With our three year refit coming to a close, we’re finally reaching the point where Wanderbird is ready for sea trials. The shake down cruise was under debate. The Bahamas were calling to us, but finally it was decided it was better to remain in easily towable waters, in proximity of all that Lauderdale has to offer for parts and repairs.
After an intense scramble to finish a few essential punch list items, provisioning and welcoming a few guests to help out, we had a smooth run out the New River on a busy ‘News Years Day observed’ Monday and down the coast to try to catch up with our good friends Chris and Amanda Weingarth, talented woodworker and canvas maker/yacht repair specialist respectively. They have both contributed to Wanderbird over the last few years and are the most upstanding and reputable in their fields with their company Weingarth Customs.
Having never taken Wanderbird south of Lauderdale along the Florida coast we were happy to have Chris and Amanda’s guidance and as we passed the unmistakable ‘Stilts-ville’ at the entrance of Biscayne Bay we were pleased to see a tender approaching fast, with open, welcoming arms, ready to pilot us into the anchorage.
No shake down is official without some issues, and they started as the anchor was set, thankfully in calm and serene conditions. The chain drive on port windlass made a loud ‘bang’ as a link decided it had simply had enough of this world. Fortunately we carry spare linkages and after an hour of greasy work, we were saved having to haul 300 pounds of anchor and 75 feet of very heavy chain by hand… again – which is a story from another trip, for another time.
After a restful evening and pancakes and coffee with the Weingarths and their friend, they headed north and we motored 12 miles south to Elliott Cay at their suggestion. With the tender in tow, we we dropped the hook just outside of the no-wake markers off the national park and I free dove to inspect the new raw sea water intake covers and running gear while Luke and Dave continued with projects and Justin reorganized the Galley.
In the morning we ran Paul to shore to get steps around the lovely national park while Dave, Luke and I went for a quick exploratory swim. We picked Paul up and in the small vessel harbor at the park when something erupted like a M-80 in the water, just behind the tender. We realized the harbor was full of Manatees and we were relieved that our inboard tender was merely a nuisance and not a danger to the beautiful animals as we moved carefully away to leave them to their grazing. 
By mid-day we were cruising north again, dead calm until we rounded out of Biscayne Bay and into some easterly winds that kicked up some mild seas on the beam, reminding us of all the little things that need to be secured to prevent clinking and clunking inside cupboards.
Up the new river in the evening, making the usual radio calls and hearing no reply, we encountered a water taxi passing the gondola on a blind corner, neither of which had responded to our security calls and Luke had to back down and hold to allow them to complete their maneuvers. It’s always shocking how few vessels monitor the essential channels 16 and 9 on the winding New River, particularly commercial vessels. The water taxi captain did come back and apologize saying his radio was ‘out of reach’. Best to keep that within reach when running on a river with sections with names like ‘Danger Bend’.
Back in Lauderdale we went back to work, preparing for the next adventure, further afoot, further afield.