Roxanne and I loaded up our meager belongings into our minivan in preparation to move aboard. Logan stayed in Louisiana with family and would join us once we made the boat livable.
The new boat was docked in a slip at a boat yard in St. Petersburg, Florida. With its industrial nature the boat yard was dusty, dirty, noisy and about the worst place to be moored. However, we couldn’t move the boat just yet. The engines required some maintenance and a whole litany of issues needed to be resolved before we could head out onto the open water.
With the feeling of pride that comes with a new purchase, we boarded our new home. We now had a completely different viewpoint than we had during the boat inspection. We’ve shifted our focus from the engines and the soundness of the boat to the smaller items that would make the boat livable and comfortable.
When we opened the boat’s doors a damp cave smell engulfed us. I swear I saw a couple of bats fly out but Roxanne claims that didn’t happen. We raised the blinds and the natural sunlight exposed at least a week’s worth of cleaning. Roxanne increased that to two weeks after she inspected the drawers and cabinets.
My mind started creating a checklist of all the tasks that needed to be done on the boat. As the list became longer and longer, I had to force myself to focus on the basic necessities: lights, water and of course the all important toilet.
Switches were flipped and the water pump came to life but leaked. More breakers were turned on and a few lights worked but most of them didn’t. Most importantly, one of the two toilets worked. Few things are as important on a boat than a working toilet. Without them you are relegated to the unenviable life of peeing in a bucket and cleaning it out every morning.
Roxanne busied herself with scrubbing the boat as I solved the lighting problem which, boiled down to burnt out bulbs mainly. The previous owners basically walked away from the boat and didn’t take any of their belongings. 15 lawn sized garbage bags of their stuff was tossed into the dumpster and 1 bag was taken to Goodwill.
Our stuff was stacked high in the pilot house as cabinets and closets had to be cleaned before we could put our stuff away.
Roxanne and I enjoyed the cool evenings on top of the boat on the flybridge. The boatyard was quiet after hours and wine seemed to taste better sitting up high with a panoramic view of the surroundings.
We had been at the boat yard a week and it didn’t seem like we were making a lot of progress but that was due to the long path ahead. One mile completed on a cross country trip just doesn’t seem like a long way.
Roxanne asked, “Should we make a “to-do” list of all the things we need to clean and fix on the boat?”
I hesitated, and then thought about it. I dislike boat lists. Boats seem to have a never ending amount of items that need fixing and as soon as you scratch off one item, you need to add three more.
I replied, “Why don’t we skip the list and make only one rule for ourselves. We both will complete at least one boat project a day.”
Roxanne didn’t respond so I quickly added, “It’s a strategy that Jerry Seinfeld used to write his show.”
Roxanne replied, “So our strategy for fixing this boat and getting her back to Louisiana before Logan’s first day of school is based on the philosophy of a comedian that wrote a show that he proudly claims was about nothing.”
I took a sip of wine and replied, “It sounds ridiculous when you say it like that.”
A lot of people seem to envy our lifestyle, cruising from city to city and visiting remote island anchorages that are so beautiful they grace the front of postcards. But there is another side to cruising. A side to this lifestyle that Roxanne and I never mention to friends or family or anyone else for that matter. We aren’t being purposely deceitful. The fact is, a person grinding out a 9 to 5 work existence doesn’t want to hear how hard our endless vacation lives can be.
I don’t blame them. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t want to hear it either but the fact remains that cruising on a boat can be a lot of hard, and often times disgusting work. The next day, my boat project would have me working on the septic system which undoubtedly would have me covered with whatever human waste remained in our holding tank. Despite my best efforts, it always seems to happen that way.
We continued to make progress and the boat was becoming clean and comfortable. We had electricity for the air conditioners and a water hose to fill up our tanks for showers, cooking and drinking.
The boat projects were far from complete and we weren’t ready for an extended voyage to Louisiana. The monthly slip lease was due and we either had to cough up some more money or find a more pleasant marina to tie up for a while.
10 miles to our east, across Tampa Bay, is a little resort in Ruskin, Florida. With swimming pools, tennis courts, hot tubs and private beaches, we had found a great little marina to complete our final preparations.
This would be our home for the next month as we completed boat projects to ensure our new boat was ready for its long journey to Louisiana.
On a windless Saturday morning, I apprehensively made my way up to the flybridge controls. Roxanne was down below untying the dock lines to release us from the pier of the boatyard.
Besides the few minutes of instructions that I had received from the previous owner, I had never operated a twin engine boat before. I looked at the controls and tried to remember which levers were the throttles and which ones operated the transmissions.
I was in a slight state of panic as queasiness engulfed my entire body. I envisioned bouncing off of everything in this narrow canal, to include very expensive 100 foot yachts, as I tried to navigate our boat into open water.
I looked over the rail and down to Roxanne on the bottom deck who was patiently waiting for my signal to untie the last remaining dock line. I flashed a simple thumbs-up and with the efficiency of someone that has performed a task many times before the dock line was uncleated from the pier and she set us adrift.
After a deep breath and a quick reminder of my personal philosophy, “It’s ok to be scared, it’s not ok to be a candy ass”, I grabbed the two black handled levers and put both engines into forward gear.