Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fresh Catch of the Day

Home in Port Charlotte; 60 degrees at daybreak, high of 78, beautiful

Worked today throughout Venice, Englewood, North Port and Port Charlotte.

Highlight of the day was lunch at the restaurant featured above. It is called The Fishery. They feature beautiful harbor views from your table. I was thrilled to FINALLY see dolphins playing near the shoreline. I didn't have my camera during lunch and after I retrieved it from the truck, they were gone but it was still very cool.
The Fishery featured fresh shrimp, caught in Charlotte Harbor overnight, and served the next business day. It was terrific. My colleague and I each had a grouper and shrimp basket, with fries and hushpuppies, and diet coke. Tax and tip was $42. Not bad, considering the portions and the entertainment. They also had lunch specials for as little as 9 bucks.
After work, I went to Sams Club for Corona. I got home and motivated myself to go work off the lunch by doing 45 minutes in the pool. These are very low impact workouts, but I feel so good about doing it. My bride says she is going to get back on her workout routine tomorrow, as well. She has always been much better than me about exercise (and it shows).
Tomorrow I have to wake up at 4 AM to drive to Naples for a day of field inspections. This weekend it will be 80 degrees. I am definately heading for the beach. The toughest decision is.... which one?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Something fishy going on

Home in Port Charlotte, awoke to a cold front at 45 degrees. Hit a high of 71 today still.

After work today my new friend and neighbor, Pete from Buffalo, took me fishing on the Punta Gorda pier, on the banks of the Peace River. Now that's exactly what I needed after spending last week REALLY REALLY missing boating. I caught 7 and he caught 6, although he landed the largest. None were worth keeping but it was a great time for both of us. We caught mangrove snapper, whitting, and spotted sea trout.

It was fun to see the sea gulls dive bombing for our live shrimp. One got hooked by some other people's hook and the poor little guy struggled to get loose. He finally worked himself off the hook, but he must have been bleeding because instantly an ospery appeared and chased him all around the air trying to eat him. Pete says the ospery won't normally attack the gulls, but because this one was wounded, the ospery sensed a weakness and the preditory nature kicked in. I have to say it was pretty cool to watch nature in action. The wounded gull ended up escaping.

Tomorrow I have to travel to Fort Myers for a days work. After work, I will tour this Tommy Bahama Beneteau 423 I've had my eye on, online, for a long while. No new action on the house to report.

In talking with Buffalo Pete, I learned he and his wife rent their condo behind me for $1,500 a month, 3 months every year. I didn't tell him what I stole mine for. It's nice to be reminded of litttle blessings like my condo, though. I'm very lucky to have this place.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

Home in Port Charlotte; 69 degrees, cloudy

It was a long week on the road. I hit Jupiter, West Palm and Homestead. Friday morning I had to wake up at 3AM to be at Homestead by 545. The day ended at 3PM and I had another 3 hour drive back to the Gulf coast. Yesterday was laundry and recovery day. Launder my clothes, recover my sanity. I went to West Marine (boat store) and got a magazine so I could vaguely remember what boating is like. I signed up two free classes next month; salt water fishing lure presentation and GPS 101.

Last week we had showings # 15 and 16 at the Phoenix house. Yesterday, both prospects came back for second visits with their wives. No offers yet, but it's encouraging that the showings have resumed after the holidays.

Yesterday Pt. Charlotte had a high of 76. I braved the water at my condo pool and did 30 minutes of exercise. I'm not sure I can repeat the pool workout today because the high is forecast at 69. I will try to go on a long walk. Geeze, I can't believe the number of weight loss commercials the TV shows have here. I suppose it's a good reminder to get up off the couch.

I made bacon and eggs for breakfast and spent the morning watching a variety of boating and fishing shows. I'd sure like to get out on this water. One of my neighbors at the condo, Pete, is a retired guy from New York. He doesn't have a boat here but he goes out fishing from the piers and shores around Charlotte Harbor. He invited me to go out with him sometime and although I don't have any of my gear here, he said he'll let me use his. I will have to take him up on that.

I'm going to California on business next month, so I will spend the weekends before and after that trip with my bride. I'm going to check into shipping my fishing gear out here when I go. The FL fishing laws allow residents to fish from shore, piers, bridges, etc. without a license. That's pretty reasonable. Charlotte Harbor is known for having the world's best Tarpon fishing. March and April are the best months. I need to make friends with someone who will take me out Tarpon fishing. Everytime I see Tarpon fishing on TV, I am fascinated. They can go up to 200 pounds and they fight like hell. You have to buy a $50 Tarpon tag from the state, that's how valuable these game fish are in these parts. The cool thing is you can get to them in minutes after launching your boat. Red Snapper looks fun too, but you have to go out 9-12 miles into the Gulf to find them. Someday . . . someday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bye Bye Baby

Thursday, 1/24, West Palm Beach, 76 degrees

My bride headed back to Phoenix on Tuesday. Our visit together was great but I miss her, immediately. We had showings on the house last Friday and Saturday but nothing came from it. We had a new showing today. Our agent developed a prospect who he could represent as buyer and sellers agent. They looked at 5 houses and narrowed it down to 2. We are one of the two. The guy will bring his wife back to see the house on Saturday. If you are reading this, keep your fingers crossed or better yet, say a prayer. We need all the help we can get.

I am on the east coast for Wed/Thur/Fri and I head back to the Gulf tomorrow after work. I have to get up at 3AM to drive from Palm Beach County to Homestead, FL and be there by 530.

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in years. I exercised . . . on purpose. Despite going on 3.5 hours sleep, I finished my workday and was motivated to workout. I have said for many months; if I could re-harness the willpower that helped me quit smoking a year ago and use that mindset to work out, I might finally get a little control on my weight.

I swam laps in the hotel pool for 15 mins. I walked on the treadmill, 22 mins, 1.08 miles, burning 154 calories, followed by 10 more minutes of pool laps. When I work up this morning, my legs were quite sore but otherwise I felt good. Mentally, it was a great rush.

Tonight, I did 16 mins in the pool, 25 minutes, 1. 4 miles, burning 200 calories on the treadmill. Woohoo. Lunch was sushi and dinner was flame grilled chicken.

During work today, I inspected crews working the Singer Island resort. Above is a shot I took from the pool patio looking to the Atlantic.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brunch at Burnt Store

Port Charlotte, FL 55 degrees cloudy

We awoke to a chilly 47 degree morning. It was supposed to get up to 65 today but I don't think it will get there. It's 3:30 PM EST and it's only 55 now. It's still nice enough to have doors and windows open though, so we'll take it.

We went to Burnt Store Marina for the Sunday brunch. This will definately become a tradition for us. For $9.95 we got all you can eat made to order omlettes, waffles, strawberrys and cream, bacon, sausage, excellent breakfast potatoes, and juices/coffee is included. They have live music starting at 1PM, but we were too early for it. It was wonderful. The service at Porta Bellos is only exceeded by the quality of the cooking. This is such a refreshing change for us. The marina in Phoenix was overpriced, with terrible service and there was always something to complain about. Not at Burnt Store. Our waitress, April, was very sweet and professional. She also told us that they have an all you can eat wood fired pizza night, every Monday, for $7.95. When we were here the other night for dinner, happy hour had half priced well, wine and draft. Kathy's wine was $2.38 a glass. You can't beat that. After breakfast we drove into Fort Myers to check out the marinas there, in case we can't get a slip at Burnt Store buy the time we sell the house and buy the boat.

The Fort Myers Yacht Basin is located on the Caloosahatchee River, in downtown Ft. Myers. It was a very urban setting. It's quite affordable, but you get what you pay for. At $9 per foot, it's cheap but when you look around you almost feel like you are living beneath the highway bridges. It's also not a very well protected basin. When we were there, the weather was similar to what we had at Burnt Store for breakfast; about 20 knot winds; however Burnt Store showed a very light chop and Ft. Myers showed 3-4 foot swells. Ft. Myers also charges $75 per month liveaboard and $40 per month for a one car parking spot. The only problem is with it being in the heart of downtown, there were noticable transients in the area and we would worry about security in the parking lots.

We drove back north across the Caloosahatchee and found the Marinatown Marina, also in Fort Myers. It was $11 per foot on annual contract (12 on month to month), better protected from the winds, but still no comparison to Burnt Store. However, if you were waiting for a slip at Burnt Store, this would be an acceptable temporary location. The harbormaster showed us some brand new high rise condos next door. They have 170 completed condos and only 35 ever sold. The starting price is 700k. For that price, I'd rather have something a block from the beach on Boca Grande.

We went grocery shopping at Sams Club in Port Charlotte and settled in at the condo to watch the AFC/NFC championships.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kathy meets Golli

Saturday night, home in Port Charlotte, light rain, 75 degrees

We spent the day in North Fort Myers with John and Mary, the owners/sellers of the 1977 Hatteras 48LRC known as Golliwobbler. Kathy found Golli to be everything I did and more. We spent a few hours touring her and had to step aside as John' s broker, Leo, of Edwards Yacht Sales, showed the ship to a prospect from Texas. It turns out this prospect is here for his second visit. He was here two years ago as the first prospect to see her when she hit the market.

We also got to meet Mary's brother, also named John. He was visiting from Puerto Rico, where he lives aboard his sailboat. We had happy hour at the house and then went to a wonderful little Italian restaurant called L'Amore. The food was fabulous and the company was better. Something tells me we have been brought together with these folks for a reason.

There's no doubt, Golli could fit the bill for us if only we could pay the bill for her. We had another showing on the Phoenix house today, that's two in two days. We are hoping so much for a fair offer to get us launched on our SOFLO journey.

Tomorrow we will be having brunch at Burnt Store Marina.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Working for the weekend

Home on the Gulf Coast; high of 80 today, low lying fog most of the day.

I had to work today. I finally got to see my only remaining unseen branch operation, in Fort Myers. I had a nice lunch with a colleague at a chain sports bar called, Beef O'Bradys. After work I went home to my bride and enjoyed dinner and a home movie, "Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World." Great Russell Crowe movie about the british war naval captain, John Aubrey. The movie is set in 1805. If you haven't seen it, see it.

We were briefly interrupted by John, the Captain of Golliwobbler. If you are following along, you will recall he had to go to Houston for a preventative check at the cancer center. I am happy to report all is well under the circumstances. John has invited us to come see Goli tomorrow. Kathy is thrilled to get a chance to step aboard my ship of dreams. We are planning dinner with John and Mary on Pine Island. John revealed that his broker is actually showing Goli to another prospective buyer tomorrow. Meanwhile, we are waiting to sell our house before we can buy anything. I'd be lying if I didn't have my fingers crossed that she waits for us. Oh well, like my bride say . . .Everything happens for a reason.

Speaking of our house for sale; we got another showing today. This was the first showing since 12/23. I'm running out of fingers to cross. We will shoot some pics to post tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Bride, the Bird Lady

Back to Boca

We started the day with a call from our daughter in Phoenix, telling us it was 32 degrees there. Hmmm, it's 65 here. Let's go to the beach.

Kathy and I spent the day at Boca Grande, Boca Pass and Gasparilla Island State Park. We brought shrimp cocktail and coctails of our own. It was overcast but 77 degrees when we got there. The water was about 72 and tolerable to a surf walk. We sat on the sand bar and watch the waves rolling in, singing "Proud Mary." After we finished eating, Kathy fed the rest to the birds.

We then walked the shops in downtown Boca Grande, looking at real estate flyers. Only 4-6 million to get a beachfront home. Unfortunately we forgot the checkbook. Yeah. There are mid island properties to be had for 800k. There's a vacant lot on an adjacent canal, leading to the ICW, which leads to the Gulf for only $175,000. Nah, we'll keep our sites set on a boat.

Above are some pics from our day. I'm gonna try to post a video of Kathy feeding the birds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Return to Burnt Store Marina

Today I showed my bride Burnt Store Marina (see prior post for pics). We both agree this is much better suited for liveaboards. We saw a few boats for sale and made arrangements to tour them. We started with a Sea Ray 370 Motor Yacht. It was too small to live on. We then went to a Silverton 405 MY. At 43', it was a better candidate. Extremely clean and bright, especially for a 1998. I have posted a picture above. We then went to see a 52' sailboat and came to the conclusion that monohull sail vessels are not for us. The cabin is just too dark and dreary, compared with motor vessels. Kathy commented she can't wait to see Golliwobbler. I sure hope we get too. John and Mary had to make an emergency trip out of town until Friday night. We are shooting for Saturday.

We had a wonderful meal at one of the restaurant's at the marina, "Porta Bellos at Latitudes." It was very nice. We aren't used to getting happy hour drink specials at marinas. NICE. The food was fabulous and the prices were reasonable. We went to watch the sunset over Charlotte Harbor but missed it but THAT MUCH. Oh well, since we are going to be living here, I'm pretty sure there will be other chances.

Take your bride to work day

I think I risked boring her to death but she was a good sport about it. We had lunch at The Old Salty Dog, on the bank of the Intercoastal Waterway in Sarasota. After work, we went to Fishermens Village in Punta Gorda. We walked the shopping district and then the docks. As much as we enjoyed looking at the boats, we longed to be on the water. We saw many cruisers that reminded us of Peaceful Easy Feelin'. We saw trawlers that made us want to go see Goli and compare. We saw sail boats that made us wonder if we could even do sailing. Then we got our first up close look at a catamaran and it was cool. The owner had friends aboard for happy hour and he took a few minutes to explain the hull design to us. We thanked him and walked away, both of us commenting how we wished he would have invited us aboard for a tour. Mostly, we were reminded of the commradiere and sense of community that comes with marina life. Someday soon, we will be back. We just gotta get that house sold.

We went for happy hour at the harborside hangout, Harpoon Harrys (see photo above). They have indoor/outdoor seating, live music and dancing, karaoke, and fair drink prices. We went back to the condo and watched the season premier of American Idol. On Wednesday, I show my bride Burnt Store Marina.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conjugal Visits

My bride is in SOFLO. It's so great to see her and have her here by my side. It's a preview of what is to come. I had to work on Monday but she will come with me on Tuesday and see Longboat Key and that beach where the crook was shot at lunch. lol
We are trying to set up a showing of Golliwobbler but John and Mary might have to make an emergency trip out of town. Let's hope not.

While here, we will see Burnt Store Marina, Fishermens Village, Boca Grande Pass and Gasparilla Island. I am so looking forward to showing her around.

We had a strong rain storm move in yesterday with a cold front. It was still shorts weather today, but tomorrow morning we'll need windbreakers. It should get into the 40's overnight and the upper 60's on Tuesday. The nice thing is it doesn't last for long. We are looking to be back to the mid 70's by late week.

We had some tasty salmon for dinner tonight. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

pictures: The pass at Boca Grande Island

Where the Gulf of Mexico meets Charlotte Harbor is Boca Grande (big mouth).
I was standing in waist deep water to get these last 3 shots.

December 8, 2007 Burnt Store Marina pics

I was standing on a dock at the marina. Can you imagine having this be your view every night?
Look at the glass water, reflecting the condos. This place is heaven on earth.

Houses and Boats

I haven't bothered blogging much about the numerous other boats I have toured since seeing Golliwobbler. Frankly, none has impressed me as much as the old girl. I have seen quite a few beauties out of my price range, but who hasn't?

The other thing is that the housing market has impeded our ability to sell our Phoenix home. We can't get a boat until we unload that house. We have dropped the price from our original of 399k to now 375k. Still no offers, and worse yet . . . the showings have stopped. It's January 12 and no one has come to see it since Christmas eve. There was an open house today but I haven't heard the results. As if the housing market hasn't hurt us enough, last week my bride was laid off from her mortgage processor job. She has 18 years in the business. That cuts like a knife. The bright side is that now she can come to SOFLO to visit me. YEAH BABY!

Today, Saturday, she went to visit our old boat neighbors at Pleasant Harbor Marina in Arizona. So naturally I went to a marina here. Remember I wrote about Burnt Store Marina? Well, their only near competition is Fishermens Village in Punta Gorda. I went there for the first time today. It was very nice. There's a shopping district and restaurant row. It's very upscale and the slip prices match. Their moorage rates are at $16 per foot per month. Wow, last time I saw rates like that I was in the middle of the Arizona desert. On top of the 16 per foot, they charge $125 per month liveaboard fee and FIFTEEN DOLLARS a day if your dinghy is in the water! What in the hell, Bobby? I'll take Burnt Store Marina for 12.50, Alex.

I sat on a bench at FV Marina, blogging and staring out at Charlotte Harbor. Thanks be to God. This is great. Visiting these sites I had previously only seen online is tantamount to stepping into the pages of a story book. This is great. Here's a photo of me at Fishermens Village.

Cliff notes on the last 5 weeks

I gotta get this thing caught up or I'll always be behind. Here's my readers digest version of the last 5 weeks:

Week 2 and 3: (Dec. 07) Traveled to the Atlantic Coast of Florida for the first time. While working, I stayed in the Courtyard by Marriot in West Palm Beach. Using that as a home base, I visited Homestead (site of 1992's Hurricane Andrew), Miami-Dade, Delray Beach, Loxahatchee, Wellington, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Singer Island, and Fort Pierce.
I quickly decided the Gulf coast would be home. The Atlantic Coast is full of New Yorkers, Jerseyers, New Englanders, and Virginians. It is much faster paced, people honk their horns every mile or so, whether they need to or not, there are tons of touristy sites with little to no parking, and rush hour is between 4 am and midnight.

It's funny how the locals refer to the two sides of Florida. The Atlantic is the "east coast" and the Gulf is the "west coast." If someone told me they like the "west coast" I naturally think of California. I like calling the two sides Atlantic and Gulf. It will make it easier on my readers too. I have also found myself using the term "the other side" to describe one from the other. So which is one and which is the other? Well, since I have taken to the Gulf side, I guess the other is the "other."

The west coast is a little slower pace, it's full or mid-westerners and canadians and people seem more polite to strangers. Within a week, I knew I'd call the other side, the west coast, the gulf coast, the sun coast . . . our new home.

However, I don't hate the east side. I love the area of Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens (PBG). There is a cool outdoor mall called Downtown At The Gardens. It has casual to upscale dining, lots of shopping, movies, artsy fartsy stuff and weekend nights have various live musicians playing throughout the mall. I like going to the sushi bar called RA. (pronouned RAW)

After going to OSHA instructors school for a week and spending another week tourning my east coast branches, I drove to Tampa to fly back to Phoenix for Christmas with my loving bride. I look forward to seeing all of my kids and grandkids too!

After a short 5 day stay, I boarded a plane back to SOFLO on December 26. My NOFLO counterpart forgot about me and left me stranded at the airport. Luckily, after a couple of hours I arranged for my company to send a driver to pick me up and bring me to my truck, which I had parked at our Tampa branch. I needed a hotel. I checked at a few around Tampa and found them all to be more than I cared to spend.

I drove from Tampa to Charlotte County that night, with no destination known. You see, the company had put me up for December but by January I was supposed to have a home base to work from. I only knew I wanted to be somewhere around Charlotte Harbor. I drove west on Interstate 75 and exited at Port Charlotte. I saw a brand new Sleep Inn, right off the exit. I was on my own nickel, so I wanted something cheap. It was late and there weren't many cars in the parking lot. You had to figure the place 90% vacant. I asked the desk clerk for her cheapest rate and it was $129 a night. Too much for the 8 hours I would use the room. But I needed a place to do some research for housing too. I asked her for a cheaper rate and she proceeded to ask me all these questions to try and qualify me for a discount. When I didn't qualify, she asked me what I had in mind. I told her I was hoping for something around fifty bucks for the night. She played with her computer some more and told me she could put me in as a Clarion Hotel employee and give it to me for $69. How cool is that? I'll take it.

That night, I took some heat from my bride for not having a better plan on where I was going to live. She was right. I needed to do something smarter than spend 69 dollars a night on hotels. I stayed up most of the night searching craigslist for affordable housing. The problem is that this is the tourist season in Florida. Short term rentals and going for thousands of dollars a month. I'm not talking about resorts, either. I'm talking about something in Phoenix I would expect to pay about 800-900 dollars a month for, going for 3k here. I found a bunch of room for rent ads on craigslist. They were between 400 and 600 a month. Some were furnished, some not.

I woke up early and at 8 AM eastern I started calling numbers and emailing craigslisters. By 11 AM it was time to check out of the hotel and no one had answered my calls or emails. GREAT...
I checked out, loaded my truck and asked the desk clerk which of the two local papers in the lobby machines would one be likely to find local for rent ads. After taking her recommendation I started parusing ads. One started "Bimini Bay Club." That sounded nice. It was a 2b2b condo and it was quite affordable. No answer on the phone. I called and called and called. Lots of brokers, lots of unaffordable units. I got a return call from a craigslister who wanted me to come see the room for 475 with no furniture. I headed out to Punta Gorda Isles. It was a really nice house, on a canal, 2 minutes from Fishermens Village. He had a pool too. The only problem was the guy was a little suspicious to me. He didn't own or even rent the house. He said a friend lets him stay there? He said he was a retired poker dealer and his 24 year old other room mate was a professional gambler. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I also think he was . . . yeah. I just didn't get good vibes there. As I was looking for a way to politely run away, my phone rang and it was the guy with the Bimini Bay Club condo. YES!

It was actually a very nice unit. The complex doesn't exactly have manicured landscaping but there's a clean pool area and the unit is fully furnished; dishes, towels, utencils, pots and pans. It's everything I need, especially in price. I took it and moved in that day. The first night showed a lot of promise. It was very quiet. You'd think I was the only one there. I like it. I now have a Florida home. It's not exactly a liveaboard, but it's home.

The next morning I officially surrendered my Arizona citizenship by getting a Florida drivers license. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they listed my gender as female. WHAT THE HELL? Can you imagine how difficult that would be to fix if I hadn't noticed it for say, 6 months. Luckily, my mom was an English teacher and she taught me how to proof read. I caught it before I left the DMV.

I spent the weekend relaxing and growing some roots in the condo. It was really good to have a home after being a hotel rat for a month. I ended December with a 3 hour drive to DeBary, FL. My wife's brother, Jim, and his family make their home there and they invited me to spend the new year with them. We had spent a few weekends in Vegas together and they are great people. We played a word game with a bunch of their friends and made a early night of it. It was the first new year without my bride since we met 8 years ago. It was difficult being apart but we spent time on the phone and made the best of it.

On the morning of January 2, 2008, a cold front was moving across Florida. It was unseasonably cold. I left Jim's house at 4 AM, enroute to West Palm Beach. It was 34 degrees as I went back to work on the Atlantic coastline. The cold only lasted one day. By January 3 the low was back to the 50's and the high back to the 70's. I spent January 3-11 working Homestead, Miami, Delray Beach, Jupiter, Fort Pierce and back to West Palm.

Friday, January 11, 2008.
I'm heading back to the Gulf Coast. Not a day too soon. High today of 81. NICE.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Week 1 continues

Here is where I stood on my first SOFLO beach. This is the Gulf of Mexico, on the island of Longboat Key (LBK). It has beautiful, white sugar like, clean sandy beaches. Water is also nice and clear. This is why I moved here. Shortly after this photo was taken on December 4, 2007, a man entered a post/packaging store on LBK and gut shot the owner for unknown reasons. The guy ran from the scene and was confronted by police on this very beach. He made the genious decision to turn the gun toward the officers and he was promptly gunned down. This is not why I moved here. Fortunately, the locals tell me this sort of thing (almost) never happens around here.

The rest of week 1 consisted of visiting my branch operations in Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, (Ft. Myers rescheduled) and Naples. GOD I love this area!

Many, many, months ago I decided the next boat would be bigger, slower and more economical. Before I had an inkling of living anywhere but Phoenix, I found a dreamy boat I just had to see. I was web surfing on and found it; the Hatteras 48 LRC (long range cruiser). They only made 49 of these, between 1976 and 1981. There were only a few available for sale and I knew that two of them lay in Florida waters. Golliwobler was a '77 48LRC in Fort Myers, FL. I contacted the owner and arranged a Saturday showing.

The owners, John and Mary, were the most wonderful people I could have hoped to meet, being a stranger in a strange land. I spent four hours touring Golli on the dock behind their beautiful home. Mary was sweet enough to make lunch for us and they invited me to the yacht club for dinner. I thought better I wait for my bride to join me, so perhaps another time. Golliwobler, named by it's original owners who were sailors before buying this power vessel, was named after the enormous sail. Legend tells, they wanted something to remember their sailing days so they named their powerboat after a sail. It's not my favorite boat name I've ever seen, but you have to respect the history this 30 year old PV carries. John and Mary, her second owners, kept the name intact.

John shared a bit of their history with me. He was an Arkansas attorney, married to his first and they were a part of the high society social scene in Little Rock. (I forgot to ask if he knows the Clintons). He said he was never comfy with the high life and he dreamed of life on the high seas. He and his first made a pact: They would do this life for twenty years, save all they could and after 20 years they would sell all they owned and buy a sail boat and sail away. John wanted to see the world and his then-wife agreed. John did his part. He worked, he saved he did the social scenes and counted the years going by. After 20, he reminded her of their pact. She wasn't ready, she said. Let's wait a few more years. Begrudgingly, he agreed. A few years came and went and still she wasn't ready. John says he finally told her, "This is not something I want to do, it's who I am." She finally admitted it wasn't who she was nor did she want to try.

John bought a sailboat and set out alone. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, he met Mary. She was the captain of her own sail vessel and also live to be aboard. This is where their love lives began. First with the sea, then with one another. After they married, they bought Golliwobler and lived together aboard her. They did the Great Loop, lived in the Bahamas and other exciting ports of call. But they always held a special place for PR. Years later, John was diagnosed with cancer. He needed to be close to doctors and hospitals so three years ago they bought a home on a fresh water canal in North Fort Myers. They built a fabulous dock behind their home this is where Goli moors. Atop this page are pictures of the PV Golliwobler, resting at it's new home port.
The market on these large boats is presently down, as is the housing market. There was a time when 48LRCs, even thirty year old ones, would sell for in excess of $300k. John is asking $249k but he knows he will have to come down further. The last one comparable to Goli sold in September, 2007 for $218k. Because there are so few of these in the world, I know the one he speaks of. It was out of Long Beach, CA and was named Valhalla (ancient warrior). John's right, that boat was beautifully maintained with a refit galley. Goli has the same characteristics and she's presently atop my wish list. John says if I buy her, he will do this: "As long as you'll have me, I'll go out with you. I'll show you how to run her and I'll show you these waters around here. I just can't take her out alone anymore. Mary will show your wife how she cares for the wood and you'll keep her as nice as we have."
Wow. It's hard to put a value on that.
After I left John and Mary, I set out to see in person another place I have dreamed of.
When you look at a map of Florida, most people can find Tampa Bay. It is on the left side of the map, on the Gulf of Mexico coast, about 2/3 of the way up. Below that is another large body of water off the Gulf. This is Charlotte Harbor, fed by the Peace River. Charlotte Harbor measures about 12 miles east-west and about 26 miles north-south. It's slightly larger that my former home port, Lake Pleasant, AZ. If you enter Charlotte Harbor by ship, at the Boca Grande Pass and travel 10 miles due east you will arrive at Burnt Store Marina. I managed to find it by car.
It's not just a marina, it's a community. There are single family homes, condos, restaurants and of course a marina. Much of my online research before coming to Florida was done on Google Earth. If you haven't played with it, you don't know what you're missing. Search and do the free download. This is how I found Burnt Store Marina. I'm 99% sure this will be our new home port. It's fantastic. I took the most incredible sunset photograph of my entire life. I will post it in a later posting. It's so good, it needs it's own entry.
I drove back to my hotel in Venice to spend Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, I made the 3 hour drive to the "other side" and checked into the Marriott in West Palm Beach.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Week 1 in SOFLO; Gulf Coast

Sunrise over Sarasota Bay, December 4, 2007
That first week consisted largely of meet and greets at my new branch operations for work. My associate, Ken, drove me around that portion of my territory. I had operations on both the Gulf and Atlantic sides so this week would be part 1.

We went to a gulf side resort island called Longboat Key. I had been told this was one of the most beautiful and tropical places I would see. It was both. The island is about 1/2 mile wide by about 3 miles long. The west side has the Gulf and the east side has Sarasota Bay. The beaches here are sugar like, white sand, very clean. It was peaceful, serene and gorgeous . . . right up until the moment the police shot a guy on the beach!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wipe that smile off your face

I recall both at take off from Sky Harbor (Phoenix) and upon final approach and landing in Tampa I couldn't stop smiling. I was so happy to be here, to start this new chapter, to launch my adventure.

When I walked from the gates toward the terminal, they have an elevated train you ride to the terminal. When that 30 second train ride emerged outside I felt an instant rush of heat overcome me and I realize it's the humidity. I think it was my imagination, because I haven't felt it since then. I guess this summer will tell if truth is stranger than fiction.

My northern Florida counterpart picked me up at the airport and drove me to pick up my new pickup. On the ride there, as I surveyed the Florida landscape and the waters surrounding Tampa I felt that smile again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Strap yourself in, this could be a long ride

Kathy and I need to be prepared for the long haul. If that neighbor sells their house for $300k, it's gonna kill my comp. I read the paper today and it's nothing but bad news. The US economy is headed straight south. Gas prices, currently at about 3.08 in South Florida, are predicted to be near 3.80 per gallon by spring. Maybe we should revisit the idea of switching from a power boat to a sail boat. Hell, if we don't sell this house in the next 30 days I can forget about the idea of a boat in 2008.

Perhaps this would be a good spot to start blogging about all the wonderful sights and places I have seen so far, as I start my 6th week in So.Fl.

You see, obviously I took this job and I flew out here on December 3, 2007 to begin. I've been living in hotels and traveling all over the "island" of Florida, as I like to call it. My region covers both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the lower half of the peninsula. If you draw a line below Tampa Bay, from left to right, everything below that line is my new area.

How to sell your house in 30 days

Yeah, right. Seriously, the housing/mortgage crisis of 2007 put a huge obstacle in our plans. We sold our Sea Ray (Peaceful Easy Feelin') in two weeks. We interviewed real estate agents and settled on one who works as a neighborhood specialist, meaning he lives in and focuses his listing efforts in our local neighborhood. He is very knowledgable about marketing and market conditions but no one could be prepared for what was happening to the U.S. housing economy.

In November, 2006 we had to get an appraisal to drop our mortgage insurance. It came back at $519,000. Tom, our agent, figured with the falling market we could now garner an appraisal of about $419k. He told us if we wanted to sell within 30 days, which we did, we should price it at $399k. We agreed and started making plans to move. We really felt like we priced it right because we had 12 new showings in the first 6 weeks of the listing. No actual offers, but we weren't discouraged. Christmas came and went with no offers, as did the New Year. Now the showings quit too.

Just after the first of January, 2008, the agent called to report the market continues is downward spiral. The market is continuing to crash and it's not done. Kathy, who works in mortgages, sees the evidence as Fannie/Freddie guidelines toughen up to their tightest guidelines in her 18 years in the business. Tom the Agent says we are not longer aggressively prices. He recommends we drop the price to $375k. So much for the downpayment on the new boat. We gotta do what we gotta do. Kathy agrees. A few days after we slash our asking price, Tom the Agent writes an email, showing us what one of our neighbors just listed their house at.

This lady bought a couple of months before we did in 2004. She has our same model, although not nearly as nicely upgraded as ours and no pool. She bought a second Engle home in our neighborhood in late 2005. In 2006 she started trying to sell her house like ours. It sat on the market for nearly 2 years. The other day she dropped her asking price to $325k. That's gonna leave a mark.

We're gonna need a bigger boat

Kathy and I had talked many times about "someday" selling everything we had except our cleanest dirty shirt and moving aboard. We didn't know how we'd pay for it or even where we'd go, we just talked about how nice it would be to move aboard full time. I always assumed it would be California, simply because of the proximity to Phoenix. Kathy had lived in California for a short time earlier in life and wasn't thrilled at the thought of returning. I assured her that living aboard a yacht would be nothing like living in California and driving on the freeways everyday. She didn't give it much thought because I'm sure she figured it would be a decade or two away, if it happened at all.

When I called her with the Florida idea, I figured she'd say something like, "Are you KIDDING me?" and hang up. Instead she said, "Are YOU kidding me?" She was not only open to the idea, she was downright in favor of it. Our mantra became, "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

A life changing telephone call

Every fall in Phoenix most high end commercial properties have their landscape vendors scalp out the warm season burmuda grass and overseed with cool season perenial ryegrass. It is the most labor intensive project we do in the desert seasons. I was at Black Canyon Commerce center, supervising the first seed drop of the season when my phone rang. It was Eric, my Regional Safety Manager. (Each branch has a BSO but there is an RSM who oversees safety at multiple branches). Eric and I had a great relationship and I always looked forward to his visits and field audits. When I got into this business, I had no idea positions like RSM existed. Shortly after meeting Eric, I had told him to keep me in mind if he ever decided to leave or promote.
It was the last week of September 28 when he uttered the words that would change my life. "Would you be interested in interviewing for a Regional Safety Manager position?" Of course my natural response was, "Where's the region?"

"South Florida and the Bahamas," he said.

The first thought to enter my head was, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do."

I had to call my wife.