Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Florida part 3...still on the dock

Here we are still on the dock at the New River Marina
Fort Lauderdale, on Riverwalk, one of the most picturesque
spots in the area.

Now we have dock fever. Three weeks longer than we intended,
seven weeks since we arrived. But it’s been an eventful time…

On Sunday 17th January a day of high winds and strong current on the New River saw the Jungle Queen crash and scrape down the side of a luxury yacht.

I was taking photos of the boys playing on the dock when I saw the large tourist boat coming towards us. Seraphim is on the curve into the river bend. The Jungle Queen misjudged the wind and current, just missed us, lost it on the bend and crashed down the side of the next yacht. Massive fenders burst. The Jungle Queen then crunched a smaller cruising yacht before pushing off from it and heading down river. I renamed her the “Bungle Queen“. Even ho hummed new lyrics to Abba’s Dancing Queen, for all of a minute. “Bungle Queen crashing its way down New River, Watch that Queen, smash that boat flying around the bend ….”

Another out of the ordinary experience fell on a night late in December as we arrived home with two sleeping children. The police were out in force with a helicopter, boats and cars, and were joined by the Coastguard launch who caused a massive wake.  All hunting a “dead guy”. Ooo’rah. Just what I wanted for a late bed time - the noise of a helicopter, glaring floodlights and Seraphim bouncing on the dock. A fight between two hobos had gone bad. One flipped the other over a bridge further up stream and the swift current disposed of him.

Lets back up to December 26th when we had a Wonderful Life moment. A fire hydrant. An empty pavement, and a young man kneeling, holding a girl’s ring finger. Can only mean one thing. “He’s proposing”, I squealed. John spun the car and we caught up  just outside the Church by the Sea. Yes, Will had indeed just proposed to Tiffany.  I asked why there, on the pavement? Will shrugged colouring from pink to puce. The “joy-full” couple were not surprisingly bemused by these eccentric Brits curious about spontaneous gestures which would change their lives. We wish them well.

Boxing Day was a day to hit the sales in the Malls. Fort Lauderdale’s upmarket Galleria Mall with Macys and Neiman Marcus, (otherwise known as Needless Mark Up) was a far more pleasant experience than the heaving scrum we encountered at Sawrgrass Mills, designer discount shops.

Excursions with Eileen, John’s mother visiting during the Holidays, included our beach playground near Eileen‘s hotel, the playground at the Church by the sea, Miami South Beach and the Miami Sea Aquarium with an orca, dolphins, manatees, a pirate playground and a fair ground. The Ferris wheel gave an excellent view of downtown Miami..

After Eileen returned to the UK we returned from our time out to the life of fixing Seraphim, and what a lot there is to do. The cockpit tent was taken off making us feel like a yacht again, not a caravan.
Part of the reason the Seraphims are burning savings on the dock is that another and another and another thing needs fixing, also, it’s easy. The tenacious rootlets start growing as the lines are tied to the dock.  No in and out of dinghy, just onto the dock. No life jackets on and off.  No bags of rubbish, bags of stuff, in and out of the dinghy, just into a rubbish bin onshore. Electricity and easy access is conducive to landlubberly-ness.  Also, although the outside temperatures were cold in mid January, the water was 70 degrees. It is warmer up the river because it is shallow and not open to the ocean.

Balancing boat maintenance, yacht broking, writing articles, oh, and everyday domestics including children and school is a real stretch for us. If the children are more naughty than usual we threaten them with “Dockwise home”.  The most workable childcare arrangement is when John and I  take turns, as at home. However, 24/7 childcare for over a year is wearing.

Fortunately we have some excellent playgrounds nearby  plus the Museum of Science and Discovery which after 5 hours of non-stop play is reasonable at $29 for an adult and two children. I also saw the spectacular James Cameron blockbuster, “Avatar” at the AutoNation IMAX cinema next to the Museum. On the other end of the cinematic scale was the family outing to “Alvin and the Chipmunks”  at the fifteen screen drive In.

On a literally freezing Saturday casting around for warm child friendly fun, John headed for the local movie house and Alvin, again. The boys literally danced in the aisles. (We avoid attractions and museums at weekends, too full, too mad.) The Riverfront flea pit rescued us again with “The Tooth Fairy“.

Whilst John had a day of WIFI and electronic nitty gritty, the excellent Miami Children’s Museum and I, entertained the boys. $36, £12 each was steep but you pays-for what-you-gets, and six hours of top quality “play”, was worth it.  Miami and Port Discovery in Baltimore come joint first out of ten for children’s museums on the US east coast. In our order of preference: Wilmington North Carolina,  Fort Lauderdale (2 visits) Charleston, Portsmouth, Manhattan, Annapolis and South Myrtle Beach.
Young At Art, in Davie near Fort Lauderdale, provided a palate (sic) of arts and crafts for children.

It’s not just the comfortable dock, it’s the city. Marina Mile provides all kind of facilities such as West Marine, the vast Sailorman New and Used Marine Store, WIFI experts, Diesel experts, and all kinds of experts to do with all kinds of boats. 
Then there are the cinemas, shopping malls, Starbucks and Publix all in the area. All things lovely but lubberly. Enough already, it was time to get off the dock.

 Returning the hire car is the best way to re-focus on setting off. We have returned four hire cars so far. I have provisioned for the Bahamas six times, so far.
Some hours when John is up to his elbows in grease, oil and/or ugly bilge gunge I watch the boys play fire trucks or trains or just let off steam, on the dock. Ditto, if John is working on “topsides“, (the deck), they play beside him, on the dock. Several locals walking their dogs or toddlers stop to chat “forcing” John to take a break.

And we were ready to go. When yet another !?!!ing thing needed fixing.

31st January. And another, and another. Seven false starts.

Re-commissioning  the watermaker involved waiting for a new part to be couriered from Trinidad. It arrived. It broke. John searched out another in Marina Mile.
Then it was the loo pump out system which five years ago, we now discovered, had been installed back to front, and required new parts and contortionist tricks by John.
The wind generator and the stereo both died on the same day. It was not just a matter of buying a new wind generator. John checked three times with the sales guy that the new generator would fit on our existing pole. Yes, three times he said it would. No, after wasting an evening try to make it fit it did not. A great deal of time (and hire car costs) is wasted in such buy, fit, not fit, return exercises.

And whilst John was extending our US Cruising Permit the customs officer pointed out that the Ship’s Register Certificate for Seraphim is up in May.  Phone calls and Fedex to the Register of Ships in the UK, and a wait. It did not help that the receptionist at the Registry of Ships left the $55 Fedex envelope gathering dust when it arrived in UK.

I wonder if we’ll ever ever get off this dock. But, as ever with these times of stress and challenge an angel is sent. This time in the form of Jennifer who lives in the huge apartment block next to the boat. Jennifer used to live on a boat and understands our travails in the valley of boat maintenance, and children, and etc ….. So she, her washing machine, top floor swimming pool and games with her little boy Andrew and husband Paul have saved us. That and the odd outing such as the deafening ride on an airboat over the Everglades at the Sawgrass Recreation Area. It is home to various creatures such as black panthers, wolves, a cougar and alligators.

A trip down memory lane took us to lunch at the Seawatch in Lauderdale on Sea, a fine restaurant where John had dined with his father seventeen years ago. After an outstanding seafood lunch the boys played on the beach away from the water line which was littered with Portuguese Men of War.

 The Result of the Week was found in the Annual Nautical Flea Market (think a small Beaulieu Boat Jumble) in the form of a fold up bicycle to replace one of ours which had given up to rust.
So, we wait for the return of our Ships Register Certificate, say goodbye to our wedding present wind generator, fit the second new wind generator and see what next.