It's official: we've arrived at our jumping-off point for the Bahamas! We're anchored near the Lake Worth inlet, which is about 60 miles from the west end of Grand Bahamas island. We arrived here this morning from the anchorage near North Palm Beach, and have rented a car for the first week that we're here. We plan to attend the Ft. Lauderdale boat show, visit friends there, and do some major provisioning while we have the car. It's great to be mobile again!
Friday morning we're off the boat by 7:30 to make the 50+ mile drive to Ft. Lauderdale. We're going to see Tracy and to attend the boat show. It's definitely more geared towards power boats, mega-yachts, and the like (where else would you see Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and Maseratis sold at a boat show?), but we're hoping to get a good deal on a watermaker and maybe find a few cool gadgets. We start out by hitting every possible watermaker booth, and are suffering from sensory overload by the tenth one. Rene is still debating between a 110-volt (electric) and 12-volt (battery) system, as well as a bells-and-whistles (more to break) vs. a more basic (i.e. no automation) system. We've heard great things about the Spectra system from Chris and others, but some cruisers have touted the more basic systems that include generic replacement parts that are easier to maintain outside of the U.S. Decisions, decisions... We're exhausted after our first day at the boat show - how do the vendors make it through 5 days straight??? - and try to relax as we talk through our options over dinner at Macaroni Grill. (Side note: this is our first Mac Grill visit since leaving Houston...it's just as good as we remember!) We really don't know which system to get, but we're supposed to get more info from a couple of the contenders over the weekend. Hopefully it'll help us figure out what to do.
Saturday and Sunday we jump head-first into provisioning purgatory. First up...spare parts for the gen set and engine from the Ft. Lauderdale Westerbeke and Yanmar suppliers. We find out that Yanmar is only open during the week, so we'll have to come back after our boat show visit on Monday or Tuesday. Next, we stock up on beer and wine at Total Wine, followed by a non-perishable run to Publix before heading back to Palm Beach. Rene's credit card company gets suspicious of all the charges, and his card is frozen after the third stop. After a quick call into the credit company, we're off to spend more. His poor card is even more tired than we are! Sunday we make a few more supply runs near the marina...Kohl's, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie, West Marine, etc. We're back on the boat by mid-afternoon, and barely manage to get everything down below and into the guest room before dark. We've just learned that we may have a visitor in a few days...we'll have to relegate him to the salon couch unless we can find places for everything! At last count, we have 10 cases of beer, 6 cases of "pizza wine" (in addition to Rene's wine cellar), 3 cases of diet coke, 2 cases of tonic water, 100 cans of veggies, 25 jars of pasta and curry sauces, 50 cans of tuna and assorted meats, plus soup, rice, potatoes, couscous, pasta, and various other dry goods. How do you organize four months' worth of food on a boat?? That's a mystery for another day...we're heading back to Ft. Lauderdale to make a final decision and purchase at the boat show first thing Monday morning. Organizing the boat will have to wait.
Monday...it's the last day of the 50th Annual International Boat Show in Ft. Lauderdale, and boy do those vendors look wiped out! It's much quieter today than it was on Friday, and we're able to wander through the booths without last week's crowds. Our first stop is the Boomerang Fishing booth, where we finally get a rod to go with the Penn reel that Donna and Steve gave us as a going away present last December. We're ashamed to say it, but we haven't tried our luck at fishing since we left Texas. Granted, we wouldn't want to eat anything out of the brown-ish ICW waters anyway! Now that we're headed to the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas, it's time to get a pole and lures ready. We're still clueless about the whole fishing thing (Stacy's grandpa must be so ashamed!), but we'll try to absorb more info along the way. We've seen a few charter boats bringing back their catch throughout our travels, and we're ready to try our hands at some fresh tuna and mahi mahi! With the pole purchase complete, we head to our real destination: Spectra Watermakers. We've decided to go with Spectra, certainly for their reputation, but even more for the fact that they've re-engineered the 300 gal/day model in a way that better suits our installation plans. The large pump that most companies use has been replaced by a smaller (but still powerful) unit, so Rene will be able to put it in the bilge rather than try to find a place under the waterline for something three times its size. Best of all, Rene's able to get a great deal on the watermaker; it ends up being about 25% off the regular price, which basically gives us the bells and whistles for free. Productive day!
The next few days are spent back on the boat trying to find storage space for the mountain of cans sitting in the guest room. Our Kemah friend, Steve, will definitely be coming to visit this weekend, and we'd really like to have a bed ready for him. We tear the boat apart figuring out what we already have in various nooks and crannies, and manage to find space we didn't even know we had (with help from the kitties, of course). It takes a couple of days, but in the end it all fits. We have a true guest room again! Steve arrives Saturday night after a 1500+ mile road trip. He's our first repeat visitor having last seen us in the Florida Keys, and it's wonderful to see him again. Unfortunately he arrives during a bizarre patch of weather we've been having: winds have been 20-30mph for the past 5 days and are showing no signs of slowing. The anchorage is getting a bit more crowded as people hole up to get out of the Atlantic's 10'-plus waves. Every dinghy ride between the boat and the marina requires trash bags for our belongings and ponchos for us, and we still end up soaked from head to toe. Steve's a good sport, and we brave the surf yet again to have dinner ashore Sunday night. The Tiki Bar at our marina serves good seafood dishes and cold beers, and it feels good to get off the boat for awhile. Wouldn't you know it, we have to go against the waves to get back after dinner. With three of us in the dinghy, there's no way we can plane to stay drier. Rene mans the outboard, and Steve and Stacy cover themselves as much as they can with the ponchos. It's a long ride back, and we barely make it past the port before a pilot boat leads a barge out into the channel. Talk about timing! It's too dark for Rene to read the waves, and we lose count of how many direct hits we take. The waves manage to hit us in the face and go down the necks of our ponchos, and we're completely drenched by the time we step aboard Pipe Muh Bligh. What else can you do but laugh?
Steve leaves us on Monday to visit family for a few days; trusting guy that he is, while he's away he lets us use his new baby - the Blue Bullet. What a gorgeous car! Steve bought the Porsche 911 from a friend who's leaving Kemah to go cruising, and this baby has been pampered for all of her 28 years. She's a true classic, and Rene has a blast driving a sports car again. For those of you familiar with the fate of Rene's little red Corvette, not to worry. Now that he doesn't have his own car, he's a very safe, careful driver. (Really, Steve - we promise!) We drive down to Ft. Lauderdale for another visit with Tracy & Seann; now that the boat show, birthdays, and Halloween are finally over, they have a little more free time for a get-together. We have a great dinner with them and get to meet a few more of their friends. We spend more time visiting with them on Wednesday before picking Steve up at the airport. After a fabulous dinner at a German place in Ft. L, we get a nice surprise back in Palm Beach: the winds have finally calmed down! We enjoy our first dry dinghy ride in over a week, and hope the crazy winds are over for awhile. After a quick nightcap, we all crash early. Steve has to head back to Texas in the morning, so no big partying tonight. :-)
With Steve gone and provisioning done, we focus on our next big project: installing the watermaker. By some crazy stroke of luck, the Spectra vendor for the area is less than two blocks from the marina. It's an easy walk or bike ride, and we're able to visit him for some helpful hints as well as a few hose lines to begin prepping the boat. Our watermaker should arrive early next week...can't wait!