After we landed back in Florida after a great weekend celebrating David’s grandmother Marian’s life with his family, we immediately loosed the lines and started heading northwards, aiming to find an anchorage in Jensen Beach, just south of Ft Pierce.
Turns out that there was a wind advisory for small craft (it was pretty windy when we shoved off out of the marina). Most of the cruise was non-eventful, but as the sun set and we started to get near Jensen Beach, the wind started picking up in earnest and we became a bit nervous about putting down anchor for the night. We tried calling Ft Pierce marina, since they were only a little but further north than us, but they said that it would be too dangerous for us to pull in in the dark with all the wind. We then tried looking for all local marinas in Jensen Beach. There was only one, and it turns out their docks had been destroyed in the last hurricane. They recommended we try a public dock at a park just north of Jensen Beach. We turned down the narrow channel to go and check it out, but it turns out the dock was for small craft and not big enough for us. By this time the wind was really gusting and it was a bit scary to get turned around at the end of the channel which was really only about the width of our boat-length with extremely shallow waters on either side.
Finally, I looked a little further north and found a marina on Nettles Island, who picked up the phone and had room for us, if we were willing to dock ourselves without help! We were very relieved. We came towards the Island just as the sun was setting and the wind was still blowing pretty hard. David did an amazing job steering us straight into our berth, which was literally right outside their restaurant – still full of people. Fortunately, as we came into the slip, several folks staying at the marina were kind enough to catch some lines for us, making the entire process go as smoothly as any of our non-wind dockings could have gone. Turns out David was the talk of the restaurant that night for doing such an amazing job in the high winds (haha get it?!).
With the winds forecast to be 20+ kts solid through Tuesday night, we decided to throw out our plans and wait it out before continuing north, since we had several nights of anchorages ahead of us before making it up to Cape Canaveral. There wasn’t much to do around Nettles Island, but we discovered Instacart and delivery groceries (they even delivered from Total Wine!), plus I took some time to do some training on my portable pole.
Quite a few people have been asking us if we are under way and if we are on the boat while working, so I thought I’d describe an average day so far on the trip.
We woke up this morning in Boynton Beach and our destination for today is West Palm Beach. So far, we have been doing all our traveling early in the morning, before work begins and before most people on the we even awake. While David was still getting out of bed (he’s not a morning person), I started to get ready for leaving.
Once David was up, he fired up the engines and got our navigation systems up and running. I threw off the lines, hopped on board, and then we were on our way. Once we cast off, I made breakfast. Mmm, toast.
It’s getting really hot here in FL and we cannot have our A/C on when under way. By the time we pulled into the dock here, it was already almost 90 degrees! (Later in the day it got up to 94!)
Once we were tied off, and plugged into power, we turned on the A/C and got to work.
Then I make lunch. Today was “italian” style pasta salad.
After work we unloaded the bikes from the boat and did an escape room. This was actually our 3rd escape room on the trip – we’re enthusiasts! We escaped with ~10 mins to spare. After the escape room, we biked to a nice restaurant for dinner, where we celebrated David’s birthday a day early and they gave us carrot cake for free and put birthday confetti on the table!
So – in summary, we woke up early, drove the boat to a new location. Did normal things like make and eat breakfast and lunch, worked for the day, then hung out in town for the evening.
The last few days have been pretty solidly filled with finishing the last projects to get the boat back together and ready to start the trip. We swapped out a fixed cooler for a powered CFX3 unit (basically a second fridge), since we didn’t want to be beholden to buying ice every couple days, which required running AC and DC lines from our breakers up to the cooler and fixed-mounting it onto the boat. We finished replacing the dead horn, and discovered the old one must have been running on only one side for as long as we’ve had the boat, as the new one is significantly more throaty. We tried installing a new wireless camera to help assist with docking, but the connection is flaky, so that might not last. We got a bunch of storage/organization aids for the wine, liquor, and other under-couch things, and finally got everything stashed away into closets. Then we did some more homey things like adding a foam topper to the front bed, installed a 12V outlet in the front stateroom, and got new linens and a pillowtop for the couchbed. We’re ready for guests, and, after a week of the boat being a complete mess, we finally put the last tools away in the closet!
On Saturday, after finishing the last chores, we then had a great afternoon with a bike ride to a local brewery before returning back to the boat for dinner and final trip preparation.
This morning, we finally pushed off the dock and started on our trip. We made it all of 5 feet before the first mishap occurred — we apparently had left the side door swung open as we left the dock, and quickly discovered that the thrusters were completely dead (we assume drained battery from not being used or charged in 2 months), so the fairly heavy wind pushed us alongside a (rubberized, thankfully!) post and nearly took the door completely off before we were able to get the boat out of harm’s way. After bungeeing the nearly hinge-less door back to the boat, we then actually started the trip!
We had a bit of a harrowing journey up the New River out to the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW). The New River is a much narrower continuous channel than anything we are used to boating, and we ended up behind a very large vessel being towed through the channel – apparently this is common as it is hard for larger boats to navigate the winding waterways. This was also our first experience going under bridges whose clearance is too low for us, meaning we have to wait for them to open, communicate with the bridges via radio, time crossings, etc. This will be a common occurrence for us for the next year, so we’d better get used to it! Northwest boaters will be amused to learn that instead of dodging logs, we spent the afternoon dodging floating coconuts!
We finally pulled into our stop for the night: Lighthouse Point Yacht Club Marina. David spent the evening hammering the hinges back to flat and making new mounts for the door while I was able to do a huuuuuge load of laundry, and we got rid of all the trash/recycling that had been piling up on our back deck. The boat is clean and organized, finally!!
All the chores were done just in time for sunset off the stern of the boat, and then we headed to the club’s tiki bar for dinner and drinks! Apparently the 75 degree weather was “a cold day” so the club was pretty dead. Their loss.
The only set-in-stone date on our trip for the next several months is having to be in DC for the March 6-8 weekend for a funeral. A couple months ago, with that date in mind, and expecting that we’d want to deal with some stuff on the boat before heading too far north, we guessed randomly, picked West Palm Beach to fly out of (~50 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale), and bought plane tickets.
Fast forward to being on the boat, and we think that guess is going to work out pretty well. We have the second round of canvas repairs that will be done either Friday or Monday (contractor-speak for “maybe Monday, probably Tuesday”) as the long-pull work item right now. Knowing we’re here until then, we have been taking the opportunity to catch up on all the boat prep that we missed out on in January when we had to send the boat out on 48 hrs notice.
With Sunday spent doing basic provisioning, the weekdays are our first trial of working full time from a boat on the other side of the country while trying to organize shipments, start planning travel, find/book future marinas, and do maintenance.
Monday, we had the pallet full of several hundred pounds of supplies from home arrive, and spent the entire afternoon unpacking and organizing. I stayed up late and installed a new chartplotter (navigation computer/display) and radar to replace our ancient ones. Despite wearing full protective gear and heavily using a vacuum to eat up a bunch of fiberglass, I’m still assuming I took another chunk out of my expected lifespan. Amazingly, I also managed to sell the old units, which I assumed would be nearly worthless, on Craigslist and eBay for 900$ in under a day.
Tuesday, the couch pallets arrived, and we had an exciting afternoon of frantically getting the existing couch out of the boat and getting the new couch on board with literally seconds to spare before the sky opened up. Once everything was installed and cleaned up, we utilized our rental F150 to its fullest, bringing a completely overflowing truck of old couch, pallets, and other misc junk to the dump before returning it in the evening.
Tech-wise, working on the boat has been going fairly well during the day. I picked up a second unlimited SIM card from an AT&T reseller (NoLimitData), stuck it in the second modem on the Cradlepoint router, and enabled intelligent trunking (with the existing unlimited Verizon card), so the router splits our traffic between the two connections. The results, at night at least, have been great (see picture). Midday, when the networks are congested, with the two connections sharing load, we’re at least barely noticing that we’re not on a cable modem, so we can’t ask for much more than that. I still can’t wait for StarLink next year…
Today, after work, I started digging into a few nagging problems we noticed on the boat on our quick trip up to Vancouver. A few of the switches on the flybridge helm had stopped doing anything, including the horn, and there were some issues with the trim tab sensors on the NMEA 2000 network. After messing around with the trim tab sensors for way too long, I finally just unplugged the device, plugged it back in, and quickly tried a fresh re-calibrate before the computer finished initializing it. Boom, all fixed. On to the electrical. I chased one of the issues down to a wire pulling out of a previous crimp connection, another of the issues down to loose spade connectors, and then fully debugged the horn down to it being a hardware issue. I pulled the horn off the boat and popped it open to check it out, only to be met with a horn element full of rust and spider webs/poop. So, a replacement is on its way from Amazon now.
In general, though, things are coming together. More storage/organization supplies are arriving from Amazon by the day, so our living spaces are pretty usable now, especially with the new storage in the couches. The ghetto-rigged A/C unit is doing a decent job, though with it being 88F and quite humid today, it was struggling to keep the inside below around 75, but that’s fine for working. On the fun side, we’ve been soaking a tiny 1 quart oak barrel for a few days to get it ready for aging cocktails, and tonight we declared victory and filled it up with a bunch of Negroni. In a couple weeks, that’s going to be delicious.
Tomorrow, we plan to actually unload the bikes and take some rides around town — hit up an escape room, maybe head over to the beach, etc. We have a pile of Amazon packages coming in the next 2 days with more storage/organization supplies (and some boat parts…), so that’ll take up plenty of time, but we’re hoping to be able to relax for our first weekend of the trip.
When David randomly (at least to me it felt pretty random…) said to me about three years ago, “I think we should get a boat”, I never would have dreamed that three years later we would be celebrating the first day in a year-long adventure on said boat in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. I must admit that when he suggested a year ago that we consider doing the Great Loop, I was at first hesitant – how would we work? where would we do laundry? can we live in small quarters without wanting to kill each other? how will I fit all my clothes and shoes for a year? David is clever though, since he knows that once he’s planted a seed, despite my initial negative gut reactions, once I’ve had a chance to mull things over, I usually come around to his way of thinking :).
And now, here we are, toasting to our first day!
Yesterday evening, we left 50 degree and rainy Seattle on a red-eye and landed this morning in Ft Lauderdale where the weather is sunny and 75 degrees.
We were nervous about getting to the boat as this would be our first time checking out the full impact of the potential damage from shipping. The good news is that everything inside the boat was completely fine. The repaired canvas pieces look great and you can’t even tell that the BBQ railing had snapped completely from the boat. Unfortunately the BBQ itself was mangled beyond repair, so one of our errands today was to get a new one. We also noticed that some of the other canvas was less-obviously damaged, so we’re hemming and hawwing about what to do about those.
After establishing the state of Highwind, we went out for the day provisioning and picking up a few things for repairing our outdoor table that is a little worse for the wear. Costco, WholeFoods, HomeDepot, Harbor Freight, West Marine. I said to David that it is funny how we are about as far as you can be from Seattle, yet we spent the day in the same stores that we would have at home!!
Now we are ending the day with some steaks on our new grill and probably early to bed since we didn’t get much sleep on the plane! Tomorrow, we both will be working from the boat while two different freight shipments arrive throughout the day with the new couch and our last pile of supplies from Kirkland. We’re also starting to look ahead to planning our first transit stages to get north to West Palm Beach by March 6th (where we have flights up to VA for the weekend for a funeral/celebration of life).
As I go to bed tonight, we tick down past the 8-days-to-go mark. So, we’re just finishing up some fairly frantic last-minute planning and logistics, and are ready to move into see-what-happens mode.
Today, we dropped off the last pile of stuff at the freight company to be sent out to the boat. Since the boat had to go through Victoria, we couldn’t send any alcohol out on it, so instead we’re shipping out a few cases of wine and a case of northwest liquor (small batch stuff you can’t get in liquor stores out east). Combine that with a radar and chartplotter upgrade, throw in a folding dock cart, some art, and a few miscellaneous other things, and you have 460 lbs of shrink-wrapped boxes on their way out east to meet us. It’ll give me some fun projects to get started on from day 1!
Speaking of the chartplotter upgrade, we made the call to upgrade the main ancient Garmin 5012 chartplotter to a new 1242 Plus unit. I was looking into prices for getting all of the map cards we’d need to safely do the loop with the 5012, and it was getting up over 2000$. At the Seattle Boat Show, I talked to the Garmin rep and he said he actually knew a few people who had recently just done the Great Loop, entirely using the built-in G3 base map that comes with recent Garmin chartplotters. Given that I could get the new unit for essentially the same price as the map cards I was looking at, it seemed like a vastly superior answer. The reps at the Garmin booth don’t actually sell anything, and I’m sure the margin on hardware is lower than a mass-printed SD card, so it seemed like a genuine suggestion to save some money. But then I found a nice combo sale to upgrade our decade-old radar unit to a Fantom 24 at the same time, and suddenly everything got more expensive…
We also got news this week that our new couch was ready to ship, so it’ll head out east about the same time as our random-stuff pallet. We’re excited for the extra storage!
Lastly, we’ve started trying to look at what a timeline MIGHT look like for our loop. We currently only have 2 hard dates:
March 7th, we have a celebration of life for my grandmother, who passed away earlier this year. We have plane tickets from West Palm Beach for the weekend, so we need to get ~100 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale up to PBI by then.
November 1st, or so, the locks south of Chicago open from 4 months of maintenance closures, so we can start hauling ass down the Illinois to the Mississippi, away from what will, by then, be quite cold weather.
Outside of those two dates, pretty much anything goes, so I’ve been trying to add some constraints/odds to give people a rough idea when to come out and visit us. If we follow a roughly-72-to-75-degree-average high daily temperature for the first bit (colder than we want, but we get north earlier and can explore further northeast), we end up with the following vague-but-quite-aggressive schedule:
Feb 28: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
March 7: West Palm Beach, FL (100 miles)
March 25: Jacksonville, FL (300 miles)
April 15: Charleston, SC (300 miles)
May 1: Wilmington, NC (250 miles)
May 15: Norfolk, VA (300 miles)
June 1: Washington DC (250 miles)
June 10: Baltimore, MD (200 miles)
June 25: NYC (250 miles)
July 15: Providence, RI (250 miles)
Aug 1: Portland, ME (250 miles)
Aug 20: Back to NYC -> Enter Hudson River (500 miles)
Sept 5: Montreal, QC (400 miles)
Sept 15: Leave Lake Ontario into Trent-Severn (200 miles)
Oct 1: Leave Trent-Severn onto Lake Huron (300 miles)
Oct 15: Enter Lake Michigan (400 miles)
Nov 1: Head south from Chicago, IL when the locks open (400 miles)
We, of course, have no idea if we’ll be able to hit that aggressive of a timeline, since we’re also going to be both working full time and trying to enjoy everything along the way. So, we might just skip everything east of NYC, enter the Hudson in late July, and hang out more in Canada. We’ll see!
As the date of the boat’s arrival in Florida got closer, we were thinking that it was probably too early to fly out and start our loop in late January. I’d told my job that March 1st-ish was when we’d start, and while I could have gotten away with it, it was a better idea to stick around for another month to keep building work relationships. So, we started reaching out to our boating community connections to find a captain to pick up the boat and a slip to hold the boat for a month and change. Amazingly, someone found a captain in FL who had a friend with a slip outside a house they’d bought that would be free for a couple months until they got around to buying a boat in the spring, for an amazingly reasonable price. So, we paid a deposit, coordinated pickup details, and slowly watched the Garmin tracking site as the boat wandered its way over.
It was fun following the boat on its route. They stayed hundreds of miles off shore down the west coast of the US, and then hugged pretty close to Mexico on the way down to Panama, making a pretty consistent 14 kts the whole time. Once they hit Mexico, we’d get emails every day or so with the cell modem on the boat picking up a signal for that middle part of the trip. Then, when they headed north from Panama, they were taking a weird route and going very slowly for a couple days, before turning to the west of Cuba and picking up speed again. We didn’t know what to make of any of it, but it was interesting to watch.
On January 18th, after some delays that pushed unloading of our boat into the late evening, they let the captain aboard to start checking out the condition of the boat. We got the first text above, and our hearts sank a bit. Over the last year, we’d replaced all of the canvas on the boat, and paid a premium for some fairly high-end stiff isenglass that would last longer and stay clearer than standard materials, all of which now appeared to be hanging broken or missing from the back half of the boat.
They let him aboard the boat to check things out, and the inside was a mess. Nothing on a quick inspection by the captain appears to be damaged, but everything was tossed around quite a bit. We later got the story that the cargo ship hit a big storm just north of the Panama Canal, and was seeing steady 35 degree lists in the ocean swells. Another big ship they were also transporting had a large granite countertop break off and bounce around the kitchen for a day and a half. So, things could always be worse.
After some more time aboard, the captain found a pile of stuff nearby that the ship operators had apparently collected as it all fell off our boat. All of the canvas is there, though much of it was destroyed. The grill apparently snapped the railing off the port side of the boat, so that’s going to require some welding and likely a new grill. Not ideal, but nothing catastrophic, at least. Money and a few weeks can fix all of these things, but it’s not really the experience we were looking for.
Eventually, all of the parts were gathered and it was Highwind’s turn to get unloaded. The batteries lasted the whole trip, so my gamble worked out. The engines fired right up and the captain had an uneventful trip inland a couple miles to the dock where Highwind will sit for a bit.
The captain has some local connections, so in the couple days since the boat landed, we’ve gotten the boat fully cleaned to see what other damage there might be, and it doesn’t appear that anything is notably damaged beyond the canvas/railing/grill. Some of the furniture that ended up exposed to the elements in the storm needs some heavier work, but everything else cleaned up nicely.
We are getting estimates for the various required work on those items early next week. We have a special insurance rider as part of the transport, so hopefully most of the costs of repairs are covered by that, but we’ll know more after we get the estimates and start the claims process. Insurance companies are always eager to fulfill claims, so I’m sure this will go smoothly…
After assessing the situation, we decided that the Feb 22/23 weekend would be a good option for moving out east, and performed the weird act of buying one-way tickets to the opposite corner of the country. This should give us enough time to get the boat fixed up before we head out, with some time to settle in and receive freight shipments before we should be heading north in early March.
On one last slightly-brighter note, back in November, we commissioned a custom couchbed for the boat to make better use of space and replace our aging and not-terribly-comfortable one, and it’s now finished and ready to ship (the pictures above are the latest ones they sent before saying it was done)! We were intending to have it completed before the boat got shipped, but the early transport changed the situation a wee bit. At this point, it will be shipped to the driveway of the house where our boat is after our arrival in late February, and we’ll swap couches from there.
After several back-and-forths with Florida on Thursday and Friday, we got our ISF filed (customs forms) and were cleared to load. 3pm Friday, they loaded it up, and 7am this morning the ship departed Victoria, headed to Ensenada. There’s no going back now.
I’m gambling a little bit with the batteries on the ship for the voyage, basically entirely because I’m a geek. I disconnected almost everything from the NMEA 2000 network on the ship other than my prototype ShipIt hardware and the GPS antenna, and pulled as much off the rest of the 12V system as I could. This left the boat pulling about 1.8 amps to have the router + cell antenna going to hold connectivity to shore/my house (automatic VPN tunnel), the ShipIt hardware/N2k network, a USB charger for the Garmin Inreach, and whatever else is floating around using power.
The kicker, and the other side of the bet, is that there’s 500 watts of solar on the roof, but only 390 amp-hours of AGM batteries as a buffer. So, if solar does absolutely nothing, we’ll drain ~43Ah per day and the batteries will be too low to do anything sometime mid next week. But if the solar does, well, really much of anything (which is more likely as it goes south), it’ll keep everything more than topped off. But mostly it needs to make it through the deep dark north before running out of batteries to then find some sun…
Of course, for the vast majority of the trip, the boat looks like it’s going to stay way off shore, well out of range of any cell antennae, so the InReach will be the only reliable tracking mechanism outside of Ensenada, the Panama Canal (we’ll see how Google Fi roaming does!), and then Florida. So, it’s likely that most of my work to keep the network alive will be a waste. Oh well. Experiments are fun.
The current ETA is for the boat to arrive on Jan 2nd in Ensenada, and then ~Jan 20th in Florida. We currently have no plans in place for what to do when that date arrives. It’s still too up in the air around Hannah’s job search and how my job progresses to know if we’ll be ready to move aboard on the 20th or if we’re going to stash the boat somewhere for 5-6 weeks before heading back to actually begin the loop. More updates forthcoming, as soon as we make some decisions…
I hadn’t heard from the boat broker in a month, so last Tuesday night (Dec 16) I fired off a quick checkin email to see if he had any update on when the January/February sailing was going to happen. I woke up to a lovely response:
We were two days away from heading to Big Sky, MT for a week of getting together with the family for skiing, arriving home on the 28th. I was also scared by the word “likely”, so I shot him a call in the morning to clarify. He did some research and found that the “likely” February boat was currently not planning on even stopping in Victoria due to not enough customers, so we were looking at more likely an early April shipping at best, arriving in FL in May, significantly too late to start the trip.
Frantic calls to marinas and brokers ensued, and we threw together a list of everything that we’d need to get done to get the boat up to Victoria. The week is compounded by it being Hannah’s last week of work (due to the company management imploding, she put in notice a few weeks ago), so we couldn’t just take a couple days of emergency vacation. At least we were planning on driving to/from Big Sky, so those plans are flexible.
Logistics aside, we were looking ahead at weather for the next few days, and were not thrilled by what we saw. When push came to shove, we decided that the additional expense and hassle of days of logistical hell was worth making sure that we could start the loop in time. So, the plan unfolded:
Wednesday/Thursday Nights: Pack the boat with clothing/tech equipment/gear, while the record-setting rain makes everything we own soaking wet. Pack car for ski trip.
Friday 5AM: Take the boat out from Kirkland in the dark, through the cut, out the locks, and moor in Shilshole Marina for the day/night. Uber to/from work.
Saturday 8AM: Head north to Victoria, clear customs, place boat in Victoria Marina, show the captain how to start/run the boat to load it up later in the week.
Saturday 5PM: Take the Victoria Clipper back to Seattle.
Saturday 8PM: Drive east to Big Sky.
Somehow, amazingly, the plan worked out without a hitch. The promised rain did come, dumping over 6 inches of rain on us over a 48 hour window, and clearly demonstrating that it’s time to re-do the waterproofing on our bimini top. About the time we crossed the Canadian border, it stopped pouring on us, and we had an uneventful clipper trip home and a reasonable drive out to Big Sky.
We got some last minute news about some customs forms that need filing, which will be done tomorrow morning, just in time for them to load the boat a day early, on Friday. If the loading goes well, then it’s just a waiting game, to get a final date to buy tickets out to Florida to pick up the boat.
The GPS tracking link for the boat (also in the links bar at the right) has our Garmin Inreach active on it, so unless the house batteries run out (here’s hoping that our solar can keep it topped off), we can all follow the boat’s transport together!
TL;DR: Early in 2019, Hannah and I made the decision to start seriously planning on doing The Great Loop, a year-long marine circumnavigation of the eastern third of the continental USA — up the east coast from Florida, into the great lakes, down the Mississippi, and around the gulf. After much planning, we will be starting the loop in early 2020 on our boat, Highwind, and this blog will attempt to document our adventures along the way. Hopefully, at the end of the trip, we will have done a good enough job to use something like Pixxibook to print out photobooks of the trip.
Despite buying our first boat only a few years prior, we’d very much enjoyed our month-long summer voyages up into Canada, and were looking for ways to spend more time boating and exploring new areas. The obvious next step was to do an Alaska trip, which would take an entire summer, but unfortunately there’s essentially zero cell coverage over much of the transit route and essentially all of the Alaskan waters, making working remotely difficult. Satellite internet is still incredibly expensive for remarkably little bandwidth, so this basically ruled out Alaska as an option. We’re hoping that Starlink will bring a huge improvement to worldwide high-speed connectivity, but that’s still 2-3 years out at this point.
The next major trip we looked into was The Great Loop, because it keeps you close to cell-covered civilization for the overwhelming majority of the trip, and also covers a bunch of the country that both Hannah and I have nearly zero experience with. We’d heard of the Great Loop in the past, but didn’t really connect it with the trip my cousin Kevin did several years ago until were deeper into planning, amusingly enough. Planning started out as a vague joke, until I kept reading trip reports, finding solutions to the major issues with the trip, and getting more excited about it.
The unfortunate passing of Hannah’s aunt Helen to cancer in late 2018 kicked us into gear to stop putting off future plans, because, really, who knows if you have a future to plan for. So get to it. We decided to just jump into Great Loop planning and see if we could make it work, and have it be a bit of a Helen Parkinson Memorial Tour. Somewhat surprisingly, after a couple months of planning, we both had approval from our jobs to work remote for the year and had determined that we were going to ship our boat, Highwind, to Florida (via a larger boat) to start our trip in early 2020.
We spent much of the summer of 2019 modifying the boat to get ready to work remotely for a year, living aboard. Our boat is a 2004 Meridian 408, an aft-cabin powerboat, which is a good start for a live-aboard, with its huge bedrooms and expansive salon/living area. However, it wasn’t designed for tech-workers, shockingly, so we needed to make some changes. Also, our boat was built for the northwest, so it had diesel-powered heat, but no way to keep the boat cool for the balmy Florida weather we’re looking forward to.
We first ripped out the starboard couch, which was already an awkward small 2-ish person couch, and replaced it with a custom desk we built, with room for two of us to work all day. With 2 rolling office chairs, we have even more versatile seating for dinner as well.
For internet access, I built a complicated 12V-powered internet system involving a giant cell antenna mounted on the hardtop, a router usually used by metro busses to provide wifi, and our existing wifi extender for the rare case where we could actually use remote wifi. We’ve been able to get 50-90Mbit on anchor in the San Juan islands and around Kirkland with the setup, so I have pretty good confidence that internet access is mostly solved.
For climate control, we worked with several vendors to get estimates, but retrofitting the existing boat with adequate heat pumps was going to be on the order of 25k$, while adding nearly zero value to the boat. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to simply get a home portable AC unit, adapt a custom polycarbonate window insert, and secure the heck out of it. Experiments through the fall have shown that it is a very effective heater, so we have faith that it will work well as an A/C unit in the summer.
With the boat and our lives prepared as much as possible, we hunkered down and got ready for final transit plans. At the beginning of December, we left our rental slip in Anacortes to bring the boat down to Kirkland to have easy access for final preparations of moving clothing, electronics, food, gear, etc. onto the boat when the time came for transport. A side benefit of this plan is being able to decorate the boat and spend the month following along the Argosy Christmas Cruises, which is always a fun way to get friends together in the winter.
Working with a transport broker since late summer, all signs point to getting on a boat in late January or early February, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale, FL around March 1st to begin the loop. So now we wait…