Rendezvous Florida

Three years ago I made the decision to move from Toronto, to Calgary Alberta in search of work in the oil industry. This meant that I had to leave behind all of my friends and my favorite summer pastime, Jet-Skiing or Sea-dooing as we call it in Canada. I believed that the Rocky Mountains would be able to replace the great lakes as a means of rest, relaxation and sports that I had in Ontario. However, as the old adage goes, “you can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy”, I found adaptation to Alberta’s land locked climate to be particularly difficult. Instead of having one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes being a mere fifteen minutes from my house, I suddenly found myself having to travel hours to a lake that in comparison to those found in Ontario; is like a pond. The only “sea doo-time” that I would end up getting over the next couple of years would be on my summer breaks when I would go back to Toronto for a week to visit my TORONTO PWC family. Needless to say, whenever I would come back they always had a machine waiting for me, and were eager to take me out on the water.

Rewind back to the spring of 2015, crude oil had just hit an all time low and the province of Alberta along with the rest of Canada was moving into a state of recession. I had just made it through two rounds of layoffs at the oil and gas company that I was working for, only to quit because of the added pressures and unrealistic expectations placed on me by my employer. I quickly found myself as a statistic of the thousands unemployed or laid off because of the economy.

About a week after being unemployed I received a random phone call from my friend Paul B, his first words were “do you want to play a game? What game are we talking about here? “You have 24 hours to meet me anywhere in Florida”, to which I replied “why not, it’s not like I have a job anyways”. Half an hour later, I found a cheap one way trip to Orlando, Florida. We had not spoken for weeks before this phone call, and he wasn’t even aware that I had just left my job until that day. The flight was departing the following morning leaving me with just enough time to pack my old army bag and grab my long-board. We calculated that they should arrive in Orlando 12 hours after I would land, that was if he and his co-pilot drove throughout the night none stop. At this point they were already coming from Louisiana after purchasing two Honda aquatrax machines. They had left Toronto a few days earlier with a pick-up truck and an empty double trailer. The plan was to pick me up and continue the journey south to Ft. Lauderdale and eventually Miami with our newly purchased machines. Since our telephones did not work with United States cell phone coverage we were forced to stop at many McDonald's locations to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi and to scour for potential leads on machines and to their locations, this proved to be our “operations base” for many hours on this whole adventure.

It’s important to have several competent drivers when attempting to cover vast distances, that way people can interchange and sleep whenever they feel tired. You might ask yourself what is the point of driving all the way to Florida from Toronto, when you can just fly instead? The whole point of the expedition was to acquire Honda Aquatrax PWC’s, which have always been our groups machine of choice for their reliability and ease of tuning because of their turbo engine and legendary Honda reliability. Unfortunately, the selection of the ones that are for sale Canada is very scarce and the prices are very high. Due to the fact that the F-12x was never officially sold in Canada, and the only ones available were brought over from south of the border by enthusiast such as us. This also allows us the opportunity to explore and ride areas that we would not be able to have explored previously and to take a sort of “jet-ski adventure vacation”. One of the best ways to experience the beauty that Florida has to offer is by boat or PWC. This way would we would not be at the mercy of tour groups and rental services.

With two jet-skis in tow we set out along the Coast from Orlando, stopping wherever we saw something interesting and sampling the various cuisines and entertainment along the way. One such stop along our route was Cocoa beach, where we were surprised to find that you are allowed to smoke inside bars, and they even offered buckets of beer to take home! The locals were very warm and friendly and made constant remarks about our Canadian accents; here we were thinking that they were the ones with the accents. The following morning we made our way further south, stopping at a boat launch along the way that also docked giant Disney cruise ships heading out to sea. We happened to launch just as one of these giant ships was setting out on their voyage and we quickly found ourselves escorting them out to sea, then all of a sudden disaster struck. One of our machines shut off for no apparent reason, and we quickly sobered up to the fact that we were out quite far from shore. The sea was also rougher than any of the lakes that we have ridden in Canada, coupled with the fear of sharks and other deadly animals we realized that we had made a rookie mistake of venturing out far on machines that we have never tested before. I mean, who knows what kind of potential problems any newly purchased machines might have? We tried to diagnose the usual problems, checking for loose connections or whatever else we could see, however our only resort was to tow back with our only remaining machine. When we finally made it back to shore we figured out that the battery was defective, which we quickly remedied the next day and continued on our way south. From that point on we had a little more respect for the ocean and didn’t venture too far out, keeping in mind that as far as we went out we had to come back. It does not take much for a fun time to turn into a potential life and death disaster. I cannot stress how important it is to go out riding with at least one other person, be it a lake or the ocean.

We did not have any set destinations or itinerary throughout this whole adventure, heck we didn’t even know when we would come back to Canada! However, if you are not as carefree I suggest you do some research and plan your destinations, routes and activities ahead of time. As for us, we would often times stop and ask locals for the best spots to launch and ride or even which restaurants and clubs to visit. I mean who would know better than the people living there? After a while we lost all track of time and lived in the moment, making decisions as we went along. We had watched you-tube videos of people traveling from Florida to the Bahamas by PWC, but after talking to people in the know, we were quickly convinced that this was not the best idea for people unfamiliar with the route or those unprepared for the trip with extra fuel and emergency supplies. As this seemed like a good idea on the internet was in fact a dangerous proposition for someone like us, who were “flying by the seat of our pants”. We had decided to return again one day to attempt this epic journey with a big group of like minded friends.

Upon our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale we were in amazement of the beautiful scenery and people and decided to set up base for the following week, and take a much needed break from the road to finally relax. The reason why we chose Ft. Lauderdale as a destination to stop over Miami was the fact that it had a main strip with a view of the Ocean and beach, and it was just smaller and more inviting then it’s more “intimidating” neighbor. Many people are lead to believe that Miami is somehow better or has more to offer, however that is not the case as it is more difficult to find things such as accommodations or even parking. Heck, it was even hard to drive down the main strip of Miami while towing our trailer, as it is so densely packed. This also came with its set of challenges as parking at the major hotels was limited and we had a big truck with two jet-skis in tow on a trailer. We were afraid of theft and were in need of a water source to be able to flush out the salt water out of our machines to prevent rust and corrosion associated with running in salt water. After every ride in salt water it is crucial to wash the machines thoroughly and to flush out the pump internally, or else it will rust from the inside-out.

After a debate among the three of us, we decided to splurge and take up residency at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach. This provided us with an Ocean view room, secured parking, Ocean view pool on the Sixth floor and all the other amenities associated with a hotel of its stature. Like anything else that’s good in life we had to pay a premium for this luxury, even split three ways it was still a substantial amount after it was all said and done. Not to mention the various bar and food tabs that we ran up, but it was a treat on our vacation and they were very accommodating to our every need. This became especially important when we required access to their water after every day of riding. This was an unfamiliar request to them because most of their clients don’t show up with their own jet-skis, instead they opt out for more boring, road going machines like Lamborghini's and Mercedes’. After a few days we gained a reputation as those “Canadians with the jet-skis”, that might have had something to do with parking our rusted truck and trailer alongside other vehicles worth as much as our houses. Since we were unsure of how long we would be staying in Ft. Lauderdale, upon check in we only reserved the room for four days. On our fourth night we decided to stay an extra day, but to our dismay our room was already pre-booked so we were forced to leave the hotel earlier than we expected. On the fifth and final day we decided that since we were kicked out and essentially homeless that we had no other choice but to sleep on the beach. have gotten another hotel room, but after the Hilton it would just not be the same, after all we couldn’t just downgrade. That night after our last “tour de France” of Ft. Lauderdale clubs we found a couple of beach chairs and spent our last night in style sleeping underneath the stars. It seemed like a good idea at the time but the morning was rough!

On our way back up north we made another stop in North Carolina to pick up our third and last machine which we put in the bed of the pick-up truck. On their way south to pick me up, the boys had put a deposit on another machine with the promise to return within a few days on our way back home to Toronto. With two machines in tow and one in the bed we made our way across the border where we filed all necessary paperwork and paid taxes on our new purchases. Hundreds of miles of beautiful coast line, Florida is a destination that every PWC enthusiast has to experience at least once in their lifetime. How you choose to do it is entirely up to you!

-Stanley B.