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Updated: 04/10/2014 08:00:04AM
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Lauren and Bill's new 61-foot yacht provided the destination this weekend for Barb and Ken Sheasley.


Bill and Ken relax on the deck of the yacht.

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Last weekend Ken and I made a three-hour trip to Marker 1 Marina in Dunedin to see our friends’ new yacht. This may be the only time I will ever receive an invitation to stay on a 61-foot boat for the night. We were excited to see our friends from Pennsylvania. Bill is a commercial contractor and Lauren operates their rental properties plus their marina.

Lauren and Bill purchased the boat a month ago in Miami. They planned to pilot the boat to the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. Twice they have flown down to Florida for a week and moved the boat closer to the Mississippi River each time.

Our friends are certified boat captains but their experience has been confined to river travel until now. They left the boat dock in Miami and lost engine power on the left side. The boat ran aground in shallow waters. With one engine they pulled off the sandy bottom and pushed into a boat dock across the channel. After getting out into deeper waters they were forced to pull into a marina to assess the damage. One of the motor filters was clogged with sediment from the diesel fuel. The boat only had 4,000 hours on the two engines but it had sat for a long time. The propellers were bent. After a repair and filter change they were on their way. Within hours trouble returned in the form of an unbalanced propeller. They went back under the boat to make the repair. This was the end of the first week to move their boat.

Two weeks later they returned to move the boat through the Keys, hoping their issues were behind them. Bill took several filters as backups to ensure the fuel was not an issue on this trip. Traveling through the Keys was going to be an adventure. The second day out a storm hit the boat with 15-foot waves pouring in over the pilot house on the top of the boat. All three refrigerators on board and most of the cabinets opened and poured food, supplies and beer bottles onto the floors. Several beer bottles and food jars broke sending glass and contents from the pilot house to the main kitchen area to the lower deck. All three floors with white carpet on the lower decks were covered. Several miles out they made their way inland to a mango tree-covered entrance. The mango trees were hitting the boat on both sides in the narrow channel. Lauren was yelling, “Bill, we are in 4 feet of water.” Then followed by, “Bill, we are in 3 feet of water.” Then followed by a few choice words, “Bill, we are running aground again.” The boat needs 4 feet of water to maneuver. A diver was needed to check for damage and assured them the boat was fine.

Leaving the next day for Dunedin brought another surprise. Sometime during the night the boat had been hit by lightning. The storm had knocked out their navigation system.

Upon arrival in Dunedin our friends and their guests were showing signs of wear. We had a great dinner and conversation with our friends and their cousin. At 6 a.m. the next day we were off the boat and they were headed for a 200-mile trip of open waters to Apalachicola. At 20 miles an hour and $2,000 in fuel, the trip was estimated at 10 hours.

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico was going to be hard enough but without navigation the trip was scary. Thirteen hours later we had not received word that they had made Apalachicola. I called and left messages on their cellphones knowing the phones would not work until they had made land. At 9 p.m Bill called to say they were having engine problems again and barely reached Carrabelle last night. This morning they are laying low to wait out a storm and doing repairs.

Tuesday they were returning to Pennsylvania with a freshwater river trip ahead of them. The river trip will be done at three different times with family or friends onboard.

My knowledge is very limited on the subject of boating but I understand why his wife is a nervous wreck. We wish them calm waters and sunny skies.