Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hauling Blossom Ahead of the Storm

Blossom docked at River Forest

It’s hard to believe that we’re wrapping up our first season aboard. We certainly chose the right place to leave our floating home. The facility at River Forest is fantastic! We’ve been impressed with everything about it here - the docks, buildings and grounds are immaculate and well kept. The staff are incredible – experts at what they do, efficient and friendly.  The facility has two building to house boats, one is air conditioned, as well as a concrete yard with tie downs. We’re too tall for the buildings so we’re outside.

River Forest

We shared the basin this week with two other boats. I wish we could have spent more time with them but we were so busy and the boat was in such a state that we didn’t have much time for being social. Kathy & Terry and their pup Baylee were passing through, having some work done. Kathy gave us the low down on the marina and warned us about Arthur (see below). I hope we meet up with them again under more relaxed circumstances! The other boater, JJ, was also getting work done and he left once his boat was hauled for the storm.

The channel leading into River Forest (the dot in the middle is an alligator)

The first thing we realized is that River Forest is really far away from everything! We rented a car from the nearest rental in Lehigh, a 45 minute drive away. It was just as well as we didn’t have time for anything but working on the boat. The facility is just west of Lake Okeechobee. It’s 2 locks in from Ft. Myers so there’s no storm surge and it’s fresh water, so there’s little bottom growth to worry about. And there isn’t much around it so that means less debris in high winds. It’s a perfect place to store a boat during hurricane season. They even tie the boats down to the concrete when there’s an impending storm. The only downside is that it’s hotter than Hades, and humid, until autumn. So those are the factors to deal with when you’re shutting up the boat. There’s a bit of wildlife (other than insects) here as well – an alligator came calling every day into the basin. Martin named him Arthur.

Can you find Arthur?

Someone must have fed him at one point because he came around dinner time every day, except the day we cooked bacon for breakfast - he made an early appearance that day :) (We didn’t feed him - we feel that that only endangers wildlife – but I think he could smell what was cooking!)

A close up shot

We had hoped to have a solid week to prep Blossom for her 4 month rest on land. The weather, however, put a bit of a hitch in that plan. Erika was an erratic, rather fickle tropical storm that seemed to be heading right for us, so the manager at River Forest had to make a call – hurricane mode or not? And he had to do it in time to get all the boats that would be coming in hauled out and prepped. So on Wednesday he made the prudent decision and the yard went into double time. Of course, as we now know, the storm would dissipate over Cuba before reaching us, but we’re happy that it all went down the way it did. The irony was not lost on us that we rushed down to southern Florida to get to our hurricane hole and ran straight into the path of the first one to come close to Florida in 10 years!

Rather than haul out on Monday, we had to haul on Friday. I can honestly say that Martin and I have never worked so hard on Blossom as we did those 6 days.  We’ve been living away from our CA home for 19 months and aboard for 12. So this was the equivalent of moving away from home (again). We took the opportunity to thoroughly clean and declutter her. I was brutal – anything not used went: into the garbage, into a give-away pile or into a box to be shipped to CA.  This will probably be the most “difficult” storage experience simply because we’d never done it before, were learning as we went along, were rushed, and we’d been aboard for a year. In the future, we’ll know what we’re doing and will only have 6 months of living aboard to clean up after.

We wanted to finish the work while we were in the water so we’d have air conditioning, could use the bathrooms and wouldn’t have to move off the boat so soon. With the expedited schedule there was no way to do it in time. We were lucky enough to find a local woman who routinely works with boats at the facility. April was a God-send! She knew how to put everything up (contributing to my list) and she spent a full day with us on Friday cleaning and prepping, both before and after the haul out. We wouldn't have finished before Sunday (the guesstimated "arrival" date of what remained of Erika) without her. She’s going to check on the boat periodically while we’re away as well. And she works with a local charity so she could take our food and other items and make sure everything went to a very good cause.

By the time the daily torrential afternoon rainstorm hit on Saturday we had finished 98% of our work. We were just in time as the remnants of Erika are supposed to pass through this afternoon (Sunday). We expect no more than a big rain storm but it’ll be nice to be relaxing in the hotel knowing that the work is all but done.

 Steering into the “well” (Matt & Martin)

Entering the well to get hauled. Martin and April on the bow. The guy in the blue shirt, Ben, is driving the lift. Pretty cool eh?

Fitting the sling. This is serious business and John's an expert

Blossom weighed in at 76 tons with 1000 gallons of diesel and a bit of water. She's a heavy boat.

On Thursday we moved into a hotel in east Ft. Myers. It’s a 50 minute drive but it’s a decent hotel and there are places to eat nearby. One day on our way in we saw a huge turtle walking very, very slowly across the road. There was a fair amount of traffic so we stopped and I moved him to the ditch. Poor guy was terrified. Who knew turtles could hiss?

Relocating the big guy

We’ll go back to the yard Monday or Tuesday to finish up and then head to Ft. Lauderdale. We’ll visit with friends Tuesday and then we fly back to CA on Wednesday morning. Wow!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a terrible tendency to over think things, to death. And I love lists. So imagine how I went to town on this task! My “Storage Protocol” is still in progress and currently lists 85 tasks. All but 6 have been completed. I’m sure that many were not necessary for a 4 month break (I think that Blossom could easily rest on the hard for years the way we’ve left her!)  But we’ll see when come back in January how it all worked out and can determine if we should tweak the protocol. (Yes, I was a project manager in another life.) 

I’ll post at least one more blog entry before the end of this season. I need to get a photo of Blossom on blocks and tied down. I’ll put our latest draft of the storage protocol up as well.

Boat Business: (Storage prep will be the next blog)

  • On Tuesday we met with a local contractor to discuss getting cockpit shades made. We have some now but they don’t work well. We took a chance using suction cups rather than snaps on all our window covers and the cockpit shades. They’ve worked wonderfully for the windows but not for the cockpit where there’s too much surface area and the wind blows them off. Next year we’ll have shades that slide along a track and tie down on the bottom. They’re very necessary at anchor in the Bahamas when you have your back to the afternoon and setting sun.
  • We're going to have the yard place markers under the rub rail to indicate where the slings should be placed for future haul outs. Misplacing the slings can be a disaster...
Quilt Business:

I thought I’d also post a picture of what I’ve been working on this spring/summer. I keep talking about “my quilting” but I couldn’t show what I was doing because they were gifts. Now they’re finished and delivered!  My cousin and his wife had two gorgeous twin girls born this May. So I made them two baby quilts. (With some help, my Mom helped me piece the fish quilt when I had vertigo.) I'm really pleased with how they turned out. 

Blooms and Bugs applique quilt front

B&B back

Fishy Business front

Fishy Business back

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