The surprise of the trip came on Sunday. We had reluctantly agreed to stop and visit our daughter Carla’s boyfriend’s grandparents in Alva, just outside Fort Myers where we viewed two of the boats. Yes, I said her boyfriend’s grandparents, whom we had never met. Carla can be very insistent. We intended to make a courteous fly-by and be on our way.
Kymble and Judy are in their eighties and live on two wooded acres on a slough just off the Caloosahatchee river, which is actually part of the Loop route we intend to make. Carla told me they used to be boaters, and we would like them. What an understatement. People who have done the loop say it’s all about the people you meet along the way that makes the trip so special. We just didn’t expect it even before the trip started!
Kymble had to sell his boat due to failing eyesight a few years ago. However, he and his wife Judy are as vibrant and friendly as folks half their age! Kymble was a real estate developer, and this was his winter home. Out back was a covered barn structure that used to house their motor home, along with a fabulous h shaped dock that could handle about three sixty foot yachts, complete with power pedestals, water hookups and dock lighting. It was like a mini-marina in his back yard and empty! Time flew by and before we knew it our “quick stop for Carla” turned into a three hour visit. Kymble and Judy had met Carla last summer and confided in us that they had told their grandson Evan, “Don’t let this one get away boy, she’s a keeper”! OK, that won our hearts as well. At the end of our visit, Kymblel invited us to stop by his dock as we passed on our loop adventure. Better yet he said, if we ended up buying a boat nearby, we were welcome to dock it there for the month or so it would take us to get provisioned and ready to go. He conditioned that offer only on one thing: When we picked up the boat, we take him along for the ride back to his dock. He really misses boating. I told him he had a deal and secretly thought of the too expensive boat in Sarasota…too bad.
We met our boat broker as planned Monday morning, and the next four days are a total blur. Curtis is a maniac dedicated to his customers in a way rarely seen in any business. His wife, Gill, accompanied him as we tried to keep up with them moving ever north, looking, talking and dreaming boats. Carrie went a little crazy on this portion of the adventure. She was raised in a long line of map readers, but all we had was the Hertz “ever-lost” system GPS, on which it was impossible for her to figure out what cities, bodies of water, tourist sites, etc., we were passing by. That suited me just fine as I am known to be singularly focused when I am driving somewhere and stop only to fuel or use the facilities. Curtis is a man after my own heart.
When we reached Deltaville, Virginia…yes, Virginia, we checked into a hotel in 37 degree weather in our shorts and flip flops. At dinner we told Curtis he had beaten us into submission, and we were ready to buy any boat he told us to as long as we could get a good night’s sleep! He just laughed and told us about yet another boat we needed to see in New Bern, North Carolina, thankfully on our way back (sort of, it was only a couple of hundred miles out of the way).
The Virginia trip did prove to be positive, as that boat made the final three from which we would make our selection. Unfortunately the other two were down in west Florida and Curtis had not yet seen them. So…twelve hours or so later we checked in at 1 AM to a hotel in west central Florida. Today, Thursday, six days, more than a dozen boats and 3,000 car miles (sorry Hertz, but glad we got the unlimited mileage) later, we just made an offer, counter offer, and a deal on (you probably guessed it already) the first boat we had looked at: the 45’ Ocean Alexander. Once Curtis saw it, he agreed that it was not only the best of the boats, but the best buy as well. Carrie and I absolutely love it.
Curtis and Gill drove away until Monday when they will return for the sea trial and surveys. That gives Carrie and me a few much needed days to recoup before returning to California, where we will immediately begin organizing for our hoped for May 1 departure on the loop. Right now we are both exhausted…