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As we shared previously in Part 1 - Part 3 of this series, we did not take the Ft. Lauderdale trip lightly. Nor did we consider it non-essential travel. This is a fundamental decision we are making about the rest of our lives and our future home. And so we went ahead with it. Now in Project Slocum Part 4, we share our thoughts on the trip, much like a day-in-the-life.
Domestic travel during the coronavirus pandemic is fraught with surprises and unknowns. The flight was about 75% capacity from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale. We expected it to be closer to 50% or lower.
So much for social distancing.
About 1 in 5 people wore masks. Many of them were in a younger demographic which was surprising. We weren’t quite sure how to interpret that since the CDC and others seem to encourage wearing masks only if you work in the health field interacting with patients or were experiencing symptoms.
I thought it was just a matter of time when we will see more Bane masks being worn.
Miami begins to lockdown
While enroute to the hotel, we checked the local news. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez had announced that afternoon the closure of beaches, bars/lounges/pubs, and restaurants.
There goes our outing to the nearby gastropub, The Tipsy Boar.
When we checked into the hotel, we discovered that the hotel restaurant was closed along with pool, fitness center, bar and room service. They had a list of restaurants that offered take-away, but most of them were located in different towns. We didn’t have a rental car for this trip and decided against getting take-out.
As it was getting close to dinner, we searched on Yelp for places that deliver. Thank goodness for Grubhub. We considered Italian, but opted for Thai food in the end which took about an hour to be delivered. In the mean time, we walked to the nearest grocery store and stocked up on some provisions for the hotel.
Without room service or an option to visit a nearby bakery or brunch place, breakfast would consist of fruit, juice and protein bars along with the complimentary Keurig coffee in the hotel room. We also stocked up on snacks, and we decided to play the rest of the meals by ear. As we were walking back to the hotel, we remarked that taking this approach was not dissimilar to how we traveled in the past. While we enjoyed going to restaurants, our usual M.O. would be provision and cook. We often stayed at AirBnB’s for this reason.
This is also how our sailing lifestyle would play-out. Andrew and I both love to cook, and the idea of experimenting with local ingredients and new recipes is exciting. This also has the benefit of helping to save money while also being able to experience the local culture and customs.
Andrew slept like a log for 9+ hours. He mentioned later that he had surreal dreams about boats, but otherwise slept soundly through the night, with the exception when he awoke to my tapping on a keyboard.
I had my usual disrupted sleep pattern where I wake up in the middle of the night for a few hours and think, write, knit or sometimes bake. This time I just did some writing for a few hours. Then, just before dawn, I drifted back to sleep. It’s another characteristic I have in common with Tyler Durden.
I have a feeling our complimentary sleeping schedule will come in quite handy during ocean crossings.
07:00 Andrew stirred from his sleep, and I shortly thereafter. He dressed and offered to walk to El Cafecito in search of food. We both had a cup of cortadito (pictured above), and he ordered a breakfast sandwich while I had an arepa with white cheese.
09:00 I packed up some items for the day and wrapped up some administrative things for serenadewind.com, while Andrew checked work emails and had a smoke on the balcony.
Meeting the Owners
10:00 We agreed to meet in the lobby, however when we walked down, Andrew and I headed outside to wait where it was breezy and warm. As luck would have it, Bill and his wife were already parked outside in the valet turnaround. We bumped elbows or greeted each other with jazz hands. It was altogether uncouth, but a sign of the times, I suppose.
While driving north on our way to Ft. Lauderdale, we exchanged stories about ourselves. Turns out 3 out of the 4 of us spent considerable time in Toronto, although we did not cross paths.
The most striking part of the conversation on the way up was finding out that Bill had lived and worked in Taiwan. It came up really as a throw-away comment like, “I owned a bar in Taiwan.” This begs the questions, where in Taiwan and why?
Quality vs Speed vs Cost
We then found out that s/v Rachel J. Slocum was supposed to take 9-10 months to build. In reality, she took 3 1/2 years, and Bill needed something to do while living in southern Taiwan near the boatyard. So, he decided to open a bar and restaurant.
The extended period of time in Taiwan also afforded him the opportunity to be hands-on in the construction of the boat. He designed the entire electrical system and soldered every connection. As we had suspected, he has intimate knowledge of this vessel. And for this reason, we value time spent with him maybe more than we value the boat, because of the knowledge he could impart about her that could not be found in books or manuals.
Andrew regaled Bill and his wife with his adventure getting to know my side of the family when we visited Taiwan a few years ago. Understandably the language barrier created some funny and awkward moments. However, my family’s sincere desire to host him (which meant catering to his taste in food) also created some fodder for laughs. The story is deserving of its own blog post. Suffice it to say, it certainly charmed Bill and his wife, and it set the mood for the rest of our visit.
We spent equivalent amounts of time in the cockpit as we did down below in the saloon talking about each feature of the vessel. Quite frankly, it is overwhelming to absorb all of the details let alone try to summarize them here in this post.
In no particular order, here are the highlights:
- chain plate
- electrical wiring with localized circuit breaker
- quiet engine, 360 degree access
- Kevlar hull permits high latitude sailing (impact resistance greater than steel and no possibility of blistering)
- storage for days
- forward seeking sonar
- sail area 1,090 sq ft (not including fore staysail and fisherman)
- Lexan port hole in stateroom to view coral and marine life
- pocket doors
- clothes washing machine
- Kentigern toilet (the Rolls Royce of toilets)
- stateroom bed on thrusters
- attention to detail throughout
In addition to the walk-through, we were mesmerized by the stories shared by Bill and his wife. Their 15-year experience together cruising began with his future wife’s first sail rounding Cape Horn and extensive cruising in Patagonia, before crossing the Pacific to French Polynesia.
This was preceded by Bill’s 20-year experience sailing single-handed with multiple ocean crossings of the Pacific and Atlantic, as well as spending significant time cruising the South China Sea area, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Patagonia, South and North Pacific, north and south Indian Ocean, as well as Southern Ocean.
Where do you want to sail first?
Toward the end of our visit, Bill asked us where we wanted to sail first. Our stock answer is that it depends on which boat we buy and where she is berthed. In the case of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, we considered the Bahamas as a reasonable first destination for a shake-down cruise. It is located 50-60 nm off Florida and has over 800 nm of cruising grounds. Given hurricane season, it would make sense to do this in the fall.
Option 1: Summer in Martha’s Vineyard
Bill provided an interesting proposal that took into account our timeline to be in the Bahamas as well as getting some more sailing in. This included a northern route along the coast in the summer and spending some time cruising the islands around Martha’s Vineyard. This will allow us to drop off Bill and his wife at their home in Chappaquiddick. Then in November, we would sail to Bermuda for a few months and then head south toward the Bahamas or the Caribbean.
Our eyes brightened at this proposal. It took into account meeting our needs (wanting to soak up as much knowledge about s/v Rachel J. Slocum from her owner), and it also met their needs. They had never sailed U.S. waters aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum, and we would be heading toward their home.
Option 2: Fast Passage to Europe
We also described a strong interest in sailing to Europe through a northern route, i.e., to sail from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, via Newfoundland and Labrador to Southern Greenland, then on to Iceland and the Faroes, ending up on the west coast of Scotland.
Bill’s eyes brightened at this proposal, and based on his wife’s personal story that despite hating the cold, she found her time cruising Patagonia as the most memorable given the cozy time spent on the boat in addition to being gobsmacked about nature’s splendor along the coastline.
And so with one simple question, we began to sketch out a short-term solution that seemed like providence.
Towards the end of our visit with Bill and his wife, it was clear I wasn’t holding up my end of the conversation due to lack of sleep, and they graciously drove us back to the hotel. After a quick bite of Cubano pork sandwich, both Andrew and I passed out for a 2-hour nap.
When we woke up, we compared notes about the day and what we learned. During the back-half of the visit, we had split up and Andrew had spent time with Bill learning about the sails and the configurations, a piece of information I was keen on learning more about. Conversely, Bill had shown me the 12 liter washing machine installed in the starboard aft cabin. He pointed out a component of the steering system out to me, and I mentioned to Bill that Andrew would definitely take an interest in seeing that.
So we put together a list of follow-up questions about the boat design and systems as well as determined what are our next steps and the timing of them. Our intention was to cover all of these open items in our following visit Saturday afternoon.
Stay tuned for the final installment of Project Slocum Part 5. It’s a corker!
Thanks for reading!
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