we didn’t swim – only waded in up to our knees.

Key Largo is pretty chill — a few fun outdoor restaurants, the usual grocery stores/chains, and a lot of boaters. We’ve largely been working all day then drinking beer and wine and hanging out on the porch all evening, every night. It’s a rough life. After 10 straight months on the move, it’s nice to just relax once in a while.

A few days after we arrived was Hannah’s birthday. Since it was mid-week, we celebrated with a home-cooked dinner and my parents sent a lovely bouquet of flowers.

After a lovely first week, Matthew arrived. Since we had taken the car up to Stuart to receive the keys for the new boat and take some measurements for ordering new parts for the internet setup, we picked him up from Miami airport on the way home and stopped for Cuban dinner. It was a little chilly and Hannah had to wear all the spare clothing we could find in the car!

Delicious Cuban sandwiches

The next day Matthew and Keith went on a fishing charter. They returned home with about a dozen fish – largely yellowtail and tuna. This resulted in Hannah and Matthew making several delicious home-made fish and chip nights and amazingly fresh sashimi appetizers!

Brent and Elizabeth sent us, via my parents to Hannah’s parents, a custom puzzle of a photo from last year’s Christmas holiday – the one we wrote about early on in this blog! We spent a lovely evening putting together the puzzle. Hannah wouldn’t let anyone look at the picture after we opened the box, which everyone complained about, but it actually made the completed result more satisfying! It was fun to spend the evening piecing together a photo of all the family, back when we could be together. Hopefully we’ll be able to reunite next year.

We started hatching a plan to potentially take Highwind out on her last hurrah to Key West, or possibly out to Dry Tortugas, if the weather cooperates. That will be Matthew’s last week at the house before he heads back to San Jose.

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Sea Trials, Highwind Adrift, Miami and New Year – Quite the Week

After Chrismas our plan was to spend the next week in the Ft Lauderdale area. We had managed to confirm an engine survey, hull survey, and sea trial for the new boat in the week between Christmas and New Year. We would be renting a car and driving up to Stuart for two days to oversee this process. We moved the boat out of the Hall of Fame marina where we’d stayed for Christmas and set up shop on one of the buoys of the Las Olas City Marina. It was pretty close quarters in the mooring field. We had to snug up our lines on the buoy pretty close, but even so, on part of our swing, our stern was about 15 feet from a brand new 75-footer Viking that was for sale. We had nearly a full week of consistent 20kt winds ahead of us, so we had pretty constant swinging and pulling on the lines for the buoy. The mooring field (2 other buoys) filled up with other boats.

Everything for the first day of the survey was relatively uneventful. We spent almost the entire day poking at every button, switch, window, device, etc., and didn’t find anything major wrong. In the evening, back in Ft. Lauderdale, with the rented car we were able to venture a little further for outdoor-dinner and re-visited a spot from when we’d first arrived and had a car for loading and prepping the boat.

Sneak peak of view from new boat flybridge/pilot house

On the second day of the survey – the sea trial, we had to voyage north to Ft Pierce (a 2 hour boat ride) to the only place that had availability to haul out the boat for the hull survey on such short notice. As we were nearing Ft Pierce, David receives a phone call. It was the coast guard, informing us that Highwind was currently on someone’s dock. Apparently, the buoy anchor line (the one holding the buoy to the sea-floor) had snapped and Highwind had drifted, missing all the moored boats, and the brand new Viking, right into someone’s empty dock. He’d been nice enough to tie us down and then called the coast guard to have them look us up.

There was no apparent damage to the boat. OMG. We are so lucky – it could have been so much worse. The coast guard gave us this good samaritan’s phone number. We called him up to find out more information. As it turns out, the dock had been empty, but he was expecting delivery of a brand new boat shortly. We then received a call from the captain of this new boat. He was a bit of a beginner, and in the heavy winds was not pleased about the idea of rafting off Highwind. He demanded that we have Highwind towed to a marina. At this point, we were a 2 hour boat ride from our rental car in Stuart, which was a 1.5hr drive from Ft Lauderdale. There was no way we would be able to get south in time to sort anything out. We called BoatUS, who are pros at moving boats without anyone on them, and within 45 mins, they were at our friend’s house and had moved Highwind to a spot we’d secured with the Las Olas Marina. He even sent us some photos!

We decided that there wasn’t much we could do, so we focused on the remainder of the day with the sea trial, hull survey, and engine survey. Once we arrived back in Stuart, we headed straight back to Ft Lauderdale to check out Highwind. BoatUS had done a fantastic job securing her in the marina and there was no damage at all- I saw only a few rub marks where she’d touched the dock without fenders, but it was superficial only. Again, we were SO LUCKY.

We’ve been having unseasonably strong winds for the week and the forecast was set for them to die down on New Years Day, so we discussed the possibility of spending one more night in Ft Lauderdale before heading south towards the Keys. When we woke the next morning and spoke with marina, they did not mention anything about paying for our night on the dock (we’d already paid for the mooring buoy!), but were going to charge us a huge amount to stay where we were for another day, or a slightly less amount to move to a different slip in the marina. We decided that if we were going to untie, we might as well just head south to Miami, even with the fairly heavy winds. We headed down yet another slow/no wake/idle speed only section of the ICW and took 5 hours to go 20 miles. This was New Years Eve and we saw so many boats filled with people (probably not a single boat with less than 5).

New Years Eve partiers in Miami

When we got close to our intended anchorage spot, we saw through the binoculars that there were about a hundred boats moored there, so we decided to head a little further to Key Biscayne Bay. This was a little quieter, and we dropped anchor just in time for a beautiful sunset, a bottle of champagne, and a quiet evening on the boat, followed by fireworks 360 degrees at midnight.

This year wasn’t quite the adventure that we had planned, but as it turned out we have been fortunate to have still done so much in relative safety during a global pandemic. We have fallen in love with this lifestyle and are planning to try for the full Great Loop next year. Living in close quarters is not without its struggles but we are both happy and well (my bad shoulder notwithstanding) and we look forward to what 2021 brings – in particular vaccines as soon as we can get them!!

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Stuart to Ft Lauderdale, Christmas on Highwind

After looking on the potential new boat at Stuart, we decided that we were interested enough to make an offer, so we decided to head back to another anchor spot east of the marina for a couple of days during the negotiation process (to avoid marina fees!). However, on one of the (weekend) days, our main propane tank that runs my stove and oven ran out. We decided to see if there was a place to refill in town, since we had no other plans for the day. I found an Ace Hardware within walking distance of the town dock and called them to confirm (3 times!) that they did do propane refills. We dropped the dingy down, filled it up with our two tanks and the dock cart and headed in to town. It was about a mile walk along the road.

David pulling the two propane tanks to town

When we arrived to the Ace Hardware, the first sign of trouble was that they did not have the large propane tank sitting in the car park. I went in to the store and it turns out that they only did propane tank swapping – despite me confirming that we would be bringing our own tanks to refill! We then promptly got on our phones and started calling every marina and possible other place within reasonable walking distance around town to see if anyone would be able to refill our tanks. We found a few places that would be able, but were not open on the weekends.

While we were both on our phones, a friendly patron of the hardware store came over to talk to David. He recognized our situation (a fellow boat owner) and let us know of a place a couple of miles away that would be open, and he offered to give us a ride. This was a little concerning to us primarily due to covid, but he was wearing a mask and said we could put the windows down. While he was picking up what he needed in the hardware store, we called the place that he suggested to confirm that they would be open. Turns out the store did not do refills, but in there parking lot there was a random dude who did…sketchy!! Well, we decided we’d give it a go, and loaded our tanks and cart into the guys car. He was very friendly and also a live-aboard boater, spending a couple of months staying put in Stuart for the winter. We arrived at the propane place, and lo and behold, it was a random guy, with a large tank in the parking lot who was open during the weekend to do propane refills. We were able to refill the tanks and the guy drove us right back to the marina where we’d parked the dingy! Propane adventure successfully complete!

It turned out that we couldn’t get surveys done on the new boat until after Christmas, so there wasn’t a lot of point in hanging out nearby for another two weeks. So we decided to start heading south, with our plan being to make a base of Ft Lauderdale for the Christmas weekend. We stopped in Palm Beach for one night at a marina so that I could do a last load of laundry before getting to the house in the Keys.

As we were pulling out of Palm Beach, we drove by a ship-shipping ship that was either being loaded or unloaded. Pretty cool to see in real life the type of vessel that brought Highwind to the east coast.

The next stretch of the ICW is probably our least favourite – consisting of lots of bridges with clearance lower than our boat, with specific opening times during the hour, and LOADS of slow/no wake/idle speed only zones. It took us 9 hours to travel 40 miles (we can ordinarily do 100 miles or more in about that time period) to arrive into Ft Lauderdale on Christmas Eve. This was actually the first section of the ICW that we travelled back in March when we started our trip. We reminisced that we were so starry-eyed with the newness of boating on the East Coast that we didn’t realize how slow and boring this section really is! We agreed that any passages through this area moving forward will be done on good weather days going outside (in the open ocean), rather than up or down the ICW.

The most outrageous Christmas decorations seen in the slow zone of the ICW

We decided to see if there was anything open in Ft Lauderdale, despite it being Christmas Eve, so we headed off the boat for a short walk to the Las Olas Beach area where we knew (from our trip last year to the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show) that there was a strip of restaurants with outdoor seating open on to the beach. Turns out everything was open and it was actually quite busy! We managed to find a place that had fewer people and a good amount of space. We had excellent Mexican food and giant margaritas, which is actually a Short family tradition for Christmas Eve, so that turned out well!

For Christmas we had planned to spend the day to ourselves on the boat and do various family Zooms. It was a little sad to not be able to travel home for the holidays and see people in person. We are really looking forward to when we can get vaccinated and we’ll be able to travel home! I also had decided to cook Cornish Hens for our Christmas dinner- they turned out delicious, though David grumbled a bit about the ROI of meat to picking off the bones. :). Overall, a pretty good holiday, all things considered.

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Daytona Beach, Anchoring, Fort Pierce & Stuart

After St Augustine, we headed to Daytona beach, and dropped anchor in a spot just off the ICW. Unfortunately, we were spending only one night here, on a week day, and the weather was starting to get a little cold, so the odds were stacked against us actually visiting the beach. However, after a busy work day, while google-mapping what was near us, we discovered we were a short hop from a distillery: Copper Bottom Spirits. So we put down the dingy and headed to shore. We discovered that the restaurant attached to a nearby marina offered free temporary moorage to guests of the restaurant, so we put our name down in the queue for their outdoor deck (a 1 hour wait!) and headed off to the distillery.

When we arrived at the distillery, we were the only people there, so the owner let us into the back room/warehouse and gave us a tour. We’d never actually toured a distillery before, just lots of wineries/breweries, so this was a neat treat.

Their specialty is rum, offering several different varieties aged in different types of barrels: Sherry, Port, Whiskey, and even several beers. They also started doing a from-scratch Vodka recently, which is apparently a very rare thing, as almost everyone buys high-proof source Vodka from one of a few giant producers, and then just adds their own flavors/water/filtering and bottle it.

He talked about their entire process, most of which they do manually, from sugar cane through to bottling/labeling, including the long distillation process in the middle. It was fun to chat with him about everything, because the business was obviously a labor of love, not just a job. Anyone passing through here with an appreciation for liquor should stop in and get a tour/tasting!

After the tour, we went out to the tasting room and actually got to try everything. Their “base” aged rum was at least as interesting as our current “drinking rum” choice, the Plantation 20th anniversary, and the various barrel-finished rums were fascinating. We ended up picking up a variety of their rums. The vodka actually had a drinkable flavor, unlike virtually all other vodkas we’ve tried, but we’re not really vodka folks, so with limited space on the boat we passed. At the end, they, like everyone else in these coastal towns, turned out to be boaters, so we talked about our trip as well, as the nightly Christmas boat parade bobbed by outside their tasting room window.

Back at the restaurant (1.5hrs later), our name still hadn’t been called, but after a few more minutes of waiting, our table was finally ready. This was a pretty gimmicky restaurant and it turned out our table was a rocking contraption, which moved when you climbed in or set it to motion! We also ordered a tiki drink that was served in a take-home coconut carved with a pirate face.

Strange rocking chair table

Since it was still mid-week we did another short hop to a somewhat random spot 15ish miles south, just off the ICW, where we dropped anchor.

David had discovered that there was a nearby German restaurant that was very highly reviewed, with its own dock. After another busy work day, we dropped the dingy and headed again to shore. The temperature was getting much colder at this point, and the restaurant staff were pretty surprised by our desire to sit outside, but we insisted, so we were led out to their deserted porch. It was a delicious meal!

Next up, we headed to Fort Pierce and decided to stay there for a couple of days to be there on the weekend. We spent the first evening at a brewery (Sail Fish) very close to the marina where David tasted a couple of the beers.

The next day we dropped the bikes down and rode to a nearby botanical garden, which turned out to house one of the largest collections of bonsai trees in the country! The gardens were all set up for their holiday season light event, so you can see those in the photos.

After the bike ride, we ended up at a cider brewer (Pierced Cider Works), where we were able to sample all of their 10 different ciders! They had a great band playing in their garden seating area, so we spent a couple of hours going through the samples, playing cards and listening to music. It was really a rather perfect afternoon, and much more like what we were hoping to spend the year on the loop doing. Maybe late next year after we’re all vaccinated we’ll have more opportunities like this…

As we were walking back to the boat, the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful.

Sunset over Fort Pierce

After Fort Pierce, we headed south to Stuart. We’d been planning this stop for a while as there was a boat in the marina here that we wanted to take a look around. We’d gotten to Stuart a few days early, so instead of going into the expensive marina for a few weeknights, we anchored a few miles downriver instead, in a huge open cove with good holding and minimal wakes from passing sport fisher boats. We enjoyed a few perfect evenings of still water and perfect weather here before heading into the marina Wednesday morning.

At the end of the work day, we took a tour of the boat (very nice! we have some thinking to do…) and then dropped the bikes down and headed in to town for some errands. At the end of the line, we ended up at another brewery (Ocean Republic Brewing) for a tasting. We are finding that when we only have an evening in a place, the sun sets at 5pm, and we are still avoiding inside activities, that breweries seem to be our main option of off-boat entertainment, so it’s possible we’re just alcoholics at this point. Thanks COVID.

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Jacksonville Beach and St Augustine

As we pulled out of the south end of Dunbar creek and rounded the southern tip of St Simons Island, we drove very close to the salvage area and got an even closer view of the overturned ship.

For this leg, since the weather was good we decided to try going outside of the ICW. Though the waves were predicted to be 6 seconds apart (a pretty tight interval), they were actually closer together, and more random, so it was rocky enough that I battened down the inside of the boat for the trip. However, once we turned the corner, the waves shifted to the stern and made it an uneventful voyage.

We landed in Jacksonville Beach. Here, we were able to meet up with some family friends of mine whom I have known for essentially my entire life (pre-move to America, certainly). They had recently moved from Seattle to Jacksonville Beach, so we grabbed a spot in a marina near their new place and arranged to eat an outdoor dinner. The benefit of a Floridian winter is that this is comfortably possible even on Nov 30!

Due to our hasty boat-packing experience last winter when we readied Highwind for shipping to FL, we still had all of our holiday lights for decorating the boat for Seattle’s Christmas Ships cruises in December. We fished them out of deep storage and adorned Highwind for the holidays and she’s now looking very festive.

Our next destination was St Augustine. We had only stopped here for a couple of days on our way north mid-week and this was the exact time of the Florida Covid lockdown.

It’s the oldest city in the US, with a historic downtown area, and there is a distillery where we knew we needed to pick up some refills from our previous stop! We ended up staying here for several nights in order to be able to fit in some touring with our busy work schedules. We were able to have a couple of outdoor dinners and also walked around the historic district and the fort just outside of town.

From here, we are back in fast-transit mode for most of December. We’re trying to get down to Stuart (~200nm away) by the 16th to look at a boat that we may be interested in purchasing, and then down to Key Largo (~400nm away) to spend the month of January at an AirBnB with Hannah’s family. So expect mostly a lot of transiting for the next few weeks. Disappointingly, it looks like the only rocket launch in December will be while we’re too far north to see anything, so now we’re hoping for one on the way back up in the “spring”. Alas.

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Thanksgiving on St Simons Island

Dunbar Creek by drone, Highwind moored bottom left

From Sunbury we headed south to St Simons Island, our intended destination for Thanksgiving weekend. We had not stopped on the island on our way north, so this would be a new place for us to explore. We had been invited by some friends from Meydenbauer Yacht Club to share Thanksgiving with them in their winter island home, where they had been largely stranded due to Covid. They live right on Dunbar Creek, which runs through the island and had a dock large enough for us to tie up, ish.

Highwind on Jim and Leslie’s dock on Dunbar Creek

We had been invited for the whole week, so in addition to hanging out and doing some touring of the island, we had planned to work on several large projects on the boat. David wanted to rebuild the old broken alternator to become a spare, we needed to rebuild the solar setup on the bimini top, and David was re-doing our internet setup on the boat (more details here). This resulted in the boat immediately becoming a war zone of tools, boxes, and cables.

On our “solar panel rebuild” day, we laid out the bimini top on the dock next to the boat and started securing (involved elastic ties through eyelets and many zipties to some PVC piping that will rest over the bimini frame to assist with some of the weight of the panels). After we were about half way through, the sky opened up and began to pour. I mean cats and dogs pouring. After some minutes of panicked organization to get everything we could into the dry, we were completely sodden. We hid in the boat for a couple of hours until the rain stopped and everything had dried enough for us to keep going! We then had to lift the entirely constructed panel from the dock, up and over the side of the boat and secure it into place via zippers to all the other panels. All of this was happening while we were being eaten alive by no-see-ums. All in all, not my favourite boat project! However, we finally got everything secured and plugged in and David is very happy with the completed set up!

We had a wonderful time with Jim and Leslie who invited us up to the house for happy hour and dinner each day. We enjoyed largely a week of sunshine and weather in the high seventies (aside from the aforementioned rain storm). It is sometimes a little surreal to think that we were sitting outside in summer clothes watching the sun set at the end of November! Jim and Leslie also gave us a tour of St Simons Island. They both grew up on the island, and were able to share a lot about its history and pointed out to us how it has changed.

If you recall from our post around the time of Jekyll Island, at the southern point of St Simons, there was an overturned containership stuck in the shallow water. The salvage mission is still under way. I believe they have spent the better part of the year creating a large structure that sits over the ship which will use a huge chain to saw it into pieces for removal. We drove by the ship from a large distance on our way north, but were able to get a much better view from the public pier in the middle of town, where you can now see the chainsaw archway. They are anticipating that the ship pieces will not be removed until potentially the spring of next year!

On the actual day of Thanksgiving, we were joined by Leslie’s sister and her daughter, both of whom where at some risk of exposure to Covid due to their jobs, so we spent most of the afternoon outside on the balcony and then David and I ate at a distanced table across the dining room. Despite the arrangements, we had a wonderful and delicious dinner.

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