Monday, May 11, 2020

Vacation in the USVI, "Safer at Home" and a Change of Plans. March 1 to May 10, 2020

March 2, we drove to Orlando for a flight to St. Thomas, USVI for another vacation get away.  First we had a lemon lime green Mustang,

then a bright yellow airplane,
and then an orange Jeep.  I guess it was bright color day!
Our friends Nancy and Scott invited us to join them when we were in Michigan for Mom's funeral.  We decided life is too short and we accepted their kind invitation.  We spent 10 wonderful days on St. John at a beautiful villa with Nancy, Scott, Jody and Rod. We travelled with them 5 years ago on a cruise and it was great to all be together on vacation again.


a little shopping, restaurants/bars, 

exploring the island by Jeep, 

a day trip to Jost Van Dyke, 

a fishing trip,

and hiking 

were all wonderful activities we enjoyed.  The view, pool and hot tub at the villa was also wonderful.  

We were just starting to hear more about the developing COVID 19 crisis on the mainland as we were readying to leave on March 12. Had not really monitored any news while on vacation in paradise.
On the plane back to Orlando.
we were running our Navionics boating app to be able to identify the islands we flew over.  Here we are going over the Berry's in the Bahamas, an area we visited on our boat in 2016. Look at that beautiful blue water!

We had no problems getting our rental car and such in Orlando but did self quarantine for two weeks as much as possible once we returned to Longboat Key.  We did have to make numerous walking trips to the grocery store as we had left the boat pretty much empty as the store is only a 5 minute walk.  Our previous routine included a quick trip to the grocery store each day because it was so convenient.  Our two week supply tucked away in the small on board refrigerator.

I also had a few repairs to make on the boat.  I installed a new water heater, reinstalled a repaired ice maker and installed a new air tank for the air horn.  These tasks included multiple bicycle trips to the hardware store and one borrowed car trip to Home Depot to get the parts I needed.  It took me almost three entire days to complete these tasks as finding fittings that work with the unique boat connections was a challenge.  And to add insult, the water line feeding the water heater tank decided to split the night after I installed the water heater!  So, because the line is behind the water heater, I got to pull it out, replace the water line and reinstall the heater again!  With another bicycle trip to the hardware store of course.  Fun...there is always something broken on a boat, you just may not know what it is yet...Here I am exiting the engine room after three long days and finally no leaks!

By Monday March 16 the coronavirus crisis was better understood and things pretty much closed down.  

We called our Seattle boat broker and put everything on hold.  With an inability to travel to inspect boats, Canadian border closed and many marinas not accepting transients, exploration of the PNW by boat does not seem prudent.  Additionally, it does not seem like a good time to buy a luxury item as boats will likely be less expensive on the back end of the recession which is a likely result of this health crisis.
So, we extended our lease here at Longboat Key Club Moorings to August 15 in case we cannot store the boat as planned (due to risky travel) and explored insurance options not requiring us to be north of 31 degrees N latitude by June 1 (if we cannot store Sum Escape). We are blessed to be here as we have a great boating community and people are following the social distancing rules and are courteous to others.  We also have used Instacart for grocery deliveries to be as socially distant as possible. Resort amenities are all closed except for the pool subject to social distancing.  As such, there are only a few chairs around the pool and it is no longer heated to reinforce the rules. We have not used the pool but Tom intends to use it once his cut foot is healed.
Cut foot you ask?  Well on Thursday March  19 Tom went for a dinghy ride 

and jumped out to push off a sandbar.  There was a barnacle, glass or something sharp and a one inch+ cut just below the big toe was the result.  Being 4 miles or so away from the marina, it had a lot of time to bleed as the small bandages in the first aid kit were not adequate.  The "crime scene" before Julie kindly cleaned it up...

The good news is as this is written almost three weeks later the wound is healing (albeit with a pretty large gap and thus scar).  Probably should have had stitches.
We spend our days getting some exercise with a walk or bike ride, 

Julie is stitching baby items, Tom is varnishing brightwork, 

and we both read and talk to friends and family on Facebook, Duo or Zoom

....and even good old fashioned phone calls. We can still access the beach for walking, even though all public beaches are closed, by riding our bikes 4 miles one way to the Longboat Key Club Resort property (affiliated with our marina).  This is a blessing for us as we are able to experience the clear blue Gulf of Mexico waters for an early morning walk.  

Yes, early morning because the temperatures have been summer like with feels like temperatures many days in the 90s. A random sunrise.
And a random sunset.  Actually had to go around the beach closed barrier to get this shot....
We also sometimes arrange a "socially distant" cocktail hour with one or two other couples.  Here we are with Larry and Karen (Dream On).
And Jan and Doug (Day Dreams), Jon and Bonnie (Bon Voyage) and Dave and Betsy (Frye Days)

Rules are bring your own beverage, snack and chair and we set up by couple at least six feet apart under a shade tree.  We also spend time praying for the safety our healthcare workers and wisdom for government leaders as we all work together to beat this virus.  So, our lives are pretty much like yours.  We miss the freedom and social interaction with family and friends but understand the balance we are all trying to achieve.
A regular visitor (fisherman) at our boat slip.
And another fisherman by our slip.

Watching TV one night the 2020 hurricane season storm names were published.  We noted that Tom's father and mother's names are both listed!
For Palm Sunday we were able to find a nice palm branch to decorate the entrance door on Sum Escape.
We even had a virtual happy hour with all our extended family on Zoom.

The marina has also arranged a virtual happy hour on Facebook.  Here is our boat neighbor Alex performing.  We all stream the feed into our boat tv and sound systems.

This stay at home order has given us a lot of time to think about how we might still be able to visit family, even if we need to stay socially distant once arriving, and to escape the heat of the Florida summers an hurricane season for our next adventure.  
Our marina also had a salute to honor the health care and first responders for their service.

After the second night the environmental officer shut it down as it was disturbing the local bird rookery.  It was pretty loud!
And our walks included some pretty spectacular birds.

As noted earlier, the PNW boat is on hold so we started learning about the RV lifestyle over the past month or so.  
This idea was reinforced by the great news we received from Natalie and Brett while we were in Hawaii.  

Yes, that is another grandchild on the way!  It was so much fun to all learn about this while in Hawaii, but given it was so early in the pregnancy, we were all sworn to secrecy.  Grandchild number two is due in September so much of the stitching Julie has been doing is for baby.  The RV, will be an excellent mode of transportation to reach all of our children's homes.  And just maybe it will end up exploring Alaska someday too, we will see how things work out.
We researched many You Tube channels and blogs, interviewed 7 or 8 friends who have RVs, and did a lot of on line shopping for a rig.  Given we will plan to live in the RV 6 months and Sum Escape the other 6 months, we decided to pursue a used smaller Class A diesel pusher.  We know we need more than a "short vacation" type unit.  We want a unit less than 35 feet (shorter wheelbase and overall length allow access to more parks and campgrounds), on board washer and dryer, ability to boondock camp for some periods, ability to use bed, refrigerator, galley and restroom with slides retracted, etc.  We think with the self sufficiency afforded by these criteria we will be able to travel in a responsible socially distant fashion and see our family and hopefully a few sights along the way if they open during this Covid 19 crisis.  Many parks and campgrounds are closed but it appears enough are open to accommodate our cross country trek.  Cracker Barrel, Cabella's, Wal Mart and truck stops are always available along the way for overnight stays as well.
We found a couple viable candidates, one in Tampa and one in Sanford.  Our friends Dave and Betsy (Frye Days) graciously offered us use of their van, so on Friday April 18 armed with masks, gloves and sterilizer solution we set off for the Lazydays RV dealer in Tampa. 

This was our first trip away from Longboat Key since returning here in mid March.  Lazydays had one of the used models we are interested in and more importantly had both models new in inventory that we could test drive.  We actually ruled out one of the models upon inspection of the 2020, but drove the other 2020 model we liked. Julie and I both drove around the campground and Tom did 24 miles on a combination of country roads (complete with branches of trees bouncing off the roof!), skinny roads with close mailboxes and a 4 inch lip to fall off of, expressway 70mph driving, etc.  It was not at all as scary as my apprehension.  They are really quite smooth.
The 2018 Tiffin Allegro Bus 33AA we are interested in was in the paint shop for some cosmetic repairs, so we could not drive her until late in the day but we were able to inspect her otherwise.  We really like the floorplan, options, colors and general fit and finish of this unit.  So we negotiated a deal subject to road test, Cummins dealer inspection of engine and chassis, an independent RVIA inspection and necessary repairs completed.  We were able to drive her late in the day and the 12 mile road test went fine and inspections are scheduled, insurance changes are being researched, etc. to prepare us for our new lifestyle. The masked buyers after the test drive. This will be our summer land yacht.

Our friends on Bon Voyage, Jon and Bonnie, arranged a socially distant dinghy rendezvous/kite flying contest.  They had gone to the Dollar Store and bought a dozen kites and invited everyone to come out in their dinghy, receive a kite via fishing net (proper social distancingšŸ˜Ž)

and cruise around Sarasota Bay flying them.  

It was a blast.  After most of the kites were damaged from crashes into the water, we all went into the harbor for the awards ceremony.  Jon had cut out a Coke bottle to make a megaphone and called out the winners.  The grand prize went to Jan and Doug (Day Dreams) and it was....wait for it.... a roll of toilet paper, marine grade of course!
After over two months without moving the boat we finally decided to leave the slip on April 22.  

The weather was very settled with a cooler evening forecasted so we went 9 miles to Otter Key, a small uninhabited key between St Armand's and Lido Key. We had a wonderful day and night watching osprey, dolphins and manatees.  

It was nice to leave the dock for a while and the boat diesels and generator appreciated the exercise too.  Kevin and Debbie were out boating that day and stopped by to say hello as well.
Julie's cousin Jill and friend Scott and Kevin and Debbie joined us under a shade tree on Sunday April 26 for some socially distant conversation and catching up.  We reminisced about Jill's recently passed brother Carl and had some great conversation and laughs.  Rest in peace Carl, we will miss you, especially your laugh and wonderful personality.

It is now late April and many of our friends are now starting to leave the marina for points north.  We were fortunate enough to have a couple happy hours (socially distant of course) to say good bye and wish them all safe travels.  We hope to see all of them back here next winter!
A rainy day on the boat equals a good time to learn to drive an RV via You Tube instruction.

Fast forward a bit and we did complete the deal on the motor coach in Tampa.  We picked it up on Monday May 4 (thanks so much for the ride to Tampa Kevin and Debbie!!! is so nice to have family nearby to help out) and stayed in the dealer's campground three nights to shake down the unit a bit. The dealer repaired all the items we found to be out of adjustment, not working, etc.  We also had the dealer perform a few upgrades as well.  We hope Blue Wanderer is ready for our cross country travels to visit family.  

We will "spot" the coach at the River Forest Yachting Center with the help of Debbie and Kevin again and then will come back to Longboat and depart on Monday aboard Sum Escape to store her for the Summer.  We are scheduled to pull Sum Escape out of the water on May 15.
A few more photos from our daily walks.  We will miss this.

So, with this change in lifestyle we have decided that our long running blog will end. We still have no intentions of buying real estate any time soon and we look forward to exploring America on wheels this Summer and Fall.  We appreciate your following our blog and we look forward to our new adventures land yachting and then returning to boating next November as well.
Everyone be safe and healthy and join us in prayer for a return to some normalcy in all of our lives.