Wednesday, February 17, 2016

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It

Sunday morning, I woke up in the Super 8 motel and hung around lazily until almost check out time at 11:00.  It was all part of a plan. The Dinner Key Mooring Field was full on Saturday. They told me that check out time was 3:00 pm, so I was planning to make the trek to the boat to arrive just before check out time and see if any moorings became available. They also told me they didn’t expect any open until Tuesday!  

I had a couple stops on the way. I might end up in the anchorage rather than the mooring field. If that becomes the case, I’d need to use the dinghy. In the mad rush toward buying the boat, I had no idea whether any oars came with the dinghy or if it was even set up for rowing. Hence, I was going to stop and buy some oars on the way.  Yes, I forgot to grab the pair of oars that I have in the garage in Michigan.  In addition, if I was going to dinghy back and forth to the boat, I was going to need to lock up the dinghy somewhere on shore, so a lock and some chain was on my list.

I stopped at Tractor Supply on my way out of Fort Pierce and got the lock and chain. Coconut Grove is a couple hours south of me here but the trip stretched out a bit because I stopped at the world famous Sailorman in Fort Lauderdale.  I found a pair of used oars in their veritable sailor’s candy store.  

I-95 ends and turns into US1 just before Coconut Grove. The transition space was packed with cars and it was bumper to bumper all the way in. People in Miami just might be worse drivers than those in Detroit. I’ll get back to you on that.

Consulting the map the day before, my gut reaction had been to just park at the Metro Rail station and hike in. Contrary to this good judgement, I decided to drive into the Grove and check out a couple parking areas listed on the southside of town. Forty five minutes later, I was convinced this was a really bad idea and I hadn’t seen the parking yet.  Well, I had seen people charging $25 to park on their lawn. Already, there was no lawn space for my gigantic Town Car. When I finally got to the first parking area listed on the Art Fest website it was full, of course.  And the lot consisted of about twenty spaces in a little municipal lot by the post office. A ridiculously small lot to put on the festival website!  It was time for me to get out.  

A half hour later I had gotten back to US1. There I had to battle my way into traffic on a right turn and then, in two blocks, squeeze my way over to the left hand turn lane.  Another 20 or 30 minutes and I was a half a block from the Metro Rail station. A couple cops were moving the barricade up another half a block out of the Grove, and drivers were so confused they all just stopped; we all just stopped.  

Finally, I got to the parking lot which was wide open. A sign described the procedure to pay for parking by the numbered spaces. I had to walk four spaces in each direction before I could decipher enough faded paint to decide which slot I had parked in. For about $9, I got a parking space and a day pass for either the rail or a bus. The super nice security guys showed me which bus was headed into the art fest.  

As I approached the bus with a bag of supplies and two oars over my shoulder, the bus driver stepped out and asked “Where’s the boat?” I had a nice chat with the bus driver about boats, airplanes and commercial drivers. He has a flats boat and fishes in the Bahamas with friends who have bigger boats. Several people had come by and boarded the bus, so I thought I should get a seat.

“My supervisor is talking to the cops,” the bus driver said, “They just blocked the road we need to use to get into the Grove.”  

Great ...

I sat on the bus, next to a nice kid who just started college at FIU. After exchanging all the basics, we sat there watching two bus drivers chit chat. Both were driving the same route, both now waiting at the station. The supervisor was nowhere to be seen. I decided I could have been to the sailing club already if I had walked, so I stood up and told the kid I was leaving. Twenty yards out of the bus, while I waved at Ric, the bus driver, the kid caught up with me and we hiked in together.   

The art fest was wall to wall people even outside the paid admission boundaries. Everyone who thought they were anyone was in Coconut Grove to see and be seen. I got many strange looks hiking through the crowd with a pair of oars over my shoulder; even a couple ‘aye, aye Captains.’ All the while being extra careful not to pull some Laurel and Hardy gag and swat someone with an oar.  I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew it was south and east of where I started.  I walked along the fenced off border of the fest until I finally reached a dead end.  

There was a jazz quartet playing at a hotel outside the fence and a nice volunteer standing guard at the gate. I asked if I could get into the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. She asked if I had my member I.D. I told her I had just bought a boat and that I hadn’t ever seen her yet. She smiled, looked me over and down the length of the oars on my shoulder. Figuring I wasn’t there for the fest, she let me sneak in and was nice enough to refrain from pointing out that I really didn’t fit in with the swanky South Florida crowd.  

I wandered through a kids play area and past a concert venue and finally saw the club over a hedge. The border of the kids area looped around and lead me straight to the club’s gate. A gal sat on the other side and asked for my I.D. The boat story and a name she recognized got me through that gate too.  

I was inside! I had to go up and over, through the building to get to the bayshore. This included walking through the bar carrying a pair of oars. Damn, I'm cool. I found the dock and the launch but no skipper. I put my bag down and leaned the oars against the wall. After wandering around for a few minutes, a nice member told me who to look for and to hang out right where I was. When the launch guy finally showed up he was taking a break with his girlfriend and having some art fest food.  I told him I could wait.

A bit later, we took off in the CGSC launch and I got to see my boat! She is a majestic little ship. The launch guy knew the young sailor who had owned her before the lawyer bought her and I got some inside information. She’s been to Panama and back and over to the Bahamas several times. The launch guy had been on a trip or two. He told me I had a great boat. I climbed aboard and the launch was going to check on me from time to time.
I crawled around inside the boat for a couple hours. There is a little more work than I had expected through my rose colored glasses but no heartaches. She will do nicely. When I crawled back on
Ugly green paint and weird plumbing
deck, I saw the launch buzzing back and forth; ferrying club members to and fro, their boat to the bar and back again. The bar had been full when I came through and I think the members enjoy all the hubbub of the art fest right outside their gate.  I waved at the launch a couple times, but couldn’t decide if he was really busy or just hadn’t seen me. Regardless, I hadn’t been checked on in a couple hours. [Note: a more complete boat report is coming.]

Dark clouds were rolling in off the Gulf Stream and rain spit on me for a little while.  I stood proudly on my beautiful boat, but I was pretty sure that I’d been forgotten.  I wondered if I would need to swim to shore.  The sun was going down, the sunset was beautiful, but I still had to drive more than three hours to get to Arcadia, FL where I had orientation for my new job the next day.  I called the bar a couple times, but no one answered.  I whistled loudly toward the shore, though a nearby party boat surely drowned me out. I called the harbormaster’s office and got no answer.  I was really starting to worry.  
Getting late, Still aboard

When I tried the harbormaster one more time, the launch guy finally answered.  I asked for a ride back to shore. He acted just like he’d been waiting for my call the whole time. No problem.   

Back ashore, I had to hike a mile back out to the Metro Rail station to retrieve my car. Luckily, I had already made a reservation at a motel in Arcadia. I called them to say I was running behind schedule. To get to Arcadia from Coconut Grove, I crossed Miami up to the airport and then took US27 all the way out to Lake Okeechobee. The drive is all swamp and nothing to keep a tired mind occupied, but I pressed on.

On Monday, orientation went fine. The farm in Arcadia does sod as well as citrus and cattle. The people all seem nice and orientation included a couple of the bigwigs which is a good sign. I met some of the current drivers as the early part of our meeting was a general safety meeting for the whole fleet.

The most interesting fun was learning how to drop, operate and rehang the forklift on the back of a flatbed trailer. They use two kinds; so twice I had to play it cool on a machine I had never run, each with its own unique steering system. I’ll be delivering sod daily, like fresh milk, to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s around the state of Florida. We also deliver to landscape
companies, nurseries and job sites. It should be fun. I’ve never strapped, tarped and pulled a flatbed trailer either.

At the end Monday, I needed to get back to Fort Pierce. I was thinking I should have my rain gear or at least a jacket with me now that I’m living in Florida. It was all in storage. As I drove across Hwy 70 toward home, of course, it started to rain. Occasionally, the rain was pretty heavy. Welcome to Florida, I haven’t been in a Florida thunderstorm in a long time. It was a welcome sight, actually.

Welcome, until I got into the edge of town and my wipers quit working. I had been having some trouble even before I left Michigan, but now they were dead. No clicks, no action, do not pass ‘Go’, you’re done. I pulled into a gas station as the rain intensified again. My defroster doesn’t work well because I don’t have the A/C charged. So I sat in a gas station with no wipers and gradually fogged up all the windows. I haven’t done that in a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever done it by myself.  

One of the cheap motels in town, Motel 6, was about a half mile away. The rain and the dead wipers outvoted me on where to sleep that night. When the rain slowed down, I snuck over there without seeing much through the windshield. This morning, I took the car over to a shop that had good Google reviews. They discovered that it was not the switch but the wiper motor that had failed. I’ll get the car back tomorrow. I need to stop living in motels and spending boat money on the car.

If I get the car back early enough, I’ll probably try to go back down to the boat. I couldn’t move her on Sunday, but I should be able to now. Both the art fest and the boat show are done. Hopefully, a mooring ball has opened up.
Patiently, she waits for me


Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...