May 2, 2013, Holiday Inn Express, Ft. Lauderdale Florida
OK, reading the end of that last post over again, I realize I may have made that landing sound a bit more dramatic than it was. It was pretty cool to see the lightning out the plane window, and the touchdown was kind of bumpy, but everything went OK.
We pulled up to the Fort Lauderdale International Airport in pouring rain, which was overwhelming the storm drains on the tarmac. So much for Sunny Florida. It took a while to get the rental car, and after navigating extremely efficiently to the wrong Holiday Inn Express, I finally got to the hotel I was booked into. (Yes, it occurred to me to just stay in the first hotel, but they warned me I would be charged a no-show fee at the original one, so I headed over here).
I finally got to bed around 2:30 a.m. local time, and was up again at 7:30 to make sure I wasn't late for my 9 a.m. appointment at JustCatamarans.
I got to their offices on time, and what came after was a whirlwind day of seeing a lot of boats. Four actually, but it still took all day. The first three were in Ft. Lauderdale, and one of them was a boat I have been watching on the internet for a long time. It was a real treat to meet the live aboard owners, who were a lovely French couple. They have been cruising for four years, and are ready to head back home and settle back in to life on land. Their boat was really nice, and remarkably well outfitted. Pretty much ready to set off on a world cruise as-is, which is rare for your average catamaran. Most of them need a ton of work.
We then saw two other boats in Ft. Lauderdale, neither of which really did it for me. (One of them, I said to Sara later, looked like it just needed to be sunk and put out of its misery. It is a shame that someone would let something that expensive and beautiful become that worn out).
After that, we hopped in Alina's car, and headed off across the great state of Florida. We went through Alligator Alley (more than just a nickname, it is actually on the road signs here), and saw the Everglades. Really beautiful country, which I had only ever seen on T.V. before. It was amazing to see such an uninhabited area of wilderness right in the middle of a heavily populated state like this.
After a 2 ½ hour drive, we arrived in Punta Gorda, on the Gulf Coast, and saw another boat there. We were again lucky to have the owner on board. He was busily washing up the boat when we arrived early, and he turned out to be a treasure trove of information about his boat. He lived in a condo on the waterfront that was right next to the dock, and he could see his boat from the window. I have never seen a boat as clean and well cared for as that one. It, too was very well outfitted, but needs a few things the other one didn't. Still a definite possibility. The boat was so clean and well looked after that Alina, who also owns and runs a boat detailing business, told me after that there wouldn't have been much left to do if someone had paid to have the boat professionally detailed. You could tell this guy had taken great care of his boat its whole life. If you are going to buy a boat, this is the kind of owner you want to buy from.
On the drive home, I could barely keep my eyes open, but I still managed to pepper Alina with tons of questions about the logistics of making an offer, getting a survey, and purchasing a boat, as well as anything else I could think of. She was great, and extremely patient with all my newbie questions. Although if you go boat shopping with her, make sure you bring a good GPS ;-).
We finally made it back to Ft. Lauderdale in one piece at about 8:30 p.m. I then braved the 10 lane interstate back to my hotel in the rental car (luckily only 10 minutes), and Skyped home to show Sara all the pictures and video I had taken of boats today. (did you know you can share your computer screen via Skype? It was a great way to show her all the details). We had a long talk, and agreed that either of the two boats I liked would serve well for our trip. There is a bit of a difference in price, but not really too much when you factor in the work that we would want to have done on the second boat.
So, the plan is that I meet Alina again tomorrow a.m. to see one other possibility. Depending on how that goes, I suspect we will put in an offer tomorrow, and start the negotiating process for our new home on the water. Heady stuff! Stay tuned to hear the exciting conclusion. For now, it is after midnight here, and I have to try and get some more sleep, otherwise I will be a wreck tomorrow.