Saturday, March 31

Yo Ho Ho a Pirates Life for Me

Vintage Mega Yacht "Vajoliroja"
Remember those pirates we said we weren’t going to encounter.  Well, we haven’t even left yet and we ran into one.  Yes, I am exaggerating the tale a little.  The story goes like this:  When we were in Florida for our shake down cruise, we took Craig’s mom and stepdad out for an excursion on our boat.  While we were waiting for the drawbridge to open, Craig’s mom snapped a picture of a really cool vintage mega yacht.  It was quite large (measuring 156 feet to be exact) but not one of those super sleek, modern types.  It looked like an old wooden boat in pristine condition.  That was that, but the story doesn’t end there.  On our flight home, the 5 of us were somewhat separated on the plane.  Craig sat by himself across the isle from me.  Next to him sat a couple that had been visiting Florida for the week as well.  They started chatting and as they were comparing notes of sailing and boats, the couple said they saw a cool yacht, different from all the others.  As they described it, Craig said, “Hey, I know that boat.  My mom took a picture of it I think”.   They went on to say that that boat belonged to Captain Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp.  Isn’t that cool.  Sure enough, Craig looked it up and it was Johnny Depp’s boat indeed.   

The name of the boat is Vajoliroja and is available for charter if you happen to have a pirates chest of gold!  It was built in 2001 to look like an early 20th century classic.  It’s name represents the first letters of the names of his family (long time girlfriend Vanessa, Johnny, daughter Lily Rose and Son Jack).
 While we didn’t get to meet the captain himself, we did see his boat and crew.  Close enough??  Maybe not, but I think it may be the closest we get to pirates, so we’ll take it!

Tuesday, March 20

Things we learned from our shake down cruise

Remind the dock master that you are a catamaran when they try to change the slip from what was assigned during the initial reservation.
We made this mistake right out of the gate upon our arrival at Bahia Mar marina. We assumed the dock master knew who we were (a catamaran) by the name of our boat.  Don’t they have that information handy??  Guess not!  They tried to put us in a slip that was too narrow!  DAH!   We played musical slips that day.  Not fun when you are learning how to drive a 42 ft. long and 21 ft. wide boat.
Craig is a quick learner, especially in terms of docking a catamaran.  Being a farm boy and all, he equates driving a catamaran to driving a bulldozer on ice!  He did a stellar job, no question.   
How to use manual toilets on board.  Every one is a little different.  The girls were quick learners on how to “flush” with 10-20 pumps and “dry” with 5+ pumps.  We all remembered the “NO TOILET PAPER IN THE HEAD!” rule (put it in the trash).  It clogs up the boat plumbing.
Having guests on board within the first few days of your (very first ever) shake down cruise is probably not the best idea.  Sorry mom and Paul if we seemed disorganized and a little bit crazed.  We thoroughly enjoyed your visit regardless and wouldn’t have wanted to miss it!
Don’t disregard Mother Nature.  Our first trip out to the Atlantic was an adventure.  This goes with the above-mentioned lesson.  We thought it would be okay!  How bad could it be?
Give seasick medicine an hour before you go for a rough ride.  Do you see a common thread here?  Our bad judgments lead to Olivia throwing up over board and the need for Dramamine in a jiffy.
Getting dinner on the table takes longer than you think.  The stove on the boat is small and is run on propane.  It works great but is much slower than at home.  Just something we have to get used to.
The grill needs to be fixed or replaced.  It’s great to have a grill on board so the galley doesn’t get heated up (or smelly) from using the stove or oven.  This one needs a little TLC or we just need to get a new one.
Glassware and bowls break easily.  This is not unique to a boat.  I broke a glass and the kids broke a bowl.  The previous owners didn’t have kids and while mistakes happen to the best of us, we need to bring our plastic ware on board.
Straps on sunglasses are a good idea.  Kate’s first pair of sunglasses broke on the plane to Florida.  We bought a new (cheap) pair at the souvenir shop.  They proceeded to fall off her head when she was peering down at the water in the dinghy!  She needs a pair of croakies.
Planning ahead when you leave is a good thing.  We were so excited to be taking the boat up the ICW, that we failed to look at the chart and figure out where we were going exactly!  How hard could it be, head north, right!?.  Well there were about 47 drawbridges with all different timing.  We got the hang of it very quickly.  Even the girls got a kick out of saying thank you to the bridge master on the VHF radio as we passed through.
It’s so nice to have a catamaran with a shallow draft.  After spending all our time on monohulls worrying about clearance under the keel, it sure was nice to have a shallow draft on a catamaran.  We only draw 3’11” where most monohulls draw 6 feet or more.  This will be great in the shallow parts of the Bahamas.  We will be able to get into places that monohulls wouldn't dare.
We touched bottom regardless.  Even with a shallow draft, we touched bottom (sandy) leaving our anchorage at low tide.  No biggie.   This won’t be the first time.
A big anchor is awesome.  The first time we anchored in Lake Worth, it was blowing pretty hard and we were not in a very protected area.  Craig set the anchor and we literally felt the boat stop.  It was awesome not wondering if we were dragging anchor and worrying all night.  We have a big anchor on our boat.  They say to get the biggest anchor you can afford!
The hammock must be taken down while underway.  The girls asked many times if they could sit in the hammock while we were motoring up the ICW.  As if the answer was going to change!  Taking it down solved that problem.
Never follow a boat on the ICW when you are trying to reach a bridge opening on time.  Especially when you can motor faster than he can.  We took the polite high road and decided not to pass a boat we had been following up the ICW.  We missed a drawbridge opening by 1 minute because of it.  Boy, our captain wasn’t happy about that!  We had to wait 30 minutes for the next opening.  
Don’t go in waves bigger than you.  We don’t spend much time at the beach with surf.  Olivia got tumbled around a bit in the surf thinking she could handle it (dad was close by for the rescue).  All was fine after she spit out the salt water!
Sand removal on the swim platform after a day at the beach is a bit of a challenge.  Trying to avoid sand in the boat might turn out to be futile.  But I will die in the attempt.  Sand is a harsh abrasive on a boat.  We have a fresh water hose on our swim platform that works great for such occasions.  However, hosing off 5 people, flip-flops, life jackets etc. in a tiny space is quite a task!
Make sure the boat first aid kit is current and in working order.  Or rather it has one to start with.  We didn’t come prepared on our shake down cruise with a first aid kit.  There happened to be one but it was pretty decrepit.  When you need a Band-Aid, you just need a Band-Aid.  What can I say?  We didn’t have any.  In addition, we didn't have Benadryl for Maggie when she broke out in a rash of some sort.  We will, however, have a super mega medical kit on board for our trip.  
“Take your posts” when big boat wakes hit at anchor.  Kate quoted Mary Poppins when we were anchored in a nice quiet spot on Peck Lake when a huge yacht passed by at top speed.  Behind it was a ginormous wake that one could surf on!  “HOLD ON!  GRAB THE GLASS!”  Need I say more?
Don’t anchor during construction on the beach.  The nice quiet anchorage I spoke of above was great until it was bedtime and they were still working with heavy machinery on the ocean side of the beach.  Peace and quiet, not so much!
Get fuel and pump out BEFORE you dock for 3 months.  This was a rookie mistake that we won’t make again.  We were so preoccupied trying to get to the boat yard that we didn’t top off our fuel or pump out the heads.   We assumed the boat yard would have this available.  After 3 months of being closed up tight, you don’t want to come back to a stinky boat.  Nor do you want water in your fuel.  Topping off the tanks helps prevent water build up from condensation.  Water and fuel don’t mix and causes poor engine performance.
Cleaning and decommissioning the boat takes longer than expected.  Having never done it before, we didn’t really know how time consuming it was.  In addition, we had to deal with the previous point, which only added to our total time.  This was coupled with:
Don’t arrive at the dock, clean the boat and try to be somewhere on the same day.  Need I say more?
Flip flops don’t work for everyone.  Craig has decided that his feet were not made for flip-flops.  They make his toes hurt and he will not be wearing them on our trip.  The same goes for Olivia.  She dropped a flip-flop, by accident, on her way to the hammock on the back of the boat.  Luckily for her, it floated to the next boat down and he plucked it out of the water.  She also fell down while running in her flip-flops, hence the need for the Band Aids.
Braids are best for Olivia’s hair.  For those that are not familiar with Liv’s hair, her tight curls can turn into a rat’s nest with no effort at all.  I braided her (freshly washed and wet) hair this week and it worked beautifully.  This will be our go-to hair-do from now on!

Monday, March 19

Shake Down Cruise

Ft. Lauderdale from the Atlantic
“A shake down cruise is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested”.  This generally means that the crew gets familiarized with the new vessel and simulates working conditions before heading out to sea on a long journey.

We endured our shake down cruise on our new boat.  It was a whopper of a trip to say the least and somewhat of a logistical nightmare.  However, we did enjoy our time in sunny Florida, spent 24 hours with Craig’s mom and stepdad and learned a WHOLE lot about our soon to be home.
Olivia and Kate
Maggie and Olivia
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, picked up our car and headed straight to the New River City Docks where Anything Goes was docked.  The girls and I finally got to meet the sellers, Peter and Julie, and see Anything Goes (AG) for the first time.

We decided to stay at the docks for the night because it was getting late, the drawbridge closes during rush hour and we needed to get some grub.  All the talking, explaining and bending ourselves into a pretzel to see hoses and engines was exhausting after all.  We met Peter and Julie for a lovely alfresco dinner along the river.  We had a front row seat to the water taxis, yachts and mega yachts cruising up and down the river.  Craig and I sort of felt like groupies…. hanging on their every word, asking questions like there was no tomorrow! 

I must say that Florida definitely lives on a different time table than we landlubbers do (or at least this organized landlubber).  Or maybe it’s a boat thing.   Which ever, I kind of like it.  We hadn’t planned to stay at the city dock an extra night.  No problem they said.  We obviously weren’t arriving at Bahia Mar Marina on time either.  Again, they said no problem.  I definitely like that.

The following day was filled with more boat systems and questions. Craig was going to drive AG for the first time!   I could only imagine the superabundance of emotions he was experiencing.  When Craig gets excited or nervous about something, he rubs his hands together with a Cheshire cat like smile.  This is how I knew he was excited to be behind the wheel but also nervous as hell (forgive me, nothing else works here).  He did have a great teacher however; relaxed and patient.  Peter gave very calming commands so that Craig could pull off the dock without a scratch and turn AG around on a dime.  This was an exciting time for all of us!
Captain Craig
Craig’s mom and stepdad came for a quick visit.  They were vacationing in Florida and timed it so we could see them.  It was a bit challenging to know when and where to meet, as we didn’t have a lot of unscheduled time.   We thought it would be grand to take them for a little day sail.  You know, show off our stuff and get a little practice in while we’re at it.  HA!  Sometimes Mother Nature has a different plan in mind.  I think she set out to teach us a lesson.  We have always heard that winds from the north don’t mix well with the Gulf Stream that runs north up the coast.  It tends to make for very big and confused seas.  Though the seas didn’t seem confused, they were pretty big for us rookies.  We kept at it until nearly everyone except grandpa Paul and Kate were seasick.  Olivia threw up and the rest of us were feeling pretty yucky.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat lunch and we headed back to the shelter of the marina.  On the bright side, our shortened day at sea afforded us time to take a stroll along the beach, eat frozen yogurt and watch the outrageous kite surfers.
Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Paul
Kite Surfers
The next few days we spent motoring up the ICW (Inter Coastal Waterway) to drop the boat off in Stuart, 80 miles north.  The ICW is like a river that parallels the coast and is a “safe” route to get from one point to the next, up and down nearly the entire eastern shore of US.   We were not about to test Mother Nature again and sail north on the Atlantic.  We anchored twice and even had time to dinghy to the beach and play in the waves on the ocean side.  We arrived in Stuart unscathed and feeling a tad bit more confident.   We had to pick up a rental car and clean the boat and get it ready to leave for 3 months.  
Motoring north on the ICW
How do you take the simple task of driving 1.5 hours south to Ft. Lauderdale take 4 hours??  I’ll give you a hint:  waterfront dining and forgetting something on the boat.  Yep, that’s what we did.  We went out of our way to find a restaurant on the water.  Why?  Frankly I don’t remember, but it seemed like a nice idea at the time.  Maybe we were feeling nostalgic for the water.  Afterwards we realized we had forgotten something on the boat.  So we had to drive all the way back.   Argghhhh.  It made for a very long, exhausting night.  Arriving late to the hotel and getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight home is not what I call fun.

All in all, the trip was a victory.  We learned some valuable lessons, got a feel for the boat and know what we still need to do before we leave.
Kate peeking out the hatch