New Charter Company, New Destination - PassageMaker

New Charter Company, New Destination

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In part 2, Dave and I put Sweetness II into charter service in Miami and thought we had life all figured out. But, alas, that was not the case. Rates to dock a boat in the Miami area are steep, to say the least, and the slowing economy took its toll on the company chartering Sweetness for us. We ended up with only four charters for the year. The mounting debt of docking and upkeep forced us to look for another solution.

We were sad to make Sweetness leave Miami Beach Marina. She looked so happy there floating in the teal green waters soaking up the sun. While we had her docked there we didn't take Sweetness out for any cruises even though we only lived three hours away. We didn't have to. If you've ever been to the Miami area, you know there is so much to do close by. My son, Carmen, and his fiancée, Kerry, came for a week. They went to Homestead-Miami Speedway and took a fishing trip with Reward One of the Reward Fishing Fleet on the next dock over. And of course they enjoyed dinner at the marina restaurant, Texas de Brazil.

My daughter, Andrea, and her husband, Dann, along with baby Aurora enjoyed a few days aboard as well. We visited Everglades National Park, just a short car ride away, which, by the way, has nothing separating tourists from the alligators. It is quite unsettling to say the least. Our friend, Sherry, stopped by and we took a walk to Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant. Everyone raves about it, but they serve the crabs cold with a mustard sauce. It wasn't my cup of tea but at least I can say I tried it. Our dear friends, Hal and Kathryn, came for a few days as well and we enjoyed South Beach. (Note to wives: lots of half-naked women on the beach.) And, we had dinner at Quinn's on Ocean Drive. There is just so much to do there we never wanted to leave.

Making The Difficult Decision
We had to decide where we would go next. We could have brought Sweetness II back to Melbourne, Florida, where we started last year, but while we were docked there we always took Sweetness up the ICW to New Jersey for the summer, but with my mother still not well I really didn't want to take the month to travel north. We didn't want to leave Sweetness alone again so we looked for another charter company. This time we didn't look too far. We had seen ads for Southwest Florida Yachts in PassageMaker Magazine and even read an article about them. The water in Fort Myers, Florida, is not as salty as Miami and the winds not so harsh, so we gave them a call. After the first phone call we knew that was where we wanted to be. Barb Hansen, one of the owners, is very organized and we had papers to sign and a time frame within a few days. We knew we were in good hands.

The Cruise Over
Our next step was to take Sweetness II from Miami to Fort Myers. Dave started charting and we invited our friends, Hal and Kathryn, who live in Bonita Springs, Florida, to take the cruise with us. We drove our car to the marina in Fort Myers, Hal and Kathryn picked us up and drove us to Miami. When we returned with the boat, we would drive them back to Miami to get their car. It all seemed so perfect. We would be cruising in February when our marina lease was up, but cruising in February in Florida should be a piece of cake, right? Well we were having an unusually cold winter, but I don't get upset over temperature. It's all about the wind when I go out. And as our luck would have it, the day we planned on leaving the marina, NOAA said choppy seas. We were cruising south where we had never been and we had friends aboard so we decided that we'd better wait until NOAA forecast something better. So we spent a lovely day at the Miami Boat Show. The next day, the weather was perfect and we set out for Key Largo, Florida. We crossed the Biscayne Bay, which was as smooth as glass, and docked at Gilbert's Marina at Key Largo in the afternoon. Now if you've never been to Gilbert's, it's a typical laid-back Florida Key marina. We tied up on the dock by the restaurant. It was Valentine's Day and we were greeted by the somewhat drunk, but very friendly, locals. As Dave and Hal barbecued some steaks for dinner, Kathryn and I could hear people walking by asking to make theirs medium as we prepared the rest of the dinner in the galley. I slept that night with one eye open. Yes, our doors were locked, but I wasn't too sure that some drunken friend might try to sneak on board.

The next day was as beautiful as the first and we decided to take our grand old time, thinking the rest of the week would be as nice, so we only cruised to Plantation Key Yacht Harbor Marina in Islamorada, Florida. As we cruised, Dave showed Hal the magenta line on the GPS. Hal wanted to stay exactly on the line until we had to leave the magenta line and follow a compass heading to get to the marina. Well Dave didn't stay on the magenta line or follow the heading exactly, which made Hal a nervous wreck. We are not sure, but we think it may be best to keep your guests out of the cockpit.
Plantation Key is a lovely marina. We rented paddle boats and took a walk to a local eatery. That's where our party ended. Winds came up again and NOAA's forecast didn't predict any better weather for at least three days. My mother and sister were arriving the following week and I didn't think they would be too happy if I wasn't there to pick them up from the airport.

Changing The Plans
We had to decide what to do. Cruising in high winds is a no-no for me; especially if we are going places we haven't been before. We figured we could probably go to Marathon, Florida, but once there the thought of crossing the Florida Bay in high winds would be an uncomfortable ride for me and for our guests. Dave would do it, but he is braver than me. After much brainstorming, and to Dave's dismay, we decided to call Southwest Florida Yachts to see if they had a captain available who could take Sweetness the rest of the way. They did. We made the necessary arrangements. That evening we packed up and when Captain Bill boarded we rented a car and drove back to Miami Beach Marina, picked up our friends' car, and drove to their house in Bonita Springs. We hung out with them and waited a few days for Sweetness to arrive.

When she arrived she was covered in salt. I was glad I missed that part of the trip. Barb took inventory and set about getting Sweetness up to Southwest's standards. Everything went so smoothly I kept waiting for something to go wrong. Before Sweetness was even ready, Barb had two charters set up for April. Looks like we have found a new home for Sweetness. She looks happy in her new slip and family members are already asking us what there is to do in the area. With Fort Myers beach, Sanibel, Captiva, and the close proximity to Okeechobee Waterway, I think Sweetness will be busy and quite happy in her new home. And, like Miami, Fort Myers is also just a three-hour ride, but west, of our home. So we will visit often when she is not in charter, of course. We'd like to think this will be the last home for Sweetness, but our lives are ever-changing. Grandbaby number 12, Danny Branco, just arrived in June and my son is getting married next May, so as we enjoy the additions to our family I am sure Sweetness enjoys her changes as well.

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