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.
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).
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!!