Thursday, April 5, 2007

And A Harley New Year

The bike was sitting in our driveway with a cover over it when Don’s folks pulled into Nature Coast Landings on New Year’s Day. They managed to ignore it for a couple of hours, but just before coming inside for the welcome dinner I’d fixed, Don’s Dad finally asked, “is that a motorcycle?"

They took it well. Well, they took it quietly. I see now where Don gets his poker face. Don rode it around the loop a couple of times, showing off its cool green ‘neon” lights that light up the chrome in the dark. How could they not be impressed?

Other than the demo turns, however, the bike stayed in the driveway during their short visit. There were no takers for test drives, and we sedately went to dinner at Peck’s – a quintessential Florida seafood joint at the end of a great motorcycle road (74 curves) out into the marshes of Ozello– in the back seat of Dad’s sedan.

But the folks moved on south to their winter RV grounds in a couple of days, so we were back in the saddle before the dust settled. We rode everywhere we could at the drop of a hat. The motorcycle contagion was spreading with two other neighbors buying bikes (both Hondas!) and a third buying the old Interstate! So in addition to our solo explorations, we had group rides, usually to places to have lunch. We even took a long ride to Webster, FL where there’s a huge motorcycle swap meet once a month. Harley Davidson is the master of merchandizing, and motorcycle riders in general enjoy a unique wardrobe. Week by week it seemed, our closets bulged with new and unusual items: leather jackets, chaps, gloves, black jeans, and of course a whole array of Harley T-shirts.

To show you just how addicted we’d become, we actually turned down the chance to deliver a sailboat! Our friends Diane and Alex, both formerly sailors in the Virgins like us, finally found the boat they’d been hunting for: a 42-foot Endeavor fixer-upper for the right price that could become Alex’s next project while they sit our the two-year homesteading requirement on the house they just finished building. Over their Christmas vacation time they had done their best to bring the boat from North Carolina back to Hernando Beach, but the weather was not cooperating, and as the lasts days ticked down, they’d only made it to Cape Canaveral. It troubled us a little that we were proving to be such fair-weather friends, but hells bells, we are definitely fair weather sailors, and the 40 degree temps January had ushered in were just too brisk for us!

The real reason we couldn’t help (well, the real reason after the Harley), was that the boat show schedule was about to kick in again for both of us. I was due to fly up to Philadelphia mid-month and Don had been recruited to work with Dick Murray of Murray Marine, the East Coast Spectra Watermaker dealer whom he’d met during the SSCA Gam. It’s hard to argue with positive cash flow!

The Philadelphia Boat Show

Although I was none too sure how this fair weather sailor found herself working a boat show in Philly in January! No worries! The Philadelphia Boat show takes place in the fabulous Pennsylvania Convention Center. Part of this huge center occupies the renovated Reading Terminal Trainshed, the oldest surviving single-span arched trainshed roof structure in the world, and the only one of its kind remaining in the United States. The show was in one large hall on the second floor, while the largest program of sailing related seminars I’d ever seen went on simultaneously in one of a dozen conference rooms on either side of the corridor. To make things really sweet, the center is connected to the Marriot Hotel where we were staying. There was no need to go outside at all. Fine with me since the mercury was low and it even snowed a couple of times!

This was the first indoor boat show I’d ever attended, and I really didn’t know what to expect. Steve had advised me that this wasn’t traditionally a big-selling show for him, so I pictured something small. I was pretty amazed to find the second-floor hall filled with sailboats! And not just little boats! Full-sized coastal sailers (with their masts unstepped, of course)! And the coolest thing to me was the large foot-deep pool created in the center of the room where attendees could sign up to race one of a fleet of radio-controlled model boats! And what’s to criticize about a show with real restrooms instead of port-o-potties!

My cohort in Sea-Tech sales (actually Steve’s first line saleswoman at these events) is Captain Marti Brown, author of SSB for Idiyachts, a comprehensive overview of all the things SSB radio can do for the cruising sailor. However, for the first time in memory, Marti was unable to come, thanks to some major surgery she’d recently undergone. This meant Steve had to cover the half-dozen seminars she was scheduled to give and I had to stand on my own two feet as a salesperson. On the other hand, I got to have my fancy Marriott hotel room all on my own! Now there’s luxury! A queen-sized bed with down topper, shower and bathtub with infinite water. Only flaw in the package deal was that they wanted to charge $10 a day for Internet! Instead I watched the Indianapolis Colts secure their slot in the Super Bowl. Egad, who woulda thought the day would come when I would watch football by myself!?!

The Stuart Trawlerfest

No sooner than I was off the plane in Tampa than Don and I were in the coach and on our way to the East Coast of Florida for the Stuart Trawlerfest. Dick Murray, the east Florida dealer for
Spectra Watermakers was enough impressed with Don’s watermaker know-how at the SSCA Gam to invite him to work this show with him. He even had a place for us to park for free, in the large side yard of a charming old Florida beach house he had up for sale!

A completely different kind of show from the Strictly Sail shows, the Trawlerfest featured large power boats, both new and brokerage, with a far smaller emphasis on equipment. At Stuart there were no more than thirty vendors in a tent set up in the Marriott parking lot, and I don’t know if it was a case of the chicken or the egg, but there didn’t turn out to be much traffic through the tent. It could also have been the weather, which was cold, wet and blustery the first two days. Or it could have been because it was the first time the Stuart show had been at that venue.

On the other hand, the catering at the show was very upscale: cocktail parties each evening and nice prepared lunches everyday for which Dick had provided us both with tickets. Ironically, it was schmoozing with the folks at our lunch table that brought in the only watermaker sale, to a couple that bought it for a sailing friend prepping to leave for the Bahamas!

So it didn’t turn out to be the financial bonanza we’d hoped it might, but the fact that I’d done unexpectedly well at Philly softened the blow. Plus Don had the chance to get to know Dick better and cement the opportunity to work for him in the Spectra booth in Miami, a far better prospect.

Visitors & Kayaking

January was not all motorcycles and boat shows. Early in the month we enjoyed a nice visit with Don’s classmate from high school, Roger Batton. Rog is a farmer in Morristown, Indiana. He is also an avid golfer. Put the two together in the middle of the cold wet winter, and you have a good excuse for a visit to Florida. Rog’s cousin Greg winters in Sebring, in a house on a golf course, so Rog spent a week on the greens, before getting together with us. We rode the motorcycle to Lakeland to rendezvous for lunch with Rog and two other of their classmates, and then Rog followed us back to Crystal River for a few nights.

Now before the motorcycle took over our lives, I was keen to get into kayaking. The area boasts seven spring-fed rivers and infinite winding salt water estuaries for paddlers. Canoe and kayak rental businesses abound, and several of our neighbors at NCL have their own. Back in December friends Dan and Jan christened us on a afternoon paddle in Crystal River’s King’s Bay where we paddled out to see the manatees. The manatees are big business for the Nature Coast and tourists were thick, most getting there by tour boat. Still the mantatees came out from their sanctuary to nudge at and sometimes scratch their backs on our kayaks' bottoms. Since then I’d been chafing at the bit to paddle nearby Rainbow River, a waterway renowned for its clarity.

So off we go on a sunny Sunday to Dragonfly Watersports with our Indiana farmer in tow. Although I wouldn’t say were pros, over the years we have at least had kayaks on Tackless and Whisper. This was Rog’s debut. Delivered to the launch ramp, we paddled first upriver about an hour to the headsprings in the State Park, before turning around and traveling downcurrent about five miles. The river was as advertised, gin clear and liberally populated with turtles and bass and with anhingas, cormorants, and ibis decorating the bank-side trees. Sadly, no manatees, as they ar preventing from coming upriver by dams. Don did thinkhe saw an otter. Much of the river course is built up, but so far the houses have avoided the pompous architecture so prevalent in Florida. Pontoon boats, runabouts, and canoes were tied up at backyard docks, and families cannonballed into the water said to be a constant 76 degrees year round. In the summertime this is a big tubing destination for sweltering Floridians seeking to cool off. Since it was a Sunday and pretty day there were plenty of fisherman out drifting in the current and an amazing number of dive boats putting an even more amazing number of scuba divers into the water for shallow drift dives! Arm weary, we pulled the kayaks out at the SR484 bridge about three and a half hours after we started. Rog was a tad concerned he might not be able to raise his arms to the wheel to drive home the next day, but we all woke the day following with no lasting effects. (Sorry, no photos; didn't trust ourselves with the camera!)


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