Thursday, March 25, 1999. Our shake down trip to Key West begins at dawn. We're planning to run the Interlude hard for 500 miles to Key West and back to see if all the changes are functioning properly, and if we can run the ship confidently. John Meyers arrives at 6:15am for a planned departure at 6:30am. Nancy, John's wife, teaches school, and will fly in to join us Friday night in Key West in time for dinner. Her flight is scheduled to arrive at 8:00pm.
We get away at 6:30am and transition to Tampa Bay from Viking Boatworks. All systems perform perfectly and we run the 60+ tons of ship at about 18 knots (approximately 20 mph--twice the cruising speed of our previous boat) all day to arrive at Naples Yacht Club in time to wash her down, and walk around Naples a little before dark. We've made 135 miles in 9 hours. We dine at Michaelangelo's to a fine meal.
Friday, March 26, 1999. Weather is perfect for the run across open ocean from Naples to Key West--a distance of more or less 100 miles. Seas are flat and Interlude performs flawlessly. We arrive in Key West at the Galleon Marina facilities in the Key West Bight area by 3:30pm. At 8:30 Nancy joins us for a wonderful dinner (the first of two in Key West). We walk back to the Interlude down Duval Street--a sort of perpetual Mardi Gras.
Saturday, March 27, 1999. We spend the entire day sight seeing, touring on the Conch Train, testing the tone of conch shells, eating, and relaxing. A second dinner is equally memorable at Louie's Backyard, an old house overlooking the water.
Sunday, March 28, 1999. At "oh dark 30" (dawn plus 30 minutes) we set out on our return. A cold front has passed, and the winds have shifted to the North. We have a rough trip home--five hours of pounding at 17 knots with 5-6 foot seas and apparent winds of +/-30mph. We arrive at about 4:30pm at South Seas Plantation Marina, tired and somewhat queasy--it's been a rough day for all of us, but the Interlude performed very well and we had no problems.
Monday, March 29, 1999. We depart at 7:00am and refuel in Venice three hours later. We have a perfect day: clear, warm day, flat seas, and arrive at Viking Boatworks at 3:30pm, in time for a wash down, a debriefing with Eric at Viking on some minor adjustments that need to be made, and a margarita. The trip has been a big success. We've tested everything under push conditions, pushin g harder than we'll likely push during our Great Circle Trip. The bow thruster has performed better than expected, even shoehorning us in and out of a tight dockage at South Seas Plantation. The crane launches and retrieves the dinghy without problems, after some adjustments. Interlude appears ready but we return to Viking for two main items: (1) a system to fold the radar arch to allow us under the two critical bridges on the Great Circle Route that have a 19' limitation, and (2) to ballast Interlude with lead to remove a small list which has occurred with the additions we've made. Erik feels two thousand pounds of lead in the port side bilges should do it.
Our post mortem on the trip is all systems work beautifully. Interlude is a magnificent ship, and Jan and Bill can handle it together as a team. The engines are a dream, the computer navigation system makes course-work a snap. The galley is more than adequate for all our needs, and the office and communication systems keep us in touch. Our planning has come to pass with success. We're ready.
So, now we begin the short countdown until departure...a time filled with lots of activities including three "open boats" to share Interlude with our staff and friends, a bon voyage party at the Burnettes, final provisioning, a few adjustments to systems, a weekend of skiing in Vail with Nils Erik and Mary Jane Aaby (an annual affair that Bill, especially, wouldn't miss), and details at Sterling. The excitement is beginning to build as we both realize we may, at last, begin our big trip.