Meridian 391 Heads to the Florida Keys & Orange Beach AL

What a beautiful day for a boat ride!

We last saw these new owners, Brian and Lynn as they finished up with post purchase boatyard repairs and upgrades (click here to read Start the Adventure). Ready to splash their Meridian 391, they were eager to start the cruising adventure with a training delivery. Don’t forget to scroll down for the photo album of this awesome adventure.

Trust But Verify

You may remember that they found this boat after an extensive search. Sometimes you like a specific model then try to find the one in the best condition. Some of the items addressed while in the yard included:

  • all heat exchangers were removed and tested
  • all motor mounts on each engine replaced
  • propellers sent out for tuning
  • cutlass bearings replaced
  • bilge pump replaced
  • running light lenses replaced
  • anchor line removed and painted with incremental markings
  • a full boat compound and wax- flybridge to waterline.

It’s very tempting to splash and GO! A beautiful weather forecast can certainly add to the temptation. But Brian and Lynn were smart. These new owners agreed to stay local for a few days to test out all their repairs and upgrades. So we took the opportunity to do some training while at the same time confirming that all is running as expected. Docking, anchoring, running the ICW channel and some more docking all contributed to a successful post work sea trial.

Moving Day

Many new boat owners find their perfect boat in a location that is pretty far away from their home port. So, we helped them determine the best way to get their Meridian home to Orange Beach AL from Fort Pierce FL…a training delivery!

Having attended our Cruising 101 FUNdamentals seminar, Brian and Lynn learned about navigation and trip planning. So, they were aware that traversing the state using the locks on the Okeechobee Waterway is certainly a more direct route. But a round about route through the Florida Keys combines fun with learning. And, their son joined them in Fort Lauderdale to share in the adventure. Yup, we can help your family members build their cruising confidence too.

Paradise in the Keys

Heading southwest from Miami, the Hawk’s Channel route was a calm and comfortable course. Even with a northwest wind, the islands of the Florida Keys offer protection from building waves. Cutting through to the Gulf just below Marathon was easy following Moser Channel under the 7-Mile Bridge. Then a straight shot up from Marathon to Marco Island couldn’t have been sweeter.

The weather Gods were smiling on us for sure with gentle swells. Check out the photos below and imagine it’s YOU enjoying the clean blue waters in your own boat…it could happen.

Pace Yourself

If your calendar is tight and you can’t make your final destination in one long cruise then consider options. We can certainly continue the training delivery. But if you need to leave your boat and return to home or work we can finish as a pure delivery, allowing you to step off wherever it’s convenient.

Brian and Lynn did their trip planning to Orange Beach a little differently. Docking the boat in the Tampa area for a short term allowed a convenient location for everyone to get back home (consider airport and car rentals). And, it was also easy to reconvene in this central port later in the month to continue the training delivery.

One More Day

Back on the boat down to three crew members, we were quite fortunate that our schedules and a good weather forecast collided to make everything work. While we were away from the boat the north winds were honking. But they started to clock around to the east just before we returned. Leaving Tampa Bay we headed north one more day to make the actual jump a little shorter. Waiting one more day to be in the open Gulf of Mexico enable us to benefit from one more day of favorable winds to let the wave heights settle down. Patience, grasshopper. Good things DO come to those who wait.

Made it to Crystal River for our final night before making the jump. What’s the jump? you say…. The jump is a rather long open water crossing of about 130-150 miles from the west coast of Florida up to the panhandle. Common entry/exit ports are between Carrabelle or Apalachicola and Tarpon Springs or Clearwater. And this time of year most boaters are headed from the north to the south. Oh well. We aren’t most boaters I guess.

Making The Jump

So the stars are in alignment and we happen to be in a fast planing hull boat. If this were a slow trawler we would be set for a 23 hr run. Fortunately we now have absolutely flat calm seas in the gulf and all systems are GO. It’s winter and the days are short. So at 7:00am we pulled anchor in Crystal River and were tied up in Carrabelle at 4:30pm. Did it all in daylight! Whoop!Whoop!

Many new boat owners making the jump for the first time are filled with “what ifs.” What if we have bad weather? What if the waves are too high? What if we have problems with our equipment? That’s why it was great that we had some significant time on this boat to check out all systems. Being a responsible and confident boat owner means understanding how all your boat systems work. Having spare parts and a fundamental knowledge of what to do with them can make the difference between a hiccup and a disaster.

Also, great that we kept watching the forecast. Sure, we could have left from Clearwater or even Tarpon Springs. But hugging the west coast as we made our way north allowed us to wait for the weather to improve. They say that a schedule is the most dangerous thing to have on a boat….whoever they are, they’re pretty smart.

After the Crossing

A few more days to their home port allowed us to hone a few more skills on this training delivery. These new owners wanted to learn to navigate in the cloak of night. So much is different when visibility is challenged including your depth perception. So, the next morning we set out before O’dark thirty. In addition to trying to see other boats or NAVAIDS/channel markers, we focused on lights in the distance on the horizon. When you can’t see a section of those lights, be aware. The black spot is actually something blocking the light…maybe a boat or maybe the piling from a NAVAID. Sometimes it’s what you don’t see.

When you attempt your first night cruise, try to start out an hour or so before sunrise in familiar territory. Yup, it’s still dark as the night. Then instead of it getting more difficult to see as you continue to cruise, you will be aided by the gradual dim light of dawn. The eventual sunrise will have you breathing easier. And, you will appreciate why it’s best not to end your day in the dark.

Next time you are anchored for an overnight, focus on a few nearby sights like a NAVAID or a nearby house or tree. Then after dark, try to locate those same items. See?


Success comes to those who prepare. Brian and Lynn prepared for a few years to start their adventure: doing the research, attending seminars, meeting the professionals who can help redirect when necessary. Adding in a training delivery gave them the confidence to keep the pleasure in pleasure boating. Ask Captain Chris how we can help you be successful when you start your adventure.

Photo Album