Living off the Land – A Florida (Vacation?) Experience – Part 1

By SA Rowner

There are two kinds of vacations. At least in my opinion.

There’s the vacation that you take, to just kick up your feet and relax, with a drink at your side, and do nothing but breathe.

Maybe I’ll enjoy those someday, but for now, I can’t imagine doing that for more than 45 minutes without dying of boredom. Ok, maybe not dying, but you get the gist.

And the other kind is a vacation where you transplant yourself to somewhere different. A different climate, attractions you can’t do back home, unusual scenery, etc.

The second type is more my speed – so long as we leave the kids – or at least most of them – back home to actually enjoy the experience.

One of the easiest (and most economical) destinations is Florida, and with good reason. Firstly the climate is tropical – the perfect escape and why so many folks transplant themselves there entirely each winter. The word “snowbird” – was coined just for them.

Many people go the tried and true route of taking a kosher villa, renting a hotel room, or just setting up with resident friends for a few days for their break. Florida Kosher Villas with beautiful kosher vacation villas in North Miami Beach, Hollywood, and Boca Raton is an awesome choice.

But tried and true? Not, I. At least not the time I’m telling you about in this story.

We wanted quiet, privacy and to snorkel the reef, and for all those reasons, we chose to stay in the Florida Keys, a string of islands that runs southwest off the tip of Florida all the way to Key West.

Having driven the famed overseas highway end-to-end before, staying overnight midway on the island of Marathon in a mom-and-pop type hotel, we looked for a somewhat different experience this round.

We chose a small houseboat, moored in a private cove off of Islamorada.

It’s not for everyone, and it was a bit risky because the guy had no reviews, but the price was attractive, and the pictures looked decent, so we decided to go for it.

We flew into FLL, (Fort Lauderdale we have found to be a much more efficient airport than MIA in Miami), rented a car, and bought ourselves an assortment of takeout food in foil pans that we could reheat, after kashering the stovetop.

Stovetop? Yes, believe it or not, most decent-sized boats have the same amenities as RV’s, including a stove, oven, refrigerator, couch, and yes, a bathroom and shower, (because I know your itching to ask!)

It really gives a new twist to the definition of “living off the land.”

Disclaimer 1 – we had already been to South Florida at least five or six times before and experienced much of the regular stuff, so we were looking for a new experience.

Disclaimer 2 – We own and have traveled in RV’s several times across multiple states, so we did have more experience than the average frum family with off-the-grid appliances.

That being said, we made up to meet our host at a marina on the island of Islamorada, perhaps an hour and a half drive from Miami, where he ferried us in his motorboat to our accommodations.

It was a lovely ride, and the only ride we’d be getting to the boat or back to shore for the next three days, aside from paddling the canoe he provided us with – a 10-15 minute paddle that could be relaxing or rigorous, depending on the tides.

Our host introduced us to the boat, the ‘Jenny,’ (his pet generator), and a couple of things niggled at us, but he was really a nice enough fellow, and we soon enough sent him on his way.

In a nutshell, the peace and solitude were fantastic, after a wipe down of all the surfaces the place was decently clean, and there was a skylight at the foot of the beds that, the way the boat was anchored, brought a continuous fresh breeze over the beds and through the boat out the back glass sliding doors, where there was a back deck with some chairs.

As the boat had no working engine, our sole means of getting anywhere – our canoe – was tied here as well.

The nicest part of the experience was the top deck, where a setup of outdoor seating was arranged for relaxing in the sound of the waves.

We kashered the burners, toiveled some cookware right off the back of the boat, and settled in for night one off the land and the grid.

Continued in Part 2…