Escape from Winter
There was a time, not so long ago, when I scoffed at snowbirds. Laughed derisively, even. “Weak-spined individuals, the lot of them”, I thought. “With the constitution of a three-toed-sloth…”
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I’m not laughing anymore. Maybe it was the cumulative erosion of my psyche by 54 northern winters. Perhaps some fatal flaw in my character has finally been revealed.
Or maybe I’ve finally grown up. Whatever the reason, since last year, the words “I’m a” and “snowbird” have somehow found themselves combining in my mind and speech in a most agreeable way, which leads to the current adventure of the crew of Sionna: We’re vacationing in Florida for two weeks!
It’s not all play, though. While here, we’ve been working hard, researching for our trip south in the boat next winter. Really we haven’t had a moment to ourselves, and of course there’s been no time to rest, recreate, kick back, notice that the sun is warm, the days more than an hour longer than back home, and it’s February and yesterday I wore SHORTS, for goodness sake…
Ok, maybe we’re enjoying it just a little bit.
But we have accomplished some very important work, too. We’re spending some great time visiting with Nicki’s parents, whom we’re staying with here in Bradenton, for one thing.
Last Friday we spent a day at the Miami Strictly Sail boat show. I’m sorry to say the only pictures I took suffered from severe operator error on the part of the camera man (me), so you’ll have to trust my descriptions, but it was an interesting experience, and honestly not one either of us feels the need to repeat. The drive getting there is long, and Miami traffic is simply horrendous. The show really isn’t awfully well organized and run, unfortunately, and signage is frequently confusing or missing at a critical moment. Worth doing once, and it was warm…
There were new gear dealers, but no more than we see in good old Rockland Maine at our annual Boats, Homes & Harbors show in August. There were a lot of boats there; most new, a few used. We’re not in the market for a boat, so maybe that effected my interest more than expected, but I found myself growing bored looking through “yet another new party boat”.
Or maybe it’s my “cruisers eye”? Every boat I see, I look at from the perspective of how it would meet the challenges of long term live-aboard cruising for a couple that likes to sail, that will spend much time anchoring out (not tied in a slip), and who will, on occasion, face challenging sailing conditions and need to deal with them. I always find myself asking, first; “Can this boat take it”? And second; “Would the crew be safe and comfortable?”
And the new boats we saw – from a dozen manufacturers from around the world – mostly left me wondering “What the hell were they thinking?” All had great features, yes – but all had gaps that the “fix-it-yourself, worse-case-scenario” guy I am found troubling. But we weren’t buying a boat, so I guess that’s ok. I feel sorry for the newbie with plenty of disposable income and not much knowledge, though, and we saw a bunch of those, being bombarded with bad advice by the boat brokers. Yikes!
We did, however, see one product (and only one) that we both sighed over, and if we had the budget would so pursue: Soft decking.
I love the look of teak decks, but wouldn’t have one because of the maintenance, and the certainty of leaks. One of the boats we toured looked like it had a very blond teak deck, but when you kicked your shoes off (required to tour a boat at a show) and stepped aboard, the deck had just a little give to it. It was a dense, closed-cell foam of some sort, and gave the surest, most comfortable footing I’ve ever found on a boat. Delightful!
Anyway, enough of the show. We stayed the night with some family who live about an hour north of Miami (a drive which took us three hours – did I mention Miami traffic?), and from there headed to Indiantown, FL, and the Indiantown Marina. The author of one of my favorite cruising blogs – The Cynical Sailor – is spending some time there, and we’ve been considering it as a place to store Sionna when we leave her in Florida the summer-after-next, so we thought it would be great to view the marina AND maybe meet Ellen of s/v Tickity Boo at the same time. Surprise, surprise, we managed both! Ellen proved to be gracious and charming, as well as willing, and gave us a complete tour of the facilities (which are very nice, and relaxed at the same time), as well as a recommendation from her experiences. We’d barely stepped out of the car before some folks enjoying the patio invited us to join the cruisers BBQ that evening (which we sadly had to decline, but next time…!) The folks in the office were smiling and helpful, and, well, the whole thing just felt right.
(Photo credit: Ellen Jacobsen)
We’ve found our Southern base of operations. Thanks Ellen!
Other highlights? Well, it’s been warm. And sunny. And since we left Maine they’ve had three snow events and temperatures consistently below zero (Fahrenheit!). We went for a walk in Desoto Park yesterday and it was sunny. And warm.
Did I mention it’s been warm? I may be turning into a three-toed-sloth.
I’m ok with that.