Boat People

Bonita Springs, FL – October to November, 2017 Sorry about the month long hiatus from blogging. Pretty sure that is the longest I’ve gone without posting since I began early in 2015. We’ve been busy, ill, and just didn’t have anything to say.

We arrived at the same park we spent last winter, Bonita Lakes RV Park, around the middle of October. We were in a new site, a premium site on D row, which was a concrete pad and a little roomier than last year. They raised their rates this season and we chose a premium site, so the monthly rate is $835 plus electric. But we found last year that when we were parked in the same place for months on end, we saved enough on gas to compensate for the higher lot rent and still keep our budget in balance.

We settled into a routine of sorts for a short while. The ankle I sprained in September was still giving me grief but I was able to avail myself of the recumbent bike in the park’s workout room and started getting some regular exercise. Jim would walk the park then meet me in the pool after. We love that we never have to share that pool with anyone before 9 am.

The park came through Irma better than expected but still suffered plenty of damage. Almost everyone we spoke to said they thought they would lose everything they had there and were pleasantly surprised when they didn’t. But the half dozen or so that did lose their trailers to high winds probably won’t be down this season, or possibly ever, so we didn’t hear their side of things. Most of the total losses were park models.

Our daughter had left her trailer behind when I flew down to evacuate with her from Hurricane Irma. We were pleased to find no serious damage. A limb had fallen on the roof from a pine tree above and an approximately 1 inch branch had penetrated her ceiling. However it had stayed put and kept the hole plugged so very little water got in.

The people we had sold our Alpenlite to were in the park through the storm and they sent us the above picture they next day. They rode out part of the hurricane in the park’s rec hall with many other residents. But when the roof was damaged they moved to their rig for the remainder of the storm. It didn’t suffer any damage at all.

We spent about a week getting Heather’s trailer ready to sell. It was priced right and sold very quickly for $4,800. Thankfully we got close to what we had invested in it.

The employees of the park had been working their butts off since the storm to get everything ready for their seasonal residents. We asked what we could do to help and they said that their storage building needed rebuilt. They had some unskilled residents that were willing to volunteer but they needed someone qualified to oversee them and get the job completed.

Jim was capable and willing to complete the job alone but he told them if anyone wanted to lend a hand they could show up and he would put them to work. He had a crew of about a half dozen the first day. Luckily this was the day they were most needed, mostly to move all the things which were stored on, in, and around the building out of the way.

Jim had one to three volunteers the rest of the week it took to complete the job which was sufficient. That included myself as I got a nasty cold/flu starting the second day and fought it for more than a week. Despite my best efforts Jim then caught the plague and battled it for another week or so.

Since we arrived in Florida Jim had started looking at boats. There is so much to do here that is only accessible by water, that we started thinking last season that a boat might be a good idea. We went to some boat yards but they didn’t seem to have anything under $20,000. So he perused many Craigslist ads.

Jim and I have avoided boat ownership during our matrimony. We agreed early on that we would be better off forking over the dough to rent a boat a couple times a year rather than buying one. But we were reconsidering our hard stand on the matter and looking at our options.

Other than a few boat yards, we hadn’t been to see a single boat when Jim showed me a Craigslist ad for one nearby. I honestly said “that looks too good to be true, is it a scam?” He said he had seen some similarly priced and thought it was worth checking out.

I contacted the seller and it seemed to be a legitimate person. We made arrangements to see it on a Thursday afternoon. We met a very nice man at his home in Fort Myers Beach and were introduced to the newest member of our family, Bella Vita. The name means beautiful life in Italian. We thought that was perfect for us and see no reason to change it.

Bella is a 24 foot Stingray. She has a cutty cabin. It includes a relatively comfortable salon.

There is also a surprisingly roomy head. And a kitchen with a fridge, stove, sink and very little storage.

She is designed to have a full bed under the deck but it has such a low clearance that I can’t imagine Jim or I crawling in there, even with an air mattress. It makes great storage though. The table in the salon drops down to make a small bed. Jim and I could probably squeeze in there or one of us could choose to sleep on the deck.

The captain’s seat lays out flat and I could probably fit on it. We have canvas walls that zip to the bimini tops to create an enclosure like this boat which is the same model as ours.

We wanted a boat for day trips and fishing. But we hoped that we’d find something we could spend a night or two on now and then. We know it won’t be terribly comfortable but we equate it to tent camping. Of course, we could also use her to get to secluded beaches and bring our camping gear for a night on the sand.

We paid six grand for her and are confident we would have lost the opportunity had we hesitated, hemmed and hawed, or waited for an inspection. We did expect she would need some work. We were hoping we would end up with no more than around ten grand invested.

The next day we made arrangements for Bella to be stored in a wet slip at the Hickory Bay Boathouse just 4 miles from our RV park. We made the first of many trips to the boat supply store for a chart, ropes, life vests, etc. And we got her titled and insured.

Then we studied the chart and planned to drive her home on Saturday morning. The seller was kind enough to pick us up at our boat house so we could leave our truck there and make our first boat trip together. We hopped aboard with high hopes and a little trepidation and were soon off on our first open sea adventure.

It was a few miles from the seller’s dock to the open water and our biggest concern was where is the channel and where is the bottom. We kept a close eye on the GPS but the depth gauge didn’t seem quite right. It did accurately show our location and where the channel markers were which was helpful.

We finally reached the gulf and went a couple miles straight out from shore. The charts showed clear sailing that distance from shore so Jim turned her south and we breathed a sigh of relief. Even though it was Saturday, we didn’t see many other boats. It was early, overcast, and storms were forecast for later in the day.

It was fun seeing the shore from this perspective and trying to figure out where we were based on the landmarks we saw. But everything looked so different from that side. The most useful thing was google maps on our phones. We were grateful to have phone reception out there and to know we could phone for help if needed.

We reached Delnor-Wiggins Pass and entered the inland waterway. Then we had 4 miles of shallow water to navigate. We had timed our arrival for high tide so we weren’t terribly concerned. We paid close attention to those channel markers and made it safely to our slip.

We’ve been boat people for more than a month now. We’ve had some fun and learned what they mean when we hear how much work a boat can be. We are still very happy with our purchase and hope to have lots of boat adventures to share over the coming months.

4 thoughts on “Boat People

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