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An illustrated boat following a winding dotted path along the border of the USA map

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?

  1. Cars have breaks, boats do not. (I backed my boat into a neighbor’s anchor in CharlestonSouth Carolina, and blew out my back window.)
  2. 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.)
  3. Everyone who owns a sailboat eventually wants to get rid of it and buy a boat with a motor.
  4. 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 CloroxAjaxBoraxX14Mineral XSurface-X, and Windex and every other cleaner that has an “x” in the name and I can’t get the smell out.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.