MIAMI: ROUND TWO
After our 75-day Bahamas Expedition we returned to Miami
Our maiden voyage came to a close on May 12 when we crossed back over from Cat Cay to Miami. From the time we entered Florida's coastal waters it seemed we had entered back into the whirlwind of America... with cell phones fully functioning and business to be tended to.
Since my mom discovered that my youngest sister would finish her school year early, they were trying to plan a spur of the moment trip to see us in either the Bahamas or Miami. Once we had made the decision (based on weather... see the Exiting the Bahamas post) to go for Miami, they arranged flights for the day after our arrival.
We notified the marina we would be picking up a mooring ball and tied off about 4pm. It was a Saturday evening. I was hoping it would work out to visit our St. Augustine friends and go to church on Mother's Day (the next day). Retrieving our car (which we had left in a parking garage offering long-term parking for cruisers) was priority since guests were coming, so we set up a car rental from MIA to St. Augustine. After squaring away our mooring agreement and fees, I took an Uber to the airport to pick up the rental. Then I joined back with Kyle & the kids, we had dinner and headed straight to bed since we had another journey ahead of us.
The next morning we woke up at 4am, dinghied to shore and transferred all our sleepyheads to the rental car (minivan) and drove to St. Augustine to get some Kookaburra (Kyle said the latte was the best thing he had tasted in 75 days, haha), then went to church (which we had missed SO much), retrieved our car and caught up with all our marina friends on their adventures.
We were notified that my mom's flight was delayed until the next evening so we opted for a hotel to catch up on our rest. Monday morning we explored a site for a potential St. Augustine business location (c'mon, you know we can't deny the inner entrepreneur) then headed back south to prepare for our guests.
Once my mom and little sister arrived we got them situated, went over the boat rules and started planning the week. The itinerary included a sailing excursion, coffee at Panther, swimming and lighthouse tour at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne, a roadtrip through the Everglades to the Marco Island area (where we looked at buying a fixer-upper catamaran and hoped to find an acquaintance we had met when he and his family were evacuating north during Irma), a visit to the Holocaust Memorial, the Jewish Museum, Wynwood and an overnight in Key West.
Food priorities for our Midwesterners were Pollo Tropical and Burger-Fi.
We were their tour guides, but honestly, we felt like we were on vacation! Following is photo-documentation of all the action!
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
This catamaran ended up being TOO intensive a project for us, but it was worth a look!
Just before Irma hit Florida last September I had been shopping at the Winn-Dixie in St. Augustine. While I was waiting in line I started a brief conversation with the man behind me. I learned that he was from Marco Island and that he and his family were evacuating north. He said he and his brothers had a couple restaurants there which prompted me to tell him about our bakery/food cart ventures. We revisited the topic of the hurricane. He seemed calm yet concerned about leaving his home and businesses behind, but he really had no choice.
As our attention abruptly switched back to the transactions before us we moved forward in line. In all the grocery store bustle and confusion the cashier accidentally left my two boxes of organic goldfish on the conveyer and just as I completed my payment she rung them up on the next ticket. My new friend insisted on paying for them and so I thanked him, wished him safe travels and promised we would make it to Marco Island one day to come to his restaurant.
We found the restaurants (one of which was an amazing little gelato shop) and were able to meet and talk with one of the brothers!
A little secret about my mom...
She is known to suffer from motion sickness, or wooziness, if you will... and apparently, my sister, has the same issue.
They decided to go for it and stay with us on the boat (yes, our family of five plus my mom and sister... so seven total people on a 30' boat).
Let me add that the sea conditions were quite intense and it rained A LOT on every single day of their stay. The rain required us to keep the boat closed up most of each day, so you can imagine how the hot, closed-up, bobbing boat might not have been the best for these land-lovers... BUT THEY DID IT! I'm not saying they did it without feeling any nausea. What I'm saying is that they were TROOPERS! They endured and even ENJOYED an ENTIRE week on the boat despite the conditions.
While my mom was aboard we had a couple comical encounters with our soon-to-be best friend Gee. The first was when we overheard a late-evening squabble between Gee and a "ravishing" woman who was running her generator without consideration of others in the mooring field. He cursed at her with a thick French accent. She responded dramatically. They exchanged several more sentiments... then we all peeled our (very surprised/scared) faces off the porthole screens and went back to bed. The good thing is my mom is pretty open-minded and thankfully the kids were already asleep!
Since we hadn't officially met Gee during the chaos of arrival, departure to St. Augustine and receiving of company, we didn't know anything about him except the name of his boat, he played guitar a lot, he had another fellow aboard and that they were both definitely French.
One of the funniest moments was when my mom, being rightfully modest (with two men moored next door), layered her "grannie undies" under one of MY shirts so that they wouldn't see them while drying out with the laundry on the life lines!
Au revoir, Grandma
Before the visit was over my mom whipped up a batch of her famous protein bars. I have to give her a shout-out on her ability to dish out these delicious and healthy treats in pretty much any situation she finds herself in. She makes them almost every time she comes to see us and has been able to adapt to our very humble boat galley gear. They're tasty and the kids LOVE helping out.
Back to Business
The reason we ended up back in Miami is because we had decided two weeks into our trip that we would finish the 75-days as planned and then we would sell the sailboat in order to upgrade to a catamaran for the next sailing season. The idea went through many what-if scenarios. Generally, our hearts desired to keep cruising, but in a larger capacity (in such a way that we could maintain the necessary mental clarity to raise three kids on a boat and also to bring aboard family and friends).
Obviously the boat proved itself to be home for us for over a year and exceeded all of our expectations for the long journey we submitted it to, but we did have a few boat projects to complete upon our return. We had not done ANY projects while we were in the Bahamas!
First, we decided to rent a storage unit in order to clear off the boat. What we discovered is that we had an excess of food, belongings and other supplies. Once we put things into storage we never saw nor thought of them again until two months later when we moved everything back out! It was embarrassing JUST HOW MUCH we had traveled with. There were items and supplies we had not even touched, but it was our first voyage, so it was a huge learning experience!
After cleaning out the boat, we tended to our few projects. We painted the deck and cockpit, cleaned all of the cushions, the engine compartment and the bottom.
We decided we would stay on the boat until it sold. A couple of agents met with us to look at the boat and to gather details for listing her. In the meantime we kept looking for catamarans.
Originally, we had planned to go back to our little piece of land in the Midwest to build a small cabin after our trip... so that was still a consideration.
While We Were Waiting
While waiting we were able to make some great Miami-friends. Gee ended up becoming one of our favorite people to share meals and stories with. We were honored when he wrote a song for us! You can listen to it here: Plan B | Guillaume Yon
We were also able to travel to St. Augustine many weekends to visit with our community there.
While we were in the Bahamas we learned that possibly our friend Scott had passed away. It was very important to us to find out what had happened to him as we had witnessed him leave south on his 16' West Wight Potter sailing dinghy for the trip of a lifetime! So while in St. Augustine we confirmed that his boat was somehow anchored back there.
We then went to his house to find out more. Once we arrived we found that the house was for sale and there was no sign of anyone.
Eventually we got connected with Scott's wife and were able to even visit with her. We discovered that immediately after Scott left heading south she had met up with him to bring his wallet (that he had left on our dock stairs/we had returned to her). When she met him he said he didn't think he should continue with the trip and he came home. He ended up passing away shortly after.
This news left us very sad. With much love, we purchased Scott's boat and two of his paintings which we will always treasure!
While waiting for the boat to sell we even considered Scott's house as a possible next step for us. We knew the house from when he had invited us over (for showers, laundry & dinner) and thought it was adorable and perfect for an investment in a community we had grown to love. We also knew we intended to keep cruising and that the coastal city would be an ideal hub for our sailing adventures. Our focus totally shifted from searching for catamarans to house-buying mode since it seemed to make sense to work out some extra income while we waited for the S2 to sell.
We looked into all sorts of creative ways of attaining the property, but in the background we knew we were fully liberated from debt and that acquiring a loan did not align with our game plan. It was a tough call, but in the end, we decided not to move forward with the house.
Back in Miami, we spent time with our friends, explored nearby shipwrecks, looked at boats, practiced our rowing and dinghy-steering skills, learned how mooring balls are replaced, saw amazing sunsets every night, watched dolphins and adopted our largest hermit crab.
We were SUPER excited to find out my dad was taking a few days off to come see us... He had originally planned to go get my sister's boys from Kansas City and have them help build a treehouse over the 4-5 day period, but when that plan didn't work out, he decided to make the roadtrip to Miami. He brought along my mom, Pearl and my nephew Mark Francis.
They stayed at a hotel the first night, but for the next day, we had arranged for an AirBNB in the heart of Key West (a place my dad had always wanted to visit). As we caravanned down we were able to show him the UFO we had seen on our first visit to the Keys. I TOTALLY thought he was bringing that thing home with him! He did not end up buying it, but there's always next time! ;)
As soon as we settled into the tropical bungalow, my dad and I set out on a mission to procure celebratory beverages. The Rum Bar was conveniently situated just around the corner!
He got the full Key West walking tour, saw the floating houses, the Southernmost Point and the Key Deer! We felt like expert guides since we had just done the same tour a month prior!
On day two we headed back toward Miami to prepare for the Fourth of July. All our neighbors in the mooring field had advised us not to miss the view of the fireworks from the water. We stocked up on festive foods, spent the day sailing, deep sea fishing and swimming. On our way back in we sailed right through Stiltsville which was super exciting as we had only seen it from a distance before.
Our last week in Miami
My parents asked if one of the kids would like to go back home with them. We decided it would be a great opportunity for Orli to spend some one-on-one time with the grandparents. It was our first time being apart, but she was very grown-up about it. She eagerly prepared her belongings and hopped in their vehicle without looking back!
Kyle, Zion, Noah and I had a rough time without Orli, but we kept busy. We had had a lot of interest in the boat and had set up multiple showings. We were hoping it would sell within a week of Orli leaving so we could join her back in Arkansas. If not, one of us would fly there to retrieve her. Our plan was to completely clear the rest of our belongings from the boat for the showings and to be completely ready to leave when it sold.
Another factor to our 1-week sales window was that Kyle's step-mom, Tina, wanted us to meet up with her in West Palm Beach that weekend. On day nine without Orli (and the day before we were supposed to meet up with Tina), we got an offer on the boat! The buyer said he would be out of the country and unable to come see the boat (and therefore unable to purchase the boat) for a few weeks. We told him we had to leave to get our little girl, and that we would require a deposit in order to leave the boat for him. He agreed and said "if" he had time he would send over some money.
We immediately rented a small Uhaul trailer and began to unload our storage unit.
To our amazement, later that evening, another fellow contacted us about the boat. We said we had an offer on it. He said our boat was worth more that the first offer and said he would be there first thing the next morning to look her over!
In the meantime, the first guy sent a deposit.
That night we hustled to get everything in place with Plan B. One of our newest friends, Barbara baked us cinnamon rolls as a farewell gift. There were so many sentiments with leaving our sailboat-home and uprooting from another place we had unexpectedly grown to truly love. After multiple dinghy trips to load the Uhaul we finally ended up in bed late that night. The next morning, just after 9am (when the second buyer had said he would arrive), we followed up to find out he wasn't coming! He said he didn't really have the money, but would buy the boat if we still had it available AFTER hurricane season. Argghh!!
This is when I gave myself a gentle reminder: LOCATE COFFEE AND CINNAMON ROLLS! EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY!
So, we secured the dinghy, closed the seacocks and Ubered to shore to say goodbye to the amazing marina staff.
Getting caffeinated and hugging Rachel was more than mandatory.
Then we left Miami.
Now let's discuss what DID happen and what DID NOT happen...