April 24 had us on an early flight to West Palm Beach. It had been years since we flew into West Palm and we quickly remembered how convenient it is compared to the mess at Laguardia. The purpose of this trip was to complete our insurance mandated training on board Big Smile. Coincidently we were docked right next to the couple that would spend two days with us on our boat. We had previously met Captain Chris and his wife Alyse in February at Trawlerfest in Ft Lauderdale. We knew we would want to have some sort of training when we bought our boat and as things quickly progressed in February and the purchase was completed our insurance company mandated the training.
We decided to hire Captain Chris and Alyse and we are very glad we did. It was they who suggested the marina we are currently at in Ft Pierce so being at their home port made everything very convenient for us. Our training was scheduled for two full days, Wednesday and Thursday. The weather front that had been blowing strong disappeared and a high settled over eastern Florida which provided gorgeous settled weather for our two days. Chris and Alyse were great. We set our goals for the two days and spent much of the first day reviewing navigation and chart reading, rules of the road, lights, signals and the myriad other aspects of safe boat operation. Late in the afternoon we took Big Smile out for a spin and discussed boat operations.
Out on the Intracoastal
The second day was spent almost entirely on the water. I wanted to fuel up and so we took Big Smile over to Harbortown Marina just north of the Ft Pierce bridge. It was a perfect opportunity to learn fueling operations. We requested over the radio to pull into the high speed pumps and tied up. Big Smile took 600 gallons out of a total capacity of 1300. My largest single fuel bill to date.
Cath pumping in 600 gallons
While at Harbortown we practiced docking into the empty slips. Cath took the helm and with the patient help of Capt Chris she manuevered Big Smile perfectly into the slip. Next up was anchoring. One thing Cath and I have done a lot of is anchoring. We motored part way out Ft Pierce inlet and pulled just off the channel to anchor in 15 feet of water. Well as it turns out we could not get either anchor to hold in the thin sand but we did exercise the windlass and it worked perfectly. It was now mid afternoon and I wanted to cover some engine room items so back to our own dock we motored. We all crammed into the engine room for filter changing lessons and a general overview.
Changing a Racor fuel filter
It was now near 5 PM and our training was complete. Our two full days with Chris and Alyse exceeded our expectations. Not only do they know their stuff they know how to teach it. They also are good people. In addition to the training Chris introduced me to a local mechanic and electronics guy both of whom will be helpful in the future.
Getting ready to dock at our Marina
Cath and Captain Chris
We flew down to Ft Lauderdale Friday April 30th and arrived at Apex Marine at 6PM. Our car was in the marina lot where we left it. Cath had not experienced living “on the hard” so the weekend would be interesting. The forecast called for temps in the 80’s. The AC only works if we are in the water so we hoped night time temps cooled off to something we could sleep in. Not much breeze on this section of the New River and asphalt radiates a lot of heat onto a blue hull.
This section of the New River has several restaurants within walking distance. Our favorite is the Downtowner Saloon. There are outdoor tables and a large indoor seating area which we used several nights and caught some of the NCAA Bball tournament. The walk to the east brings you to a long stretch of side tie slips operated by the City of Ft Lauderdale. Saturday and Sunday were spent getting ready for Mondays launch.
Stuff happens and our launch was pushed till Tuesday. Finally at 3:15 Tuesday afternoon we dropped into the water. Big Smile had been on the hard for over a month so we spent an hour getting the systems up and running and waiting for our “ugh” invoice. We had a reservation for a side tie on the east side of the SE 3rd bridge which would allow us an early start on Wednesday. However we needed to get thru the two bridges by 4:30 as they do not typically operate between then and 6PM for rush hour. We made it thru at 4:25 and 300 yards later we squeezed onto the wall between a sport fish and catamaran. My first time operating a boat with both bow AND stern thrusters. Makes sliding sideways easy especially when the current is dragging you.
Wednesday morning we pushed off at 7:30 for the 50 mile trip up to Lake Worth inlet. It was a beautiful day with a 10 knot breeze out of the south. This helped push us at an average speed of 9 knots. One of the jobs completed at Apex Marine was repainting the bottom. There was a lot of discussion concerning the previously applied TBT paint and what they proposed. After a solvent test was performed to see if the old paint would gum up (it didn’t) I agreed to the added expense of having them apply a paint by Luritek called Eco-Clad. The hull was thoroughly sanded and washed. A primer was applied followed by the top coat. Apex has been applying this paint for several years and quoted numerous owners who claimed 15-20 percent increases in speed and fuel savings. I don’t have the benefit of past data but hope that the claims are true. They also stated that it will last 2-3 years between re-coat. We shall see.
We pulled into Lake Worth inlet and made the south turn to anchor just east of the turning basin. Tide was dead low which concerned me but we were showing 1.5′ below the keel when we dropped the hook. As the chain played out I felt a slight bump. Must have hit a ridge in the sand. No issues though and we spent our first night at anchor. We also lit the oven for the first time and baked a lasagna. A perfect first night.
Pulled out of Lake Worth inlet early Thursday and headed north to Ft Pierce. Wind was blowing hard, 18-22 knots out of the SW, with a swell from the east. Our 50 mile trip was slower but our fuel burn was also lower. Six hours later as we approached Ft Pierce inlet we noticed breaking waves across the North 1/3rd of the entrance. A strong outgoing tide was hitting a swell from the SE. Fortunately there was room towards the south side of the entrance where smaller non breaking waves existed. We powered thru them and felt glad for the 48 tons beneath us.
A half hour later we pulled into Harbor Isle and was met by Sarah the marina manager. We had met her earlier in the week when we dropped our car off. A great person.
Ft Pierce we know well as Cath’s parents owned a condo at Ocean Village for 10 years. We visited yearly when our kids were small but had not been back in 15 years. A lot had changed including the building of Harbor Isle in the mid 2000’s. Two large hurricanes in one year also changed the landscape somewhat. That night we walked to “Chucks” for dinner. We remember it as a biker bar but apparently the hurricane helped change that. We had a great dinner and love the fact that it is directly across the street.
Packed our bags on Friday and drove back to New Jersey arriving exactly at 6PM Saturday.
March 15th I took a 6AM flight to Ft Lauderdale and made it to the boat by 10AM. Spent two hours going through the survey list with Richard and everything had been done. Between Richard, Apex Marine and a couple of sub contractors a two page list was completed in two weeks.
A call to Connie Crews of “All Yachts Registry” authorizing the release of the balance of the money due was all it took. Richard and I signed the closing statement and the Selene 53 “Big Smile” was ours. Cath and I had just purchased a boat 42 tons larger than any boat we had ever owned. It felt great.
Acknowledgement needs to go to several people who helped along the way. First as mentioned above is Connie Crews. She handled all of the yacht registry and documentation paper work, registration of both tenders, filing the tax payments and hand delivering documents direct to the boat so that I would have them on board. She did a superb job. Richards attorney Jody Foster and our surveyor Bill Slattum were both extremely professional. Lastly, Richard and his wife Jane were a pleasure to work with and more of a pleasure to get to know. Cath and I hope to remain friends in the years ahead.
I spent the next three nights living on board “on the hard” at Apex Marine. The weather was beautiful and Saturday was St Patricks day which added an exciting dimension to my long weekend. The New River was packed with boats of all sizes and many decked out in green. I spent days going through every drawer, cabinet, locker and assorted opening taking inventory and marveling at the amount of space the 53 had. I also spent time with Bill Dalton of Apex arranging some additional work.
Sunday I took a cab to the airport and was back in NY by 3:30 Sunday afternoon. If all goes well we will be launching the first week in April. Have already booked our flights.
Our next trip to Florida would be by car. It’s been 33 years since I last drove down and that was senior week in college. Different experience this time although the same road. We left Friday early Friday morning and made it to Santee, South Carolina by dinnertime. Up early the next day and with quick stop in Brunswick GA to check out a potential marina stop we continued on to Stuart to check out two more marinas, Loggerheads and Sunset Bay. It is likely we will spend some time at Loggerheads before heading north.
On Sunday we decided to go to the Miami boat show. I have been to many boat shows over the years but never Miami. What an enormous venue. An exhibit hall filled with vendors and three on water venues to choose from. We took the bus to the large boat venue and there were large boats to be seen. This is a show to see at least once.
Of course the purpose of our trip was to participate in the boat survey. That was scheduled for Tuesday so on Monday we got together with the owner and spent 9 hours going through the systems. The owner, Richard, is both pleasant and thorough. Later in the day we took the boat up to Apex Marina to park it for the night and be prepared for the morning haul out.
Tuesday found us at the boat by 7:30 and we met with our surveyor, Bill Slattum. He had been recommended by Capt Chris whom we had met at Trawlerfest a couple of weeks earlier. Bill turned out to be a great person and a meticulous surveyor. The entire process including the sea trial took just under 12 hours. The morning haul at Apex went smoothly. By 3PM we were ready to launch and start the sea trial. Apex Marine is located up the New River about 4 miles from the 17th street causeway bridge. Two smaller lift bridges must be raised on the outbound journey and despite it being a Tuesday the river was busy with large yachts returning from the Miami boat show.
The sea trial took us out into the Atlantic a few miles and all went smoothly till the auto pilot test. Apparently there is a previously unknown feature that activates with a double tap on the key board. That feature overrides the second autopilot thus not allowing us to shut off the course correction test and subsequently had us going in circles. To Richards credit the manual was right there and a quick read corrected the problem.
By 6:30 PM we were back at the dock at Bahia Mar. It was a long and interesting day. Our flight back was midday Wednesday so we said good by to Richard and headed back to the small but funky hotel Cath had found in Ft Lauderdale.
January 30th had us flying to Florida for Trawlerfest in Ft Lauderdale. We had traded a time share and were staying in Weston Fl, 1/2 hour west of the show.
On Tuesday we decide to drive all the way to Key West. I had not been there since around 1980. It was a long drive, over 300 miles each way but lots of fun. Key West, as many know is a funky town with great sites. Also some great marinas which we hope to visit some day.
We were able to arrange three private showings for Wednesday. One was a private sale and the other two were with John Dennison of Outer Reef Yachts. We have known John for two years and like his style. He had given us our first ride on a Selene 53 in the fall of 2010. The boats were all Selenes. The private sale I had followed since early fall and was contacted by the owner just prior to Trawlerfest.
All three boats had pluses and minuses but the private sale Selene 53 attracted us most. We have been looking for two years and had a good idea of what we wanted. This boat had almost all of our needs.
Trawlerfest covered 4 days, Thursday thru Sunday. We managed to get in a few seminars with Cath taking a seminar on diesel engines. Basic but informative. We also toured numerous boats. It always helps to have great weather for boat shows and this was no exception. For three days we talked to brokers, builders, insurance agents and also met Capt Chris and his wife. We met with Bill Harris of Kadey Krogen’s Stuart Fl office. They had the new Krogen 52 on display. I had received the plans for the Krogen 52 eighteen months earlier and loved what I saw on paper. We also thought the 48 North Sea was a great boat. After running the numbers, and a few glasses of wine we decided that buying new was too rich for us. We also thought the 48 was a little too small with only two state rooms. We really liked the layout a 52 or 53 footer provided.
Cath at the helm of a Selene 53
Cath dwarfed by a Selene 53 and a Nordhavn
Throughout the show we kept thinking of the blue hull Selene 53 we toured on Wednesday. We really did love the look and thought it was the best fit of any boat we had seen in over two years. After much discussion we decided to make an offer and presented the offer to the owner on Saturday afternoon. We received a counter offer Sunday morning and both of us thought it is was fair so the deal was made. Since we were flying out Sunday afternoon we met with the owner and his wife (Richard and Jane) Sunday morning and shook hands on the deal. They are wonderful people and we knew the process would go as smoothly as a large boat purchase can.
The whole trip was not all about boats. We had the pleasure of getting together for dinner with an old college friend and his wife in Boca Raton. They have lived in Florida for many years and have a house and boat on a canal. We also drove up to Fort Pierce and had lunch with my cousin and her husband. Originally from New Hampshire they moved to Florida decades ago and don’t look back. We had not been together in over fifteen years. We had a great lunch on the Ft Pierce inlet.
Cath, Mark, Scott, Deb