Anchored at Tavenier

On day seven of our trip down the Intracostal Waterway we are anchored behind Cross Bank off of Tavenier Key.

After six days of the piloting the boat, we decide on a day of rest. There is a 1½-foot chop. Cat Inn Around is oblivious to the cop, floating as steady as a rock. Without the intense focus of piloting in skinny water or preparing to shove-off, there is time to stop and take stock of the events leading to this location in the Florida Keys. January 2nd was to be the start of a sabbatical from work; but this day is like every day. There is no escape from meetings, phone calls and reports. The immediate need is to get the contractors paid for December’s work. The bank inspector is due Thursday. A few intense days of processing the ‘draw request’ and auditing the prior pay applications. They have to be right; this is my last pay application. Finally, the inspection is over, the pay application processed and funded. Now it is time for the sabbatical. Yet I am stuck on daily phone calls and summoned to meetings.

There is a lot to get done prior to shoving-off for a 100-day voyage and I am determined to leave in early March. Cat Inn Around needs fresh ‘bottom paint’ and work on the thru-hulls. After reading a ‘sailor’s blog’ on the Internet, I contacted Tom Holland of Holland Marine in Green Cove Springs. “What do you charge to haul-out a boat?” “My rate is $10.00 per foot.” “Does that rate apply to a ‘cat’ and do you allow us to do our own work?” “I don’t have a do-it-yourself yard; what are you trying to do?” “I need to paint the bottom of the boat.” “I can do that for less than anyone!” Thinking to myself, that’s an audacious claim: “OK I’ll bite, what is your charge?” “I will haul her out, pressure wash, thoroughly sand her and paint her with two coats of paint for $40.00-per foot.” “Can your lift accommodate a 21½-foot beam?” “Sure, I can handle that.” “OK, let me think about it and get back to you.” I quickly send him an e-mail to confirm the details. There are only a few boatyards in the area with a travel lift wide enough for the big cat’s beam. The other yard that we were planning to use is much closer. They would haul the boat for $10-per foot too. They have a daily charge of $1.50-foot per day while she is in the yard. It should take about 30-days to scrape, sand and paint the hull. The thru-hulls need rebuilding and/or replacing (both ‘holding-tank’ thru-hulls have a slow, ugly drip). So, the haul-out plus 30-days of storage is $2,640. Tom’s rate is $1,920 and he is supplying the paint and the labor! He quickly confirms my e-mail along with a detailed quote. I’m not wild about his choice of paint; my research show that Pettit Trinidad SR is probably the best paint for aggressive marine growth. He tells me he will only charge me for the difference he has to pay for the paint. “That’s fair! Can I work on the thru-hulls while she is on-the hard?” “Sure” he says. Now, I am just a little skeptical about his quick answer when I asked about his ability to haul Cat Inn Around. A week later, I drive to Green Cove Springs to see the travel lift and look the man in the eyes. After meeting Tom and getting ‘good vibes’ I ask about the travel lift. “Come on, I’ll show you.” As we walk a ways through the boatyard; the largest travel lift I have ever seen comes into focus. “They used to make those huge bridge trusses here and used this to put them on barges.” Convinced, we schedule the work for the week of January 23rd.

I contact a group of friends to see if they would like a trip up the St. Johns River and most of them are eager to go. We depart the Oyster Bay docks early on Tuesday, January 24th. As the dense morning fog lifts, we have a delightful trip through downtown Jacksonville. Anchored off of NAS Jacksonville, we stop for a picnic. The warm sun overcomes the cool temperatures. Great friends and conversation, combined with splendid snacks make a wonderful afternoon. Then it is time to finish the trip to Green Cove. We are docked about 4:00 pm and everyone heads home. Not me, I will live on Cat Inn Around until she returns to Amelia Island.

The next morning, the guys come by and get everything ready for the haul-out. As she comes out of the water, I am again awed by her size. The crew takes a lot of time and special care to see that she is evenly supported on the ground. A ladder is set on the ground up to the aft-cockpit becoming the front steps to my new home. Early, the next morning, they start sanding. Within a couple of days they start painting. Meanwhile, I am removing the old thru-hulls. Even though everything is made of stainless steel, after eight-years in salt water most of the pieces are pitted. Finding replacement thru-hulls is a bit of a task. Finally, Marine Supply and Oil in St. Augustine (Marine Supply & Oil) finds ½-inch stainless steel thru-hulls in Oregon. We order their last four. Only one 1½-inch thru-hull for the holding tank is available. Fortunately, after wire brushing the other one it is actually in good shape. Within a week, Cat Inn Around is painted and looking grand. I am still wrestling with the thru-hulls. There are four per side; one 2-inch on each side for the engine cooling system, one 1½-inch for each of the 45-gallon holding tanks and two ½-inch per side. The port side has one ½-inch for the generator cooling and one for the toilet flushing water (yes, it uses sea water). The starboard side has one ½-inch for the water-maker and one for the A/C cooling.

Finally, on February 10th everything is done and we set her back in the water. While she is still in the slings we make a quick check of the thru-hulls. All four of the new ½-inch and both of the holding tanks thru-hulls are dry. But there is a steady drip from the starboard engine thru-hull. I look at the guys; “Sorry, I can’t live with this.” They check it too and agree. Back on the hard she goes. I can’t find a 2-inch stainless steel thru-hull anywhere. Marine Supply and Oil has a bronze thru-hull, ball-cock combination in stock. A week later, we put her back in the water and everything is dry. Holland Marine sends an invoice for exactly the original quote. I am impressed; he did precisely what he said he would! I will certainly come back for future work and recommend him to other boaters.

On February 17th, my sisters Karen and Niki come aboard for the trip back to Amelia Island. After weeks of sunny days, this Friday is cold, rainy and dreary for the four-hour voyage. Returning to Oyster Bay seems to be a return to work. Immediately I am needed for conver- sations, meetings and solutions to a host of daily problems.

We set a shove-off date for March 5th, but a number of ‘must finish’ projects have to be completed before we can leave. During the last week of February, we try to start the generator for a routine check. The starter just whirrs. It takes over three weeks to get the right starter in town. We pick-it-up in Jacksonville, install it the next day and the generator is working fine. One must finish out-of-the-way. We put the new dingy in the water and drive her to the big cat. At twice the weight of the old inflatable dingy, ‘steel cable’ supports are assembled to help support the davits. Then new lines are measured & cut and we hoist her up. Not perfect, but we can improve it while on the voyage. While installing the water-maker, the 12-volt high-pressure pump quits working. It takes a couple of days to source a new pump and get it delivered. The water marker is not properly installed but all the parts are there to finish the job during the voyage. Matt and Amy from Top Stitch have promised to deliver the new aft-deck canvas cover before March 5th. They try to install it on March 2 but it is too windy. They finish it on Monday and it looks great. The washer-dryer is finally repaired. It takes three days to get her installed (including rebuilding the air ducts to maintain A/C supply to the forward cabin). By the weekend of March 10th the critical, “must finish” projects are done. After some last-minute home repairs and final packing we are ready to leave on March 14th. As we prepare to shove off, we roll it up the new canvas and realize the snaps are on the wrong side. Matt reschedule his day and does his best to get to the boat, but it is early afternoon when he arrives. It is a simple fix and takes him less than an hour but we decide not to start our voyage so late in the day. The next day even though many projects are not finished, it is finally time to shove-off.

All of a sudden, the phone rings and jolts me to consciousness; it is Kevin: “Where the hell are you?” “I am up here near Taviener just working on some projects. It is really blowing here today.” “It is really blowing here in Marathon too. You were supposed to be here today! Get your ass down here.” “Not going to happen today my friend – we will head out tomorrow. It is going to take several hours to get there.” “OK, let me know when you are near.” Wow, for most of the day I have been working on the water maker installation, daydreaming about the steps that brought us here. It is difficult to playback the grueling effort to get ready to go. The four weeks at the boatyard, now a blur, were long 12-hour days at a furious pace. Followed by the final countdown back at the dock: finishing the critical projects, storing boxes of food, toiletries, wine and rum. All mixed with incessant phone calls and the need to attend meetings. The cell phone’s ring shocks me again and I bang my head on the engine room header. A quick glance at the caller ID confirms my suspicion, I continue working. Thinking to myself  ‘later man’ I am now on ‘island time.’

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