Making New Friends
By Jim Favors
After a couple of weeks cruising by ourselves, Lisa and I were looking forward to the Ranger Tugs 2012 Southern Rendezvous in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. These boating rendezvous give us the opportunity to learn more about boating, meet and make new friends and socialize with like-minded folks. In this case, they are all Ranger Tug trailerable trawler owners, also known as “Tugnuts.”
Our Kismet docked at Moss Marine, all washed up and looking pretty, waiting for the festivities to begin.
If there is one overriding thing we’ve learned, as boaters who belong to several boat clubs and an owner's group, it’s the enthusiastic willingness of boaters to share cruising and mechanical knowledge, including completed projects that made their boats more functional.
Beside all of the obvious benefits of fitting a rendezvous into our schedule, it provides an outlet for Lisa and me, after being tied at the hip 24/7 for the prior two weeks of cruising down the west coast of Florida. As Lisa’s fond of saying, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” Don’t get me wrong, we both love boating and being with each other. A good social balance is important when cruising so we don’t become imbalanced, especially in the relatively small confines of most boats (trailerable or not).
The rendezvous was informally set up as a gathering of Ranger Tug owners, who either live in Florida or (like us) were spending the winter cruising the sunshine state as an escape from the harsh northern winter. Of the boats in attendance, several were based in Florida, while the balance were from Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Lisa and I had the pleasure of meeting three couples who were also in attendance four months ago at the more formal 2011 Ranger Tugs Rendezvous, held in Bremerton, Washington. Other than these three couples, the rest were new acquaintances for us.
Moss Marine, our home for a week, is just a short walk to the beach and restaurants.
We arrived by water at Moss Marine, the site of the get-together off of Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach. However, because we are all trailerable boats, most of the out-of-state boats launched at various locations in Florida and then cruised to Fort Myers Beach. That is, with the exception of Ted and Carol on Gipetto. They drove directly to the marina from Maine, just a few days after taking delivery of their new, light green, Ranger Tug R27. They made arrangements with the marina to have their R27 lifted off their trailer by forklift. This was only the second time they had their new boat in the water, and their first solo launch, the first was performed by their dealer when they took delivery just a week earlier in Maine. By the time Gipetto arrived, to have their boat picked up from its trailer, at least three other boats, including Kismet, had securely docked and we were all available to help Ted and Carol; boaters always seem on the ready to give a helping hand. Because I had never seen a Ranger Tug picked up from a trailer, I wanted to observe the event for future reference. The guys all gathered around to watch, similar to how guys like to watch a sporting event, or cement being poured, with great interest and curiosity. Of course, we were all being helpful by making sure their drain plug was installed, that the through-hull fittings were open and their trailer straps had been removed, all things I’ve forgotten to do at one time or another. We were already beginning the bonding process boaters go through as we band together.
Ted and Carol seem somewhat relaxed after their first successful solo boat launch.
One of the major benefits of a get-together like the one in Fort Myers Beach is the sharing of knowledge. In our case we had left our truck and trailer stored at Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs. Since we stayed with them a week, they let us park the truck and trailer there while we cruised south, no charge. I shared this information, for the future benefit of those in attendance, but I was also curious to learn where the others, who launched nearby, were storing their rigs while they were cruising. Sure, I could go online and Google “RV storage” for a suitable place, but I feel the personal experience shared by fellow trailerable boaters can be more up to date and accurate. I learned that two of the boats had launched from the Punta Rassa Boat Ramp, just a few miles away. They reported that the ramp had everything we needed, including floating tie up docks, and a deep, long ramp with plenty of parking. For secure, gated storage, they used Summerlin Storage, just a couple of miles away from Moss Marina. The ramp information was especially important for us to know, for when we took our boat out of the water at the end of the rendezvous.
By the time everyone arrived, we had 12 boats in attendance. We had happy hour on the docks followed by a, “Get to know your fellow Ranger Tug owners” meeting in the boaters' lounge and group dinners over the following days. What made the event most rewarding for us was the camaraderie that developed, just from so many Ranger Tug owners coming together in one place.
It doesn’t take long to make friends when talking boats, as shown in the boaters lounge at Moss Marina.
During the get-together, we helped each other with problems or questions about our boats, ones we didn’t have a solution or answers to. As a result an association began to grow into friendships. For example, I didn’t have the proper tool for getting one of my engine pencil zincs off, so another owner gave me a hand. Denny’s depth sounder, on Levitation, was not working and he had a bad back. I was able to get down into his bilge area where I found it had come loose, and needed to be cleaned and reseated. Between three of the other boaters and me, we solved the problem and got things back into working order. Ted and Carol, being new owners, were dealing with the learning curve of their new boat. We were all happy to answer their questions as they were getting acquainted with Gipetto.
Most of us stayed a week at Fort Myers Beach, even though the event was only three days long. This gave us time for more socializing, exploring the harbor by dinghy, and working on boat projects. Denny installed an additional GPS, another attendee waxed his boat, Lisa gave mah-jongg lessons to two women boaters and two couples even went to a simulcast of a New York City opera in Fort Myers. There was more than enough to keep us all busy as we Ranger Tug owners enjoyed time together.
Taking a break before a big potluck extravaganza.
Except for Ted and Carol none of us had vehicles. We had either left them in storage or where we launched. I mention this because it can sometimes be challenging, when arriving in a port, to figure out how to get around for provisioning, boat supplies, etc. The Fort Myers Beach Trolley system, although developed to help keep traffic congestion down on Estero Island, is a wonderful service we used a few times to run errands to the grocery, West Marine and do some sightseeing. For $1.25 or less per person, one can get just about anywhere In the Fort Myers Beach area.
Over the course of the week, boats left on random days based on their personal cruising agendas, taking them to various Florida destinations or back home. Because we had such a good time sharing our knowledge and helping each other, we vowed to plan another southern rendezvous next year.
One of the ideas I picked up was this transom outboard motor mounting setup.
Mike, a Great Loop acquaintance of ours from Naples, Florida, offered us a ride from Fort Myers Beach back to Tarpon Springs to retrieve our truck and trailer after the rendezvous was over. We wanted to have our truck so we could trailer our boat to the Keys from Fort Myers Beach. Without this boating friendship we would have had to rent a car to retrieve the truck and trailer, so the offer was well received and greatly appreciated. This is just another example of how boaters are so very helpful to each other; it is our goal to return the favor wherever and whenever we can.
When it came time to depart Fort Myers Beach, there were three boats heading to the Keys from the rendezvous. We all had different schedules and although we were not traveling together we were hopeful of meeting up before our respective winter cruising time was over. As it turned out, we trailered Kismet to Marathon, Florida, while one boat cruised straight to Key West and another traveled to Key Largo first, in the upper Keys. What we didn’t know at the time was that even with such different schedules, we would all end up in Marathon, at the Harbor Cay Club, within a week of each other.
I liked seeing these two ideas for fender placement and dinghy storage. The fender is secure for travel but ready to drop along side the boat when docking and just behind the fender they have stored their dinghy.
Lisa and I found Harbor Cay Club through our friends Wade and Susie, on Shady Lady, when we took a friend’s boat down to the Keys last winter. We were so enthralled with the club that we decided to make a one-week visit this year. Whether you’re a full-time liveaboard or a trailer-cruiser, Harbor Cay Club is a friendly stop. With only 24 slips, it offers a cozy retreat on the Florida Bay side of Marathon Island, making sunset celebrations a nightly occurrence. A few days after our arrival, the other two boats we had met at the rendezvous showed up. It started to feel like old home week, even though we had only known each other a short time.