Introduction to Boat Systems – Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell

Part two of our Florida trip contained our primary destination, the Introduction to Boat Systems class by Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell in Vero Beach.

Knowledgable and hospitable Alyse and Chris Caldwell

For those that are not familiar with their classes, Chris and Alyse have a two-day Cruising 101 FUNdamentals seminar, generally followed the next week by the Introduction to Boat Systems. The idea is that you can take one class, enjoy Florida for a few days, and then take the next.

We have not taken the Cruising 101 FUNdamentals class yet, but one of the couples in our class had taken it the previous week. The wife was quite animated and enthusiastic when speaking about it. She highly recommends it. Maybe next winter. Florida was nice and sunny!

Introduction to Boat Systems

The main aim of the Intro to Boat Systems is to highlight those DIY owner maintenance things that all boat owners need to know.

Captain Chris is a master of visual aids. At each break, the examples on his demonstration workbench changed. The things from the previous session were back in a box somewhere and the new set was out. Using real pieces of boat machinery, slides, videos, and his white board, he went systematically through various systems to explain how things worked. He taught us what owners need to do to keep a system running and included some troubleshooting.

Here is a short video from his YouTube channel showing some of the class props.

Chris is able to take complex mechanical things and put them into every-day terms. It is a gift!

One example was batteries, specifically, batteries wired in a series vs those wired in parallel. I had read these terms every day on the forum but was very fuzzy about what it meant. He was able to demonstrate, with two nine-volt batteries and his multi-meter, the effect of connecting them in a series. And he used jump starting a car as an example of connecting batteries in parallel. Now I know!

Boat systems covered included: Strainers and the pumps that use them, bilge pumps and some best practices for them, sewage (!) system maintenance and best practices, anchoring system, turbo chargers, valves, fuel – gauges and filters, engine cooling – how it works, batteries and power management, boat surveys, and more.

I may need to take the class again once we get the boat. I learned a lot. At least now I can kind of identify engine parts when I’m looking at boat pictures on yachtworld!

We took the class during COVID. Chris and Alyse take safety very seriously. They wore face masks or clear face shields at all times. They have cut down the size of their classes to allow for social distancing, but are conducting more classes. This is not a small undertaking as the classes are in their garage and the breaks and snacks are in their lovely home and back-yard. It takes a lot to invite people into your home week after week and feed them break food and lunch.

Class Composition

Chris spent the first part of the class getting to know us and our boats and was able to weave that information into the instruction. And of course, we could ask questions.

In our class, we had a gentleman who just purchased his loop boat. He had engaged Chris and Alyse to help him learn to handle the boat and its systems. A couple from the upper mid-west had just put an offer on a boat sight unseen and were flying to look at it a week or so later. Two separate men were there from upstate New York and have gas-powered boats they use on the Great Lakes that they will take on the loop. One man, from Florida, was not familiar with the loop or AGLCA, but had heard about the class somehow and was able to get in on a last-minute vacancy.

I get the impression that some of the men had been in the Cruising FUNdamentals class with their wives the previous week, but that the wives had passed on the Boat Systems section. Bad move on their part, from my perspective. I don’t think I’ll be down in the engine room much, but having two minds think through systems when troubleshooting has got to be a benefit.

Okeechobee Waterway

Okeechobee Waterway map from Corp of Engineers visitors’ center

The day before the class, during our transition from Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast to Vero Beach on the east, we drove by way of the Okeechobee Waterway.

City docks, LaBelle

We pulled off the road to see several locks and city docks on the western half of the waterway. The lock viewing areas were closed off for COVID, but it was nice to get a sense of what the waterway and towns looks like.

We saw one gold looper boat in LaBelle, but it didn’t look like anyone was home. We’re still a bit shy about knocking on strangers’ hulls.

Gold looper Ranger Tug in LaBelle, Florida

Forever Friends

To round off a perfect Florida week, we were able to touch base with friends from years past and invite ourselves to dinner! Monika hired me in an accounting firm in 1997 when they were stationed in the Puget Sound during Joe’s Navy career.

I’m sure people from the east coast have lots of people they know in Florida, but in Washington State, people go to California and Arizona for winter, not to Florida. They are the only people in Florida we know and happily they live only an hour from Chris and Alysse. It was wonderful to meet up with them.

As an added bonus, they are about our only friends who are also boaters (except our Power Squadron friends, that is), so they fully understood what brought us to Florida. Besides, Monika knows how to change an impeller. She’s my hero!

2 Replies to “Introduction to Boat Systems – Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell”

  1. Awesome to have you both in our seminar. It’s fun getting to know people you’ve only “met” online. Thanks so much for sharing your review with everyone too. Glad you joined us this month and as you now know, this newly gained information will make you a better prepared buyer for your next perfect boat. Keep having fun with your adventure!

    1. @Alyse and Chris. So glad to have come to your class. I feel so much better prepared. And it was a joy to meet you in person.

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