Now it’s time to decide on what the priorities are to get her ready for cruising. This is a bit tricky. We are not retired but our schedule is somewhat flexible so we are able to spend about 10 days a month from August thru February at the boat. Hurricane season we are home working. We are on a budget so need to decide what to do ourselves and what to hire out. Time vs money….always a compromise.
Most of the boats systems were close to 30 years old and in need of repair or replacement.
Electronics – this was easy, all needed upgrade. After much comparing, we went with Ray Marine since we had a contact that could get us a steep discount. New radar, touch screen multifunction display, AIS, VHF radio, wind and depth instruments. We had a friend who is good with electronics come out to help install everything thinking it would take a few days. At the end of the week, the radar was installed. Clearly, we had underestimated boat electronics, pulling the old systems out, including wiring and the challenges of working in the hot humid weather.
Transmission – After Clark started the boat in full gear instead of neutral and to our surprised rammed it full throttle into the dock, we knew it was time for a new tranny. The challenge of disconnecting the transmission when two of the aft motor mounts are connected to the transmission means the motor had to be jacked up to disconnect the transmission. This was a big job we decided to hire out so work could be done while we were home working. This ended up taking 3X the money and the time to get done, even using a reputable service. Reputable is difficult in Florida, lesson learned; there are lots of people wanting to make money in the boating industry not all are on the up and up and even getting someone to show up can be tough.
Living aboard comfort – What do we actually need vs what we want and are used to having? The air conditioner was a big decision. We didn’t want to have one, we really wanted to be able to acclimate to the weather but in order to work below for much of the day in South Florida, it’s a necessity. A low wattage microwave was another decision. Saves time by being able to eat in more and not have to warm up the interior using the stove top. Eventually a toaster oven joined us as well. These things may not make the cut once we start cruising but for now, we will happily enjoy them.
Dinghy – We bought a newer used dinghy and reinforced the davits to haul it behind the boat. We wanted a ribbed dingy light enough to manage but powerful enough to allow us to explore. We chose a ribbed inflatable with a 15 hp 4 stroke outboard.
Inventory list – Going through everything, deciding what to keep and what to toss, then making a map and list of what was where. On a boat this size, there are cubbies and storage spots everywhere. Without a list and map we would spend much time and frustration remembering where every tool or part was. We still need to go through all of the extra boat parts the 2 previous owners left behind, good to have them but it’s a big job.
Safety Check – we contacted the local US Power Squadron to come help us with what we needed. They share the duty with the Coast Guard who sent out a nice young man to help us get up to date. Everything needed to be replaced, EPIRB and Life raft were last recertified 20 years ago! Still working on this.
By this time, we are starting to get comfortable living aboard our new boat home and learning how to function day to day in her space. We have yet to move the boat off the dock vs into it.
One of our favorite activities is to explore the endless waterways and fingers in Ft Lauderdale in the dinghy. With places like the shallow “Sandbar” area (where the ICW and the New River meet up) and many boaters convene for music, beer and cooling off, we are having a great time. This is also educational for us. We have a 33 ft boat in Santa Barbara so getting comfortable with motoring/sailing a 55ft boat and navigating the busy waterways of Ft Lauderdale with its endless draw bridges, currents and winds not to mention absolutely gargantuan yachts in competition for the same small strips of river can be a daunting task. The 50 mile crossing of the Gulf Stream to get to the Bahama islands was the least of our worries.