Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Inspiration and Motivation: Going Cruising Again!

It started because we were trying to do someone a favor, and ended up here:

Image by Stefan Kokem├╝ller, from here

A couple of folks here in St Aug were taking their boat down to the Keys, and they needed someone to drive their car down to their new marina.  And since we're always up for an adventure, we volunteered.

Note to self: I know that you love road trips, and are more than willing to drive, especially if it involves meeting new interesting people, helping people out, and going to fun places.  I get that.  But next time before you volunteer, maybe, maybe, check out some details first before plunging in headlong, okay?

We met the couple who needed the car delivered, a couple of older circumnavigators with great stories.  Good folks. The date was somewhat flexible; their original plan was that they'd spend several weeks cruising down from St Augustine to the Florida Keys in their new-to-them boat, and we were welcome to use the car while they were traveling, as long as we got it to their new marina on or before the time they got there.  Win-win.  Except: boat commissioning rarely goes according to schedule -- as the big things are fixed, they allow you to see other small problems that were masked by the big ones, delaying your departure. More frustrating for them than for us, I'm sure, but the net result was that as their departure date was pushed back, multiple times, they also had to delay turning the car over to us.  Finally, we were running up against our deadline that would give us a chance to see our friends before they left town for their holidays and we would be back in time for ours, or we would have reschedule our road trip until after New Years, so they turned the car over to us on the last possible afternoon, and we left early the next morning. We didn't get the use of the car around town as was originally planned, but we were still looking forward to that road trip!

We nicknamed the car "Ol' Blue." It was a sturdy old Volvo from 1987, and they had done a good job taking care of it, but still, things get old and break and no replacement parts are available for a car that old. They had some clever, or would that be, funky, work-arounds. A broken switch was replaced with a toggle from Radio Shack; a flexible solar panel provided a trickle charge to the battery when the car was parked for long periods. The interior was covered with helpful pink sticky notes: "This switch turns on the fog lights" (Glad you mentioned that, I definitely wouldn't have thought to look for a switch under the passenger's side of the dashboard.)  "This gauge sometimes sticks, tap on the instrument panel with your fingernail." (It was a bit stickier than that, I learned, a tap with a fingernail wasn't sufficient, more like a major thwack or two with the side of a fist.) They made a point out of making sure we knew how to work the heating system, which also had some (*ahem*) creative repairs to the controls. Um, folks, thanks for that, but we're going to the Florida Keys. It's 85 degrees there. I don't think heat will be a big concern for us.  In fact, just the opposite.  What they had neglected to tell us was that: (1) there is no air conditioning; and (2) the passenger side window does not roll down. A closed-up blue car on a sunny, warm Florida day ... mmmm, running the heat was not going to be high on our list of priorities!

Ol' Blue, ready for adventure!

But before we got to the Keys, we were planning a stop in Ft Lauderdale to visit with some of our friends who had relocated there, Tony and Michelle were friends from St Augustine Cruisers Net, Phil and Kay had traveled from Annapolis to North Carolina with us; they still had their boat but were now settled in an apartment in town; and Mike and Lori were fellow cruisers who had recently left St Aug southbound and just happened to be in town. A long and hilarious evening at a local Mexican restaurant followed, and the next morning we started the drive to Key West.

Laughing with "St Augustine Cruisers Net South" -- a.k.a. Fort Lauderdale. Note those very tall margarita pitchers -- you can't reach to pour your own, but you can pour for your neighbor, and s/he can return the favor.

The road trip itself was simultaneously energizing and relaxing. Although I'd been skeptical of the car -- there was one time I turned the key and absolutely nothing at all happened, and another time when the little indicator symbol told me to upshift for better efficiency (Upshift how? The car is automatic, I don't have control of the gear like I would in a manual!) -- it got us there without serious incident. Some sightseeing and exploring time, and then we picked up a Hertz rental car for our return trip and dropped Ol' Blue off at our acquaintances new marina ... which we loved! Warm clear water, palm trees, white sand beaches, a very Caribbean Island feel without dealing with the logistics of being out of the US for an extended period, all inspired us. The whole pretty drive back through the Keys, we were alternately thoughtful, and chattering excitedly. After a delicious pizza for the road we headed back to Lauderdale to spend another night on Phil and Kay's sofa before continuing back to St Augustine.

We remarked that we had just passed a somber milestone -- it has been a year since Cinderella has been out of her slip.  We ourselves have been off having adventures, scuba diving in Aruba last winter and then sailing with El Galeon during the summer, but our poor boat has been parked for a year. The four of us chatted about cruises past and future, and a plan started to form.  After hurricane season 2016 we are going to buddy boat to the Keys, and we'll rent a marina slip for the winter, yes at the marina we just delivered the car to.  (BTW, unlike most of our inspirations, alcohol this time was not involved, Dan was on antibiotics for a tooth infection so no beer for this party.)

We got home to Cinderella and turned in the rental car, and even though it's almost a year away, started realizing how much we have to do. Projects that have been procrastinated need to be restarted; items that have been left on flat surfaces need permanent homes so they aren't hurled to the floor while we're underway; systems that we haven't needed while dockside and plugged in to shore power need maintenance and recommissioning.  Possessions need decluttering and streamlining; wardrobe and electronics need updating.  Lots of work ahead ... and we're suddenly eager to do it. "Bring me that horizon!"

I'll miss St Augustine's Nights of Lights, but I'm thinking next winter will have more beaches, snorkeling, and sunshine!


  1. I bet if they put that car on eBay, people would bid huge money just to get something so quirky. I love the fact that it has post-it notes and solar panels! I wonder if it flies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I bet there was a post-it note that said "push here to engage fly mode" which you missed.

    Very exciting to hear about your cruising plans!

  2. Ha, you are right; several people commented on our Facebook page that the car is built like a tank and will run forever. And Ol' Blue was a sturdy beast and (air conditioning notwithstanding) fairly comfortable, more than my writeup in this blog post would suggest. We're glad to have had the opportunity, and ready to ****GO**** again!

  3. "Engage fly mode!" This is the danger of having a friend who is a writer comment on your blog ...

  4. Sounds fabulous! Make sure you stop to dive at Molasses Reef in Key Largo/ Marathon. It's awesome.

  5. Oh, yes, thanx! We've heard Key Largo is THE place for diving/snorkeling and have planned it to be one of our stops.

  6. Love this. You two are such an inspiration!!! Once Mallory is out of college, a cruising we will go!

  7. Sharon, don't wait that long! By the time she's old enough to no longer need constant maintenance (i.e., diapers, etc) she'll gain so much from traveling with you! Even if you can swing it for just a few weeks or a summer. Lots of blogs from people traveling with kids, some quite young. hope to see you out there soon!