Starting tomorrow, I will take the long and winding watery road home back to Virginia. My exile in Florida is coming to a close. I have been vaccinated. I am sunburned. Virginia is slowly but surely reopening, so it’s time to come back.
For those of you who do not already know, I’ve spent half of the last year quarantining on a boat. In September, I bought a Ranger Tugs RS 31, a long-range trawler, which I drove 1,138 miles to South Florida. Yes, everyone had a COVID-crazy moment last year. Some people quit their jobs. Others got divorced. I know people who adopted dogs or started a new hobby — like baking sourdough bread. How exciting. Many people used their stimulus money to buy something they really didn’t need. I didn’t get a penny from Uncle Sam, but I bought a boat.
I like boats. I’ve been on many, from small Carolina Skiffs to massive cruise ships. I’ve always loved my time on the water. However, the first time I ever drove a motor yacht was on September 8th, when they handed me the keys to this puppy. I took my boating safety course online, due to COVID-19, and I watched hours and hours of training courses. I also watched reruns of Gilligan’s Island to know exactly what not to do. Somehow, I made it from Urbana, Virginia to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and no one got killed. Except for the iguana that tried to get on my boat. #YouWannaPieceOfMeIguana?
- Cars have breaks, boats do not. (I backed my boat into a neighbor’s anchor in Charleston, South Carolina, and blew out my back window.)
- The price of anything with the word “marine” in front of it costs three times as much, especially if it comes from a store called West Marine. (A stainless steel U bolt at Home Depot in Brunswick, Georgia cost six bucks. The same bolt at West Marine costs $22.99.)
- Everyone who owns a sailboat eventually wants to get rid of it and buy a boat with a motor.
- When you leave frozen squid in a cooler in Daytona and realize three days later in West Palm Beach that the power was shut off, it stinks. Literally. I’ve tried Clorox, Ajax, Borax, X14, Mineral X, Surface-X, and Windex and every other cleaner that has an “x” in the name and I can’t get the smell out.
- Boat people are good people. On this journey, I have met dozens of friendly folks. Everyone is nice, eager to help, and strike up a conversation with a rookie boat driver.
- Always leave your radio on Channel 16. On the first day of my voyage, I drove past half of the US Navy at full throttle, not realizing that Naval Station Norfolk is a no-wake zone. It is quite embarrassing to be stopped by the Navy, the Coast Guard, and Norfolk Police all at the same time because you were monitoring Channel 17.