After our first season of cruising on Orion Jr, we learned what we liked and didn't like about the little boat. One source of discomfort was the settee cushions that came with the boat. The seats bottomed out and were uncomfortable, and the back rests were too far back to give support. Given the amount of time we sat there, we needed to do something to improve the seating comfort or we would both have back and neck issues before another winter was done. Making cushions was something Cathy had never done before, but she spent the summer doing some research and acquiring the fabric and most of the other supplies necessary to make the cushions once back on Jr. The design gradually evolved as we tried to accommodate not only more comfortable seating, but also maintaining access to areas behind and astern of the settees. We finally settled on 2 seat cushions per side, one of which was much smaller than the other. The smaller cushion would sit in the aftmost section of the settee, and could be easily removed to give us access to the bottom drawer in the storage cabinet on the starboard side, and to the vents to the freezer on the other side. Unfortunately, given the slope at the hull edge of each of the settees and the curve to match the hull shape, it would not be possible to make a standard rectangular seat cushion with vertical side panels. Instead the back panel (where the zipper runs) on the seat cushions would have to angle back, making patterning and construction more “interesting”. Using some cushion instructions from Sailrite and liberal advice from her friend, Pat, a plan for construction was pretty much in place as the time for construction arrived.
Once we arrived in Bradenton, Cathy began looking for a place to the get the final, and bulkiest, component of the cushions – the foam. After making a few calls, she settled on Philmore Upholstery Supply in Pinellas Park, just north of Bradenton. They were helpful on the phone and had a flexible ordering system for custom-sized rectangular cushions, which allowed us to experiment with different cushion sizes and price them out. We could also save on shipping costs and delivery time by picking them up ourselves.
At the invitation of Val and Graham from Bonnie Lass, we took a trip north to Palm Harbor to visit and see their new digs. Since we had to travel north to pick up the foam anyway, we decided to make an excursion out of it and head out early to see a little of the area. So, after picking up the foam, we drove north to Tarpon Springs, which is know for its sponge harvest and the Greek community that brought this way of life to the town. The harbor has several blocks of sponge vendors and some good Greek restaurants, which managed to entice us in. In talking to one of the street vendors, we learned a little bit more about the type of sponges and how they are harvested. Apparently, the top of the sponge is sliced off, leaving the base to grow again. The “deep water” sponges are similar to those off the coast of Greece, making this a natural destination for the original Greek immigrants; We explored the city docks to learn how we might come in on Orion Jr if we made the trip by boat in the future. The city marina is right downtown and convenient to shops and dining. It would be a fun place to visit.
This was our first Christmas Day spent in Florida, which led to a more unusual Christmas dinner – grilling out at the marina's social deck. By Christmas Eve, David's family had arrived in Florida, and we enjoyed spending time with them, including attending two Christmas Eve services, one of which was outdoors, at our niece's church. After Christmas morning opening gifts at our niece's new home, we gathered for a feast at the marina, before heading out for NC late in the day.