Bob and I found jobs at West Marine. He worked at the south Ft. Lauderdale store and I worked at the north Ft. Lauderdale store. Our hours varied from week to week and we seldom had the same days off. Some days we were like ships passing in the early morning hours and then again late at night. The person who went in second drove the other person and bike to work. The early person rode the bike home and the late person got the car. This was so each person arrived at work without being soaked with perspiration. The person who rode the bike home could jump into the tiny swimming pool and cool off. It was quite a change to be working a job for little more than minimum wage. The benefits were being around boat people, learning about boat products, and getting a substantial discount on what we bought for the boat.
Our home was still the boat. We were parked in a canal with seven other boats behind a condo with a small swimming pool. The entire street of this isle and an adjacent isle was condo after condo with boats docked behind in the canal. The buildings were of various ages and architectures. Ours was 50'ish and in serious need of repair. Our criteria in choosing a slip were congenial neighbors, a permissive landlord, and cost. There were other isles between us and the beach with multi-million dollar homes and yachts parked behind them. That would not have been us and our boat. We were definitely in the low rent district.
The tide fluctuated several feet and when it was high, it was a challenge to get on and off the boat. There was one shore bathroom for all the boat occupants so you have to factor in enough time for the shower line before going to work. We used the boat's head since the holding tank was pumped into the sewer system, not the canal. We had access to a washer and dryer, cable TV and a telephone. All the luxuries of home except we did not have air conditioning. The heat index frequently got up to 103. We saw almost all the movies that were out. Movie theaters have air, you know. Despite the dorm-like conditions, it was beautiful to look out the hatch and see the tops of palm trees swaying in the breeze. On those rare occasions we had a real dinner on the boat, usually grilled outside by Bob, we ate in the cockpit and watched the setting sun and its palette of color across the sky.
Hurricanes were always a threat. You watched the weather channel for tropical depressions coming off the coast of Africa and followed them across the Atlantic. At extremely high tides, the sea wall of some of the homes on the canals were almost flooded. If a hurricane had hit, there would definitely have been some water damage. High winds would have affected us. Fortunately nothing hit Ft. Lauderdale that year.
We bought a 1987 VW Fox and had repairs totaling more than we paid for it. Tags, registration, and insurance also cost more than we paid for the car. We sold it when we left but wheels were great for shopping and exploring the area.
We bought new toys for the boat and provisioned for departure on December 1. The destination was Venezuela by way of all the islands between here and there, passing quickly through the Bahamas. We bought a book, "Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" outlining a route through the islands with only a few overnight passages, mostly day trips from island to island. Departing in December, we had until June 1, 2000 to get below the 25th parallel, south of the hurricane zone , to satisfy insurance requirements.
We had the boat hauled at Playboy Marina. Bob quit his job to spend full time on the boat. I continued working to have the discount for as long as possible. My job was to help some on the boat but mainly go-fer things Bob needed as he worked.