Paradigm Shift - Season 3, Chapter 5 - The End...of cruising.
OK, I left you hanging way too long! When I last wrote we were just getting back to Stuart, FL from our summer 2019 cruising in the Chesapeake Bay. We arrived back in Stuart at the very end of October 2019, which was early based on the prior two seasons. We had a good passage from Hilton Head, SC despite a mechanical problem with the wing engine when we arrived in Stuart. The issue was a water flow problem caused by a faulty impeller and it was far from critical, but it was elusive to diagnose. Our plan was to stay in Stuart for a couple of weeks to a month, provision for an extended trip to the Caribbean (first stop Grand Cayman) and put together a crew for the expected four day trip from Key West to Grand Cayman. In fact, we had already provisioned most of the food and mechanical items like spares and oil for the three motors and various systems. The only things we needed to load in Stuart was more wine, re-fuel, and get as many perishables as we could get onboard.
After we arrived, we went directly to Delray Beach and fell quickly into a routine to catch up on visiting friends and family and to go to the various doctors to catch up on our health care. We began to realize how disconnected we were becoming from the “real world” after three years of cruising abroad VAMOS. We also were concerned about the trip to Cayman because the prevailing winds in the Caribbean during the winter months is a 10-20 knot wind blowing from the east, which would mean that when we rounded the western tip of Cuba we would be faced with a day and a half of head seas. VAMOS does not love head seas - she teeters back and forth from bow to stern (i.e. pitching) and it is uncomfortable. We experienced those conditions coming from Morehead City to Hilton Head and nobody was happy. As a result, we were considering various options which would see Julia and Tortilla fly to Grand Cayman and me and a two or three person crew would get VAMOS to Grand Cayman. After considering various options along these lines we concluded that splitting up for the trip was not really in the spirit of us cruising together and enjoying the new experiences together. At that point we considered our options and quickly decided to cancel the trip to Cayman. Immediately thereafter we started thinking about what next with our cruising plans. We are far from having “done it all” with regard to cruising on the east coast, Bahamas, and Canada, but we did do a good deal in three years and every option resulted in some version of something we have already done. At that point we realized that maybe our cruising days on VAMOS were numbered. At this point I surveyed the used boat market and found out that there were no Nordhavn 55’s on the market and there were buyers anxious to acquire one. We then agreed to “test” the market. We determined an asking price which reflected the considerable amount of time and money we invested in VAMOS to bring her up to speed and we listed the boat with a trusted broker. It took one phone call and we found a buyer. Just like that we had an agreement on the sale and next thing you know Julia and I are dragging all of the items we just put on the boat for our expected trip to the Caribbean back off the boat and down the pier. Fortunately, our friend John loaned us his trailer and were able to add the pile of stuff from the boat to our existing storage facility in Delray Beach. The boat surveyed well as I expected it would, and by Christmas Eve the deal closed and we were new land lubbers.
Instead of taking the boat to Cayman, we flew to Cayman and enjoyed three weeks staying at our friends, Bryan and Annette, condo in Britannia. The island had really changed in three years. Dart continued the infrastructure building and residential building was going along at a very good clip. Our old neighborhood in Crystal Harbour was barely recognizable because of the growth of mini-mansions. The beachfront on Seven Mile beach was still magnificent, with clear, calm water and unbeatable sunsets. We also visited our last home on island at WaterColours and we were warmly received by the residents and staff. We had a couple of impromptu catch ups as we walked the beach with miss Tortilla. We also visited all of our favorite restaurants - Luca, Ragazzi, Agua, Blue Cilantro and many others. We also were lucky to get out on Andi’s new sail boat, Meitz, to sail the sound and to head over to Rum Point for some fun in the sun. Bryan and Annette were gracious hosts and we shared New Year’s Eve dinner together as well as a couple boat rides in the north sound and more mud slides at Rum Point.
Before we knew it, we were back in Delray Beach in our 1,200 square foot condominium which was always our weekend getaway spot but was never meant to be our everyday home. We immediately started looking for a bigger place in Delray Beach or something close by so we would have more living area and likely not in a high rise. We looked at quite a few places in familiar buildings and didn’t find anything that struck us. We then stumbled on a three-story townhouse in Stuart which was familiar because it was located next to a park where we used to walk Tortilla when we had the boat in Stuart. We had always been curious about these homes as we passed by many times. Julia found a listing for two of the homes and we set up an appointment to view each. After seeing the two of them we immediately made an offer on one which was accepted and three weeks later we were home owners in Stuart, FL. Here's the view from the house.
And then the world as we knew it changed due to the pandemic. Every day new information emerged and things changed rapidly. Baseball season was canceled, NBA canceled, NHL canceled, stay at home orders, a run on paper goods at the grocery stores, borders closed, restaurants, beaches, bars, and basically everything except grocery stores and hardware stores were closed, planes stopped flying and trains stopped running and doomsday scenarios were bandied about by every person with a pulpit. We learned about personal protective equipment (PPE), washing our hands and not touching our faces, the sky bridge, the defense protection act, aerosolizing the virus, social distancing, and the limitations on the federal government in implementing rules on a local level. We met doctors Fauci and Birx and unfortunately, we learned that instead of coming together as a nation in a time of distress we would pit states against each other.
After three years on a boat we felt like we had a leg up on most couples faced with quarantine in place. We had just spent three years in close quarters working together to solve lots of new and interesting problems. We decided early on to quarantine at our new home despite not having furniture. We were able to get mattresses delivered before the shutdown occurred and we had a lot of food and paper goods available from our boat
provisioning. We made frequent trips to our storage facility in Delray Beach to retrieve items intended for our “next” boat trip and we hunkered down in Stuart. We lived like college students with a couple of folding chairs, a TV and a bed as our furniture. Fortunately, the prior owners left a table and chairs on the screened in porch and some bar stools so we had a place to eat. We started
looking at projects we would like to complete to make our new home more
comfortable and we interviewed a couple of contractors for the work. We ended up with a plan for a complete kitchen renovation, a whole house paint job, new lighting everywhere and various small projects which added up for a pretty comprehensive renovation. As the shut in continued, we delayed the start of the project so we could spend more time in Stuart where we had more freedom than in Delray Beach, with the pool open in Stuart and no need to mask up every time we left our home. I also got to help the new owner of VAMOS by going to the boat every-other-week to start motors and run various systems while the boat was left unattended. The extended stay led to DIY projects like painting the garage and several rooms in the house, installing new flooring in a couple rooms, changing some lights and various other little projects. As the shut in continued the high point of the week became a run to the dump to get rid of things we were discarding from the house. Julia and Tortilla would join me and we would have a one-hour outing. We kept telling the contractor that if the shut in continued we would just do the whole project ourselves. We benefitted from lots of furniture sales during the shutdown so we ordered everything for the house including rugs and by early May we had most items ordered and the DIY projects were getting more complicated so we relocated to Delray Beach and let the contractors in the house. We spent the next three months visiting the house once a week to check on progress and make decisions. All things considered; the renovation progressed smoothly.
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get back to swimming and drop some of the boat weight I had packed on. I found a masters swimming program in Delray Beach and began swimming in January. It was great and I was getting back in shape swimming 2,500 - 3,500 meters 4-5 times a week. Of course, the pools all closed when everything else closed so swimming was put on hold for a couple of months. The last couple of weeks before the pools closed, I had been experiencing some dizzy spells after swimming. I didn’t think much of it, but the same thing happened a couple of times when I was working on projects in Stuart. When we moved back to Delray Beach in May I went to the doctor who ran some tests and referred me to a cardiologist who then diagnosed an irregular heartbeat. The cardiologist (plumber) referred me to an electrophysiology specialist (electrician). A week or so later and a negative Covid test Julia was dropping me off at Bethesda Hospital East in Boynton Beach for a procedure to correct the electrical problem in my heart. I checked in at 9:30 a.m. and she picked me back up at about 5:00 p.m. In between I was completely awake for most of a three-and-a-half-hour procedure where the surgeon fished probes and all sorts of equipment up into my heart from my groin. I could watch the monitors and see what they were doing in my heart and I could ask questions. At some point, apparently too many questions because once the surgeon mapped out what needed to be done, he gave the sign to put me under and I woke an hour or so later and they told me I was fixed! I spent about 90 minutes in recovery mainly to make sure the groin would not bleed and then the next thing I know I’m home having a glass of wine and dinner. Crazy day! The ablation procedure that they performed worked because five days later I was back in the pool and I have been swimming consistently ever since with absolutely no signs of the prior problem :).
Fast forward to July, we had been cooped up in the one bedroom in Delray Beach for three months and although we were having a good time meeting neighbors around the pool for socially distanced happy hours, we were ready to move back to the house. Like many people we were spending more time on the internet doing things like looking at real estate. After considering places all up and down the east coast Julia found a place in Napa Valley. We were looking for a vacation home and the issue with the east coast was the weather - too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. We had visited Yountville in the Napa Valley several times for wine tasting and the weather is generally dry, cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon. Dining outside is the norm because of predictably dry evenings most of the year. We inquired about the property and next thing you know we had a video walk through followed by an offer and a deal. Just as the renovation in Stuart was finishing, we closed on a two-bedroom place in Yountville. We stayed in Stuart for August while furniture was being delivered and we worked the kinks out of the system following the renovation, and then we packed up and went to Yountville to start the whole thing over again.
We were going to drive across country to check this off of the bucket list, but the combination of the pandemic and the wild fires made planning all but impossible so we decided to fly. We chose Delta because they are keeping the middle seat open which meant 1/3 less people on the plane. It turns out that the airlines are also not receiving normal catering for the planes since you can’t get a hot meal or coffee on the plane. Everyone gets a sandwich and snack and you wear a mask from the time you arrive at the airport until you leave the airport. Despite all of the angst of being in contact with so many people, everything went smoothly and we arrived on time to a smoky Sacramento, CA. The smoke was so thick that it was like landing in fog and it was “snowing” ash! I was thinking that we had greatly underestimated the impact of the fires, but when we arrived at the house our neighbor greeted us and said that this was the worst he’d seen it in 30 some years of living in Yountville. The smoke from that fire quickly dissipated but a new fire started, the Glass fire, closer to Yountville and the smoke was persistently bad for a couple of days. Happily, we are back to clear skies and fantastic weather.
I’ll finish off this installment from Yountville by saying if you didn’t get a chance to visit on VAMOS we have room for visitors in wine country!
Enjoying the view of the hot air balloons from our back deck.
And yes, there may be another boat in our future...