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Our First Month Aboard our Boat – Burnt Store Marina, Florida

Does it ever feel like time is just floating by us ever more swiftly??

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over a month since we moved aboard Y-Not.

SunRISE over Y-Not – Nautical life is turning us in morning people!!  Help!

We usually take a couple months a year in one spot to rest up, recharge and attend to life. Constantly planning, moving and acclimating to a new location does get exhausting at times.

Periods of still time resets a nomad’s thirst for adventure.

It had been close to 16 months since we had anything more than a 2-week stay in a single location. We have been long overdue.

We were beyond anxious to get onboard Y-Not once closing was set and just be STILL for a bit in our new condo on water.

Well, as still as you can be in a house that is constantly gently bobbing back and forth (which is oh so relaxing!)

Our seller’s broker was able to find us marina space nearby Punta Gorda to tie up at while the busy season was still in full swing.

Here’s a quick 12-minute video re-cap of our month if you prefer (filmed during our first overnight at anchor) – or the text version is below. Oh, what the heck, enjoy them both if you like (it’s a two-for-one special!)

Our First Marina – Burnt Store Marina, Florida

When this location was suggested, the words ‘Burnt Store’ conjured up images of a dilapidated old country store on the water with a rickety dock to tie up to.

Turns out, Burnt Store Marina is a gi-huge-ant fancy sprawling gated residential community with several gated communities within. Everything from condos to million dollar homes.

And at the heart of it, a 525 slip marina reported to be one of the largest on the west coast of Florida. With our Great Loop Association discount, we’re paying just over $700/month to stay here. That’s substantially cheaper than most RV parks in the area, and less than we’d been paying to park hop around the state this winter.  And we have a luscious waterfront view??

And while there’s no run down store, the docks are in disrepair (but actively being replaced.)

The Burnt Store name comes from some old legends in the area of a trading store that was burnt to the ground back in the 1800s. The area sits along Charlotte Harbor almost exactly in-between Punta Gorda and Cape Coral.

And there is not much out here – just an onsite grill with nightly entertainment, a deli, a yacht broker, a weekly farmer’s market and a Dollar General outside the main gates.

To stock up on groceries or do much of anything, it’s a 10-mile drive in either direction to the nearest sign of civilization. Thank goodness we still have the Mini Cooper, this would not be the ideal spot to also go car-free.

We of course picked a slip with the best sunset view – which also happened to be the furthest from the parking lot.

Awesome daily sunsets off our bow… or easy access & in earshot of cover bands nightly?

It’s a no brainer choice for us, even if it meant lots of long dock cart rolls to move aboard.

Life Stuff

It’s been good to be still. We’ve been able to attend to daily life stuff while we start to get to know Y-Not.

One reason we selected the Great Loop is because it sticks to areas RVers go too – which means we’d have good odds of keeping in touch with our RVing community as waterways and roadways cross.

We’ve been blessed to have many of our friends stop in for a visit this past month (thanks Ordinary Elephants, Jeneric Ramblings and of course our dear buddies Nina & Paul) and we’ve been doing our best to keep up with many social invitations to meet readers & viewers in the area while balancing our work life.

We even hosted our parents onboard overnight for a few days for our marriage license signing & boat warming (we actually moved back aboard Zephyr – trusting our parents to not take Y-Not out for a midnight spin).

And there’s been projects after projects after projects.

Moving into any new home usually involves non-stop projects after all, and a boat amplifies that. We’ve been cleaning sea strainers & sumps, replacing water pumps, and doing general maintenance aboard. We’ve been learning just what all the parts are the seller left behind, ordering in stuff, nesting and making lists of modifications for the future.

We’re doing our best to take it in bite sizes and not get overwhelmed with it all. Thankfully there’s not much left remaining from our survey that requires immediate attention.

Mostly, boat life has been a gentle transition for us, and one we’re loving. (We’re sure there will be plenty of challenging days ahead too that test us!)

Getting Acclimated

Burnt Store Marina has been a great base camp (err.. can we still use the word ‘camp’?) for us.

But an amenity we didn’t think to inquire about was pump-out service, which our slip doesn’t offer. This turned out to be a blessing..  and a curse.

Pumping our Tanks!

For a little RV translation here – boats also have holding tanks for fresh and black water (ie. toilet contents). But, ones of our style anyway, don’t have grey water holding (shower & sink water). The boat systems just pump the grey water overboard – which really keeps one aware of just what you’re putting down the drain.

But for black water, boat tanks get pumped out instead of dumped. Our Great Loop route won’t be taking us many places where we can legally dump all our waste overboard. Marinas are similar to RV Parks, some offer ‘full hook-ups’ with pump-out equipment that can reach your slip and some have pump out stations you have to motor over to.

Our black tank holds 48 gallons – but we didn’t know how long our first tank would last as vacuum flush toilets are a totally new thing to us (2-weeks, by the way). We knew we’d need to learn to drive this thing, approach a fuel dock and get back into our slip pretty quickly.

A cool thing about boating life is there are people who specialize in helping boat-newbies out called Training Captains. And there’s usually several around where there are marinas.

Captain Jon was recommended by our seller’s broker, and spent a day with us long before we overfilled our tanks.

Not only did he help us establish a pre-departure checklist, get us both comfortably moving in and out of our slip, approaching the fuel dock, line handling, pumping out and fueling up – we also went out into the harbor and practiced anchoring and steering by twin engines.

At the end of the day, our skill level was way beyond where we thought we’d be in such short order. Best $200 we’ve spent in a long time.

Are we skilled captains now? Heck no – we have much left to learn. But we have freedom to pump out our tanks.. woohoo!!

Our First Overnight Anchorage (aka “Boondocking”)

We’ve taken the boat out many times…

Since our insurance didn’t place any restrictions on us needing a captain’s sign off, there’s nothing technically holding us back from continuing to venture out on our own but our comfort level.

Combined with our 4 classroom days with Captain Chris Yacht Services before buying our boat, extensive time with the previous owner going over systems and our onboard training day – we’ve felt comfortable enough to practice more on our own.

We’ve successfully made it to the pump out station and back to our slip multiple times and we’ve navigated to nearby charted anchorages for lunches on the hook (“on the hook” = dropping the anchor).

We take frequent opportunities to practice maneuvering in varying wind & tidal conditions and moving in and out of vacant slips in the marina to challenge ourselves with different approaches.

Last weekend, we felt ready to try navigating to our first overnight anchorage and longest solo trip yet..

… and ended up spending three glorious nights 14 nautical miles away at the popular Pelican Bay anchorage off Cayo Costa State Park. The approach has a narrow deep water entry close to a shoreline that required careful planning and navigation, and we learned a bunch about living on our boat away from shore power.

Yup, this is the RV equivalent to boondocking, and we loved every moment of it.

Practice, practice, practice!

The Plan Ahead

We honestly didn’t imagine we’d be this comfortable so soon and the suburban isolation at Burnt Store Marina is starting to drain us.

So within the next week we’ll keep a close eye on the weather, and likely be throwing off the lines and officially starting our Great Loop by moving on to our next marina … a whole 12 land miles away.

Fort Myers by water is actually 44 nautical miles, and we’ll take it slowly over several days enjoying some more time at anchor. Unlike boondocking spots in Florida, free anchorages are numerous.

We have a monthly slip awaiting us when we arrive to the BIG city within walking distance to STUFF. Actual, STUFF!!

We do still intend to share more details about our boat buying process, decision making and some thoughts on the differences & similarities between RVs and boats. In time.. in time.

For now, we leave you with another sunset.  We hope you don’t get tired of them.

Fairwinds, friends.


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51 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Reading over your boat acquisition story made us laugh. We could overlay our experience almost word for word. We are now seriously considering “manufactured” boats that earlier on we would never have dreamed of owning. The 4788 seems to fill almost all of our high points except that big sun deck but we are wavering on that just like you did. One question, now that you have had guests aboard, do you find the guest staterooms to be adequate. We are in our mid sixties and a lot of our friends are a few years older and we and getting creaky. Would appreciate your feeedback. Also, have you done any overnights on a mooring ball yet? Concerned about ability to drag the sand line from the forward ball to pick up the rear line.

    Thanks and love your work

    • Hi Barry… we’ve not yet experienced a mooring ball, so can’t comment on that. However my mother (a self admitted creaky 70 year old) has stayed numerous times in the guest stateroom (or as she calls it, HER stateroom). She doesn’t complain anymore than usual 🙂 But that’s a solo, the crawl over bed could be problematic for a creaky couple (heck, Chris and I gave up crawl over beds years ago ourselves). There are times when guests are aboard we wish we had the more separate spaces between the master and guest, but mostly it’s worked out great.

      We’ve also found between the spacious cockpit and our flybridge (with no dinghy dock) provides plenty of sundeck space. In the heat we’ve endured this summer, we’re super happy we went with the 4788 – we can be indoors in the AC with the fabulous wrap around view.

  2. Disconnect from the yellow umbilical cord. Get a second anchor, and learn how to use two anchors instead of swinging on one. It can be a storm anchor. so you dont have to purchase a third for that purpose. Get a rock hook for craggy bottoms and stuff.

    On 2 hooks, you reduce your radius while increasing your holding power. Once you drag anchor, you will see the value of using 2.

    Invest in a windlass. It will save on your back as well as your mate’s back.

    Get a dinghy. If you are cruising, it will be the most used craft you own and will take the biggest beating.

    If you are cruising the ICW, then use the inlets to go offshore for a couple of miles and dump legally.

    If you find yourself in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm, make use of the local knowledge and find a good hurricane hole and tie off well with stern anchors out to keep you from being blown ashore or to be able to pull yourself off should boats upwind break loose and come down on you.

    Follow the ensemble models and sat views and anticipate where the wind will come from initially and where it will shift to and find lee accordingly. Know what things like the most navigable semicircle and least navigable semicircle are and what to do if jogging the seas in such quadrants.

    Check the lines of the boats on either side of you since a lot of folks are not all that experienced and dont give a crap because they have insurance to cash in on. Carry extra lines to tie them off if they dont look right to you and dont forget to get them back before the owners come to check on them.

    Most will abandon their boats, but the experienced cruisers will stay on board to look after their boats which are their homes. Check the stats…the highest mortality rate in hurricanes is drowning. But,In a boat, you are pretty well off since, when the surge comes, you float while the houses dont; and when its over, you can leave your hurricane hole to go to the anchorage and look at all the abandoned boats that were washed up on shore or rocks or impaled on pilings.(get away from the docks)

    Notice that all the folks on shore are having to deal with no electricity, sweltering heat, water shortages and fistfights over ice while life goes on as normal for you. It is hard not to feel relief and maybe a little smug during such times in the aftermath.

    In the Dinner Key.Miami Area, CocoPlum is VERY secure. Boats there fared ok in Andrew and Wilma. Don’t overstay there however, the nice watercops get nasty after their deadline for you to leave.

    Invest in wind and solar which will meet most, if not all your energy needs.

    If you are going to run stuff like refrigerators, learn how to live without refrigeration. There are some very good books by sailors on this.

    Go thru the keys…do the Shark River and step back 10,000 years in time…marvel at the 50 red mangroves at the entrance. Use the dinghy to sightsee.

    Doing the ICW on the east coast is a definite trip. You will see all sorts of watercraft plying the ICW during the migration to and fro. Learn your lights…get copies of American Practical Navigator by Bowditch…preferably the final 2 volume set, as well as a copy of Chapman’s.

    Cruising on Seraphim and the other Seraphim books are also in order since there are Helpful Handy Cruising hints to be found in them to free you from the docks.

    As you get your offshore experience up a notch…you are absolutely NUTS if you dont do the out islands of the Bahamas, OR the southern side of Cuba which still has pristine reefs. OR Isla De Mujeres, the Monkey River, Honduras, and Guatemala await. Bimini is only about 30 miles from the entrance leading to Dinner Key in Miami, and only about 45 miles from Lake Worth Inlet to the Abacos.

    Its when you do the Bahamas that you begin to see what a maritime culture is really like as opposed to the hostility towards cruisers in the USA. And the Bahamas are changing fast. The Exumas are starting to get crowded.

    Dont be in a rush. The pace is different than on land. And if you like absolutely fresh fish to eat, you are going to be in heaven…oh…and the lobsters, while not as grand as they once were in the Bahamas, are still bigger than in the keys.

    Never leave your navigation.

    Pay attention to the tidal range in the areas you navigate to. You have shallow draft so you can work your way into some really kool places that no one else can go, but you dont want to get caught high and dry when the tide goes out or run aground at high tide unless you are careening or something.

    Consider investing in a hookah rig. That way, you can jump overboard once every week or so and clean the bottom of your boat unless you really like holding your breath a lot. They also come in handy when you want to do lobster season in the keys with a stick and a bully net, or just sightsee the reefs since all the color is in 20 or so feet of water.

    And you can also pick up extra cash cleaning other people’s hulls,and doing zinc replacements, etc.

    Enjoy the adventure.

    • Thanks for the advice.. and great stuff on hurricanes, something we are actively research. However you have clearly chimed in without getting to know us or our lifestyle.

      Please allow us to discover our own style, as you have found yours. We’re all different.

      • No Worries. If you are serious about cruising, you will quickly discover that I left you PLENTY of room to “discover your own lifestyle.”

        Evereeting be Iree. It be de adventure life Conchie Joe. Enjoy!

  3. While I have no personal interest in boating, I love how you detail your process of taking on new challenges and dealing with things. You present a great methodology for setting goals and making them happen and dealing with things as they arise while preventing a lot of bad things from happening. Happy waters.

  4. Hi Cherie & Chris,

    Congratulations on your new adventure! It has brought back so many memories when Dianne and I lived aboard a 1964 36′ Chris Craft double cabin. We moved to Ft. Myers Beach from Chicago in the early 80’s and the “Southern Belle” was our home for two years. We Loved it! A couple quick stories.

    We were in our early 20’s and well looked like hippies, well, I guess we were. Our home dock was on Estero Bay about mid island. The only way out was through Big Carlos pass past the wood swing bridge and the US Coast Guard Station. The first few months every time we took the boat out the Coast Guard pulled us over.”Is this your dads boat? You smuggling drugs? They searched, they prodded, checked for all safety equipment and wanted all our paperwork.Over and over almost every week.

    At the time we were like you very serious about learning everything we could. So we joined the local Power Squadron club and went to all their classes on safety, navigation etc. etc. We were the only young couple at their meetings. Most members and instructors were retirement age. One night they had several guest speakers, After the Captain from the US Coast guard station spoke he came over to us and said how proud he was that we were there and the fact that we were really serious. Going forward they would tease us by putting their lights and siren on get close, all laughing and wave us on our way. They never stopped us again.

    We had very few mishaps. Lost an engine once and had to come back and dock on one screw. Good idea to practice with just one engine. Several times we got the props wound up with crab trap lines or seaweed. Keep your mask & fins handy for that. Another time we were out in the Gulf a ways and I heard a terrible thumping noise and bad vibration. Stopped swam under the boat to clear the props and nothing was there. Uh Oh, Pulled up the bilge covers to investigate and there must have been 20 lbs of Dianne’s lingerie wrapped around one of the propeller shafts. Somehow fell behind a drawer down to the bilge.

    What Great memories you have brought back! Been following you for a couple years now, just never commented. Good Luck guys and Safe seas ahead! Looking forward to your adventures!

  5. Thank you for sharing!! I’ve been a fan of both you and the Wynns’ for years and I must say I feel for me and the hubs that we would much rather do what you are doing on the water than the sea!! Someday soon we will be living the RV life and buying a boat like yours and doing both. You’ve convinced us that it is the best of both worlds!! Please continue sharing your trials and tribulations upon your new vessel. And Congratulations on your Marriage. You guys Rock!!

    • We’re very inspired by the adventure the Wynn’s are on, but also know we’re not quite ready for those challenges. The Great Loop however, seems to be much more accessible for this phase of our lives when career & being near family are ultra important to us. Not to mention, we really love being in site of land! We’re curious to see how splitting time between land and water play out.

  6. That’s our exact retirement plans. We have our boat, a 42 ft Bristol trawler. We won’t buy the RV until we are ready to start switching back and forth between the boat and the RV…

  7. This is great and we both look forward to following along on your Great Loop adventures. Something we are planning as well. So, how do you figure fuel mileage on a boat that size? Will you be posting those sort of figures?

    • We’re tracking our fuel in, and tracking our mileage & generator use hours. Hopefully over time we have data to share. But could be a while and a rough guess too. It’s not something we obsess over however. It costs what it costs.

  8. Hi Cherie thanks for your experience advice, I retired in nov last year my wife is retiring next month, we are in the process of getting out of our home and putting it up for sale, then we are going to full time it, I have researched it and we are buying a full time fifth wheel Big horn and a 3500 Ram truck, my wife wants to know about safety out there on the road and rv parks plus boon docking ,what are the laws to have in your rv as far as a hand gun and shot gun , of course legally , and when boon docking what places do we go to to dump black tank, and is there a app for fueling for people with long rigs to be able to pull in with no problems, one more thing is their a app for rv camp parks. thanks again we will be asking more questions in the future, I ask my wife to start following you and to ask advice on things she can do to help while moving from place to place and to be my navigator, because i will be doing the driving and can use her help as much as possible, and shes is willing to she just needs advice, so i hope she will contact you soon. David and Pam. P.s. my wife and I are retiring young we are both 59 years old and have good health and good retirement pensions, we are active always on the go .

  9. All I can say is WOW! SO COOL!! I could hear the excitement in the words before even watching the video. I was very surprised to learn that there are any places that one can dump black tanks. Sounds like serious ocean/water way pollution. I sure hope that’s not what ocean liners do but not sure how they could handle that many people for that long a stretch. Oh dear! Well that aside, sure looks fabulous!

    • There are generally three classes of waste handling on board ships. Ours is just a holding tank, like an RV – and meant for small recreational use. Commercial vessels, particularly those like cruise ships, usually have their own sewage treatment plants on board that treat the waste before dumping. Some of the cruises we’ve been on claim that the treated sewage is ‘fresh water quality’ when they’re done with it. Umm.. not giving that a try myself.

      The general thought is however – dilution is the solution. After all, many pooping whales & fish out there in the ocean.

  10. Yay for you. I’m so happy you found a system that works! But, I’m with Nina when it comes to meetups being on shore, thank you very much. I’ll do my boating vicariously. 🙂

  11. Congratulations to you both for your new boat adventure and your marriage. We have been avid sailors for over 30 yrs. We are new Rver. Just purchased a new Winnabego 25 ft travel trailer. Have been following you since March. You’ve helped us quite a bit…so Thank you very much .
    We have dear sailing buddies that live on their 40ft sail boat in Bradenton Fl at the live aboard Marina.Twin Dolphins. They are fabulous people and awesome professional photographers. He has a drone he uses as well. Peter Obetz look them up.

  12. Congrats on your first month aboard! If you switch to lithium batteries I would love to see a segment on how well those work, whether it is worth the cost, and any other factors.

    Thanks, and good luck with settling in.

    • Thank you again for routing our way … so special to get to reconnect. Excited to follow your summer adventures too, and hopefully it won’t be too long before our paths intersect again.

  13. Glad to see you both so happy on your new boat as well as Kiki. Had no doubt you would take to the water so well. Enjoying the updates.

    • For extended stays, we’ll be selecting marinas with stuff in walking distance (marinas tend to be better situated than RV parks) and renting or borrowing cars when needed (many marinas have a loaner car for cruisers). There’s also our bikes, taxis and Lyfx/Uber.

  14. Gee, I didn’t know that a big grin could be conveyed through the written word! (Well, TWO big grins, actually.)

  15. WOW I am impressed and wish you both all the best…it looks and sounds awesome…sorry our paths won’t cross any tie soon…I would love a tour….

  16. So glad to see you guys are getting super comfortable so quickly! Not that I had any doubts, you guys are all about research, details and do-diligence. The boat looks fantastic and I love that Kiki is looking uber relaxed and curious too.

    • Kiki has spent many hours watching her buddies Cleo and Singa aboard Curiosity, I think that helped prepare her. And I know for sure watching you guys this past year helped the human crew get more quickly up to speed! *big hugs* to you both and hopes of crossing paths in FL soon.

  17. Not sure the route you’re planning, but if you are coming through the Keys and stop in Marathon (everyone does!), look us up at City Marina (aka the Boot Key Harbor mooring field) — as of now, we’re on J-1. Boat name Barefoot Gal — I blog about boat stuff and have used your internet info extensively! Love to say hi.

  18. I know Burnt Store Marina well. My sister and brother in law have lived there for years. My brother in law is on the board there also. They have 2 boats that they keep there. A large power boat and a smaller fishing boat. They originally had a 40 foot sail boat but after Hurricane Charlie went through the harbor it changed so much they couldn’t use the sail boat much so they traded for the large power boat. I live in Naples so I go up there often.

  19. We planned a house boat rental out of Cape Coral for our 20th anniversary, around Pine Island Sound. Good friends of ours lived in the condos shown on you video, and it was a good thing. The house boat broke down 3 times in 2 days a we ended up getting Sea Towed into Cape Coral where we spent time with our friends after telling the house boat owner where he can put his steaming hunk or nautical junk.

    I don’t know if you’ve considered it, but Sea Tow is a great service, on par with Coach-Net and Good Sam. One call and they’re there anywhere in the coastal regions.

    Are you going up the Hoochie-Coochie River to Okachobee to start the loop? Have you ever done Locks?

    Following your adventures.

    • We did join Boat.US before we took delivery of the boat – the competitor to Sea Tow. Apparently they are better for the loop, and we liked their community/educational focus better.

      We are watching water levels in Lake O to determine if we will cross that way, or down through the Keys.

    • It’ll be a combo of picking marinas near stuff for our longer stays (marinas tend to near city centers more often than RV Parks), renting cars, borrowing marina loaner cars (quite common apparently), Uber/Lyfx and using our bikes.

  20. What are you doing to me?! I have been dreaming non-stop about boats since you first shared your plans!
    Seriously tho – so happy for you guys and looking forward to being able to join you.

  21. So exciting…..You are a very brave duo and those sunset are beautiful…..After living in the Pacific Northwest and boating on Puget Sound for years, I am very aware of just what it takes to maintain a successful boating experience. Sounds like you two are doing all the right things….Really enjoy your sharing with all of us…..Enjoy!

  22. If you are going to Fort Myers at the end of the month; will you have enough time to become certified captains? – or – will you be using ‘rent a captain’ services for that initial 12 nm trip?

    • There’s no certification required to pilot your own boat, and we have no restrictions on our insurance to do so. Becoming an official certified captain is on par with getting a CDL in driving terms, and requires quite a commitment in training and way more experience than one can get in a week. We have no interest in pursuing becoming certified captains, and don’t want to change our status from pleasure boaters to professional.

      We’ll be doing this move on our own. We’ve already done about 1/3 of the trip to Pelican Bay (14nm each way), and that will likely be our first stop.

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