008 - Small Steps Closer...
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
2019 started where 2018 ended. We were still living literally in a building site and even had to book into a hotel on Christmas eve as we never had a kitchen, bathroom or anywhere to actually sit nicely in order to spend a traditional Christmas Day.
But here we were, pushing forward and ever hopeful this building site life would end sooner rather than later. Would that be not all we had to deal with, we would have been fine but Pook had a nasty accident meaning she needed expensive surgery. Surgery we really couldn’t afford in the UK. Through the first 3 months of 2019 we battled on and by April 95% of house is done!! So lets go sailing!! Or at least do some more training. 1 week aboard with top cat training.
Pook actually couldn’t make it and was far too busy as she was in the process of selling her tanning and beauty business. Things were very hectic off the back of the house changes and the fact that I got away at all to do some “reminder” sailing was a miracle in itself. Jim did his usual best to offload his knowledge and experience into my brain and for a while I contemplated doing the Yachtmaster Coastal exam. The idea was abandoned in the end as I just wasn’t ready for it and, well the weather wasn’t quite ready for it either!
May and June saw us getting the house rendered and the new drive put in and by this time Pook had finally sold her business. The house by and large had cost us more to do than we had expected and this took our idea of what to buy (boat wise) a little getting used to.
Until now we had been looking at 50ft Privileges, St Francis 50s and Knysna 500s, but these were starting to slip out of our realistic affordability. Also Pook really needed to go to Thailand for the much needed operation and so, after a holiday in Budapest we flew to Thailand.
Now Pook is from Thailand and in the September we flew out so that she could have her much needed operation. However life it seems is never simple for us. Not only were Pook’s family very keen to see her (as our whistle stop tour last year on our way home from Australia had only been for a week and a couple of those days were looking at Rob’s boat being built), but some friends and my brother in law was also in Thailand and didn’t know Bangkok. So, we arrived and the first few days were spent showing him and his girlfriend round Bangkok whilst we were also trying to market and sell Pook's condo and beach house.
By the time we had sourced a good hospital and sorted out an operation date, the timing meant that we would overstay our visa. So we decided to go to Laos for a short break. Neither of us had been there and it was a lovely serene and peaceful place, hire bikes were free and left without locks (nobody but us ever locked bikes up, I think we are from a much less trusting place. The food markets were something else, the local delicacies weren’t to our liking and I was very tempted to buy some live turtles just to free them in a local river. It turned out that they weren't for eating, they were for good luck. But most of the other animals dead, or alive were food waiting for a table.
Live bugs, beetles and worms sat wriggling next to dead moles, snakes and birds. We decided not to eat street food here. But Loas was a beautiful place, we got up early one morning to offer food to the morning parade of monks. The long line of monks dressed in their orange saffron robes took over 30 minutes to pass but we sat diligently in the pouring rain to make sure all had food.
We took a day trip to the Kuangsi Waterfall Park. It was a bit of a trek but OMG was it worth it. The waters were crystal clear and oh so warm, you could swim all day in the waters or climb to the top of the falls and walk around the shallow pools. It was a lovely place to visit and we may at some point return to Laos.
When we got back to Thailand, Pook went in for her operation and then I had to return home whilst she recovered. Whilst she was recovering some more friends of ours decided to pop in and see her and they spent a few days looking round Bangkok too. Almost everyone we knew suddenly had this urge to go to Thailand as some friends from England also called into Bangkok and had a look around.
Next it was the turn of my youngest daughter and just as she was leaving... my eldest daughter and my mother both flew to Bangkok to get what was now fast becoming a Pookie guided tour!! They convinced Pook to also fly to Vietnam with them and spend a week there, this suited Pook fine as she was once again getting to the end of her visa allowance on days spent in Thailand.
By the time Pook came home there was talk of a SARS-CoV-2 virus going on in China but that didn't seem to matter to us. All in all, the 18 month build time on the house, plus accidents, selling businesses and trying to sell other properties meant that 2019 ended without success and with less money. Still keen to move forward we started 2020 searching in earnest for the right catamaran.... in Miami.
We don’t seem to have much luck when trying to fly to the US and this time was no different. The heavy rain we experienced turned out to be hurricane Derek and was affecting hundreds of flights. They even had a special correspondent on the news this morning telling us how just how many flights in Gatwick had been cancelled so it was a big relief to find that our flight was not affected. Now working in the healthcare industry I was quite aware of the China Virus that was making news recently and so we decided to wear face masks. We were the only people on the flight wearing them and most people looked at us as though we were mad.
Now Miami boat show is one of the larger shows and we had heard that whilst St Francis were not going to be there, a little known brand called Knysna were. We asked very nicely if we could have a short sail on her and the owners of the company very kindly agreed. Knysna have been increasingly talked about in the social media circles and we were keen to get aboard. She was fantastic and at $875,000 new, second hand models should neatly fit our newly constrained budget. Not as fast as the St Francis and not as luxurious as the Privilege but certainly having a good go at both - We loved her.
The Xquisite X5 was still a stunning boat but with the owner shy on coming forward with any solid performance figures and some YouTube reviews giving it a 3/10 for performance we decided to axe it as an option. Plus there were so few second hand models available that it would have been almost impossible to realistically find one. We did consider the older version of this (Called a Dean 5000) but once again there were few to be found anywhere. We also stopped looking for Series 5 catamarans as well and instead concentrated in the slightly older 515.
Miami is a fantastic place to visit, full of vibrant colours and scenes that you will remember for years. We did all the tourist locations and got to go on the Knysna at the boat show as planned. I think by the end of the test sail the Knysna was indeed our preferred choice. However the $875k price tag was just going up to $925 which would no doubt hike any second hand values also. They weren't the only ones, Privilege had launched their new 510 series and pushed the price up once again with what we saw as very few alterations to justify the hike… we didn’t know what St Francis were doing as it was a no show from them. Now whilst we hope to sail around the world, most of the places we would visit would be on the coast, so we thought why not make use of the trip and see a place where no boat could sail to.... Las Vegas!
The flight to Vegas was longer than expected (one forgets how big this country is) but I had opted to put us into the Luxor hotel. Although it is at the end of the “strip” I was wowed by it when I had gone with friends in 2005. This time it was still breath taking to look inside with its vast open aspect, but truth be told it was starting to look a bit dated. On our first walk to the strip, we saw some "showgirls" and for some stupid reason decided to ask them for a photograph, they were very obliging but immediately asked for $20 each for the privilege. Now we are not gamblers and so we booked ourselves a day trip to the Hoover Dam and the newly built Skywalk at the Grand Canyon.
The Skywalk is a glass half circular bridge over the dam and truth be told, I know I look quite relaxed in the photo but I really didn't like the height. Vegas is a stunning place with lots to see and do, the Bellagio fountains are a treat and some of the inside of hotels on the strip are a work of art... but my favourite bit was probably taking out the Harley Davidson. Despite the weather it was great to get up into the mountains near Vegas and drive along a deserted road as far as the eye could see.
Food wasn't far from our thoughts and we managed to do some reviews of places to eat. We were tempted to go into Hell's Kitchen, but the menu of burgers and other fast foods (regardless of how well they're done) just aren't our cup of tea. Nightlife in Vegas was not all it was cracked up to be, I think that was because of a drop off in visitors due to the increasing concerns over a “Coronavirus” that was now leaking out of China. Showgirls, cowboys, fast cars and even a disabled Elvis Presley... Yes Las Vega has it all and as our holiday finished, we were still dreaming of owning a catamaran but seemingly destined never to afford one. If you want to see our video we made when there, click this link.