Meanwhile, we are fast forwarded to Florida. At the first marina we stop in Virginia, several people, a boat broker included, advise us not to loose our time looking for a boat in North Carolina or South Carolina, not even in Georgia. “The boat you want is in Florida”, they say, after we tell them what boat we are looking for.
We are looking for 44 feet or bigger,thick fibreglass, none of the fancy popular models like Catalina, Beneteau, Janeau, which are appealing to the eye and affordable but lightly built and are so called “pleasure boats”, not fit for extended blue-water cruising. Has to be a sloop, or only one mast, not a ketch (with two masts); cutter is better than a centre cockpit, but this is one thing we can compromise with; draft 6 feet maximum; step on keel mast; in good general condition especially the hull. We are not much concerned with speed, we are not going to race her, but we will live in her and take her around the world, so it has to be safe first, as well as sturdy and comfortable for a family of four.
A 44 footer is considered a big boat, and for this reason mainly it is most probable to find one in Florida, the sailboat capital of the world.
So, instead of Virginia Beach, as we had planned, we go to Jacksonville, FL, skipping three states. We stop at the first little marina we see there, and ask two guys on the pier who to talk to about a sailboat. They are very helpful and welcoming people, both offer their own boats which happen to be for sale (it looks like every boat in Florida IS for sale), but as soon as we tell them we need 44 feet and over, they back up. They have smaller ones. The office at the marina is closed already, it is almost 7 p.m., but we can talk to a broker there tomorrow, they tell us. We thank them and we go to the public parking not far from there. We are not parked yet, when two cops surround us flashing their lights. What the hell!!! The guys we talked to called the police! The police (two young women) can’t tell us why. They actually don’t know why. Nobody knows. I bet, not even the guy who called them knows why he did it. Probably he thought our Baba Ganoush looks suspicious. I bet this is it. They have never seen such a weird old motor home inhabited by people who claim are looking to buy a boat the size of a ship. I admit it makes no sense. Still, it is not enough reason to call the police, is it? Is this how the people of Florida show their hospitality to us, friendly Canadians? I am outraged. The police checks our ID-s, I give them my expired student card, and everything looks OK. Even our 1988 motor home seams to be legal and we are finally left alone. I am mad for the rest of the evening, I can’t believe it. I want to find the guy who called on us and scream at him. But I don’t.
Next morning, we go to another marina and we talk to a woman at the office who seems extremely amused at the fact that we don’t have a phone. She laughs so sincerely I start thinking it is funny myself. She gives us a phone number of the best broker in town and even lends us, poor people, a phone. One hour later we meet a guy at the biggest marina- a port- in Jacksonville area. It is impressive. We haven’t seen anything like it so far. A dirt road leads to 10 huge piers. We drive by big fishing boats and old ships, cranes and alien-looking rusty structures before we get to a small building in the middle of a boatyard. Most of the boats are out and dry, bearded people busy around them, scraping them, patching them, painting them.
This is a hardcore marina, nothing like the fancy one in Virginia. There are trailers and motor homes even older than ours permanently parked on the sides amidst old dark trees, thick vegetation climbing all over them.
Here old captains live while fixing their boats; people from other places and times, more ancient then mythology itself, full of stories and ocean salts. We feel at home.
We meet our broker excited; we will finally visit a sailboat for sale! He points to a boat, nice and big enough, but we don’t even go in to see it, it is not good enough for Ivo; the keel is too big, the draft is 7 feet, it is too much. Ivo knows exactly what he wants and he will not compromise. He is like that with everything and I kind of envy him for that. So this one is out of consideration, and after a short talk, the broker tells us there is nothing like the boat we imagine, not here at least, and he goes away. We are a bit disappointed…
We spend the night parked there, next to the water. It is the quietest of all nights since we left, and the hottest. All the buzzing and screeching, all the noises from the busy daytime machinery go to rest. As the dark falls, little lamps illuminate the boats from the inside like Halloween pumpkins and only black cats are left out to roam the night.
The next morning we talk to some of the boat owners and meet some interesting people at the porch in front of the office, free coffee for everyone, who give us much valuable information.
It is amazing how much we have learned for the past days just talking to people. The best advise everyone agrees on is “Just go strait to Fort Lauderdale and South Florida. The boat you are looking for is there”, they say. And they know.
Thus, we get to Fort Lauderdale only two weeks after we left home and we haven’t visited a single boat so far.