We made it out again and we are currently in Florida. We had the worst time trying to get the house rented, and finally at the eleventh hour, almost literally, the job got done. Then the tenants moved in. Turns out the washing machine was broken, something in the furnace broke, the hot water in the kitchen sink was leaking, and there was a huge leak in the roof of the front porch. Urgh. Got most of that repaired, although not the front porch roof yet, and we left. Thank god. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, packed our stuff into the trunk of the car we had rented, and headed to West Marine, the marine stuff superstore. Spent lots. By the time we left, the trunk was so full it sprang open if you turned the key and there was a fair amount of stuff in the car with us. Then to the foam store to buy new matresses for X and I. We sleep on the couches in the main cabin of the boat and the cushions had gotten so thin and uncomfortable last year that sitting for more than a few min. was quite horrid, and sleeping wasn’t much better. When we came to put the boat to bed in June, we knew that if we kept the old mattresses we would be too cheap to buy new ones and we’d suffer through them for another year, so we chucked the old ones out. Hence we had to get new ones. They weren’t cheap, but boy are they comfy. They were also quite hilarious to try and fit in the car. We had planned to carry the matresses on the roof, but it was raining and the store had no bags. Hmmm. One lay under the kids feet, they were then sitting with their legs raised higher than their bums, and the second we finally curved from the back shelf up the rear window across the ceiling, and then back down between X and I. The kids were not comfortable. We plied them with donuts and they were appeased. Then we stopped and bought new pillows, sheets to cover the new matesses….. Finally, bursting at the seams we made it to the boatyard. Then we started work. We had a closer look at the bolts holding a copper bar onto the bottom of the boat as a grounding plate in the event of lighting stike. They had corroded away so badly that some of them did not even have a head. Hmmmmmmm. And it was American thanksgiving in the middle of Labelle Fl, a long way from any marine store. Fortunately, one of the guys in the yard had dissected an old british marine head, and low and behold, it had some of the required bronze bolts. Then three guys from the yard went into Ft Myers to go shopping, looking like any group of teenagers headed to a boxing day sale at the mall. Bless them, they found the other bolts we needed, so we could launch on the Monday after thanksgiving as schedualed. We had friends to meet North of West Palm on the 4th of Dec, so we had something that cruisers should never try to keep, a schedule. This brings undue pressure that is hard to manage in an unpredicatable boat life, mother nature and the god’s of small engines hold the daytimer, and it all goes more smoothly if you can accept this and not try to plan too closely.Launched. All well, the outboard was a touch tempermental, but X got it running. We had pampered it as much as we could in the boatyard, and it had run and started well.
In amongst all of this, we got together with some friends from Labelle, who we had met in the boat yard in the spring. They have a big steel boat they’ve put a huge amount of labour into and she is now a thing of beauty. They very kindly had us for dinner on thanksgiving, and what a feast. We even had swamp cabbage, which is the edible part of a cabbage palm. Terrie cooked it up with bacon (?) and NO MILK. Apparently this matters and is hotly debated. Then we were introduced to the joys of “black friday”. This is apparently the friday after American thanksgiving, and starting at about 5 am tons of stuff goes on sale at incredibly low prices. Loads of people turn out and it is something of a tradition in and of itself. Terrie and some of her friends were going and had seen a GPS we needed on sale and agreed to pick it up for us. We also discovered a new sport, punkin’ chunkin’. You can even look this up on the internet, they have websites. Robert and his father have developed a compressed air canon which shoots pumpkins or watermelons HUGE distances, like 2 or 3000 feet. Amazing. With any luck we’ll get to see one go off in the spring when we get back. Terrrie and her son had come by to say bye on Monday evening, and had brought the GPS and a big box for the girls, to be opened when we are losing sight of land. We had a nice chat and the kids played, along with another child Nikki who was there with his mother, a long term single hander, who last time she came to this side of the Atlantic came via Greenland and Labrador!
We got up Tuesday morning with the sun to make tracks for the coast, and the engine started, died and absolutly w o u l d n o t start. Nothing. We tried every trick we knew, and while we are not experts, we do have few skills. Then it began to rain, in ernest. X was ashore most ofthe morning trying this and that, calling people up and seeing if they have any ideas and then trying them out. Finallly at lunch I went ashore to find a professional, located Harlan in Clewiston, and borrowed a car from folks in the boat yard. Thanks to them (hope the smell of gasoline has left their car), Harlan fixed it for 20 bucks! Great, back to the boat and start it up and it runs. Took off the next day, The engine actually working although she died in a lock, and again heading into Lake Okachobee. Lost a fender and retrieved it, starting the engine again in the middle of this, saw tons of birds, and alligators, and got part way around the lake up to where the route divides: go around the edges, or across the middle. We have always prefered the edges, so we proceeded. 15 miles, to the birdge which was closed. Went back 15 miles and tied up for the night.Crossed Okachobee the next day, very rough and unpleasant headwind, then the lock at then other end of the lake has a design flaw, it opens directly onto the lake, so we had big waves in the lock, and worried about our mast hitting the lock walls. All clear. Lots of sunken boats in Stuart, on the Atlantic coast, the results of Wilma, and we met friends in Manatee pocket and stayed up late eating Chistmas cookies and catching up. We moved on south to meet more people, where we are now waiting for a cool, rainy and very windy patch to pass so we can move on further. Kids on a boat here too so everyone is happy.Well that' s my story for now.