On April 9, we stopped blogging, instead posting shorter blurbs to Facebook. This reason for this was our boat was on the market, and we were instructed that closing our blog might make for a quicker and smoother sale. At this time, Beatitude is under contract. The closing will take place once we make a few requested repairs by the future owners. We are thrilled that Beatitude sold so quickly once we returned to the United States. What follows are abridgments of our Facebook posts over the past two months, along with eighty or so photos extracted from the two-hundred or so posted on Facebook. If you’ve read all my Facebook posts, then this will be a quick review (or, you could just ignore this). 🙂
Prior to leaving Panama on April 18th, we carried out various boat projects and repairs in anticipation of our departure. We replaced the two raw water cooling pumps on our twin Yanmar diesels. We also changed the oil and filters on both engines – and the Racor fuel filters on each. The electronics guys came to finish up work on the generator and electrical control panel. As of the 13th of April, rejoicing erupted on Beatitude! All lightning strike repairs had been completed, and all systems were working well! It was a long 5 1/2 months! Also, in that last week or two, we continued our jungle walks, enjoying the last few sights and sounds of Panamanian wildlife.
The first part of our passage from Colon, Panama to Grand Cayman Island — a 609 nautical mile, 4 1/2 day passage almost directly northward, was quite nice. It was certainly the longest passage of our five years of living and cruising aboard Beatitude. We were very happy to pull into Georgetown Harbour and clear into a new country. We only rested for two nights since we saw a good weather window for the next long leg of our trip back to the USA. The first night we were tied to a mooring in the Harbour, and the second night we were tied to the dock at the very comfortable Cayman Islands Yacht Club. The route from Grand Cayman to Key West took us around the western tip of Cuba, heading first toward the northwest, and then back toward the northeast.
On April 27, we pulled into Key West, FL, a journey of almost 1200 nautical miles from Central America, divided up into two legs. Just nine days prior, we were sitting in Colon, Panama, where we’d been “stuck” for nearly six months. For the first 36 hours of this passage from Grand Cayman, we motored through completely calm conditions. The only “difficult” leg of our passage was during the second night, when we had 4′ seas, 20 knot winds, and a malfunctioning autopilot. This occurred as we approached and rounded the southwestern tip of Cuba. Once we rounded the corner of Cuba, we enjoyed a brisk beam reach that continued, for the most part, all the way to Key West. When our progress was boosted by the Gulf Stream, we set a new speed record aboard Beatitude, 11.4 knots!
Once in Key West, we rented a car for the week and headed into the Customs and Border Protection Office to clear into the U.S. We really enjoyed our time in the southernmost city for the next few days. From shopping in Publix (yes, that it is one of our favorite things about returning to the U.S.), to diving the coral reefs and shipwrecks, to touring art galleries, to visiting the Truman White House, to dining in great restaurants like Blue Heaven, it was a great few days. On Sunday, we experienced another great part about being back in the U.S. — we could easily attend church! We enjoyed a very nice liturgy at St. Paul’s Episcopal church.
Our final passage aboard our beloved Beatitude started on May 4th. We motored 63 nautical miles to our first anchorage at Lower Matecumbie Key. We dropped anchor in 7 feet of calm Florida Keys water. The next day we left our protected anchorage and proceeded on the inside passage up the Florida Keys to Miami. Thankfully, we avoided some rather ominous-looking thunderstorms which were rolling across the area. After making our way through Biscayne Bay, we anchored in a spot with a beautiful view of the Miami skyline. The day was long: 67.5 nautical miles and 10 hours of passage-making. At 6:10 the next morning, we weighed anchor in our downtown Miami anchorage. After making our way out through Government Cut, we took a 90° turn to port and paralleled the Atlantic Coast of southern Florida. We knew we were no longer in the tropics, when we had to put on sweatshirts and cover up with a blanket at the helm station. Brrr! Just before 11:00 a.m., we entered the Port Everglades Channel, from there winding our way up the New River, fighting current and multiple draw bridge openings along the way. The journey up the river was quite beautiful, with multi-million dollar homes and massive yachts lining both banks. Finally, we arrived at the Lauderdale Marine Center, where we docked Beatitude, and where she awaited a new buyer.
Upon our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we wore ourselves out cleaning, discarding, and packing. On Sunday morning, we hungrily attended worship at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Afterwards we drove our rental car to Ft. Pierce where we picked up our new vehicle with which we would pull our new 5th wheel RV. She is a gorgeous beast: A 2017 Ram 3500 diesel with dual rear wheels. That afternoon, when we returned to Ft. Lauderdale, we visited the local U-Haul dealer to pick up a pull-behind trailer in order to transport our stuff to our waiting RV in Tampa.
After two or three solid days of packing boxes and discarding other items, the crew of Beatitude vacated the vessel. Tears welled up in our eyes as we closed the salon door for the last time, likely to never set sail in Beatitude again. It had been quite a ride. We bought our cruising home five years before. We moved aboard shortly after her purchase, and, for the first couple of years, sailed close to home on excursions that lasted from a few hours to a few days. When we had paid off all of our debts and the last of our children was off to college, we sailed away from the Gulf Coast of Florida for regions unknown, to us, at least. We didn’t know if we’d live aboard for a year or two, or ten, or even twenty. It turned out to be five years. We’ve always said that we would cruise on our sailboat until we were ready to do something else. Well, it was time to do something else! We had sailed over 10,000 nautical miles, venturing up the U.S. coast into New England before making our way southward through the Bahamas and the Caribbean. We were always open to the idea of crossing oceans and circumnavigating the world. It turned out that a circumnavigation of the Caribbean was just fine with us. What a great five years it had been! We wouldn’t trade this time for anything and have no regrets. What a dream-like adventure we’ve lived! We are so thankful and blessed!
After our labors of cleaning and moving out of Beatitude, we enjoyed a few days of relaxation with Cindy’s twin sister, Christy. She flew down from Ohio for some Florida sun and fun. We spent lots of time on the beach and by the pool. We ate way too much good food. We met with wonderful friends who either live in the area or are visiting. And, we attended a wonderful Verdi opera, The Masked Ball, at the Broward County Performing Arts Center.
On Monday, April 15, our new adventure officially began. After dropping off Christy at the airport, we drove the four hours to Camping World of Tampa, belongings in tow, to pick up our new Bighorn 3160el 5th wheel RV. We were so excited! After spending one night on our Bighorn at the dealership, we attempted to hitch the RV to our Ram pick-up for the first time, which proved quite tricky. It took me several attempt to line up the hitch with the kingpin properly. But, at last, we were ready to make the four-mile trek down I-4 to Lazydays RV resort. Our Ram tow-vehicle is awesome. It pulled the 15,000 RV with ease. When we checked into Lazydays, I explained that I was a newbie and could use an easy site to back into. They obliged. I report with glee that it was a first-attempt perfect success. Thank God! We hooked up the water, sewer, cable, and electricity, continued to unpack, and went shopping for new items which we needed to establish ourselves in our new home. Five years of living on the salt-water rendered much of our “stuff” unusable.
Aboard our new rolling home, we were relaxed and loving life. After five years of boat-life, we felt like we were living in five-star luxury. To have a full size refrigerator/freezer, a “real” oven, power recliners with massage, and a 52″ large screen TV (I could go on and on) is amazing! We were so excited about our upcoming adventures aboard our RV. We were blessed with multiple guests over the next few days: Louise and Betty, two of Cindy’s best friends from Lakeland; Mark Cole, CEO of the John Maxwell Company, and a life-long friend of mine from Georgia; the Hershberger family, long-time friends from Ohio; and my niece and her husband, Holly and Jason.
From May 24 to June 11, we left our new home behind. I flew to both Green Bay and Vero Beach for several shifts in the emergency department, while Cindy flew to Ohio. Unexpectedly, I was blessed to spend a week in Ohio visiting with family in between work assignments. In addition to relaxing with family, I fit in a couple of rounds of golf, attended an Akron Rubber Ducks AA baseball game, attended the Divine Liturgy at St. Elia Orthodox Church, and visited the excellent Cleveland Museum of Art with Cindy and her brother, Donnie. Our land-cruising adventures begin in earnest in a couple of days as we leave the Tampa area and begin our northward journey. Our plan, as of now, and which is always subject to change, is to make our way to upstate New York by September to visit our son and his family in their (by then) new residence in the Albany area. This would allow us to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday in person. We, of course, plan to have many adventures along the way!