Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is There "The Perfect Boat"?


  We're entering our third month here at Marathon Marina and Resort and we are still not tired of watching the sunsets from our boat. We patronize the restaurant here at least once per week. (Happy hour is great!) 
  We visit the pool a few times per week too, although Holly is not welcome there. We hate leaving her on the boat and really get annoyed when other folks bring their pets although the rules are clear about bringing pets to the pool. We suspect that they possess a "service dog" certificate, but we know that that document can be had even though the dog is not a "service dog". We prefer to be honest about it, but we might do what we have to do.
  One thing we are really thankful for is that we moved from Stock Island Marina Village when we did. As last fall approached, the Dock Master at SIMV told us that the charges for our boat were going to increase at start of the new year, from $23.50 per foot per month, to $25.00 per foot per month. That's not much of an increase, but it didn't set well with us due to the fact that amenities that were promised to us when we first arrived at the marina were still not available, or announced to be delayed. We still didn't have cable T.V. and the opening of the pool, restaurant, etc., were put on the back burner.
  This, and other things prompted us to look elsewhere, not to mention that we had grown tired of the industrial view provided by our location in Safe Harbor.
  We bumped into one of the vendors we had used in Key West at the marina here, and were surprised to learn that the rent for our boat at SIMV had jumped to $35.00 per foot per month, nearly a 50% increase!
  I inquired on our Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network on Facebook to confirm, and also found out that the charges were now "tiered", with vessel up to 40 feet charged at $25 per foot per month, 40-70 feet at $35 per foot per month, and vessels over 70 feet were at $40 per foot per month.
  My comments about this exorbitant increase were answered by the General Manager who also revealed that there were "specific charges for past, present, and future customers".
Wow. That sounds to me like "we'll charge whatever we want to whoever we want". How would you like to be dock neighbors with someone who has the same size boat you have and you may be paying $500 per month more in rent?
  The more important thing is that this increase was not properly conveyed to customers. Some people didn't find out until they got their statements at the first of the year. In my opinion, an increase of this magnitude should have been announced early enough so that folks could find alternate dockage in a timely manner, say at the beginning of the last quarter. Anyone looking for dockage in the lower Keys in January doesn't have many options.
  Sometimes we get lucky, and we got lucky by moving from Stock Island Marina Village when we did. I edited my review of SIMV in Active Captain, trying to be fair, but I'd not be surprised if SIMV won't have us back. In fact, even though we signed up for one month when we first arrived in December of 2012, we stayed nearly a year, to be called "deserters" when we checked out. (To be fair, it was said with a smile, but we'd have rather been thanked for being good customers, which we weren't.)
  So if you visit Stock Island Marina Village, ask your dock neighbors what they are paying, and question the management. Maybe they will change their pricing structure.
  Enough with the complaints.
  A friend mentioned the other day that he was contemplating retiring in a couple of years and wondered what kind of boat would be best to do that on. This seems like a simple question, but it's far from simple. If one made a similar comment on the America's Great Loop Cruisers Association members forum, it would be met with as many answers as there are members, but I'll try to accommodate our friend and provide some insight, and some questions of our own.
  What we don't know is if our friend plans on doing this alone, or with a mate, so that has to be addressed. Also, the area of the country comes into play, as does the cruising area. Does he plan to stay in the inland river system, or will he venture out to the ocean? Will he be enjoying only warm weather, or will he be "enduring" the cold climates in the winter?
  We know that our friend doesn't want a sailboat. That narrows down the field considerably, and we won't try to change his mind about that. But it's still a big field.
  I'd say that we are not on what we would call the "perfect boat", but it's the boat we had, and we decided to make it do, and so far, we are still happy with our decision.
  If I had a couple of years to prepare to do this again, and we didn't have a boat already, my preparation would be similar to the preparation that we went through to get to where we are today, and this is chronicled here in this blog. (Please read our earlier posts.) But the process changes somewhat if the boat to be used is not owned yet.
  One thing, I would suggest that whatever boat is obtained, that the boat be paid off before retiring, so the price of the vessel has to be one you can afford to buy outright.
  We like a boat with diesels, for reasons of safety and reliability. This alone would cause great debate in any boatyard, but we were asked our opinion, so this is what you're getting.
  Being able to walk around the decks at sea is important to us. Lots of boats have an abundance of room inside, but if you can't get forward to cleats and anchor lockers in a sea or bad weather, your safety in doing so is compromised. See if you can walk along the side decks without placing your feet one in front of another like Carl Wallenda.
  Our best addition to our boat was the dinghy davits. We like the ability to deploy our dinghy in a hurry. If it takes a long time to get the dinghy into the water, you won't use it and you'll miss out on some good fun.
  We have also come to agree that an "aft deck" boat would not be one we like. We have boat neighbors who struggle getting on and off their boats at a dock. We like our cockpit due to our ability to get on and off the boat easier, plus we like how easy it is to get into the water for a dip when we want to. Quick engine access is a feature of a cockpit boat too.
  Size is important, so they say, and we know that the average size of a boat "doing the loop" is 40 feet. We think that's a good size to target, not only to consider as far as rent goes, (see preceding paragraphs), but for washing and waxing. Less is more.
  But the boat can't be too small. Considering a persons size is important . Our doorways inside our boat our only 14 inches wide. Hate to say it, but it's a good way to keep my weight down. Let's call it "problematic" if I can't fit into the bathroom.
  Is access to the bed easy? We would hate to have to crawl into the bunks at night. Walk around, or at least a step around appeals to us.
  We like our dinette because it is elevated and we can see out. No sense living in a boat if you're in a dark dungeon. It's all about the view.
  Is there a comfortable place to sit and watch T.V. or browse on your computer? As far as we know, when you aren't working on the boat you can only do three things, and they are done either standing up, sitting or laying down. Not many other options there, and you have to be comfortable doing it.
  Speaking of standing, don't have a boat that requires a lot of ducking if you are tall, because you won't, and if you do, you'll acquire what we call the "sailboat hunch". We can spot sailors from far away because many of them walk with their heads ducked down between their shoulders, as they're used to hitting their noggins on low entryways. (Sailboat owners, don't bother with a rebuttal.) Many powerboats don't have enough headroom either.
  Our boat is a low profile boat, and that could spell trouble in a rough sea. We've been lucky because we have avoided very rough weather, but a boat with high freeboard at the bow is desirable. Look at a few ocean going sport fishing boats, or long distance trawlers to see what I mean, and while I'm on the subject, we operate our fast hulled boat at trawler speeds because we have more time than money.
  Sure we like to go fast if we have to, but that's another thing, traveling. Maybe someone wants to live on a lake somewhere. Hands down, I'd pick a nice houseboat. So again, where you intend on using the boat has to be decided.
  One thing I did was read. READ READ READ! Get on Amazon and search "boats". Read every story about boats that you can, and I don't mean Moby Dick. I mean stories from real life about life on a boat. I'm not providing a list. 
  I also joined the America's Great Loop Cruisers Association and began to read the Cruisers Forum via an email they send every day. You can learn a lot just by reading the entries there, even if you don't intend to do the loop. We aren't even sure that we will, but it's a great source of information.
  Get the boat at least a year before you retire, the longer the better. We had the advantage of owning Swing Set nearly eight years before deciding to live aboard, so we had time to decide just what we wanted to change to make life easier as full timers. You might even find out the boat you chose isn't the right one.
  Lastly, I'm not an expert. We overheard our one boat neighbor ask another boat neighbor what he knew about such and such, and the guy answered, "I know everything about it". This is the person I'd avoid at every opportunity, because if you aren't learning something everyday, you aren't doing it right.

  I'm a bit behind in writing this post because some good friends came to visit us here in Marathon. We took Rick and Christa out for a nice dinghy ride and a boat ride, and yesterday we just relaxed and enjoyed to pool here. 
  It was nice having Swing Set out for the day. We look forward to friends visiting because it gives us an excuse to take the boat out. We are on it all day and night by ourselves, so it doesn't make much sense to go out and sit alone at anchor. We like the dinghy for our recreational rides, but if we have a good reason, a nice fair weather cruise with friends is the best thing going.

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