It all started on the Monday before the show. My wife woke me to ask why the alarm light was on for the septic system. It is not the first time the high water alarm has come on for the system, but this time it is more more inconvenient because we were scheduled to leave for the Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show in less than 48 hours. I got the children off to school and attempted to manually pump the tank, but the pump did not come on. The septic system's pump works similarly to that of a bilge pump on a boat. There are floats located inside the treatment tank that activate the pump automatically, and there is also a high water float that activates an alarm if the water gets too high (usually because the pump is not working for some reason.) And like a boat's bilge pump, there is a momentary position on the pump's switch to bypass the floats and force the pump to run manually, but this was not working.
I opened up the inspection hatch for the treated waste tank and noted a blue rubber ball float at the top of the water, which was 3/4 full at this point. I still could not get the pump to operate. After a few hours, the tank was nearly full and the manual switch started to operate the pump. As the water fell, I noticed a yellow ball float about half way down the tank. As the water slowly drained into the sprinkler system, and the blue float began to hang down freely, the pump suddenly stopped working. I could see the yellow float still submerged. I reached in with a forked stick and raised the blue float and the manual pump switch began working again, until after a few minutes the switch sent an electric shock into me. I called my father, he would be arriving the following day from out of state to watch the children while we were away, who has more experience with the system than I do. We did various forms of troubleshooting, to no avail. Elevating the blue float only partially worked, and only by manually activating the switch.
So here I was, with a defective septic system, about to leave on our trip, with both my parents and my wife's parents set to take over care of the children for the week with no viable solution preventing the overflow of the septic system. My father quickly ordered a portable dark water pump and dropped it in until professionals could arrive to figure out the issue. When the tank drained to the bottom, there was yet a third float. Why does a pump need three floats? I don't know, and the professionals have still not arrived. What a way to start a trip.
On Wednesday morning, my wife and I headed out early to catch our flight at the airport, which was over 100 miles away. About 20 miles from home, a full grown white tail deer decided it wanted to find out what it was like to be hit by a 3-ton SUV traveling at over 60 miles per hour on a dark rural road. My wife did not have time to react. We caught the deer dead center of the grill, with parts of the vehicle and deer blowing out in every direction, illuminated by the remaining headlight until the animal's carcass fell under the right side tires. We pulled over on the shoulder and inspected the damage in the darkness. It was extensive. Realizing we could not drive the remaining eighty plus miles to the airport, we turned back for the house to get the truck and continue on our way. What a way to start a trip.
Neither my wife nor myself care for flying, but sometimes it is a necessary evil. What we both dislike even more is the TSA and airport security. It is overly invasive and completely unnecessary. I don't live in fear of terrorism. I live in fear of tyranny. We ALWAYS opt out of the body scanner and force the TSA to take up time patting us down and going through our luggage. They can body scan 15-30 people in the time it takes for them to pat one of us down. Just imagine if 1% of travelers opted out...those body scanners would disappear. Fuck 'em! My trip was getting better already.
We attended the boat show on Thursday to avoid the weekend crowds. We arrived at the downtown area of Miami after fighting morning traffic. I pulled into the first "Boat Show Parking Here" place that I saw on the harbor front. It was just north of the American Airlines Arena and the lot was small. It was also the cheapest parking we paid during our entire time in Florida. The problem we encountered, or maybe I should say I encountered, was that just south of the parking area, next to the Museum Park Baywalk was a boat that was not part of the sailboat show, but none the less was the first boat my wife saw. Everything else at the show paled in comparison.
As we were finishing up and readying ourselves to leave the show, we were on the dock that slipped the larger, what I call the "glossy magazine sailboats" - Hylas, Oyster, Bavaria, Passport, Island Packet, etc., boats I could never afford, but love to dream about owning, when I suddenly received a swift elbow to the ribs, "Is that (insert famous sports person here)?" I looked up with tears beginning to well in my eyes to a blurry vision of (insert famous sports person here.) He was just boarding an Oyster.
"Yes, that is (insert famous sports person here)," I groaned as I recovered from the rib injury. I took a moment to regain my composure and watched as he rounded the stern of the center cockpit and I addressed him as if we were old friends, "Hey (insert famous sports person's first name here)! You gonna buy that?"
He looked up at us with a bit of shock on his face, but continued the conversation in stride. He indicated that there was a probability, and that he had gone sailing on a friends boat at some earlier time and "loved it." He also told us that he had been reading books and magazines, "Cruising World and Sail" trying to soak up the knowledge. I cannot say that I blame him. It can be addictive when that first sail with no engine takes you by surprise. It happened to me 25 years ago.
During our brief conversation I spied a glistening drop of drool attempting to escape the corner of my wife's mouth as he spoke to us from the rear deck of the beautiful yacht. (She was drooling at his beauty, not the yacht's.) I am not sure if she noticed me looking or sensed the moisture, but she quickly wiped it clear with her sleeve and the conversation continued.
We didn't want to keep him from his business (we knew of his impending sports schedule), and wished him well. He asked our names. I am not sure why, but we obliged. Maybe it was because we knew his. I do not think we are as memorable as he is. As we continued off of the docks towards the exit, my wife was in a dreamy/steamy state (McDreamy and McSteamy come to mind here) as I rubbed my bruised ribs. What was interesting about seeing this person at the boat show was that his sport is somewhat the antithesis of sailing. But I guess the sailing bug can bite anyone. We hope to see you on the water someday (insert famous sports person's first name here.)
"I know this is a long shot, but do you know where Sunny Days is?"
"Oh, they went out of business eight or ten years ago."
"Aw man, I was hoping to find them. Do you know where the boats are?"
"No, I think they are all gone."
"I used to be crew on those boats and wanted to see them again."
"Do you know Kevin?"
"Yeah, he was one of my captains."
The young man looked down at his watch, "Well you can find him at the bar right now."
"Yeah, he is there every day about this time. So are some of the other captains from Sunny Days."
With time running short, we made our way back down to Miami to meet up with the Lazy Geckos and Sailing Miss Lone Star crews for a Youtube meet-up. I follow their Youtube videos among others, and because they were going to be in Miami for the boat show, some other followers had figured out a way to get a meet-up going at a local British Pub near the show.
One interesting note about the Pub is that they did not have liquor. A pub with no liquor, full of sailors? It's hard to believe there was not a riot. Sailors drink rum, not Sonoma Hard Cider!
We ended our stay in Florida at a beach in Ft. Lauderdale for lunch and ice cream before our flight back to Texas. We watched two catamarans crossing paths a half mile off the beach. One pounding its way north, motoring against the 20 knot headwinds, the other sailing downwind in a manner not fit for a seaman, with poorly trimmed sails, bobbing needlessly in the heavy reflected waves from the beach. For both boats, that is not the way to have an enjoyable day on a boat, but it was entertaining for us while we licked our ice cream on the beach.
Once we made it home near midnight, we still had to deal with a septic system that was not working, a car that was wrecked, and large pile of toll and parking receipts. What a way to end a trip.