Saturday, August 7, 2021

May-July 2021: The Keys, a Road Trip & a Move

By the first week of May we had finally made enough progress on Ghost Rider’s punch list to declare the boat ready for a much-anticipated trip down to the Florida Keys.  The final two items that we wanted to address were to fix the no-sound issue with the Fusion stereo system, and to get the Sirius/XM weather antenna working.

The XM Weather Feature is a Handy Complement to
Real Time Radar

The stereo issue was self-induced and related to the XM antenna issue; Rick had previously pulled out the Fusion’s master head unit in an earlier search for the XM antenna wire, and in the process disconnected every speaker wire – all 18 of them (2 for each of the 8 speakers, plus 2 more for the subwoofer.)  As it turned out, there wasn’t near enough slack provided in the speaker wiring, so the eventual fix was to buy some connection extenders from Radio Shack and patch them all back together.  And after a system software update, we finally got the XM antenna and weather package working.

 To the Florida Keys

 On Saturday, 15-May, we splashed Ghost Rider at Sanibel Harbor Yacht Club, loaded our gear and 20 pounds of ice for the frozen goods, and pointed the both south towards Marathon in the Florida Keys, about 120 nautical miles away. The weather forecast for the day was good – sunny, warm, not too humid, with easterly breezes and tolerable seas – and that turned out to be fairly accurate, with closely spaced two footers challenging the autopilot, but no bashing or hard landings.

Our inReach Track Down to the Florida Keys

We departed at 0935 and arrived at our rental property in Key Colony Beach (KCB) shortly after 1400, averaging 26 knots (30 MPH).  Before docking there, we topped off the gas & diesel fuel tanks at the nearby marina, then cleaned up the boat and ourselves.  Doug and Cat Cox arrived by car later in the afternoon and we had a fun and relaxing evening together. 

The next morning, Sunday, 16-May, the four of us departed our KCB dock around 1000 and headed south into the roiling seas of the Florida Straits.  The forecast wasn’t great, calling for easterly winds at 15 to 20 knots and seas in the five-to-seven-foot range, albeit with mostly sunny skies.  And that was all pretty much spot on, although temperatures were pleasant (mid-80’s) and humidity levels remained fairly low by south Florida standards.

Fish On!

After trolling close-in (150-to-250-foot depths just a few miles past the reef) with no strikes we ventured further out, and finally found fish in the 400 through 650-foot depths.  Within the first two hours we had four mahi in the fish box and were looking for more when we encountered a fault code for the starboard engine on the Yamaha CL7 (Command Link) electronic engine data screen.  The only anomaly we noticed was that engine would no longer respond when in single throttle mode, but otherwise continued to operate normally.  Nonetheless we opted to abort for the day and troubleshoot the issue in calm dockside conditions rather than 12 miles offshore in very lumpy water. 

Chelle, Doug & Cat During Trolling Operations

Eventually we were advised by our local Grady rep, Fred Granger, that the particular fault code (“164-135-12 Steering Wheel”) was nothing more than a software glitch in the Helm Master system, triggered by a voltage variation; as Fred suggested, a sequenced power-down and restart cleared the error and we never saw it again.

 On Monday, 17-May we were back out there, this time from 1000 to 1500, put eight more nice Mahi in the box, but also encountered quite a few “shorts” that didn’t quite meet the 20 inch minimum from nose to fork, and got tossed back in to fight another day.  Seas varied from five-to-eight feet as we worked the 400 through 650-foot depths again.  On Tuesday, 18-May, the forecast (and reality) was worsening a bit, with seas at six-to-eight feet, but we still managed to bring in six more Mahi of legal size. 

Doug & Chelle with Six Decent Dorados (Mahi)
Back at the Dock

By Wednesday, 19-May the wind and sea conditions had gone from bad to worse, with gusts up to 25 knots and waves reaching 11 feet.  We decided it was a good time to take a down day and just tinker with the boat a bit – that consisted mainly of putting some things back in place that had relocated themselves during the previous three days of bouncing around in the Florida Straits.  A three-by-six ceiling panel in the forward cabin was the main focus, as the factory’s “snap-in” design couldn’t withstand the pounding, which we remediated by drilling holes for ten stainless steel screws.  The new Rupp outriggers also had to be torqued down a lot tighter to keep them from rotating out of the deployed fishing position in the rough and windy conditions.

Ghost Rider Dockside at Our Marathon Digs

When we saw the updated forecasts for Thursday and Friday, we decided we were done fishing for the week….8-to-12-foot seas were simply more than we cared to mess with.  So, on Thursday, 20-May, we piled into Doug’s pickup truck, drove to Key West, enjoyed an excellent lunch at Fogarty’s on Duval Street (LINK), and generally just messed around the eclectic waterfront attractions amidst other touristas and the local conchs.  We used Friday, 21-May to prepare for the next day’s scheduled departure back to our respective homes – repacking suitcases, clearing out the food stores in the kitchen, divvying up all the fish filets, and stowing all the fishing gear. 

The Rental House at Key Colony Beach in Marathon...Plenty of Room for Four

A Cumulative Track Record of Where We Fished Off the Keys

Back to Fort Myers

On the morning of Saturday, 22-May we finished loading the boat and were underway by 0900, heading back home.  It was sunny and warm again, but still breezy with brisk winds out of the east.  While the ride wasn’t as rough as we experienced in the Florida Straits during the week, we encountered fairly sloppy conditions in Florida Bay until we got north of the Cape Romano Shoals near Marco Island.  From there we hugged the coastline all the way to Fort Myers for a much smoother second-half ride, arriving back at Sanibel Harbor by 1415.

The boat was a salty mess but otherwise in pretty good shape considering the pounding to which we had subjected it over the past week.  The only real punch list item added was the Sirius/XM weather functionality, which had disappeared completely from the electronics display.  We suspect some cabling got dislodged in all the banging around, but we’ll deal with that later.

Road Trip!

In late May we launched the land yacht and started a long road trip.  Finally feeling some freedom from Covid (but not near enough to fly commercially) we made stops in Atlanta, Ga; St. Louis, Mo; Quincy, Il; and Yukon, Ok.  It was nearly 4,000 miles of driving, but it was fabulous to see and hug our (vaccinated) friends and family.  It had been too long.

We Stayed with Friends Cal & Kara at Their Place East of Atlanta.  No, They Don't Run
a Resort, but It Sure Looked & Felt Like One.

In St. Louis We Enjoyed Some Long Overdue Time with the Grandkids.  Rick Discovered
that Grandson Danny Can Now Kick His Butt at Golf.

Back to Fort Myers…and a Move

By the time July rolled around we had sold the condo, bought a house and made the move from the former to the latter.  Both the sale and the purchase included furniture, so overall it wasn’t too painful, especially since the move was just two miles downriver. While the condo had served us well during the years of extended traveling on our Nordhavn, it was time for a bit more privacy and quiet, as well as our own pool and a boat lift for the Grady….at our very own dock.

While it’s an older home (circa ’75) it has been cared for meticulously and updated over time, and will be more amenable to visits from family and friends.  But Rick says it’s our last move.

Ghost Rider Parked Comfortably at the Dock at Our New Digs


We’re coming up on the heart of hurricane season (and another Covid surge here, courtesy of the chronically clueless), so for the near term we’ll be sticking close to home and taking a blog break.  We need to arrange for a new, beefier boat lift to handle the heft of the big Grady, and hopefully get a whole-house generator installed, assuming we can find space for it and the large propane fuel tank it would require (TBD).

But we’re also in the process of planning for some interesting boat sorties next year, including the Southern Loop in May, back to the Bahamas in June, and another week of Keys fishing in July.  And hopefully more.  So eventually we’ll have more maritime merriment on which to report, so stay tuned. 

It's a Modest 3-3-2, and Yeah, We Paid WAY Too Much
Back to Waterfront Living with Our Own Private Spaces

Chelle Calls This Room Rick's 'Man Cave'


  1. Nice home and blog. If you need some more wall hangers, Cat has about 40 leaning against the wall in 2nd bedroom we have no room for. ha Look forward to our trips next year. We leave 9/7 thur 10/31 in our Cat's Meow headed West. Taos, NM is as far W. we go but have 19 camp grounds. Also our camper is a Lance and we will attend our first Lance Rally in KC, KA late September. Have 20 lance campers signed up. Our first Rally so do not know what to expect. My legs are about 85% Good and with exercise and Cramp Defense pill, I am doing good.CD has lots of magnesium & Truemag and is for muscle cramps. It appears to be working. You can order direct or amazon. Stay in touch. Later.

  2. Yeesss...missed the Blogs-glad to get this.

    Pretty neat house that came with the garage; I see they're attached so you guys can visit the house anytime.

    What a great perk to have GR outside your back door finally. If there is to be no lift canopy, maybe consider some Yamaha covers for your big blocks if you haven't already. I'll resist the temptation to start preaching about getting platform decking around your lift.

    I'll send you guys a more in-depth update on what's happening here shortly.

  3. The garage is a snug fit for the cars with all the “stuff” in there, but it will work. Will be nice once we get a lift that will hold Ghost Rider, but may be a while with the way schedules are booked out down here. Definitely will need a boat cover + cowling covers as they don’t allow roof coverings here.

    Looking forward to your update. Best to Terri.