You might remember my Christmas list from December. One item I dearly desired was, “Warm weather: not having to suffocate myself in layer after freaking layer of clothing, not having to wear shoes, not having to freeze my tail off to go for a sail, being able to relax in the cockpit with a cold drink without my lips turning blue, sleeping in my boat with the hatches open without waking to an icicle dripping on my forehead...”
It seems my own personal Santa has found a way to grant that particular wish. He’s taken a job in South Florida. By the time you read this, we’ll be sipping cold beers on the private dock behind our new house in Ft. Lauderdale. We’re outta here baby!!
As we’ve shared our news with friends, I’ve noticed two recurring responses. The most common and easily understood is, “Do you have a guest room?” “Why yes we do! Come visit!” The other question generally just leaves me dumbfounded. “Why would you want to move there?” Why would I want to move to South Florida? As tempting as it is to knock on their heads and ask if anyone’s home, that would be rude.
My best friend, Bex, who lives in Huntington, WV, which is even more frozen tundra-ish than Georgia, has very strong feelings about my move. The strongest of which is jealousy. So to rub it in a little, and to answer the question so many people seem intent on asking, “Why would you want to move there?” I decided to make this column a list of reasons to move to Florida. As always, I sent it to Bex to proof before submitting it, and she had a few comments to add. I thought I’d leave them in for your amusement.
Top 20 Reasons to Move to South Florida
1. Warm weather year round. No more scraping ice off my windshield. Ever. Which is exactly why I had a Remote Car Starter installed this winter. No more ice on my windshield either! So there!
2. Wind. Within motoring distance. All the time. And hurricanes six months out of the year!?!
3. Saltwater. Lots of it. Everywhere you look. Enough to float a boat. Saltwater, shmaltwater! You know all that salty air is only going to rust out your truck in no time flat!
4. No worries about low lake levels. We don’t ever have to worry about the water levels on the Ohio River where we keep our boat either, but you’d know that if you visited more often.
5. A tan that doesn’t fade in the winter. Okay, a somewhat valid reason. Although I must point out that when you’re 50 and I’m 55, I’ll be the one looking 45 and a lot less like a Gucci handbag!
6. No more coats, boots, gloves, scarves, turtleneck sweaters, wool anything, or bundling up just to walk to the mailbox. At least in the winter I can hide my aging neck and double chin with a turtleneck. How will you accomplish that? A feather boa?
7. Palm trees. Everywhere. Which means that in addition to worrying about flowerpots falling on your head you must now also beware of coconuts falling on your head, rendering you unconscious and perhaps leaving you in a semi-vegetative state. And I suppose you’ll expect me to fly down and tend to you?
8. An end to the bane of my winter existence: static electricity. God bless humidity. You got me there.
9. Ducks and geese vs. sea gulls, sand pipers, herons, pelicans, terns, albatross, and flamingos. No contest. What’s wrong with ducks and geese? You’ll have five times the amount of bird food and bread to buy!
10. Carp and bass visiting your boat vs. dolphins and manatees visiting your boat. And barracuda, crabs, eels, alligators, jelly fish, 75 species of shark…
11. Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, Tuna, Marlin, and access to a boat to go offshore, hunt them down and eat them! Amy, those fish weigh more than you do! They’ll drag you overboard and eat YOU!
12. The sushi doesn’t get any fresher. If you LIKE eating raw fish. Ugh!
13. You can easily get a gun permit in Florida. Since when did YOU ever need a permit for ANYTHING?
14. A much more casual open container law. Again, since when did YOU…
15. No helmet law. Not that I own a motorcycle, but I might want to some day and helmets mean helmet hair. But not in Florida! So your brains can spill all over the road after you’ve been whacked by someone who took advantage of that “more casual open container law!”
16. You can count on Florida for a good controversy from time to time. Any state you’ve ever lived in has had its share of controversy simply by you being there!?!
17. Three hour drive to Key West. Didn’t you get the memo? They blew that bridge up in the movie True Lies.
18. A fifteen minute drive to the beach. Unless there’s a storm surge or tidal wave or hurricane. Then the beach will come to you!
19. Grand Bahama is only a day’s sail away. I can be there sipping on frozen rum drinks in a few hours by hoping on a plane and I won’t be seasick! You call this a reason?
20. Did I mention warm weather? All the time. That would be year round. [Expletives deleted]
Aside from the thought of coconuts falling on my head, my only concern with the move is missing all of my friends here. I won’t miss Bex any more or less because she never flies down to see me anyway, but I’ll certainly miss all of you. But remember, we do have a guest room! Until then, check back next month and see how this Wannabe Sailor is faring in sunny (and warm!) South Florida and feel free to email me anytime!
[Six months later I ran an update to the list above and compared my expectations to reality! Keep reading!]
Welcome back to sunny South Florida! Summer has officially arrived and we know this because it’s HOT here and storms every day. I mentioned this to a local recently and her comment was, “Well what exactly did you expect?” I thought about the list I composed (before we moved), “Top Twenty Reasons to Move to South Florida,” and wondered how my expectations measured up to reality. So here’s the list again along with my perceptions after living here nearly six months.
1. Warm weather year round. No scraping ice off my windshield. Ever. That one was pretty realistic. I’ll never have to scrap ice again.
2. Wind. Within motoring distance. All the time. True, we have wind. Almost all the time. Sometimes too much wind for using a small boat, but it is nice to always have a breeze. It would also be nice to have a sailboat to take advantage of said wind...
3. Saltwater. Lots of it. Everywhere you look. Enough to float a boat. Partially true. Although the canals are brackish, it’s still water and can float a boat. I never get tired of being on the water and I truly love living and working on it.
4. No worries about low lake levels. Here I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our fresh water supply comes mostly from Lake Okeechobee (pronounced Oh-kah’-choh-bee) which is more than four feet below average. We’re in the worst drought since the 1930’s and are on Phase III water restrictions, which means reducing water usage by 45%; we water once a week from 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM, boats can only rinse saltwater off for 15 minutes per trip and restaurants are encouraged not to serve water with meals unless it’s asked for. You MUST use a hose with a flow-control head attached at all times. Violations can mean up to $10k (yes that’s a K) in fines. Our fresh water supply is in danger of saltwater intrusion. Pretty scary and much worse than anywhere I’ve ever lived. We’re surrounded by water and can’t drink any of it.
5. A tan that doesn’t fade in the winter. As I’ve yet to really experience winter here, this remains unknown. But I am tan now!
6. No more coats, boots, gloves, scarves, etc…Again, haven’t yet gotten that far, but locals have laughed at my notion of wearing shorts all winter. We’ll just see.
7. Palm trees everywhere. Right on the money! And I’ve even learned how to grow my own palm tree from scratch!
8. An end to the bane of my existence: static electricity. Can’t say I’ve had a problem with it here. It’s like the memory of a bad dream…
9. In a word, sea birds. We have so many species of sea birds that I still see new ones on occasion. My favorites are the Pelicans and the Herons. I was a little surprised to find a regular old white duck floating around in the canal a while back. I felt a little sorry for her plainness.
10. Dolphin and manatees instead of carp and bass. Although there are supposedly multitudes of manatees here, I’ve yet to see one myself and I’ve begun to doubt their thriving population. Dolphin is what we call Mahi Mahi and we eat it. Porpoises are what we call the cute little guys the rest of the world calls dolphin. Haven’t seen any of them either.
11. Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, Tuna, Marlin and access to a boat to go offshore and hunt them down and eat them! Ok, that’s dolphin, not Mahi Mahi. If you walk into a restaurant and order Mahi Mahi they’ll correct you. It’s dolphin. As to the rest, I still haven’t personally caught anything, even though we go out fishing at every opportunity and even though I actually attended a saltwater fishing seminar. But I know they’re out there and I will catch something. Someday.
12. The sushi doesn’t get any fresher. True.
13. You can easily get a gun permit in Florida. True. But as Bex said last time, I don’t bother with permits anyway.
14. A much more casual open container law. True again.
15. No helmet law. And again. But I still don’t own a motorcycle and the way people drive down here, I might never own one.
16. You can count on Florida for a good controversy. Or at least making the national news. The Anna Nicole debacle drove us all nuts. And there was the judge who got busted at noon in a public park for smoking something other than a Marlboro.
17. Three hour drive to Key West. Actually more like four. Unless you stop along the way to explore or get stuck behind Grandma Moses, then it can take most of the day.
18. A fifteen minute drive to the beach. True again. And a fact I’ve put to good use many times.
19. Grand Bahama is only a day’s sail away. Wouldn’t know, haven’t been able to test that one. I’ll keep you posted.
20. Warm weather. All the time. True so far, but weather is more than just heat. I failed to consider the average daily humidity of 64 – 75%, the afternoon storms that begin like clockwork at 2:30 PM and consist of violent wind, lightening, power outages and flash flooding. We organize our days to ensure all outdoor work (and play) is completed by then. But we need rain so we don’t complain too much. Still, I have to wonder if it ever just rains here without the dramatics that seem to always go with it. Did you know this is the lightening capital of the country?
So it’s both more and less than I expected and of course we take the bad with the good. It still seems strange at times to live in a place that the rest of the world sees as a vacation spot. When we do go away for a few days, it’s a little odd to come home and still be in the tropics, still be surrounded by palm trees, still be surrounded by water, still go to the beach after work for a swim. In some ways, it’s like a vacation that never ends. And I wouldn’t change a thing.