This chapter of the sailing journey guides you through Reality’s fitting-out for her maiden voyage.
Reality is our gorgeous Catalina 470 sailboat purchased in New York. If you want to read about the saga of flying from Australia to buy a boat in New York, check out Sailing Journey: Buying a Boat in New York.
Researching a trucking company
Hassles with brokers trying to buy a boat in New York. Then our bank taking its time to transfer our money. You would think that the next phase of trucking the boat would be relatively painless?
Think again. There always seems to be a glitch on this long stressful journey.
Finding a company with a big enough truck to cart a boat 14-plus-metres and its 16-metre mast isn’t difficult. Everything is trucked by road in the US – it’s not cheap. An escort for the truck is also required. Finally, we find a company.
Although, the company mucks us around for another 2 weeks before the truck finally arrives at Huntington in Long Island.
Heavy snow blankets Huntington over the past few days. And, it’s so cold that when Reality is hauled out, long icicles form on the hull in just minutes.
Packing Reality up for a safe journey includes wrapping the mast and electronics securely. This takes us and another 4 guys more than 4 hours. We work in -8°C temperatures with a wind chill factor of -17°C.
Packing includes craning Reality on to the truck’s long tray then strapping the mast to the side. Everything is secured safely for the extensive 3-day haul to Miami in southern Florida.
Nothing seems to happen on time in the US. Maybe it’s because we’re currently in winter and it’s snowing heavily. Reality’s long journey from Long Island in New York to Miami in southern Florida is scheduled to take 3 days.
Reality leaves Coneys Marine in Long Island on the truck with an escort. We fly to Miami and wait in yet another hotel for her arrival at the boatyard.
Reality’s 3-day scheduled journey takes 8 days. The truck’s trailer breaks down half-way and needs to wait for a part to arrive.
We also have to wait and still pay hotel costs. I’m on a 3-month visa and time is slipping away. Adding to the pressure is that we must sail below the hurricane belt – Venezuela – by the 31st of May. Otherwise, insurance doesn’t cover the boat. Have I mentioned that it’s an extremely stressful time?
Over 2,250-kilometres later (1,400 miles), we’re ecstatic to see Reality finally come down the road in Miami. Unscathed, tired, and very dirty after her long 8-day journey.
Our work starts once again…
Gingerly moving Reality onto the travel lift isn’t our job but we wait with bated breath. During this time a boat can be dropped – I’m always on tenterhooks watching this…
After the travel lift moves Reality from the truck to a hardstand spot, it takes loads of time to reassemble everything together again. She also needs a good scrub from her long road trip.
Yet another crane is needed, this time to step the mast…
…we remember to place the obligatory coin underneath the mast for good luck. Then, Reality is moved to another spot in this busy boatyard.
Reality lived on Terra Firma for 18-months before we bought her in New York. A life that included only short sailing passages and racing, so, everything needs checking. It’s just not possible to check every inch of a boat during a pre-purchase survey.
Discovering a hairline crack in a couple of the stainless steel chainplates bolted to the deck, we contact Catalina for advice. Chainplates run through the deck and anchored to a strong point of a boat. The stays (rigging wire) that hold up the mast are fixed to the chainplates. They’re critical as you don’t want the mast falling down!
Catalina needs to make and send us new chainplates. We play the waiting game, again. Although this time, there’s so much to organise for Reality to be ready that it’s not an issue.
Shopping for linen, cookware, and provisioning the boat is time-consuming and very expensive. We buy everything new as haven’t found any opportunity/charity shops in Miami. It’s a little stress release from working on Reality.
Slowly everything is checked and repaired. A final coat of Antifoul paint also goes on. We’re not even allowed to paint our own boat with the boatyard siting insurance reasons. So, another few thousand dollars thrown in the black hole for a sub-standard job as we find out later in Curaçao. What a total rort. Money is vapourising through our fingers as liquid as water!
The boatyard is also closed on weekends – pathetic. One week of working days is lost.
The reason we work on boats ourselves is that we put in 110% effort and then some. And we’re satisfied that the work is done properly. A slip yard cuts corners to make a profit.
The day comes to sling Reality into the water and all goes to plan. Luck is on our side today, finally.
The day comes to sling Reality into the water and all goes to plan – luck is on our side today, finally.
The expensive low-star hotel in a seedy area of Miami is home during all of this work. Unlike Australia, this boatyard doesn’t allow owners to live aboard their boats whilst on the hard siting ‘Insurance reasons’. Although once in the water, we can move aboard.
Spending more than 2 months in hotel rooms, including this last one in Miami with complimentary nasty bed bugs. My body is covered in itchy scabby sores. Moving onto Reality feels surreal and is luxurious. Deciding whether to stay overnight in a marina in Coconut Grove near the mouth of Miami River. Although at USD$120 per night, this is exorbitant when exchanging to Australian dollars and even more expensive than the bug-infested hotel. So, Reality stays at the marina.
More tweaks, fixes, setting everything up then provisioning and we’re ready for another maiden voyage, albeit a little nervous.
Setting sail again
Leaving early in the morning to motor down the Miami River, we soon realise that the buoy system and markers are quickly doing our heads in.
Of course, they’re in reverse to the rest of the world. So, need to stay alert in this busy river and especially as it’s the first real time out in Reality.
Decide to take it slowly over the next couple of weeks to learn Reality’s ropes. Also to make sure that the motor and generator – both of which had issues on commissioning – are now fixed.
The opulence of Cape Florida’s mansions slowly drifts by as we head south to Marathon…
We can’t leave the US until Reality’s registration transfer papers arrive from Australia.
Weeks after sailing to Marathon, Florida Keys, we’re still waiting for Reality’s new papers. Although, we make use of this time to make sure everything on Reality is working until it’s time for a bus trip to immigration. Need to clear immigration on the day before exiting the US.
With Reality’s papers finally through it’s time for immigration. Around a couple of hours along the picturesque coral cay archipelago known as Florida Keys and the bus arrives at busy Key West.
With the straightforward formalities over at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Key West Port of Entry, the return scenic bus trip to Marathon flies by quickly. It’s such a pretty area and a shame to be whizzing by without exploring, but, it’s time to leave the US.
Today is the very last day of my 3-month US visa. I definitely need to leave the country. The skipper has a 6-month paid visa, so it’s only critical for me to leave.
Yes, it’s taken 3 full long demanding and stressful months, from purchasing Reality in Long Island New York then trucking her to Miami for the re-fit. Sapping most of our energy and with relentless butterflies in my stomach, we leave the US today.
Real maiden voyage
Bound for Cuba today and I’m thrilled to be sailing away from the US.
We’ve spent too much time purchasing Reality and also lost 3 months of valuable cruising time.
The hurricane season in this part of the world officially starts on the 1st of June. So, we need to cover around 1,400NM (around 2,300-kilometres) to anchor below this belt. And, head out of Marathon taking the shortest route possible sailing due south, bound for Varadero in Cuba.
Today’s real sail is a short hop of only around 80NM and just enough for a shakedown sail in a new boat.
The freedom of sailing again
The weather is kind and Reality flies along smoothly.
Gliding comfortably at an average of 7-Knots it’s just like letting the reigns of a racehorse go to unleash its spirit. A great boat!
Check out this separate post that briefly touches on Sailing from the US to Cuba in Reality during 2008. Continue on this sailing journey with me next week, to see what happens next…
You can also read more about sailing around the Caribbean and south to Venezuela, to explore some of this incredibly spectacular country.