Once we were approved for a bareboat charter, we wanted to practice a bit. Our sailing experience had been limited to older boats with standard full batten mainsails. Our charter, a 2013 Jeanneau 41 DS, was equipped with an in-mast furling sail. We had read about them and watched a few dozen Youtube videos, but we wanted to get a lesson on using them. Additionally, the Jeanneau was equipped with a sail drive. While not a big concern, a sail drive would perform a little differently than those we had trained with. Since I was living just outside the District of Columbia, I started looking for an opportunity to get out on such a boat.
With just a few clicks on the internet I located Blue Note, a 2013 Jeanneau 44 DS that was available to charter through Norton Yachts in Deltaville, Virginia. A quick call secured Blue Note, along with a Captain/Instructor, to take us out and prepare us for our upcoming charter. We spent an afternoon learning the sail system, and then practiced docking. We planned to charter Blue Note at least one more time before our November charter in Key West, but quickly arriving fall temperatures in Virginia, and a couple of ladies named Irma and Maria prohibited us from any further sailing before the big week was upon us.
After Key West was hit by Hurricane Irma, we were sure that our charter scheduled for Thanksgiving week would be canceled. It seemed likely that we would be forced to wait until spring. But a few weeks following the storm, we were contacted by Florida Yacht Group with news that their boats had come through the storm and all reservations were still going to honored.
Our charter was scheduled for November 19th through November 26th. We opted to pay a sleep-aboard fee so that we could get through orientation and get settled on the boat the night before. This is the only time we have chartered, but I highly recommend using this option if offered. It gave us a chance to get settled on the boat without feeling rushed. And, we discovered a couple of issues that needed to be addressed by our charter representative, which were addressed and we were able to cast off the dock lines early the next morning.
We picked the boat up at Oceans Edge Key West Resort Hotel & Marina and headed northeast to Newfound Harbor for the first night. When we requested the charter, we submitted a float plan for the week. During our pre-departure brief, we learned that some of our planned stops should be avoided due to hurricane damage that had not been cleaned up yet. They recommended Newfound Harbor, so we made that our first destination. Over the course of the week we anchored at Newfound Harbor, Woman Key, Boca Grande Key, and Marquesas Key.
Overall, it was a great week. We learned a lot, and enjoyed having the boat all to ourselves. We had mostly light winds, but it was very relaxing overall.